Best family cars

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

BuyaCar team
Jan 30, 2020

Looking for the perfect family car? One that will keep you and your loved ones safe, comfortable and entertained? Well there is a huge variety of options available to you, each offering their own take on what makes the ideal family car.

While you have a seemingly endless choice of high-rise SUVs, cavernous MPVs and ever-practical family hatchbacks, some are better than others when it comes to levels of equipment, price and driving satisfaction. Getting a balance of all these, along with other important things like an acceptable fuel economy, is difficult to achieve, but we've picked out 10 family cars that we believe offer the best of all these worlds.

Some models, like the Audi A3, even offer a dash of luxury. Others options such as the Skoda Octavia offer space to stretch out while more and more families are making the move to crossovers, like the Peugeot 3008, that combine the affordable running costs and comfort of a hatchback with the higher driving position and practicality of a sport utility vehicle (SUV). Yet, it's impossible to discount the good old people carrier, or multi-purpose vehicle (MPV), 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
Used deals from £7,480
Monthly finance from £136

Here is the car that's about as close as you get to defining what a family hatchback should be. Sharing mechanical parts with the excellent VW Golf virtually guarantees it's going to be well-built, but it's a bigger car. A 590-litre boot is 210 litres larger than the Golf's and it has more rear passenger space too. In fact, the Octavia feels roomier than crossovers such as the Nissan Qashqai, and the fact it's lower to the ground makes it feel much more involving to drive, too.

There’s more to the Octavia than just space, though. It’s comfortable, quiet and efficient. The Skoda badge means that it’s cheaper than the Golf too, not to mention the impending arrival of an all-new Octavia later this year, so expect prices of this outgoing model to be reduced further still.

SKODA OCTAVIA BUYERS' GUIDE

2. VW Golf

Best family car for an all-round package

Our pick VW Golf 1.5 TSI Evo 5dr SE Navigation
Used deals from £7,295
Monthly finance from £125

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 BUYERS' GUIDE

3. Volvo XC40

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

Our pick Volvo XC40 T3 R-Design
Used deals from £22,250
Monthly finance from £290

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 BUYERS' GUIDE

4. Ford Focus

Best family car for driving fun

Our pick Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost Titanium
Used deals from £8,500
Monthly finance from £162

When the latest Ford Focus arrived in 2018 it brought an updated interior more equipment, and a new look. The good news is it remained as fun to drive as its precedessors.

We all expect a high level of safety kit these days and the Focus is certainly packed full, 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. Crucially, for a family car, there’s more room for passengers and their luggage, and 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 BUYERS' GUIDE

5. Peugeot 3008

Best family car for crossover style

Our pick Peugeot 3008 Allure 1.2 PureTech 130 EAT6
Used deals from £9,000
Monthly finance from £162

The Peugeot 3008 is already beginning to change buyers’ minds of what a Peugeot is. It's 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 3008 is 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 BUYERS' GUIDE

6. Audi A3 Sportback

Best family car for interior quality

Our pick Audi A3 Sport 1.4 TFSI
Used deals from £8,490
Monthly finance from £135

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 BUYERS' GUIDE

7. Mazda 3

Best family car for agile cornering and sporty looks

Our pick Mazda 3 2.2 SkyActiv-D 150
Used deals from £6,989
Monthly finance from £113

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 seven-inch display and air-conditioning. Sport Nav cars are particularly well-equipped with 18-inch 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.

For a while, this model is being sold alongside the all-new Mazda 3, launched early in 2019. This car addresses many of the criticisms levelled at its predecessor, most of them concerning the interior which is now much improved. The 1.8-litre diesel is the best all-round engine in the range. Meanwhile, there’s an advanced petrol engine coming to higher spec models that could be worth waiting for.

MAZDA 3 BUYERS' GUIDE

8. Citroen C4 Space Tourer

Best family car for a great view out

Our pick Citroen C4 Space Tourer Blue HDI 130 Flair
Used deals from £12,690
Monthly finance from £188

With models as good as the C4 Space Tourer, and in the face of the massed hordes of SUVs, MPVs deserve to fight another day. A light, airy cabin offering great visibility is the C4’s strong point. That and a well thought out interior bristling with features and technology.

But people buy an MPV for space and versatility above all. Here the C4 does not disappoint. Three individual rear seats with plenty of legroom, thanks to there being no transmission tunnel, is a good start. Each has Isofix child seat mountings, too. The rear seats can be slid forwards and backwards to create more or less boot space. Want more space? The rear seats can be folded completely flat. Then there are the picnic tables on the front seat backs, a pop-out torch for those nocturnal missing toy searches and lots of storage cubbyholes.

The C4 majors on ride comfort over performance. It really soaks up bumps and rough roads remarkably well. The huge windscreen, deep front quarter windows and raised ride height give a wonderful view out for everyone. All the engines are economical. The 130 PureTech petrol is perfect for average mileage drivers but if long-distance touring or commuting is on the cards, then the Blue HDI 130 diesel is the way to go.

CITROEN C4 SPACETOURER BUYERS' GUIDE

9. Skoda Karoq

Best family car for versatility and comfort

Our Pick Skoda Karoq 1.5 TSI 150PS SE L
Used deals from £15,299
Monthly finance from £214

A crossover combines a car-like driving experience with SUV looks, and the Karoq is one of the best. Its secret is offering not just plenty of space for passengers but a space which, thanks to a sliding rear seat, can be adapted to suit your requirements.

The Skoda Karoq follows the brand's pattern as a top value proposition, but where once this meant you had to put up with scratchy plastics, the Karoq surrounds you in plush materials. Top-spec versions rival even the upmarket VW Tiguan in this respect.

The diesels are strong pullers but expensive, so if you drive less than 15,000 miles a year we’d recommend one of the petrols. Our pick is the economical but punchy 1.5-litre petrol engine with 150hp for effortless motoring, solo or with the whole family aboard. Add a comfortable ride and tidy handling for a tall car, and no question, the Karoq is the complete crossover.

SKODA KAROQ BUYERS' GUIDE

10. Nissan Qashqai

Best family car for a safe SUV motoring

Our pick Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi 115 N-Connecta
Used deals from £7,390
Monthly finance from £139

The family SUV that started our present-day love affair with tall and bulky  continues to lead from the front. Well, almost, since it’s constantly being challenged by new rivals.

No matter – for many families it offers a perfect blend of practicality, versatility, ease of driving and value for money. Nissan has had a few years to get the SUV formula right and it shows in the current Qashqai which, to keep it fresh, was facelifted a couple of years ago.

A good driving experience, low noise levels and ride comfort are its strongest points. Economy is good, too, especially from the new 1.5-litre, 115hp diesel motor.

It only really loses ground in the quality and appearance of the interior which is beginning to look and feel a little dated. Otherwise, it can lay claim to some cutting-edge safety technology that leaves rivals trailing. For example, N-Connecta models have an Around View Monitor that lets you see what’s happening around the vehicle, plus Safety Shield offering features such as rear cross traffic alert, blind spot warning and intelligent park assist.

NISSAN QASHQAI BUYERS' GUIDE

 

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