Some car segments wax and wane over the decades as buyers’ needs and wants change. The family car market, however, is fairly evergreen – and that’s why so many car makers put a lot of time and effort into making the best family vehicles they can.
A good family car needs to be practical to store all a brood’s paraphernalia, it needs to be sturdy to withstand everything young children can throw at it, and it needs to be comfortable to cushion said family from the undulations of British roads.
We judged family cars by how practical they were, how well suited to family life they were, and how relaxing they are to drive.
The Peugeot 308 won European Car of the Year 2014 and has been gaining some very positive reviews from critics too. It has a comfortable ride provided you don’t pick the largest alloys and handles well on the road. It’s cabin is sizeable, as is its boot, making it practical for families carrying pushchairs, golf clubs or flat-pack furniture.
The interior is minimalist with only a small amount of buttons dotted about the dash. The majority of controls are taken care of by a central touchscreen which operates the sat-nav, climate control, infotainment and vehicle settings.
It wouldn’t be right to do a list of family cars without mentioning the evergreen Volkswagen Golf. This little German hatchback consistently takes on its rivals and comes out on top due to its mixture of a composed ride, secure handling, impeccable quality and decent practicality.
It comes with the broad range of excellent Volkswagen-group turbocharged engines to suit all tastes from the fast to the frugal, and can be had with a manual or DSG automatic transmission. It’s the archetypal family car for a reason and the seventh-generation model continues this tradition.
Skoda Octavia Estate
As accomplished as the Golf is, the Skoda Octavia Estate sits on the same platform, uses the same engines, also has a high quality cabin and has an even larger interior. Skoda has stretched the MQB platform to fit the Octavia’s estate body style – this gives the car a truly gigantic boot and plenty of head and legroom in the rear.
It doesn’t quite have the out-and-out polish of the Golf – it has a slightly crashier ride and the cabin isn’t quite as posh – but considering the acres of extra space you get in a platform that’s 95 per cent as good means it’s very hard to ignore the Skoda.