Best family cars

Last updated: Jan 7, 2016

If you’re in the market for a family car, then you’re in luck – it's one of the most competitive classes there is. You have everything from conventional hatchbacks to crossovers, SUVs and MPV people carriers to choose from.

Not too long ago, your options were limited to just hatchbacks like the Volkswagen Golf or estate cars like the Skoda Octavia estate. Now, though, diverse cars like the Nissan Qashqai and the Land Rover Discovery Sport aim to provide sufficient practicality for family motoring. Since the competition here is so fierce, numerous models on sale right now blend a mix of solid build quality, low running costs, practicality and a fun driving experience.

Even the aftersales process is becoming more competitive – some of the cars on this list have longer warranties than the usual three-year affair, while others offer fixed-price servicing for added peace of mind. Some showrooms also offer decent discounts – it doesn’t hurt to haggle – and attractive finance deals are available on many of these cars, too.

To help narrow your search, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favourite family cars on sale today, so keep reading for the Carbuyer top 10.

SEAT Leon hatchback

The SEAT Leon shares many parts with the Volkswagen Golf, so it’s robust inside, practical and fun to drive. Not only do you get all of these benefits, but the Leon also costs on average around £1,000 less than the Golf. It doesn’t have quite as vast an engine range as the VW, but it’s still possible to have economy, performance or a blend of the two. Fuel economy can reach up to 74.3mpg, while some engines escape road tax altogether. The sporty FR models can be equipped with some of the Leon’s more efficient engines, so they provide the best compromise. Read more.

Key points

4.8 / 5
Price 
£17,700 - £24,695

Skoda Octavia hatchback

Just like the SEAT Leon, the Skoda Octavia can trace its roots back to the Volkswagen Golf. However, the Octavia’s longer, saloon-like body gives it the edge in terms of boot space among its hatchback rivals – it offers around the same amount of luggage space as cars from the class above, like the Ford Mondeo. Efficiency figures can reach similar heights to the Leon – up to 74mpg and CO2 emissions starting at 99g/km. Plus, Skoda is a top player in our annual Driver Power customer satisfaction survey: the brand finished third overall and the Octavia was placed 11th out of 200 cars in the 2015 results. Read more.

Key points

4.8 / 5
Price 
£16,285 - £27,750

Hyundai i30 hatchback

While other cars go for sporty suspension and involving handling, the Hyundai i30 focuses more on giving occupants a comfortable ride. That doesn’t mean it’s disappointing to drive, but it’s geared more towards a cosseting experience than a fun one. It’s cheaper to buy on average than a VW Golf – and just as spacious – while one version is capable of up to 76mpg economy. Plus, Hyundai’s warranty is one of the best in the business, covering you (or subsequent owners) for unlimited mileage up to five years. Read more.

Key points

4.7 / 5
Price 
£15,295 - £23,695

Kia Cee'd hatchback

Another part sharer, the Kia Cee’d five-door hatchback (along with its SW estate and less practical Pro_cee’d three-door versions) uses the same mechanical parts as the Hyundai i30. It’s arguably more stylish and has an even longer warranty (seven years, although there’s a 100,000-mile limit). Plus, it’s roughly £2,000 cheaper to buy on average than some rivals. The Cee’d doesn’t hold on to as much of its value as other hatchbacks and it isn’t quite as involving to drive, either. Still, CO2 emissions can be as low as 96g/km and fuel economy reaches up to 76.3mpg. Read more.

Key points

4.6 / 5
Price 
£14,905 - £24,295

Volkswagen Golf hatchback

If you want a dependable, economical, practical and cheap-to-run car, the Volkswagen Golf is an obvious choice. Although cars that share mechanical underpinnings with the Golf feature higher in our top 10 list, the VW itself is still a great all-rounder. That’s thanks in part to the wide variety of engines and bodystyles offered. Not only does the standard Golf hatchback come in many different versions, including a BlueMotion model capable of up to 88.3mpg, you can also buy the Golf as an estate for added practicality or as a convertible for open-top thrills. The GTI and R performance models are just as practical as the standard car, too. Read more.

Key points

4.6 / 5
Price 
£17,595 - £27,735

Ford B-MAX mini MPV

If an MPV is more your thing, but the size of some of them puts you off, the Ford B-MAX should be high on your list. You get more space inside than in a conventional hatchback, but this MPV’s clever design means there’s no pillars between the front and rear doors. That makes it easy to get in and out, while the rear sliding doors allow easier access in tight parking spaces. The B-MAX shares its interior with the Ford Fiesta, so it’s largely well built – even if the SYNC infotainment system is a bit fiddly. All models come with air-conditioning and DAB digital radio, but there’s no seven-seat version available. Read more.

Key points

4.6 / 5
Price 
£13,195 - £19,445

Skoda Superb hatchback

If the Octavia is a little on the small side, the latest Skoda Superb should fit the bill if you’re in the market for a large family car. In fact, there’s so much legroom in the back that someone over six feet tall can comfortably sit in the back with the driver or front-passenger sat as far back as they can. Couple that cavernous interior space with a solid interior, massive boot and sharp design and you’re onto a winner. The Superb has some pretty economical engines, too: the most economical GreenLine model is capable of up to 76mpg and is exempt from road tax. The Superb is also pretty safe and should be reliable in the long term, putting family buyers’ minds at ease. Read more.

Key points

4.5 / 5
Price 
£18,640 - £34,740

Ford Focus hatchback

The first-generation Focus was critically acclaimed for its sharp handling, stylish interior and a practical layout – and this version is no different. Its engines offer a good compromise between performance and efficiency, with the 1.5-litre TDCi diesel returning up to a claimed 74mpg and costing nothing to tax. The Focus is definitely one of the most fun-to-drive cars in its class, but that doesn’t mean hard suspension – it irons out bumps no matter what road you’re on. As it’s a Ford, repairs should be cheap once the warranty has expired, but Ford’s 25th place out of 32 carmakers in our 2015 Driver Power satisfaction survey isn’t anything to shout about. Read more.

Key points

4.4 / 5
Price 
£15,995 - £25,885

Mazda3 hatchback

The Mazda3 scores highly for its eye-catching design, fun handling and excellent reputation for reliability. It’s around 100mm longer than a Ford Focus, so you’re treated to more legroom inside, but the car’s 350-litre boot is 30 litres smaller than the Volkswagen Golf’s. That being said, the Mazda3 has a great 2.2-litre diesel engine, which is both powerful and economical: fuel economy reaches 72.4mpg, CO2 emissions are 107g/km and 0-62mph is reached in a spritely 8.2 seconds. Read more.

Key points

4.1 / 5
Price 
£17,095 - £23,995

Citroen C4 Picasso MPV

The C4 Picasso and its larger sister model the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso are two of our favourite MPVs. Just looking at them, it’s not hard to see why – the space-age looks completely set the C4 apart from its people-carrier rivals. The ultra-modern design continues inside, but the interior manages to be incredibly practical, too: the rear seats slide back and forth and total boot space can be expanded from 537 litres to an enormous 1,709 litres by dropping the seats. Fuel economy can be as high as 74.3mpg, while CO2 emissions as low as 98g/km means some models escape road tax altogether. The C4’s handling is well judged too – it’s both comfortable and fun to drive. Read more.

Key points

4 / 5
Price 
£18,270 - £27,015