Choosing a family car

How to choose a family car: from motorised rear doors to tray tables. The best features to look out for

Leon Poultney
Nov 21, 2019

Transporting a car full of kids must be one of the most stressful situations life can throw at sleep-deprived and emotionally-drained parents.

That's why the world's largest car makers have spent years perfecting family-friendly vehicles that are absolutely packed to the glass roof with handy features that make some of the smallest, yet often most annoying tasks, that bit easier.

 

Whether its practical iPad holders located on the seat backs for entertaining little eyes on longer journeys, or tray tables in the rear for kiddy colouring-in competitions, there's a whole host of brilliant standard and optional features that now 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.

Family cars: the best SUV

Our pick Seat Ateca
Used deals from £10,499
Monthly finance from £129

It's no wonder that the recent spate of Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and crossovers have proven so popular with customers, as their jacked-up suspension not only gives the driver a more commanding view of the road ahead, 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 boasts 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 customers could look towards the basic yet extremely affordable Dacia Duster if you're 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 £13,250
Monthly finance from £188

The basic device that was once for aiding reversing manoeuvres and checking following traffic 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.

This cavernous Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV) 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 £9,000
Monthly finance from £149

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 buyers.

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 fully autonomous parking functionality, meaning the car hunts down a space using radar technology and then automatically parks the car with little to no input from you.

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

These well-specified SUVs come with Nissan's excellent Around View Monitor, which 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 £14,931
Monthly finance from £230

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 said people transporter features an extra row of thrones in the rear, so it can seat seven or more people.

Unfortunately, opting for sliding doors also means giving up on kerb 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 Multispace, proving that families don't have to upgrade to an huge and ungainly vehicle in the search of easy access doors.

What the big Seat lacks in sleek style, it definitely makes up for with bags of practicality, including the extra large sliding rear doors.

Family cars with clever seats

Our pick Volvo XC90
Used deals from £26,000
Monthly finance from £354

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 row of seating can be fully folded and put upright at the touch of a button.

Both the second and third row of seating can be folded completely flat with the simply pull of lever. It has the ability to transform this large SUV into a luxurious Transit van rival.

 

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