Best cars for a family of five

Three spacious rear seats, a large boot and excellent value. These - and more - are the key things to look for in a family five-seater

Gavin Braithwaite-Smith
Sep 17, 2020

If you’re in the market for a car suitable for a family of five, it’s simply a case of finding a vehicle with five seats, right? Well, no, there’s much more to it than that. Many family cars are advertised as five-seaters, but things start to unravel when you open the back doors - if the back doors even open that wide.

It’s all about the middle rear seat, which can make or break a family car. Get it wrong and your rear-view mirror will be filled with the face of a very angry passenger pelting you with cries of 'are we nearly there yet?' five minutes into every journey.

Some middle rear seats are compromised in one of three ways: legroom, headroom or space for your shoulders. Occasionally, it’s a case of all three. We’ve seen trains on a morning commute into London - pre-coronavirus, that is - with more space than some middle seats.

Here, we reveal eight cars that are perfect for a family of five. We’ve resisted the temptation to fill the list with seven-seaters, because that would be cheating - and some people want plenty of passenger space without having an enormous car. Instead, these are genuine five-seaters that your family will love.

Click here for an alternative list of cars that are great for large families.

Best cars for a family of five

1. BMW 2 Series Active Tourer

Used deals from £9,099
Monthly finance from £152

If you’re after a practical BMW, you’d be forgiven for choosing an estate model or one of the increasing range of SUVs. But there is another way, it’s called the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer and it’s a very capable five-seat MPV - that's a spacious people carrier to you and me.

Up front, the driver is treated to a tech-laden dashboard and a superb driving position, but it’s in the back where the 2 Series Active Tourer is at its most impressive. The rear seats can accommodate three adults in comfort, with plenty of headroom and only a minimal amount of transmission tunnel intrusion. This means more room for your feet.

You can even recline the rear seats for more comfort, and, if you avoid the entry-level SE trim, the rear bench slides backwards and forwards, so you can choose between legroom and luggage space. Open the boot, which is electric on all but the SE trim, and you’ll find 468 litres of space, a low loading lip which makes packing larger items a cinch and rear seats that fold flat to maximise vertical space for that awkward chest of drawers.

BMW 2 SERIES ACTIVE TOURER BUYERS' GUIDE

2. Kia Sportage

Used deals from £8,999
Monthly finance from £152

The Kia Sportage is one of the most popular cars in the UK and it’s not hard to see why. Not only does it look good, but it's easy to drive and it’s also backed by a comprehensive seven-year warranty. You also get plenty of tech, with even the entry-level Sportage featuring 17-inch alloy wheels, an eight-inch media display with sat-nav, a reversing camera, heated front and rear seats, dual-zone climate control, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Higher trim levels offer the kind of technology you’d associate with a more upmarket brand such as BMW or Audi, such as wireless phone charging, LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof, electric tailgate, 10-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat and leather upholstery, but still remain relatively cheap in comparison.

There’s loads of room in the back for three children and adults, with plenty of headroom and space for shoulders. You can even recline the rear seats, so your children will think they’re travelling in a limo. The boot is large enough for a buggy or pushchair, while a flush loading lip and wide opening makes packing a doddle.

KIA SPORTAGE BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Nissan Pulsar

Used deals from £5,699
Monthly finance from £114

The Nissan Pulsar is one of the best kept secrets in the family hatchback market. While your friends might favour the likes of the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf or Vauxhall Astra, there are many reasons why the Pulsar makes more sense. You’ll certainly get more for your money, as it's a less obvious choice.

Boring fact alert: the Nissan Pulsar has the longest distance between the front and rear wheels for this type of car. Exciting fact alert: this means anyone travelling in the back will be treated to limo-like levels of legroom. It’s properly cavernous in the back, with loads of headroom and ample space for three adults. Thanks to a large recess in the back doors, there’s also plenty of elbow room.

Because it’s so affordable, we’d opt for the high-spec Tekna trim, which features LED headlights, heated leather seats, dual-zone climate control, a suite of cameras to aid parking, and electric folding mirrors. It may not be the most desirable car, but you can't get much more space and kit for the money.

NISSAN PULSAR BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Volkswagen Tiguan

Used deals from £14,699
Monthly finance from £224

When considering the Volkswagen Tiguan, you might be tempted to opt for the mechanically similar Skoda Kodiaq or Seat Ateca to save some money. We wouldn’t blame you, because they are worthy and cost-effective alternatives. However, the Tiguan remains a class above in terms of quality and style inside, and it’s also better at retaining its value - that means cash used car buyers have to pay a little more but those taking finance should benefit from relatively low monthly payments.

This is a car that feels geared up for a family of five. While some cars leave passengers in the back feeling like they’re in the cheap seats, the Tiguan makes them feel at home. The back seats slide backwards and forwards by up to 170mm, plus you can recline the backrests for greater comfort.

There’s plenty of headroom in the back, even in cars with a panoramic sunroof, which is standard on SEL and R-Line models. The transmission tunnel doesn’t restrict the amount of legroom in the middle, while all except the entry-level Tiguan feature climate control settings and seat-back tables. The boot offers 520 to 620 litres of luggage capacity, depending on the position of the rear seats - even more if you fold them down. In the real world, this is one of the largest boots available in a car of this length.

VOLKSWAGEN TIGUAN BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Toyota Auris

Used deals from £6,995
Monthly finance from £136

For such a compact vehicle, the Toyota Auris is a remarkably spacious car. If you’re not familiar with the name, this is Toyota’s rival to the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, with the added benefit of a hybrid petrol-electric option, if desired.

Toyota claims that you could see as much as 80.7mpg from the hybrid version, and while you should take that figure with a pinch of salt, it’s likely to be as economical as the diesel version. Expect to see something around 65mpg and you won’t be too disappointed.

In the back, there’s enough room for three adults, aided by one of the flattest floors in its class. The boot is large enough to rival a Volkswagen Golf, although a Touring Sports estate version is available if you’re fond of trips to Swedish furniture stores. Crucially, the hybrid powertrain doesn’t impact on the amount of boot space, so there are no practicality issues if you opt for this model.

TOYOTA AURIS BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Ford B-Max

Used deals from £6,100
Monthly finance from £109

It might seem hard to believe, but the B-Max is based on the humble Ford Fiesta. The transformation from supermini to compact MPV comes courtesy of a cavernous body and a party trick that will make you the envy of your friends struggling with a hatchback or compact SUV.

This is one of the smallest cars you can buy with a pair of rear sliding doors. Combine these with the absence of a central pillar between front and rear doors and you’re presented with a car that’s no more difficult to get in and out of than your front door. Simply step in and enjoy the excellent headroom and legroom.

It might be small, but the B-Max features a useful 318-litre boot that expands to a large-for-the-size-of-car 1,386 litres. That’s enough to rival the larger Nissan Qashqai. The B-Max is also surprisingly good to drive, helped in no small part by the fact it shares DNA with the fun-to-drive Fiesta.

FORD B-MAX BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Citroen Berlingo

Used deals from £13,680
Monthly finance from £214

The Citroen Berlingo is arguably everything you could ever need for your family car. Although a seven-seat ‘XL’ version is available, the five-seat ‘M’ is more than up to the task of tackling family life. People carriers like this might not be hugely fashionable, but spend a week with a Berlingo and you’ll realise that cars and fashion don’t always mix.

You get a pair of sliding rear doors, an opening tailgate window and three individual rear seats. Each of the rear seats can be folded into the floor if required, and they’re all fitted with Isofix points for your child seats.

The boot offers a van-like 775 litres of luggage capacity with the rear seats in use, or up to 3,000 litres of capacity when loaded to the ceiling with the rear seats folded down. There are useful storage bins and pockets throughout the cabin, and you can even carry up to 25kg of weight on the parcel shelf, which can be placed in a higher or lower position.

CITROEN BERLINGO BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Volkswagen Touareg

Used deals from £15,299
Monthly finance from £281

They say you can judge a person by the company they keep. Well, with this in mind, let us tell you that the Volkswagen Touareg shares the mechanical parts it's based on with the Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus, Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne. That’s a formidable selection of seriously upmarket cars. In this context, the Touareg is a bit of a bargain.

Launched in 2018, the current Volkswagen Touareg is a giant leap forward over its predecessor. As you’d expect from Volkswagen’s flagship SUV, the quality is first-rate and it comes with a wealth of tasty kit as standard. Power is sourced from a 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine in most models, which should return around 35mpg - acceptable for an SUV of this size.

And it is big. Purposely, Volkswagen has resisted the temptation to the Touareg a seven-seater, choosing to focus on making it a spacious five-seater. The boot is larger than some hotel rooms we’ve stayed in, while the rear seat accommodation is predictably vast.

VOLKSWAGEN TOUAREG BUYERS' GUIDE

 

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