Choosing a family car

From motorised rear doors to tray tables. The best features to look out for when searching for a new family car

Leon Poultney
Nov 1, 2021

Taking a drive can be tiring and stressful enough on its own, so when you add the kids into the mix, parents really have a challenge ahead of them - concentrating on the road while keeping the little ones entertained and, ideally, quiet. Carmakers are well aware of this and have spent huge amounts of time and money on creating cars with useful features that make some of the smallest, yet often most annoying tasks, that bit easier.

Whether its practical tablet holders located on the seat backs for entertaining little eyes on longer journeys, or tray tables in the rear for colouring-in competitions, there's a whole host of brilliant standard and optional features that come with the latest models that are guaranteed to take some strain out of domestic duties.

We've highlighted features that any family, no matter the size, should look for in a new or used car. All of these have been selected for their practicality and usefulness on a daily basis.

So, if you're looking for clever technical innovations to make your life behind the wheel easier, or you're after the most practical and spacious interiors to keep your kids happy, we've got something here to tick all the right boxes. They're pretty affordable, too, in some cases, with prices starting from just £10,000 or less than £200 per month.

Popular family cars to choose from

The best SUV for families

Our pick Seat Ateca
Used deals from £12,300
Monthly finance from £188*

It's no wonder that the recent spate of SUVs and crossovers have proven so popular with customers. Their jacked-up suspension not only gives the driver a more commanding view of the road ahead, but it can also make loading little ones into the cabin easier.

Child seats are often at the perfect height for strapping in babies and toddlers, while handy features, such as a waist-height boot, make loading shopping simpler. The Renault Kadjar and the super-popular Nissan Qashqai both offer plenty of interior room and large enough boots for most family paraphernalia at a reasonable price, while the Jaguar F-Pace delivers on the practicality, too, but with an extra dollop of luxury.

The Volvo XC90 and Land Rover Discovery are two equally impressive SUVs with a ride height that matches the lofty price tag, or you could look towards the basic yet extremely affordable Dacia Duster if working to a tighter budget.

Seat's medium SUV has made an impact on the busy SUV market, blending a great drive with good looks and an affordable price tag. With plenty of standard kit including metallic paint at no extra cost, it's a desirable, top value family-friendly option.


Family cars with an extra rearview mirror

Our pick Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer
Used deals from £14,900
Monthly finance from £268*

The rear-view mirror may be a basic device that was once for aiding reversing manoeuvres and checking following traffic, but it soon becomes a vital tool for keeping an eye on the kids when your family starts to grow.

However, constantly craning to view children in a traditional rear-view mirror can be a pain (and dangerous), so it's worth considering a car that tackles this hurdle with an additional mirror.

The Ford B-Max, for example, boasts a second mirror that's perfectly set up for quick glances in the rear quarters to check on children. Similarly, the larger and equally family-friendly Citroen C4 SpaceTourer and Grand C4 Spacetourer feature a comparable system.

Volkswagen has taken the notion one step further in the seven-seat Touran, as its dashboard screen is compatible with a GoPro camera, which can be mounted in the rear and can stream live footage of kids bouncing off the walls directly to the media system.

Citroen’s cavernous Grand C4 SpaceTourer is perfectly set up for large family life and includes a superb panoramic mirror for checking rear occupants.


Family cars with a reversing camera

Our pick Nissan Qashqai N-Connecta
Used deals from £9,250
Monthly finance from £163*

Bulky child seats, stacked up luggage and lively children can all get in the way during parking manoeuvres, which is why reversing cameras and parking assist functions are now a prerequisite for many parents.

As such, a reversing camera comes as standard on the spacious and capable Kia Sportage, so long as buyers opt for the mid-range 2 trim level and above, while rear parking sensors come fitted to all Hyundai Tucson SE models.

Of course, customers can go one step further and specify their vehicle with self-parking functionality, meaning the car hunts down a space using radar technology and then automatically parks the car with little to no driver input.

Ford's spacious S-Max MPV can also be specified with the marque's useful Active Park Assist functionality but many rivals offer similar technology.

Our pick is the Nissan Qashqai: these well-specified SUVs come with Nissan's excellent Around View Monitor, a 360-degree camera that gives the driver a birds-eye view of surroundings via a series of cameras, making difficult parking a doddle.


Family cars with sliding rear doors

Our pick Seat Alhambra
Used deals from £17,900
Monthly finance from £298*

The elongated nature of large MPVs, such as the Volkswagen Sharan, Ford Galaxy and Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer, means that they often sport sliding rear doors, which slide back on a special running hinge to open up as much of the interior as possible.

It makes clambering in and out of the vehicle easier, particularly when the car has an extra row of seats in the rear, so it can seat seven or more people.

Unfortunately, opting for a car with sliding doors also means giving up on so-called ‘kurb appeal’, as they are typically quite bulbous and a far cry from a sleek saloon or attractive estate.

However, Ford has decked out its smaller B-Max model with sliding rear doors, as did Citroen with the Berlingo, proving that families don't have to upgrade to a huge and ungainly vehicle in the search of easy access doors.

What the big Seat may lack in sleek style, it definitely makes up for with bags of practicality.


Family cars with clever seats

Our pick Volvo XC90
Used deals from £25,901
Monthly finance from £461*

A car that can adapt to every eventuality is central to peaceful family motoring and easy-to-fold or intelligent seating is a great way of maximising space and improving practicality.

The tiny Honda Jazz is perhaps one of the greatest example of this phenomenon, with its 'Magic Seat' design seeing the rear pews almost disappear into the floor with the pull of a lever, freeing up enough space in the rear of the diminutive small car for even the most audacious Ikea trips.

Better still, Land Rover's latest Discovery model boasts app-controlled seating that can be arranged from the comfort of the family home via a bespoke smartphone app. Intelligent Seat Fold technology allows the owner to adjust the seats remotely from anywhere in the world. The second and third rows of seating can be fully folded and put upright at the touch of a button.

Our favourite is the Volvo XC90: both the second and third row of seating can be folded completely flat simply with the pull of a lever. It has the ability to transform this large SUV into a luxurious Transit van rival.



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