Best family cars

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

BuyaCar team
Dec 6, 2017

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, Hyundai i30 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. 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.

Best family cars


1. Skoda Octavia

Best family car for space and value

List price from £17,195
2016 cars typically from £12,000
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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

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2. VW Golf

Best family car for all-round appeal

List price from £18,230
2016 cars typically from £11,000
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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

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3. Vauxhall Astra

Best family car for economical engines and driving enjoyment

List price from £16,535
2016 cars typically from £9,000
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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

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4. Mini Clubman

Best family car for fun and individuality

List price from £20,730
2016 cars typically from £15,500
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The Clubman is proof that family cars don’t need to be dull and boring. With bulging headlights and curved grille, it has the cute charm of the standard Mini hatchback, with a bit of extra length at the back to make it more family friendly. Two side-hinged boot doors add to the character but disrupt your rear vision through the rear-view mirror.

The Clubman is almost as fun to drive as the smaller Minis, with engines that are quick to rev when you press the accelerator, and steering that feels directly connected to the front wheels.

You do pay extra for this experience but the Clubman holds its value well, so finance deals or the cost of owning it are not excessive.

Mini Clubman dimensions 

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5. Audi A3 Sportback

Best family car for interior quality


List price from £21,380
2016 cars typically from £15,000
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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

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6. Renault Megane

Best family car for a quiet, relaxing drive


List price from £17,790
2016 cars (current model) typically from £12,000
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The newest family car on the market, 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

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7. Mazda 3

Best family car for agile cornering and sporty looks

List price from £17,995
2016 cars typically from £10,000
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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

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8. Ford Focus

Best family car for driving fun

List price from £20,135
2016 cars typically from £10,000
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The Ford Focus is the default choice for many family car buyers, and it’s easy to see why. The Ford's responsive steering and grip over rough roads, makes it fun to drive. There's also a ride that’s as smooth as a Vauxhall Astra. It looks good and there are some fantastic deals available, too, as the car comes closer to being replaced next year.

The Focus falls down the rankings because it is cramped in the back, compared with a VW Golf, let alone a Skoda Octavia, and the boot is noticeably smaller than average too.

Read the Ford Focus buying guide / Ford Focus dimensions

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9. Hyundai i30

Best family car for standard safety equipment

List price from £16,995
2017 used cars typically from £14,500
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Long-known for its sensible five-year warranty and value-for-money cars, Hyundai has gone hi-tech with its all-new i30. Even the very cheapest model comes with automatic emergency braking and a self-steering function that can nudge the car back into its lane.

The petrol engines in particular are modern, economical and nippy. On the motorway, it’s as quiet and smooth as cars from the class above.

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10. Seat Leon

Best family car for sharp styling

List price from £17,970
2016 cars typically from £11,000
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The Seat Leon is yet another car sharing the mechanical parts of the Golf. This time, the difference is that it feels sportier than the Volkswagen (plus the Audi A3 and Skoda Octavia). In corners, the car turns sharply, without a great deal of leaning, and with plenty of grip.

The trade-off for this agility is that it’s not as smooth as most of the cars above it in the list, so you can feel more bumps as you drive along. The Leon was updated at the beginning of the year, but the changes are limited to minor technology upgrades and design tweaks. The interior feels well-made, but the room inside is no better than average.

Read the Seat Leon buying guide / Seat Leon dimensions

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