Best family cars

From the school run to the summer holiday: these family cars are fit for anything

BuyaCar team
Jun 15, 2018

There's no space for mediocre family cars, which are expected to do everything well. They must be well equipped but competitively priced; comfortable and practical; safe but fun to drive; and powerful while economical.

So underneath their fairly standard exterior these cars are designed to handle anything that you can throw at them. Each brings a slightly different balance to the road, though. For example, the Mazda 3 is more fun than most to drive; the Audi A3 is more luxurious, while the Skoda Octavia is massively spacious and practical.

In 2017, the standard rose even higher as cars including the VW Golf, and Renault Megane were updated or replaced.

Despite the quality and choice, sales of hatchbacks like those below are slowing as more families pick a crossover, like the Peugeot 3008. These offer even more by combining the low running costs and comfort of a normal car with the higher driving position and practicality of an off-roader.


At the opposite end of the spectrum, you might find that large superminis such as the Honda Jazz or new Volkswagen Polo, with almost as much space as a Ford Focus, provide everything you need for a cheaper price.

Scroll down for our pick of the best family cars or click below to go straight to a particular model. If you already know what you’re looking for, you can jump straight to all new and used car deals below.

Best family cars

Skoda Octavia

Best family car for space and value

List price from £17,700 2016 cars typically from £12,500 Our pick Skoda Octavia 1.6 TDI 115PS SE L 
Acceleration (0-62mph) 10.3sec Official fuel economy 80mpg CO2 90g/km

There are family hatchbacks, and there’s the recently-updated Skoda Octavia. It shares mechanical parts with the excellent VW Golf, but is a bigger car. Its 590-litre boot is 210 litres larger than the Golf's and it has more rear passenger space too. The Octavia even feels roomier than crossovers such as the Nissan Qashqai.

But there’s more to the Octavia than just space. It’s comfortable, quiet and efficient. The Skoda badge means that it’s cheaper than the Golf too.
Read the Skoda Octavia buying guide  /  Skoda Octavia dimensions

VW Golf

Best family car for all-round

List price from £18,230 2016 cars typically from £12,000 Our pick Skoda Octavia 1.6 TDI 115PS SE L 
Acceleration (0-62mph) 10.3sec Official fuel economy 80mpg CO2 90g/km

The Volkswagen Golf is curently the second best-selling car in Britain, helped by an update that recently introduced more economical engines, an uprated dashboard touchscreen, more sophisticated technology and some small changes to the design.

Despite these improvements, it's still competitively priced. Also unchanged is the Golf's solid build quality, from the doors that close with a satisfying thud to the quality interior plastics. The car is smooth over rough roads and roomy, with enough space in the back for three adults. Boot space is only OK, though. You’ll struggle to get a week’s family shop in there without putting overspill onto the back seat.

Read the VW Golf buying guide  /  VW Golf dimensions

Volvo XC40

Best family car for neat design touches 

List price from £27,610 Our pick Volvo XC40 T3 R-Design
Acceleration (0-62mph) 7.8sec Official fuel economy 45.6mpg CO2 144g/km

Volvo’s high-tech XC40 has won plenty of awards already, despite being only released in 2018. It’s extremely cool in a way that only something Scandinavian can be, complete with a funky but innovative interior. And the quality of materials and their fit rivals manufacturers like BMW and Audi too.

It’s also a pretty good steer, especially with the surprisingly powerful petrol engines. As you’d imagine, the Volvo scores highly on safety too. The XC40 even has software that can detect collisions with other cars, pedestrians, and cyclists and will try and stop them.
Volvo XC40 buying guide 

Vauxhall Astra

Best family car for economical engines and driving enjoyment

List price from £17,120 2016 cars typically from £9,000 Our Pick Vauxhall Astra 1.0T (105) ecoFLEX SRi
Acceleration (0-62mph) 10.5sec Official fuel economy 62.8mpg CO2 104g/km

The latest Vauxhall Astra is one of the best family cars that you can buy, with a ride that’s close to Golf and Audi A3 levels of comfort, but also a sense of energy that makes it fun to drive. Inside, it comes close to the high standards set by the Golf, with a standard 7in touchscreen and quality materials.

It’s smaller than the old model but clever packaging means it’s actually roomier front and rear. The rear doors open wide, too, making fitting child seats easier. 

Read the Vauxhall Astra buying guide / Vauxhall Astra dimensions

Audi A3 Sportback

Best family car for interior quality

List price from £21,810 2016 cars typically from £13,000 Our pick Audi A3 Sport 1.4 TFSI 
Acceleration (0-62mph) 8.1sec Official fuel economy 61.4mpg CO2 108g/km

This is another car - along with the Skoda Octavia - that shares mechanical parts with the VW Golf. The A3 has an even better-built interior, with dashboard software that’s easier to use, thanks to an intuitive dial that allows you to control the dashboard information screen. A recent update has improved the technology further. The A3 is also more comfortable and quieter than the Golf but - inevitably - you do pay more. 

Read the Audi A3 buying guide / Audi A3 Sportback dimensions

Renault Megane

Best family car for a quiet, relaxing drive

List price from £17,315 2016 cars (current model) typically from £12,000 Our pick Renault Megane 1.5 dCi Iconic
Acceleration (0-62mph) 11.3sec Official fuel economy 76.4mpg CO2 96g/km

The latest Renault Megane offers distinctive looks, good levels of standard equipment, and excellent fuel economy.

Pick one of the more expensive models and you’ll have an interior that’s built around a stylish 8.7in touchscreen that’s larger than an iPad Mini, giving the car an upmarket feel, which only continues when you get moving. The latest Megane is smooth and quiet, with light steering that makes it easy to manoeuvre at low speeds. Interior space is below average for a family car, though.

Read the Renault Megane buying guide / Renault Megane dimensions

Mazda 3

Best family car for agile cornering and sporty looks

List price from £18,995 2016 cars typically from £11,000 Our pick Mazda 3 2.2 SkyActiv-D 150 
Acceleration (0-62mph) 8.1sec Official fuel economy 68.9mpg CO2 107/km

The Mazda 3 is the family hatch for people bored with the usual suspects. It’s more of a driver’s car that feels nimble and it puts style above outright practicality. Equipment levels are high with all versions having alloy wheels, a 7in display and air-conditioning. The interior looks smart but is not in the same class as the A3.
Read the Mazda 3 buying guide

New Ford Focus

Best family car for driving fun

List price from £17,930 Our pick Ford Focus 1.0 Titanium 
Acceleration (0-62mph) tba Official fuel economy tba CO2 tba

We’re talking about the all-new Ford Focus here, a model that builds on its predecessor’s achievements with more equipment and a new look. We’ve not driven it yet, but everything suggests it will be at least as fun to drive as the old car. It can’t afford not to be since this was that model’s distinguishing feature.

A high level of safety kit is expected by buyers these days and the new Focus doesn't disappoint with features including adaptive cruise control, sign recognition and even something called evasive steering assist. Naturally, there’s a large touchscreen and a range of connectivity features including WiFi.

Under the bonnet is a choice of efficient petrol engines plus some new diesels for drivers with an eye on company car tax. And crucially, for a family car, there’s more room for passengers and their luggage. The centre seat passenger in the back won't have to place their feet either side of a transmission tunnel because the new car’s floor is completely flat.
Read more about the new Ford Focus

Peugeot 3008

Best family car for crossover style 

List price from £22,870 2017 used cars typically from £19,000 Our pick Peugeot 3008 Allure 1.2 PureTech 130 EAT6 
Acceleration (0-62mph) 10.5sec Official fuel economy 54.3mpg CO2 120g/km

Peugeot’s 3008 is already beginning to change buyers’ minds of what a Peugeot is. The 3008 is a very polished family SUV, and far removed from the frankly sub-par old model.

Inside it’s as well built as a Volkswagen, outside it’s a stylish and daring shape, and underneath the bonnet there is a selection of frugal engines. Best of all, owner satisfaction is sky high, as it was voted as the best car to own in 2018’s Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey.
Read the Peugeot 3008 buying guide 

Ford Galaxy

Best family car for seven-seater versatility

List price from £28,000 2016 cars typically from £21,000 Our pick Ford Galaxy 2.0 TDCI 150PS Titanium
Acceleration (0-62mph) 10.9sec Official fuel economy 56.5mpg CO2 129g/km

There’s no getting round it - the Ford Galaxy is massive. It fits seven adult-sized humans in it comfortably, and it’s the most capacious seven-seater on the market.

Better yet, the Galaxy offers genuine luggage carrying ability, even with all seven seats up. But even with two rear seats down, it has a class-leading 2239 litres of space. For day to day driving it’s nowhere near as good as some of the cars on this list, but it is easy to live with, and has a commanding high-up driving position which is easy to see out of.

Read the Ford Galaxy buying guide

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