Top 10 Best Family Cars
Despite the relentless rise of crossover vehicles in the UK, the most popular car being bought today still tends to be the traditional family hatchback. Rumours of the demise of the family car have been grossly exaggerated.
And why? Well quite simply, the humble hatchback offers families (even those with dogs) just about everything they could need in a car…
Along with having plenty of space, hatchbacks are not huge cars and can be parked easily on driveways and in supermarket car parks. The best SUVs are roomy and spacious, but they are bulky at home and for driving around town.
Family hatchback cars offer lots of practicality and boot space for all of the family’s needs – even in the most modest of family cars, there’s usually ample space for the weekly shop, bulging bags, pushchairs and other family paraphernalia. Small cars built purely for efficiency they are not.
Another big attraction of family cars is affordability. Whatever budget you may have in mind, you can get a well-equipped vehicle that should prove to be reliable and a good runner.
Let’s be honest too, the best family cars need to be attractive enough for you to buy, be cost-effective to run and be popular enough so you can easily find a buyer when you want to replace it.
Choosing the best family car in the UK
We won’t spoil anything now as to the very best family car, suffice to say we have gone for a popular and spacious choice.
Auto Express recently chose the excellent Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport to top their family car list.
While the Insignia Grand Sport is a great car, particularly for families, it doesn’t quite tick all of the boxes that a modern family might be looking for in their everyday transport such as space, running costs and practicality.
We also looked at new prices, residuals and equipment levels – and reliability which for many families is an important consideration.
So, here is the Motorway breakdown of the best family cars currently available in the UK. There’s a few surprises…
The best family cars to buy are reviewed below:
- Volkswagen Golf
- Volkswagen Tiguan
- Mercedes A-Class
- Dacia Duster
- Skoda Kodiaq
- Peugeot 3008
- Skoda Superb Estate
- Ford Focus
- Vauxhall Astra
- Toyota Corolla
1. Volkswagen Golf
The Volkswagen Golf has been a popular choice with families for decades now and the latest offering still impresses. It’s a spacious and well-built family car that is easy to live with.
Behind the wheel, the handling is agile with accurate steering and good feedback and the interior has been well-designed and made with quality materials. The car is robust and has a decent sized boot to help lug any weighty family stuff around.
Despite its popularity, the Golf has a fairly bland design (even though it’s just been repalced with the mark 8) and there are cheaper rivals available, however, they don’t all offer as much on board with economical engines delivering decent levels of performance. The VW Golf has a strong fan base and the latest version plays to its strengths.
Price: Starting from £23,875
- Excellent build quality
- Economical engines
- Lots of space
- Basic entry-level models
- Bland styling
2. Volkswagen Tiguan
As a sensible, well-designed car, the Volkswagen Tiguan is a comfortable and spacious family SUV. The raised driving position offers an excellent view of the road ahead and there are lots of useful storage areas on board including a big boot.
While the Tiguan is a great offering and has received excellent reviews, it’s also more expensive than most of its rivals but the fact it comes with five seats does help to justify that additional cost. If you want a seven-seat family vehicle, then you need to look at the VW Tiguan Allspace.
The Volkswagen Tiguan’s interior is a comfortable place to spend time with an impressive infotainment system – it’s one of the best currently available, and the sat nav system also impresses but it’s not available on the cheaper versions.
Handling is sensible and reassured and at speed the Tiguan offers stability and it’s also agile around town and on country roads. We would recommend the 1.4 litre petrol engine producing 150 hp as this offers performance along with decent economy.
Price: Starting from £25,010
- High comfort levels
- Practical and spacious
- Great engines
- Entry-level kit
3. Mercedes A-Class
For anybody looking for a great family car that also carries a prestigious badge, then the Mercedes A-Class offers smart styling and an impressive interior. There’s also lots of great technology on board, it’s nice to drive and there are a wide a choice of engine options.
In many ways, the A-Class is very different from its rivals – from its agility to the infotainment system. This is a sophisticated family car that just about every driver could fall in love with.
Though its handling tends to be sensible with a firm stance when being put through its paces, some rivals offer more fun when behind the wheel. However, the A-Class does deliver a sound driving experience.
Indeed, everything about the A-Class offering is polished and with just three trim choices it helps that the entry-level SE has, unusually for Mercedes, lots of equipment fitted as standard.
Mercedes has created a family car in the A-Class that is designed to attract families away from the competitors like the Ford Focus and have them enjoy a stylish offering that performs well around town and also on long journeys.
Price: Starting from £23,710
- Impressive interior
- Sound handling
- Reliable offering
- The price
- Rear seat space
- Rivals offer more fun
4. Dacia Duster
If it is space and practicality (with outstanding affordability) you want from a family vehicle, then the Dacia Duster will meet all your needs. Dacia, along with other carmakers such as Skoda, is still making headway in the UK offering hard-to-beat prices for decent family cars.
If you’re looking for a brand-new vehicle and willing to forego some polish and refinement, then a Dacia Duster might be for you.
Okay, it’s a cheap car and while you are saving thousands of pounds buying the Duster compared to its rivals, you will be missing out on some technology, particularly safety kit, but the new model is better than the previous incarnation and the sacrifices are probably worth it (though you may feel not having a radio in the Access model might be a sacrifice too far!)
With prices starting at less than £10,000 this is an SUV that’s affordable, although the entry-level models are sparse for equipment. Opt for the Comfort model and there’s a 7-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system that has satnav and the front seats offer more support.
The Motorway team would recommend the Essential model which has DAB radio, air con and Bluetooth connectivity and will still cost less than £12,000. The top end Prestige model offers an all-round camera, blind spot warning and alloy wheels.
Perhaps the only downside to the Duster’s offering is the poor showing for safety under the Euro NCAP crash testing – an unimpressive three stars – which for many parents could be a deal breaker. Safety first is a motto for the vast majority of families, so this will put off many.
Of the engines, the 1.5 litre diesel unit offers plenty of power and economy, whereas the 1.6 litre petrol unit is a lacklustre offering on long motorway journeys.
- The price
- Frugal diesel engine
- Lots of cabin space
- Entry level model is (very) basic
- Interior feels cheap
- No automatic transmission choice
5. Skoda Kodiaq
For those needing an excellent crossover family car, then the new Skoda Kodiaq is certainly worth looking into. It has a solid build and is a refined vehicle that delivers lots of practicality.
For the money, it’s a great choice as a new or used option, plus there are models available with seven seats. Being a Skoda means there are some very clever design ideas too such as hidden umbrellas in the front doors, plus a magnetic torch in the boot.
It’s a stylish creation and a cheaper 7-seater choice over the Volkswagen Tiguan. We would opt for the 2.0 litre TDI Style – a great offering for families everywhere with a generous kit list and sound handling. The higher riding driving position makes this a nice car to drive with accurate steering and an impressive suspension system.
When buying this for family use, avoid the Sportline models which have 20-inch alloy wheels that tend to undermine the ride. There’s a good choice of engines, including a 1.4 litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 123 hp, though if your family car is packed to the gills regularly with people and kit then you may find the smaller engines a bit of a struggle.
Four-wheel drive is also an option for the Kodiak and there’s a good choice of trim levels featuring a long equipment list: 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, parking sensors and cruise control are all options. If you want the Skoda Kodiak with seven seats then it will cost you £1,000 more. We compare the 7-seater option in our dedicated guide to 7-seaters.
Essentially, along with nice handling, it’s a safe car with five stars under the Euro NCAP crash testing with high scores for protecting the child occupants. There’s also a standard automatic emergency braking system fitted. This is a quality family-friendly crossover vehicle with a lot to recommend it.
- Practical and spacious
- Lovely car to drive
- Very stylish design
- 7-seat option is pricey
- The better trims are expensive
- Not all safety systems are fitted as standard
6. Peugeot 3008
Sneaking into third place is the Peugeot 3008 and while its looks may not attract many buyers, as a family car it’s a practical and sound choice. The 3008 has an impressive cabin made with quality materials and there’s plenty of space on board for a family with teenagers. It’s also a good runner with a lot going for it.
If you are looking for a crossover car for your family, then Peugeot’s offering will impress; it’s one of the best cars in the medium SUV segment. It’s also better in many ways than its predecessor especially with the build quality. It’s a great alternative against the more popular Nissan Qashqai, the VW Tiguan and also the Renault Kadjur.
The range of engines is impressive and for those driving around town, the petrol units will deliver smooth performance and economy whereas for those who are planning long motorway journeys then the diesel units, particularly the 1.6 litre BlueHDi offering is a sound choice.
It’s also worth noting that while the engines are excellent they aren’t sporty so you won’t be burning rubber in the 3008.
Along with its design, comfortable interior and long equipment list, behind the wheel the Peugeot 3008 is a great car to drive. The vehicle offers a firm grip, which is apparent when driving through tight corners at speed.
There’s also clever use of materials on board with a stylish design and an 8-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system and the firm’s i-Cockpit digital instrument binnacle utilises a 12.3-inch screen – normally only found on higher-end models.
Along with plenty of space, it’s a safe car to drive – it received five stars from Euro NCAP – and for those looking for a great value for money family car with lots of equipment then the 3008 Allure is for you.
So, if you can come to terms with the slightly funky looks, this is a crossover that has lots of equipment, plus a generous level of safety kit which most families will appreciate.
- Refinement levels
- Great handling
- Expensive options
- Some seats could be better
7. Skoda Superb Estate
It’s a brave move to call any car ‘superb’ but the marketing team at Skoda were not only brave and confident, but right too. The Skoda Superb delivers on just about every criteria and it’s hard to criticise in any way.
It’s not only great value for money, it’s also a practical and spacious choice with excellent build quality. For many families, there’s lots of room for appreciation in the estate version.
It’s built on the VW Golf platform but it’s slightly bigger and costs much less. With the rear seats in place, the boot size is 660 litres and when they are folded flat this extends to an impressive 1,950 litres – one of the largest in the segment.
It’s a really pleasant car to spend time in for long journeys and it’s not only enjoyable for the driver but also comfortable for the occupants with lots of space in the rear – especially for teens with long legs!
The rather plain interior could be seen as a bit bland for some families. It’s a simple design compared with other cars in the family segment, so if you want cutting-edge cabin design then you may just want to opt for an Audi instead. However, if you want a functional and well-made interior with all controls in easy reach, then the Superb compares well with its competition.
There are five trim levels to choose from the basic model to the ‘S’, offering Bluetooth connectivity, air con, alloy wheels and autonomous emergency braking with other models coming with lots more kit.
Of the line-up, we recommend the SE Technology with the 2.0 litre diesel unit producing 150 hp for decent performance and low running costs. There’s also more than enough equipment including parking sensors which many may find use useful on a big car.
There’s also adaptive cruise control and dual-zone air conditioning. The models above the SE get pricey and take you into the realms of its rivals, including the VW Passat and the Ford Mondeo.
- Smart looks
- Refinement levels
- Plain cabin design
- Low kit on entry models
8. Ford Focus
In our top spot for the ‘Best family car of 2020’ mantle is a vehicle the UK loves – it’s the Ford Focus. Judging by how ubiquitous this car is on UK roads, we are not alone. It’s not only packed with the latest technology, it’s also a great car to drive and it’s an attractive one too. The Focus has been a huge bestseller for the Blue Oval for a reason – it does what buyers want it to do and does it well.
The latest incarnation is much better than its predecessor, with the third generation of the Focus being an underwhelming offering. Ford has had to meet the growing competition from rivals, including the Volkswagen Golf and the Vauxhall Astra, to conjure up an impressive family car and the fourth generation Focus delivers in impressive style.
For those who left the marque for its rivals, including the Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class, the Focus’ offering of three and five-door models plus an estate will meet most needs. The latest Focus also takes on the growing popularity of crossovers, including the Peugeot 3008 and the Nissan Qashqai with aplomb.
Underneath the stylish design is a car that is great fun to drive with excellent rear suspension design making this agile offering is a sound choice for families.
For those who need extra space, the Ford Focus Estate is also highly recommended and there are some excellent engines available including a three-cylinder, 1.0 litre EcoBoost unit that delivers more power than many drivers will expect. There’s also a more powerful 1.5 litre alternative available plus a range of responsive diesels.
The entry-level Focus Style delivers lots of equipment, though you’ll get even more with Titanium model. For those who really enjoy opulence, then the Focus Vignale merits closer attention. The Focus also scores highly in the Euro NCAP crash tests with a five-star rating and the child occupants’ score is an impressive 87% – peace of mind for mums and dads everywhere.
Throw in efficient engines and competitive prices, then the Ford Focus will, for those wanting a simple family car, tick all of their boxes. It’s not only spacious with a decent-sized boot, but it’s also got a refined interior.
As a great all-round family offering, the Ford Focus is hard to beat.
- The price
- Styling and equipment
- Older models may be less reliable
- Diesel versions aren’t as popular
- Residuals an issue
9. Vauxhall Astra
You may not know it, but Vauxhall have updated the Astra, yes it looks just like the old one but there have been a whole raft of changes under that familiar skin.
It’s not often a ‘facelift’ makes such an impact, but the engineers have truly transformed the Astra from a rather dull hatchback into an engaging drivers car.
Chassis tweaks combine with a new engine line up, none are less than 100 BHP which means the Astra has some go to it no matter what powertrain you pick.
The engine range consists of a 1.0 litre turbo which makes 104 BHP, a 1.4 turbo with either 123 or 148 BHP. There’s also two 1.6 litre diesel engines which produce 110 or 134 horses.
Automatic gearboxes can be specced with the more powerful of the two engines, the rest have either 5 or 6 speed manual gearboxes.
Incredibly there are eight, yes eight trim levels to choose from; ‘Design’, ‘Tech Line Nav’, ‘SRi’, ‘SRi Nav’, ‘SRi VX-Line’, SRi VX-Line Nav’, ‘Elite Nav’ and range topping ‘Ultimate’.
Not all engines are available with all trim levels, so try and balance between the two. But there are no bad or lethargically slow engines here, so don’t worry about picking a dud.
Rear seat head and legroom is good, the former is on par with the much larger Skoda Octavia. The doors also open incredibly wide making getting things like children and baby seats in and out a cinch.
Boot space measures in at 370 litres. If you don’t opt for the spare wheel there’s a deep boot lip to negotiate with larger items. Opting for a space saver wheel will loose a small amount of boot space but make the whole thing flat.
Price: Starting from £18,885
- Wide opening doors
- Great to drive
- Spacious rear seats
- Boring looks
- Smaller than average boot
10. Toyota Corolla
Toyota finally reintroduced it’s ‘Corolla’ name to the brand in the UK this year, the Auris is long gone, although the Corolla brings more than just a resemblance to the outgoing model.
Taking cues from the Lexus styling department once more, the Corolla is an incredibly modern looking hatchback.
Low squint lights and angles across its body make it look like a hatch has mated with a Pruis. But it’s a strong looker and sets itself apart from anything else out there.
Prices start at £24,140 which is fairly pricey, but that does bag you a hybrid powertrain too.
There are five models to choose from, starting with the basic ‘Icon’, then there’s ‘Icon Tech’, ‘Design’, ‘Excel’ and then the catchily named ‘Excel with Panoramic Roof’ which tops out the range at £29,190.
You can pick from either the totally Pruis 1.8 litre hybrid with 120 BHP and 142 Nm, or the bigger 2.0 litre hybrid with 177 BHP and 190 Nm of torque. The former manages just 83 g/km of CO2 while the larger engine emits just 89 g/km.
You can only pick the 2.0 litre engine if you go with mid range ‘Design’ trim and above.
As standard, kit levels are good, with 16 inch alloys, adaptive cruise control and a 4.2″ TFT screen between the dials. You also get heated front seats with lumbar support, an 8″ infotainment screen which is capable of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, there’s also a reversing camera.
Ride is said to be up there with the VW Golf in terms of comfort, while handling is accurate but features less grip than the likes of the new Ford Focus.
You do get a fair amount of engine whine from the automatic CVT gearbox too, but that’s to be expected when tackling inclines.
Space in the back is cramped for adults, but ideal for kids while boot space measures in at a healthy 361 litres in the 1.8 litre model, but this shrinks to just 313 in the 2.0 litre due to a larger battery.
Price: Starting from £24,140
- New model
- Great looks
- Powerful 2.0 litre engine
- Not as roomy as a Focus
- Doesn’t handle as sportingly as a Golf
Issues when choosing a great family car
Given the number of choices on the market for families, choosing correctly can be a tad difficult. If you’re looking for a great PCP deal on a family car, we have you covered in our guide to the best PCP finance deals.
Along with choosing a stylish car, a family will still need to sit down and decide whether they want a diesel or petrol-powered vehicle. There are pros and cons with diesel and petrol, but diesels are becoming generally less popular as local authorities increasingly look to clamp down on them in cities.
This has led to prices of used diesel engine cars falling in recent years, so there are some very impressive bargains to be had. The flipside is that petrol car prices are increasing in price, which we’ve looked at over on our blog.
This perhaps also explains why people tend to stick with the same manufacturer or opt to buy popular cars such as the Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra, which are well-made, priced to sell and packed with more equipment (usually) than their rivals. If you’re looking for a future poof safe bet then go with one of these models.
Beyond the standard family car…
If you are looking for more great top car buying lists, be sure to check out these other buying guides, especially the 7-seater guide which includes roomier family cars as well as chunkier SUVs:
- Sell your car online
- Best 7-seater cars to buy
- Best 4×4 cars
- Best hybrid SUVs
- Best electric cars to buy
- Best SUV cars to buy
- The best cars of 2020 (in every category)
- Best hybrid cars
- Best towing cars
- Best small cars
- Best cars for MPG
- Best cars for dogs
- Best motability cars
- Best estate cars
- Best small automatic cars
- Best used cars under £5,000
- Best used cars under £10,000
- The best new car deals
- The best 0% car finance deals
- Best cars to lease
- Best hot hatch cars