Best family cars

Last updated: May 27, 2014

If you’re looking to buy a family car then you are in luck, because it is one of the car world's most competitive sectors, so there is a huge range of models to choose from. Not too long ago, options were limited to hatchbacks like the VW Golf, larger family cars such as the Ford Mondeo, or estate versions of the two. Now, though, you can also choose from SUVs, crossovers and MPV people carriers.

All this competition means that there are numerous models on offer that are solidly built, practical and cheap to run, yet also good to drive. Many manufacturers have bolstered their warranties recently, too, so you get long-term peace of mind. Some showrooms also offer decent discounts – it doesn’t hurt to haggle – and attractive deals are available on some cars, too.

To help narrow your search, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favourite family cars on the market today, so keep reading for the CarBuyer.co.uk top ten.

SEAT Leon hatchback

The SEAT Leon shares many parts with the VW Golf, so it’s a well built, practical hatchback that is fun to drive, too. The best part is that you get all the benefits of the VW, for a price that undercuts the Golf by around £1,000. While the SEAT Leon doesn’t offer quite the same range of engines as the Volkswagen Golf, it is still possible to choose between performance, economy and a mix of the two. Economy of up to 74.3mpg and CO2 emissions of as little as 99g/km mean the Leon is cheap to run. SEAT Leon FR models offer a decent compromise between economy and performance. Read more.

Key points

4.8 / 5
Price 
£16,115 - £24,170

Skoda Octavia hatchback

As with the SEAT Leon, the Skoda shares many of its parts with the Volkswagen Golf, but the Octavia’s larger body gives it boot space to rival cars from the class above, such as the Ford Mondeo. The result is a car that looks smart, is safe, properly built, competitively priced, spacious, practical, well equipped and fun to drive. With CO2 emissions starting at 99g/km and economy figures of up to 74mpg, it’s also cheap to run. And don’t forget, Skoda finished second in our 2013 Driver Power satisfaction survey. The Skoda Octavia vRS adds pace, but loses the economy of other models. Read more.

Key points

4.7 / 5
Price 
£16,310 - £27,805

Hyundai i30 hatchback

While many manufacturers’ cars are getting bigger wheels and stiffer suspension for improved handling, the Hyundai i30 focuses on providing its passengers with a smooth ride and a quiet interior. That’s not to say it isn’t good to drive but, on balance, the car is geared more towards comfort. The Hyundai offers similar space to the VW Golf, but can’t quite match the German car’s interior quality. The gap’s getting smaller, though. Meanwhile, a low price, excellent five-year warranty, plus economy and CO2 emissions figures of up to 76.3mpg and 96g/km respectively, mean the Hyundai is one of the best models on our list if you’re on a tight budget. Read more.

Key points

4.7 / 5
Price 
£14,605 - £23,530

Kia Cee'd hatchback

The Kia Cee’d shares many of its parts with the Hyundai i30. The Kia, however, offers a seven-year warranty (rather than the Hyundai’s five-year warranty), and is better to look at. The latter could be a matter of personal taste, however. The Kia’s trump card is its excellent value, with it costing around £2,000 less than some rivals, although its handling cannot match the best in class for driver enjoyment. Emissions can be as low as 96g/km, with economy of up to 76.3mpg. Remember, though, that the Kia will not hold its value as well as others in the class. Read more.

Key points

4.6 / 5
Price 
£14,605 - £24,000

Volkswagen Golf hatchback

If you want a car that offers a great image at a reasonable price, which is also practical, solidly built, cheap to run and fun to drive, then the VW Golf is an excellent choice. Over generations the Golf has built a reputation for durability and excellent build quality, and it continues to sell well, more than 35 years later. The BlueMotion model delivers staggering efficiency – 88.3mpg and road-tax busting emissions of 85g/km, or go for the Golf R performance model and you’ll get Golf practicality in a car that’s more powerful than a Porsche Boxster sports car. The VW Golf GTI, meanwhile, is cheaper than the Golf R, slightly slower, but also significantly more economical. Read more.

Key points

4.6 / 5
Price 
£16,975 - £30,845

Ford B-MAX mini MPV

If you want family-focused practicality, but in a smaller car, then the Ford B-MAX makes a great choice. Its clever design means there’re no pillars behind the front doors, to restrict access to the cabin, and the big sliding rear doors mean it’s easy to get in and out. The B-MAX has a well built cabin that is also stylish to look at. Economy of 70.6mpg and emissions of 104g/km impress, too. As the B-MAX shares many parts with the Ford Fiesta, it’s fun to drive, although the suspension can be a bit bouncy. All models come fitted with a DAB digital radio and air-conditioning, but there is no seven-seat option. Read more.

Key points

4.6 / 5
Price 
£12,995 - £19,095

Skoda Yeti SUV

The Skoda Yeti finished first in our 2012 Driver Power satisfaction survey, so it’s obviously been a big hit with its owners. That doesn’t surprise us though, because it offers a spacious, well built cabin that is perfect for families, and can be specified with four-wheel drive if you need some off-road ability or regularly drive on slippery roads. The Yeti boasts accomplished on-road handling, although it does suffer from more body roll in corners than a regular hatchback. The payoff is a higher driving position for excellent visibility. Economy’s also strong, with a 61.4mpg figure and emissions of 119g/km. Read more.

Key points

4.0 / 5
Price 
£16,715 - £27,840

Ford Focus hatchback

The original Ford Focus had a reputation for excellent handling, a stylish interior and plenty of family focused practicality and the latest model is no different. Engines offer a good blend of economy and performance, too. Go for the 1.6-litre diesel and you get a car that can manage 67mpg and emissions of 109g/km, while the Ford Focus ST can reach 0-60mph in just 6.5 seconds. The Focus is the most fun to drive in its class, with firm but comfortable suspension. It’s safe, too, with a five-star Euro NCAP rating. As a Ford, parts will be cheap, although the manufacturer’s 23rd placing out of 32 cars in our 2013 Driver Power Survey could be better. Read more.

Key points

4.2 / 5
Price 
£13,995 - £25,750

Mazda3 hatchback

The 2013 Mazda 3 scores highly for looks, fun handling and Mazda’s excellent reputation for reliability – Mazda finished fourth in our 2013 Driver Power survey. It’s 100mm longer than the Ford Focus, which gives rear-seat passengers plenty of legroom, although the Mazda 3’s boot (at 350 litres) is 30 litres down on a Volkswagen Golf’s. The Mazda 3 2013 offers a well judged range of engines and the 2.2-litre diesel offers a good balance between efficiency and performance, with economy of 72.4mpg, emissions of 107g/km, and 0-60mph in 8.2 seconds. The 1.5-litre petrol can feel slow, however. All models are well equipped, but the Mazda is likely to lose value quicker than a Volkswagen Golf. Read more.

Key points

4.1 / 5
Price 
£16,995 - £23,745

Citroen C4 Picasso MPV

The Citroen C4 Picasso MPV was voted our readers’ favourite MPV in our Best Cars 2013 awards. And, even from the outside, it’s not hard to see why, thanks to its space-age looks that mask the car’s people carrier body style extremely effectively. The interior is similarly modern, but more importantly, also very practical, with sliding rear seats and a boot that increases from 537 litres to 1,709 litres with the rear seats down. Economy of up to 74.3mpg and emissions as low as 98g/km mean the C4 Picasso is cheap to run, while it also makes a good compromise between comfortable suspension and fun handling. Read more.

Key points

4.0 / 5
Price 
£17,760 - £25,410

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