This review is based on my experience of owning and driving the T Spirit Previa, an MPV suitable for the fecund of society (i.e. those who have copious numbers of kids or passengers to transport). Despite its enormity and bus like vital statistics, the Spirit is reasonably car like to drive, although parking is another matter. This review may be of interest to those considering purchasing a large multi purpose vehicle from the practical perspective rather than the technical Jeremy Clarkson perspective. Just go and watch Top Gear if you want that. This model is no longer available to purchase new but used models are.
Choosing the Previa
When replacing our previous MPV, a Galaxy with 7 seats and no boot space, we looked at all suitable options with greater luggage space. Even with one seat removed, the Galaxy was a nightmare when it came to loading holiday luggage. We needed a car with a cavernous boot. The Previa fit this bill nicely, hence you get additional length for your money (4780mm worth). Parking such a big one preyed on mind on my mind a little I must admit, but I wasn't going to be driving it much so that was fine. It was also an automatic, so I wasn't much keen on that either, having never driven one before. But big boot space meant easier outings so we bought one.
Of all the large MPVs around, this one is not bad looking depending on which colour you choose. Metallic silver looks best, followed by black but the dark red, blue and green colours are pretty ugly. Obviously this is my preference but even our kids say the same when they see a dark coloured one. It has a nice streamlined shape and once you get over the fact that the indentations along both sides are not in fact huge dents that you've made reversing between brick pillars, you can appreciate these features too.
One of the great things about the Previa T Spirit is that it is quiet to drive. It doesn't have the roar of a diesel because it runs on unleaded fuel. Even at 80mph on a motorway, the car is noticeably quiet. The engine is a 2.4 litre and around town only manages around 21mpg but on longer motorway runs 30mpg is quite possible. It has an enormous tank holding 75 litres of fuel, draining your credit card to the tune of around £75 if you run it dry. I never like to run dry though and I never do. It has a BHP of 154 if that is of interest to you
Driving the car
Since we replaced my nice little car with a more sporty -hubby having a mid-life crisis- one, I have suddenly found myself in the driving seat of the Previa much more than I had wished. I used to only drive it when I absolutely had to, now I have to drive it most of the time which has made me a much better walker and cyclist. Because of the grand size of the vehicle I have to do a risk checklist for each potential journey including such things as 'will I have to take it down any narrow double parked streets', 'will there be huge car parking spaces at my destination?' If you are very spatially aware, then let me not put you off for in fact this IS a nice car to drive.
The ride itself is quiet and smooth and being in a raised up position visibility is excellent for the driver. The ride is reasonably hard (my preference), I hate a soft ride as it makes me feel queasy.
The handling of the car is great in good weather but feels a little unsteady in cold or damp conditions. This is because the vehicle is vast and operates with front wheel drive. I do not feel terribly at ease driving this in freezing conditions and I certainly wouldn't want to be out on country roads in the winter in this. The tyres are chunky and thick with nice alloys to boot, and the anti lock brakes work well when required too. The biggest drawback for me with this car is the handling when the weather is icy. This is not a car for the countryside in my opinion.
Parking the Car
If you have not already gathered, parking this beast is no easy matter. We did choose to have parking cameras fitted which is fantastic. There are also parking sensors in the rear bumper (I'm not sure if these are an optional extra or standard). The parking camera is exceptionally useful; when in reverse, the camera image is displayed on the sat nav screen with green lines to aid your parking against the kerb and any vehicles or objects behind you. The cameras make parking easier but this car is wider (1.79m) and longer (4.78m) than most so it isn't easy to park.
What I like about the Previa
The Previa has a 4 star NCAP safety rating and has driver, passenger and front side airbags. Driving visibility is good and passenger comfort and legroom is excellent. The car is very versatile because all of the 5 rear seats can be taken out fairly easily making a van if required. Alternatively all of the seats other than the driving seat (obviously) can be folded down to make a flat surface. You can take any combination of seats out and they all slide back and forth to alter the amount of leg room. This is a seven seater with two seats at the front, three separate seats in the middle and two in the rear row. All have their own diagonal seatbelts.
Getting in and out of the vehicle is easy as there are two sliding rear doors for passengers in the rear. For any passengers in the rear two seats, a lever needs to be flicked to tilt the middle row seats forward. This is easy enough but perhaps access for the elderly or strapping in child seats could prove a little awkward if these seats were to be used for such passengers.
There is a great deal of space within the vehicle and even seated in the rear two seats, there is ample leg and head room. The leather seats (optional extra) are very comfortable and durable. If you are prone to wearing skimpy clothes in cold weather, these seats will feel very cold. However, the climate within the car is easily adjusted. This model has air conditioning as standard which has been problem free during the few years we have had this car. There are heater vents in the front, middle and rear of the vehicle so even those at the back can share the warmth. The middle and rear windows are also tinted glass to allow you to share that warmth without passers by having a nosey too.
There are two sunroofs, the front one being electrically operated and the second one providing extra light for the rear seated passengers. When both of these are open, the car feel very spacious and there is no sense of being cramped or crammed at all.
The built in sat nav is very easy to use and a very good system so I'm told. I find it very distracting so I don't bother. But, the satnav screen also doubles as the audio screen for selecting your radio channel or CD. Having said that, the audio system isn't very exciting and sounds a bit tinny if you have the volume at anything other than low.
Other features which are great on this car are the electric mirrors, electric front windscreen, which makes defrosting the car a piece of cake, plenty of storage compartments, and did I mention the giant boot? There's central locking and the doors also lock automatically. This means that whilst you are stationary at lights or in a jam, nobody can jump into your vehicle or pinch stuff out of your boot.
Driving the Previa takes some getting used to. It is an automatic which makes it extremely easy to drive; give your left foot a break. The size of the vehicle means that despite its 2.4 litre engine, it doesn't pack a powerful punch when you put your foot down. It moves but it doesn't belt along. In fact it has a 0-60 of 11.2 seconds... zzzz. When the car is full of your kids and their friends or full of the family with a picnic in the boot it's feels a proper family car which is quite acceptable to be seen in. If I ever have to take the car out with just me in it, it feels hugely embarrassing. This car needs to be filled with passengers to serve out its bus like properties.
What I don't like about the Previa
There's not much I dislike to be honest. This is a big car and I am never going to find parking any big car easy. The sound system is a bit poor and I would love to be able to uptilt the passenger seat for extra comfort on long trips.
The service costs for such a large car have been surprisingly reasonable. A full service generally costs around £300. Replacement tyres are not cheap but in the four years that we have had this car, we have spent very little on it. The insurance group is relatively high (group 12) and it is a relatively high CO2 emitter so road tax is also higher than average.
Standard and optional features on this model
~ Power Assisted Steering
~ Cruise control
~ Antilock Brakes
~ Driver, passenger and front side airbags
~ 4 electric windows
~ 1 electric sunroof, 1 manual sunroof
~ Electric mirrors
~ Radio/CDtape player
~ Height adjustable seats x2
~ Front and rear headrests
~ Metallic paint (optional extra)
~ Leather seats (optional extra)
~ Parking sensors and/or camera (optional extras).
This is a stylish MPV with a family sized boot. It's not the most economical and is pricey on tax and insurance but if you do not do excessive mileage, this is a very comfortable family car with reasonable servicing costs and lots of creature comforts as standard. Due to the front wheel drive, it is recommended as more as an urban car than a rural one.
In summary, this car says look at me, I'm very sexy and fertile. Hope you enjoyed the ride.