The MPV divide

Ms Joanna Mary Sivaraj (above, with her two sons) likes the spaciousness of her Citroen Grand C4 Picasso.
Ms Joanna Mary Sivaraj (above, with her two sons) likes the spaciousness of her Citroen Grand C4 Picasso.PHOTO: COURTESY OF JOANNA MARY SIVARAJ
Ms Isabella Chong (above, with her twin daughters) loves fast cars and drives a two-door BMW 1M.
Ms Isabella Chong (above, with her twin daughters) loves fast cars and drives a two-door BMW 1M.PHOTO: COURTESY OF ISABELLA CHONG

MPVs may not look stylish but they are a practical choice for some mums

Multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs) are referred to, usually derisively, as soccer mum mobiles. Or mum's taxis.

Still, some mothers embrace the domesticity and practicality of MPVs, never mind the unsexy image these multi-seaters portray. Others, however, avoid them like the plague, no matter how versatile and sensible these vehicles may be for ferrying the family.

But Ms Joanna Mary Sivaraj, mother of two boys, aged four and three, was quite happy to swop her two-door Volkswagen Beetle for something more practical when she became a mum.

The 32-year-old senior communications manager decided to switch to a Suzuki SX4 crossover when she had her first child because she felt that four doors would be more practical.

Shortly after the arrival of the second child, she switched to a Citroen Grand C4 Picasso, which she currently drives.

There are many things to pack when we travel with the children, so an MPV is able to fit everything and get us to the airport.

HOMEMAKER CELINE CHIN SHIH-WAN, who has a seven-year-old son and a five-year-old daughter

"At that point, I was really looking for a car that would offer me ample space in the second row and allow me the option of ferrying more people," she says.

"Weekend dinners used to involve two cars if I was dining with my folks, so I felt that an MPV would be good as we could all fit into one car."

Furthermore, with two toddlers in tow, she needs a big boot to accommodate bicycles and skate scooters. Comfort was also an important consideration when deciding on an MPV.

"The more comfortable my kids are, the more well-behaved they would be in the car and, hence, less of a handful for me," she says.

Ms Sivaraj says an MPV is a sensible choice for mothers, even though she admits the last row of seats in her Citroen MPV is often empty.

Homemaker Lavon Ho, 38, went with an SUV instead. She feels that unless you need the extra seats, a sedan is probably easier to drive around and park.

The mother of three children, ranging in age from 18 months to seven years, changed from a Mazda3 sedan to a seven-seater Kia Sorento when her youngest child arrived.

"We like the flexibility of the SUV as the last-row seats can be folded up when we need more boot space," she says.

She steered clear of an MPV because she did not like their styling, "which tends to look chunky and van-like".

"The only thing about an SUV is that because it is higher, it is harder for the kids and grandparents to climb in," she says.

Another mother went from driving a BMW 323i Convertible to a Porsche Macan SUV because she needed more space for a growing family and a growing grocery list.

Property developer Ong Ling, 42, drove the convertible when her second son, now three, was an infant.

"Although the convertible was easy to manoeuvre and park, it was inconvenient because it could not multi-task.

"Whenever we had to travel, we had to take a taxi to the airport with our luggage and stroller," she says. "The backseats were too cramped for the men in my family, who all happen to be tall (her older son is 17). It was also cumbersome and backbreaking to buckle my younger son into his child seat in the rear."

But she never once considered buying an MPV because she thinks they look "too clumsy".

Homemaker Celine Chin Shih-Wan, however, is thinking of swopping her current ride, a Toyota Camry, for an MPV.

"Sometimes, there is insufficient space in the sedan. Also, I have been driving the sedan for a long time and am thinking of a change," explains Ms Chin, 38, a Singaporean, who lives in Penang with her husband, seven-year-old son and five-year-old daughter.

She thinks that an MPV is a sensible choice for mothers.

"There are many things to pack when we travel with the children, so an MPV is able to fit everything and get us to the airport. We sometimes drive to Kuala Lumpur, so an MPV would be more comfortable during the long journey," she says.

Ms Y.L. Ng, 34, a manager in a motor company, is planning on starting a family soon. She drives a hatchback and does not rule out the possibility of switching to an MPV should the need arise.

"If my parents are going to look after my children full-time, then the extra seats in the third row would come in handy," she says, adding that having an MPV makes more economic sense than having two cars.

But IT security manager Isabella Chong, 46, is defying the mummy stereotype.

The mother to nine-year-old twin girls is still pursuing her passion for motor sports and indulging her love for performance cars.

Ms Chong thinks that if she drove an MPV, she would probably get a host of questions, as her friends and colleagues know she loves fast cars.

Her previous car was a four-door Honda Civic Type R. Today, she drives a two-door BMW 1M.

"We owned an MPV during the years when we had to fit my mother-in-law, my helper, my husband and me, as well as our twins, into one vehicle comfortably," she says.

But she eventually ditched the multi-seater because the family no longer needed a live-in helper.

And her mum-in-law seldom joins them on outings now. When she does, they use her husband's sedan, a BMW 335i.

• The writer, a mother of one, is a regular contributor to Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines. She loathes MPVs.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2015, with the headline 'The MPV divide'. Print Edition | Subscribe