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The best family cars: hatches, SUVs and MPVs

Anyone looking for a family car is spoiled for choice at the moment. Is an MPV worthwhile, or will a regular hatch do? Will a premium brand offer anything better? How safe is the car you’re looking to buy?

There are yet more factors to consider though. Not only does a family car need plenty of space for adults, kids and anything else you might need to cart along, but there are many other little gadgets and features which can make life easier, more pleasant or less stressful.

We’ve selected ten of our favourite family cars, and singled out each for their finest qualities. If you’re already picked your perfect car, our PCP calculator will help give you an idea exaclt how much it could cost.

Best for: arriving in style

Peugeot 308

We appreciate buying a family car based on its pretty design isn’t always the most sensible thing to do, but we’re sure you’ll agree that the Peugeot 308 scores highly in this respect. Both inside and out, it’s one of the most attractive mass-produced cars on sale today.

If that isn’t enough to sway you, there are plenty of other reasons to recommend it. It scored a maximum five-star crash test rating from Euro NCAP, the most economical diesel model is capable of 78.3mpg, and it combines a fun drive with impressive refinement. Even the build quality – a previous downfall of Peugeots – is now on a par with some of the best German offerings.

Best for: doing things differently

Citroen C4 Cactus

Shunning the more conventionally pretty styling of the Peugeot 308 for something much more distinctive, the Citroen C4 Cactus is guaranteed to turn heads wherever you drive it.

If the cool and quirky French design isn’t enough, there are genuinely clever details abound. Those unusual “airbumps” on the doors and bumpers are made of a rubberised plastic, which reduces the risk of damage in the event of low speed collisions and parking bumps. Inside, Citroens engineers have relocated the passenger airbag to the roof, resulting in an extra storage cubby on top of the dash.

Elsewhere, the door bins are large, and a 358-litre boot rivals many cars from the class above. The Cactus is a brilliantly simple and stylish crossover priced to compete with much less practical superminis. It’s very hard to find this much space and individuality at this price anywhere else.

Best for: easy entry

Ford B-Max

At first glance, it may seem like the B-Max is just a regular tall supermini. However, opening the rear doors reveals its party piece. While the front doors open normally, the rears slide backwards, revealing a wide, open space making entering the cabin incredibly easy.

It may look a little strange, but safety hasn’t been compromised. All of the crash protection has been built into that rear door, so when everything is closed up it’s just as safe as any other car, as its five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating confirms.

Best for: practicality on a budget

Kia cee’d Sportwagon

Sometimes it’s the simple things which can make the most difference. While the cee’d is a perfectly pleasant, sensible and stylish hatchback, the SW variant adds a little extra practicality which any family would welcome.

Boot space increases from the standard car’s 380 litres to 528, and the opening is lower and wider – perfect if you need to load buggies and other heavy items in the back. Its a handsome thing too, plus you’ll gain the peace of mind which comes with Kia’s seven year warranty.

Best for: keeping everyone safe

Volvo V40

Few things put your mind at ease more than knowing that you’re carrying your family in a safe car. The Volvo V40 gained the highest score of any car that Euro NCAP had ever tested back in 2012. Despite those tests getting tougher every year, in many areas it’s still one of the safest cars on the market.

Safety isn’t it’s only trump card, though. The V40 also sports a gorgeous dash, comfortable seats and a very refined drive. A premium hatchback with an impeccable safety record – what’s not to like?

Best for: stress-free driving

BMW i3

If your car will be used mainly for the school run, there are few on the market which are better suited to the task than the BMW i3. The battery pack offers a silent range of up to 100 miles, with the optional range extender model boosting that figure to nearer 200. With 168hp on tap, performance is strong, too: 0-62mph takes only 7.2 seconds.

The tall body shape makes for a spacious cabin, while the dash itself is a thing of beauty – simple, contemporary and sustainably built. The rear passenger doors are backwards-hinged, allowing for a B-pillar-free opening like the aforementioned Ford B-Max. Combined with the near-silent drive from the electric motors, it adds up to an incredibly relaxing place to be.

Best for: interior space

Ford C-Max

Mid-size MPVs were originally designed for the specific purpose of offering a little extra practicality over regular hatchbacks. Although it’s hardly any longer than the Ford Focus on which it is based, the C-Max gains over 15cm in height to improve cabin space both front and rear. If you’re having to fiddle with child seats on a regular basis, that extra height reduces the need to awkwardly stoop into the cabin.

Best for: a premium feel

Volkswagen Golf

It may not offer anything particularly revolutionary or unique, but the Volkswagen Golf remains one of the very best family cars on the market. Its smart appearance has always been attractive to buyers, and it feels as solidly built and as safe behind the wheel as those looks might suggest.

There’s a decent 380-litre boot, plenty of space for passengers, and two Isofix mounting points located in the rear. All the basics are here, and they’re all done exceptionally well.

Best for: quality at a bargain price

Skoda Octavia

While many people see Skoda as a budget brand, it certainly doesn’t feel like it from behind the wheel of the Octavia. The interior is immaculately built, and there’s plenty of room for everyone. It’s very comfortable, refined and easy to drive.

None of this should come as a surprise, though, as it shares large percentage of its components with the aforementioned VW Golf. We’d recommend the Octavia over the Golf because it offers most of the same talents at a lower price, and gains a huge 590-litre boot.

Best for: all round ability

Nissan Qashqai

The Qashqai is the jack of all trades and master of many so it’s hardly surprising to find it at the top of our family cars list. The Nissan Qashqai the ideal tool for the job – safe, spacious and dependable.

Its chunky crossover looks are appealing, while the small petrol and diesel units are economical (if you tend to do higher mileages, the 1.5-litre diesel’s claimed 74.3mpg will be most welcome). By all practical and sensible measures we can think of, it hasn’t really got any weaknesses, which makes it a deserving holder of our top spot.

Family ties

If you think your family would be suited to any of the cars featured above, head over to our car configurator to see how much carwow could help you save. For more options, head over our deals page to see our latest discounts or use our PCP calculator to get a better idea how much your new car could cost.

Volkswagen Golf

A practical family car with high-tech features and a smart interior
£18,340 - £27,910
Read review Compare offers

Nissan Qashqai (2014-2017)

Roomy family car with a raised driving position and cheap running costs
£18,960 - £30,550
Read review
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