Best small family cars of 2022
The best small family cars are ones that mix and match a variety of talents, from lugging luggage, to sipping tiny amounts of fuel (or electricity), to being just that bit more entertaining on a twisty road than others might be. These are the ten best small family cars you can buy…
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On paper, the answer to this is the Peugeot 308 plug-in hybrid, which offers an official 281mpg on the combined WLTP economy test. You’re unlikely to get anything like that, though, unless you’re utterly religious about keeping it plugged-in and making the most of its electric-only running. That goes equally for the plug-in hybrid versions of the Volkswagen Golf, Skoda Octavia, Mercedes A-Class, and Audi A3. The electric Peugeot e-2008 offers some very efficient electric running. The relatively small 50kWh battery means you can only go for about 200-miles before recharging, but with electric consumption of 4.24 miles per kWh, it makes the most of what it’s got. If you’re looking for more conventional consumption champs, then the 68mpg Skoda Octavia 2.0 TDI diesel, or the 62mpg Toyota Corolla 1.8 Hybrid are the ones to go for.
Generally, the Skoda Octavia wins this competition — the standard hatchback has 590 litres of boot space, while the estate version stretches that to 610 litres. A Volkswagen Golf Estate has fractionally more, at 611 litres. However, if you mean a genuinely small car with a big boot, then it’s Skoda again, but this time the smaller Fabia. That has a 380-litre boot, the same size as the (much larger) Volkswagen Golf hatchback.
Most small family cars will have at least two Isofix points in the outer rear seats, but only a handful — and the Nissan Micra and Renault Zoe are the small-car stars in this case — offer a third Isofix point in the front passenger seat. Of the slightly larger cars, most will have front-passenger seat Isofix, including the likes of the Volkswagen Golf, Skoda Octavia and Audi A3.
Check out our rundown of the best cars with Isofix points.
Obviously, the smaller the car, the less it can tow, especially if you follow the recommended 85% rule, whereby you only tow something that’s 85% as heavy as your car. In general, most mid-size hatchbacks will be able to two between 1,300kg and 1,500kg on a braked trailer, and up to 500kg unbraked. There are specific versions of the Volkswagen Golf that can stretch to 2,000kg braked, but those are the higher-powered TDI diesel models. Hybrid and electric cars are often much more limited, as they’re already quite heavy because of their batteries. A Toyota Corolla can only tow a maximum of 750kg braked, for instance.
When you’re looking for a family car, generally there aren’t too many howlers left in the car market, but we can point to a couple that should probably be avoided. Fiat’s 500L is sensibly sized and priced (and driven on telly by Peter Kay) but it’s a model that feels way too old, and should have been replaced by now. Ditto the Fiat Tipo hatcback, which looks and feels more like an early-2000s design than a modern car (although the roomy and affordable estate has its appeal). We’d give the Volkswagen Taigo a swerve, too — it has a fashionable crossover body, but it’s pricier than the Polo on which it’s based, and doesn’t do anything that the Golf (and Golf Estate especially) can’t do better. Finally, there’s the Kia Rio, which was a good car when it was launched, and is still reliable and frugal, but which just feels like it’s been left behind by the best of the market.