Being a great family car isn’t easy. To get you behind the wheel a family car has to be spacious enough to fit you, your other half, the kids and everyone’s luggage. It’s also got to be stylish enough for you to want to buy it and offer a level of technology that’ll future proof it for the three years you’re likely to own it. You’ll also want decent performance – without high running costs. Toughest of all – it needs to tick all these boxes, yet still offer great value. Thankfully, you’ll find this list offers a variety of different cars that deliver all of the above and more – keep reading for our list of the 10 best family cars currently on sale.
If you’ve already decided which is your ideal new car, click ‘login’ in the top-right-hand corner to sign up and configure a brand new model, or browse our extensive selection of pre-reg, ex-demo, new, nearly new and used cars. If you fancy something a little larger, read our list of the 10 best SUVs or check out our roundup of the 10 best small cars if you’re after something slightly more compact.
[July 2018 update: The new Ford Focus rockets to the top of our Best Family Car list because of its winning combination of stylish looks, smart and spacious interior and clever technology. And because it proves that sensible family cars don’t have to offer a driving experience that’s as boring as watching paint dry]
Here are the 10 best family cars on sale:
- Ford Focus
- Skoda Kodiaq
- BMW X3
- Mercedes E-Class Estate
- Peugeot 3008
- Skoda Octavia Estate
- VW Tiguan
- VW Golf
- Volvo XC60
- Nissan Leaf
1. Ford Focus
The Ford Focus might look very similar to the old model in pictures, but it’s a far more striking design in the metal. There’s no doubt it is a new model from the inside, because plastic quality has vastly improved – you’ll still find cheaper materials lower down the cabin, mind – and it also has a lot more rear-seat passenger space and a slightly bigger boot. The tech improvements are even more notable, the Focus is now available with large-screened infotainment systems and a variety of autonomous driving aids. In the Ford, however, you’ll want to do the driving – its grippy, agile chassis makes it feel brilliant in bends and even the quick models are cheap to run. No wonder it’s now our #1 family car.
2. Skoda Kodiaq
The Skoda Kodiaq is a tall SUV with a big boot and a roomy cabin that has enough space inside for five adults to get comfy. Hand over a little extra cash and you can even get it with a third row of child-sized seats in the boot. The Kodiaq’s well-built cabin feels robust enough to stand up to the rigours of family life, too, and the standard-fit infotainment system is easy to read and intuitive to use.
The Skoda isn’t particularly exciting to drive and you’ll have to pay extra if you want it with four-wheel drive – unlike some other SUVs in our list – but the Kodiaq’s wide range of frugal engines and comfortable suspension mean it’s cheap to run and relaxing to drive.
3. BMW X3
The BMW X3’s supremely well-built cabin doesn’t just come packed with high-tech infotainment features, it’s impressively spacious, too. As a result, there’s enough space in the back for three tall passengers to get comfy and the boot will easily hold numerous bulky suitcases, some soft bags and two baby strollers at once.
Unfortunately, plenty of the X3’s headline-grabbing features, such as the adaptive suspension, a digital driver’s display and cool gesture controls that’ll let you change the stereo volume by waving your hand, cost extra. Even without these fancy gadgets, it’s an excellent SUV and a great family car.
4. Mercedes E-Class Estate
The Mercedes E-Class Estate is one of the classiest and most practical family cars around. It looks fantastic both inside and out and comes with an absolutely huge boot that’ll have no trouble swallowing a family’s luggage for a few weeks away. All models come with rear air suspension as standard, too, which helps make it very relaxing to drive.
The infotainment system isn’t quite as easy to use as what you get in a BMW 5 Series Touring or Audi A6 Avant, but neither of those cars can match the E-Class’ elegant interior design, and the Mercedes is better for carrying three tall passengers in the back at once, too.
5. Peugeot 3008
Speaking of eye-catching interiors, the Peugeot 3008 comes with one of the most individual cabins of any new car on sale. It gets Peugeot’s signature small steering wheel and raised instruments alongside some posh metal toggle switches and lots of plush materials. It’s impressively roomy inside, too – there’s room for three adults in the back and the flat floor means your middle passenger has lots of space to stretch their legs out.
Unlike some SUVs in our list, you can’t get the 3008 with four-wheel drive, but it does come with Peugeot’s Grip Control feature to help stop you getting stuck in snowy or icy conditions. The frugal petrol and diesel engines mean it’ll be cheap to run, too, and it’s even fairly comfortable and quiet at motorway speeds.
6. Skoda Octavia Estate
The Skoda Octavia Estate is one of the most practical small family cars you can buy. Its boot is one of the largest of any compact estate car and there’s enough leg and headroom in the back for tall adults to get pretty comfortable. Its cabin feels well built, too, and you get plenty of equipment as standard – including an eight-inch touchscreen with smartphone-mirroring features.
Sadly, nothing about the Octavia Estate is particularly exciting, especially inside, where everything’s trimmed in sensible, but hardly eye-catching, shades of black or grey. On the other hand, it’s very easy to drive and comes with a broad range of economical petrol and diesel engines.
7. VW Tiguan
The VW Tiguan shares lots of mechanical bits and bobs with the larger Skoda Kodiaq, but loses out on the option of seven seats in favour of a more upmarket interior. It’s still big enough to carry five adults with room to spare and its boot is more than spacious enough for a big weekly shop.
It’s a little more expensive than some alternative SUVs and you have to fork out extra if you want a sporty-looking R-Line model, but the Tiguan’s easy to drive and reasonably cheap to run. You can even get four-wheel drive for a little extra grip in slippery winter weather.
8. VW Golf
The VW Golf feels significantly more upmarket than most small family cars, thanks to its plush cabin and high-tech infotainment system. It’s pretty roomy for a small car, too – there’s enough space in the back for three adults to sit side-by-side and its boot will easily swallow a big weekly shop or family luggage for a week away.
The optional automatic gearbox is worth paying for if you do lots of long journeys, but it is a little jerky at slow speeds – such as when you’re parking. Entry-level models look and feel a touch bare inside compared to all-singing top-spec models, but pick a mid-range model and it makes an excellent do-it-all family car.
9. Volvo XC60
The Volvo XC60 brings a slice of sophisticated Swedish style to the family car party. In its roomy cabin, you’ll find lashings of soft leather, cool unpolished wood and a large portrait infotainment screen that help set it apart from the altogether more conventional cabins you get in many other SUVs. There’s loads of headroom in the back, even with the optional panoramic glass roof fitted, and its boot is bigger than in an Audi Q5 or Mercedes GLC.
Unlike in these cars, however, you can’t get the XC60 with a quiet-yet-powerful six-cylinder engine and its automatic gearbox isn’t particularly smooth, either. It’s still pretty relaxing to drive on motorways and its light controls and good visibility make it relatively easy to drive around town, too.
10. Nissan Leaf
The Nissan Leaf is an electric vehicle that makes a great family car if you do lots of short journeys and have somewhere you can regularly plug it in to charge. Unlike most electric cars, the Leaf comes with a practical, easy-to-load boot and just enough space in the back for tall adults.
Sure, some of the interior trims feel a bit cheap and the infotainment system isn’t as intuitive as in many small family cars, but the Leaf’s impressive 235-mile range, near-silent electric motor and affordable price tag make it one of the most usable electric cars on sale, and a great choice for the family.
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