Best family cars

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

BuyaCar team
Nov 7, 2018

There's no space for mediocre family cars, which are expected to do everything well. They must be generously equipped but competitively priced; comfortable and practical to prevent tiresome squabbles in the back; safe but satisfying to drive; and powerful enough to haul a family and their luggage while making each tank of fuel go as far as possible.

You could think of them as the Mary Poppins of cars. They may look ordinary but their talents should be extraordinary.

Some models, like the Audi A3, offer a dash of luxury. Others, such as Skoda’s Octavia, offer space to stretch out. More families are choosing to drive a crossover, like the Peugeot 3008. These combine the affordable running costs and comfort of a hatchback with the higher driving position and practicality of a sport utility vehicle (SUV). And don’t discount the good old people carrier. Models like the Ford Galaxy feel like a penthouse suite compared to the standard doubles that are some hatchbacks.

So get your research off to a head start, and browse our pick of the best family cars or click below to go straight to a particular model. And if you already know what you’re looking for, you can jump straight to deals on new and used cars, below.

 

Best family cars

1. Skoda Octavia

Best family car for space and value

Our pick Skoda Octavia 1.6 TDI 115PS SE L
Latest Skoda Octavia deals from £8,300
Finance from £134 per month

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.
Skoda Octavia buying guide

 

2. VW Golf

Best family car for an all-round package

Our pick VW Golf 1.5 TSI Evo 5dr SE Navigation
Latest Volvo XC40 deals from £27,980
Finance from £377 per month

The song, "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better", could have been written for the Volkswagen Golf. There’s nothing the best-known family hatchback isn’t good at, which goes some way to explaining why it was Britain’s second best-selling car last year.

A recent update introduced more economical engines, a digital dashboard with an improved touchscreen, more sophisticated technology and some small changes to the design. Unchanged is the Golf's solid build quality, from the doors that close with a satisfying thud to the quality interior materials.

Despite these improvements, it remains competitively priced, and as good to drive as ever, with the smooth ride comfort being of particular note. Inside it’s roomy, with enough space in the back for three adults. Boot space is only OK, though; a week’s family shop can easily fill it.
VW Golf buying guide

 

3. Volvo XC40

Best family car for stylish design in a high-riding SUV

Our pick Volvo XC40 T3 R-Design
Latest Volvo XC40 deals from £27,980
Finance from £377 per month

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

It’s also surprisingly good to drive – the days of lumpen-like Volvos are long gone – especially with the surprisingly powerful petrol engines. As you’d imagine, the SUV scores highly on safety too. The XC40 has software that can detect potential collisions with other cars, pedestrians, and cyclists and will try and prevent them.
Volvo XC40 buying guide

 

4. Ford Focus

Best family car for driving fun

Our pick Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost Titanium
Latest Ford Focus deals (current model) Click for current prices

The all-new Ford Focus builds on its predecessor’s achievements with more equipment and a new look. The good news is it remains as fun to drive as the old car but there has been a big improvement with the dashboard design, making it more appealing on the eye.

Buyers expect a high level of safety kit these days and the new Focus doesn't disappoint with optional features including adaptive cruise control, sign recognition and even a head-up display. 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 with low carbon dioxide emissions 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 is better-looked after than normal because the floor is completely flat, so they won't need to sit with feet splayed.
Ford Focus buying guide

 

5. Peugeot 3008

Best family car for crossover style 

Our pick Peugeot 3008 Allure 1.2 PureTech 130 EAT6
Latest Peugeot 3008 deals from £11,000
nb cheapest prices may apply to previous-generation car
Finance from £167 per month

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. The car's particularly good when fitted with the 1.2-litre petrol engine and automatic gearbox.

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.
Peugeot 3008 buying guide

 

6. Audi A3 Sportback

Best family car for interior quality

Our pick Audi A3 Sport 1.4 TFSI
Latest Audi A3 deals from £9,389
Finance from £139 per month

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. 
Audi A3 buying guide

 

7. Mazda 3

Best family car for agile cornering and sporty looks

Our pick Mazda 3 2.2 SkyActiv-D 150
Latest Mazda 3 deals from £8,190
Finance from £122 per month

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 responsive when you are faced with an open road and no passengers aboard.

Equipment levels are generous with all versions having alloy wheels, a 7in display and air-conditioning. Sport Nav cars are particularly well-equipped with 18in alloy wheels, head-up display and bright LED headlights.

The interior looks smart but is not in the same class as the Audi A3. And it’s also not as accommodating as many cars in its class. But if you value standing out of the crowd, that may be a sacrifice you’d be prepared to make.
Mazda 3 buying guide

 

8. Ford Galaxy

Best family car for seven-seater versatility

Our pick Ford Galaxy 2.0 TDCI 150PS Titanium
Latest Ford Galaxy deals from £17,697
Finance from £266 per month

Sometimes, size really is everything, and with the Ford Galaxy, you get space to stretch out in. It fits seven adults comfortably, so imagine how spacious it will feel for a young family. And with the most capacious boot, you can pack in everything including the kitchen sink.

For day to day driving it’s quite a different driving experiences to most of the cars on this list, but it is easy to get along with, and has a commanding high-up driving position, which gives a clear view of the road and surroundings.
Four-wheel drive is available as an option, as is self-levelling rear suspension (helpful to keep the car level when it’s fully loaded) but unfortunately it’s not possible to order those two features together.
Ford Galaxy buying guide

 

9. Vauxhall Astra

Best family car for economical engines and driving enjoyment

Our Pick Vauxhall Astra 1.0T (105) ecoFLEX SRi
Latest Vauxhall Astra deals (current model) from £8,490
Finance from £126 per month

The 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 good quality materials. It makes the Astra good at virtually everything, without excelling in any particular area.

It’s smaller (making it easier to park) than the old model but clever packaging means it’s actually roomier in the front and rear seats. The back doors open wide, too, making fitting child seats easier.
Vauxhall Astra buying guide

 

10. Renault Megane

Best family car for a quiet, relaxing drive

Our pick Renault Megane 1.5 dCi Iconic
Latest Renault Megane deals (current model) from £7,946
Finance from £118 per month

The latest Renault Megane offers distinctive looks, good levels of standard equipment, and excellent fuel economy. Combine that with competitive pricing and it’s well worth a second look.

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.

However, for families the Megane does have a drawback. Its interior is not as spacious is as some hatchbacks.
Renault Megane buying guide

 

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