Fast family cars

Need a car to get the kids to school on time, make it to the office before your boss and be fun along the way? You need a fast family car

James Wilson
Apr 13, 2022
BMW 3 Series front three quarters view

Fast family cars; are these vehicles too good to be true? Can you find a car with enough seats for the kids, yet acceleration that betters most sports cars or at least a quick car that makes every journey that little bit more engaging? Can you find a car with a great crash test safety rating but equally impressive handling around corners? The answer is of course, yes, yes you can.

In fact, there are so many fast family cars to choose from, it can be hard to find the best. Handily, below there are eight cream-of-the-crop fast and fun family cars. They come from a variety of different car types, including fully electric SUVs, stealthy sports saloons and rapid crossovers.

Although all models are very quick, they are also plenty practical. As a result, it should be no hardship swapping from a usable but slow hatchback - like a 2.0-litre diesel VW Golf - to one of the suggestions below. If you don’t need as much practicality (maybe you no longer need to carry a buggy or you have decided the kids need the exercise of walking anyway), we have a dedicated selection of four-seater sports cars that can handle family life.

As fast family cars often have similar-looking but much slower sibling cars, it is important to keep your wits about you when shopping around. Take the BMW 3 Series, in 320d M Sport guise (a 3 Series with the ‘20d’ diesel engine in M Sport trim); it looks like it should be very fast, as it comes with big alloy wheels and sporty styling. On the other hand, a 330d Luxury model (a 3 Series with a larger ‘30d’ diesel engine in Luxury trim) looks far more restrained and slower, though it is the much faster car.

To help you find the right car, we've suggested a version of each model to aim for, which should serve as a fitting fast and practical family car option.

Fast family cars

1. Skoda Superb

Best fast family car for lots of space and subtle speed

Our pick Skoda Superb 2.0 TSI Sport Line Plus 4x4 DSG
Used deals Limited stock

Skoda makes some fantastically practical cars and one of the best is the Superb. Despite its somewhat big-headed name, the Superb is an ‘under the radar’ car, so people won’t be able to tell it's fast by looking at it. Happily, under the bonnet is the same engine as in sporty cars like the Volkswagen Golf GTI - though the Skoda has more power than the Golf. This 2.0-litre petrol engine produces 276hp, which is enough to fire the Skoda from 0 to 62mph in 5.6 seconds, making it impressively quick for such a spacious car.

All 276hp models come with an automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive, which makes accessing the rapid acceleration easy as there is no worry of human error when changing gear and four-wheel drive means better grip and very little likelihood of spinning the wheels when accelerating hard. There are two trims to choose from, the first is Sport Line which looks racier and the second is Laurin and Klement, which is more elegant.

SKODA SUPERB BUYERS' GUIDE
SKODA SUPERB ESTATE BUYERS' GUIDE

2. BMW 3 Series

Best fast family car for fast acceleration and impressive economy

Our pick BMW M340d xDrive
Used deals Limited stock

Some drivers think that diesel engines cannot be sporty and that they should be in a lorry or big 4x4. BMW has been proving such people wrong for quite some time, as it makes many incredibly fast diesel cars that are a joy to drive. One which is well suited to families is the M340d. This comes with a 3.0-litre diesel engine, an automatic gearbox and four-wheel-drive (the latter which BMW calls ‘xDrive’).

There are both saloon and estate versions to choose from, with the taller boot of the Tourer (BMW-speak for estate) models being especially useful for those with a number of children or dogs to transport. The large boot opening also makes loading prams and buggies easier.

Build quality is generally a strong suit of BMWs, although newer Mercedes models are still the best in class when it comes to media systems. If you're looking for a less powerful, but still very quick, 330d or 335d model, M Sport is the most common trim which, thanks to subtle styling features, looks quite sporty. There is an alternative trim (Luxury) for those that want the performance but not the sporty looks.

BMW 3 SERIES BUYERS' GUIDE
BMW 3 SERIES TOURING BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Ford Puma ST

Best fast family car for whizzing around corners

Our pick Ford Puma 1.5 EcoBoost ST
Used deals from £26,350
Monthly finance from £0*

Small SUVs like the Toyota C-HR and Nissan Juke are very popular in the UK. They tend to be relatively inexpensive, they are cheap to run and they are practical enough for a small family to use as their only car. As SUVs are normally higher up off the ground than small hatchbacks like the Ford Fiesta, they can be easier to get in and out of for some passengers, or when lifting children in and out. Just be wary that particularly tall SUVs or serious off-roaders can be pretty hard to clamber into.

If there was one criticism of small SUVs (or SUVs of any size) is that they can be a little boring to drive. A little too vanilla if you like. Some newer models are changing this and none more so than the Ford Puma ST. It uses a peppy 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine and a manual gearbox.

The ST models have stiffer suspension than the standard models, so while it feels bumpier on the road, as soon as you start to drive in a speedy manner, you will find the suspension makes zipping around corners very easy and very fun. Obviously, make sure it is safe and legal to go zip-zipping down the road before trying it…

READ MORE ABOUT THE FORD PUMA ST

4. Audi SQ5

Best fast family car for easy overtakes

Our pick Audi SQ5 TDI Quattro
Used deals from £44,456
Monthly finance from £0*

If the Ford Puma ST above is a nimble fast family car that dances around corners, the Audi SQ5 is a whopping great hammer using brute force to travel at astonishing speed. There are both petrol and diesel models to choose from and for the family motorist, we’d recommend the diesel.

These models seem to have an abundance of power which makes them perfect for overtaking swiftly and safely. For anyone considering a diesel, we do recommend taking a read of our ‘should I buy a diesel car’ help guide to make sure that going diesel makes sense for the amount and type of driving that you do.

One of the standout features of the SQ5 is its interior. It has a modern look to it and treads the line between elegant and functional very well - the same could be said of the exterior. Although the SQ5 is a five-seater only, it has a bigger brother called the SQ7, which is well worth a look if you need the extra seats. One drawback to bear in mind, is that the SQ7 is far more expensive for a similar age model, as it is a larger and more upmarket car.

AUDI Q5 BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Land Rover Defender

Best fast family car for going off the beaten track

Our pick Land Rover Defender S 110 D250
Used deals from £62,480
Monthly finance from £888*

So, Land Rover makes a Defender with a huge 5.0-litre petrol engine that produces an enormous 525hp power output. This is enough for the Defender to reach 62mph from a standstill in just 5.4 seconds. The fact the big Land Rover weighs over 2,500kg (a Ford Fiesta weighs roughly 1,200kg) and can accelerate that fast is nothing short of ridiculous. If you want a very fast road car, the 5.0-litre model is 100% the one to go for, but this is not the model we are most interested in.

We are focusing on the lower-power models, such as the Defender S 110 D250. The reason is that these will prove to be really quite fast for anyone needing to go off-road. This is thanks to Land Rover’s impressive off-road hardware and software - which together are called ‘Terrain Response’.

To avoid motorists having to understand the intricacies of driving on mud, sand or snow, you can simply select what type of surface you are driving on and the electronics will quietly assist you to make sure you don’t get stuck. Handy.

READ MORE ABOUT THE LAND ROVER DEFENDER

6. Skoda Enyaq

Best fast family car for sprinting away from the lights

Our pick Skoda Enyaq 150kW iV 80 Sportline
Used deals Limited stock

The Enyaq is an electric SUV, although it isn’t particularly tall like some other SUVs. Being electric, the Enyaq promises low running costs as, despite rising energy costs, using electricity rather than petrol or diesel to power a car should prove more cost-effective.

Also, the Enyaq does not directly emit any emissions, although there can be emissions associated with the electricity used to charge it. No carbon dioxide pumping out of an exhaust means company car drivers can save hundreds if not thousands in tax compared to driving more polluting petrol or diesel cars.

As Skoda saw fit to install all Enyaqs with a relatively powerful electric motor, they are ideal for blasting away from traffic lights in silence. Surprisingly, this is something it will do faster than most sports cars. This is because the power an electric motor makes is available from a standstill, while petrol and diesel cars need the engine to spin fast to make more power.

On a more practical note, the official range per charge is either 330 miles for iV 80 models or 255 miles for iV 60 versions. Much like fuel economy figures for petrol and diesel cars, these range numbers should be taken with a pinch of salt as real-world conditions (such as using the heater on full blast) will significantly reduce the range.

READ MORE ABOUT THE SKODA ENYAQ

7. Mercedes C-Class Cabriolet

Best fast family car for open-top thrills

Our pick Mercedes C300 Cabriolet AMG Line
Used deals Limited stock

For family drivers who like a convertible car, there aren’t many options with enough space in the back for kids. Luckily, Mercedes makes a cabriolet version of the C-Class - which has two seats in the rear. They aren’t really practical for those with babies or toddlers, but slightly older children will be comfortable (and there are Isofix points for car seats).

Being based on the C-Class means there is the same great quality interior, classy styling and intuitive media systems. Mercedes also puts very slick automatic gearboxes in its cars and the C-Class is no exception.

If speed is top of your wish list, we’d avoid the two least powerful engines. Both are petrol-powered (they are badged as C180 or C200) and they are best for those who expect to potter around town with the occasional longer journey. Going for a C300 petrol model should definitely scratch the go-faster itch as could a C220d model. The latter is a diesel so fuel will be more expensive but it will likely use notably less of it, especially when driving on faster roads.

MERCEDES C-CLASS CABRIOLET BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Volvo XC90

Best fast family car for stylishly cruising down the motorway

Our pick Volvo XC90 T8 R-Design
Used deals from £28,500
Monthly finance from £0*

Although Volvo is most commonly associated with making safe cars, it's surprisingly good at making fast cars, too. The XC90 T8 Twin Engine is a case in point. On paper, this seven-seat SUV should be slow but Volvo claims it will go from 0 to 62mph in just 5.3 seconds.

Even better, T8 Twin Engine models are plug-in hybrids so you can charge them and get around 20 miles of battery-powered motoring. If you accelerate quickly the range will drop and the petrol engine will cut in to help make enough power and you'll burn more fuel in the process. For most people, a bit of careful driving should mean they can complete their daily commute using battery power alone, though.

Going back to safety, the XC90 was joint 10th best for child occupant crash protection when tested in 2015. It was tested by experts Euro NCAP and while NCAP states that the testing procedure is regularly updated (meaning you cannot easily compare the scores of a car tested in 2015 with one tested more recently) the Volvo scored very well indeed.

Both inside and out, the XC90 is one of the better-looking large SUVs. Being a Swedish brand, Volvo’s designers really lean into the minimalist Scandinavian culture, which brands such as IKEA have championed. Whether you pick a car with a bright and light interior or one with dark materials, the cabin feels very plush and stylish.

VOLVO XC90 BUYERS' GUIDE

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

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