Best large family cars

Last updated: Jun 7, 2016

While the modern family hatchback offers an excellent blend of practicality, low running costs and an engaging driving experience, some people just need more: more space, more power and more ability. These attributes can be found in large family cars. To move up to this class from a family hatchback typically costs around £3,000 to £5,000, but we’ve included cars that require you to spend a little more than that, as well as some excellent models that are relative bargains.

Whichever large family car takes your fancy, you should expect an enjoyable driving experience, a well-made and robust interior, low running costs and, above all, generous interior space – both for your passengers and their luggage.

If you need a large family car but don’t want a typical hatchback, estate or saloon, make your way over to our top 10 lists of the Best Large MPVs, Best 4x4s and SUVs and Best Large Executive Cars.

Skoda Superb Estate

Taking the top spot on our list of the best large family cars is the Skoda Superb Estate, simply because it offers so much for so little. While it costs roughly the same as a BMW 1 Series hatchback, the Superb Estate is actually similar in size to the BMW 5 Series Touring estate – a car from the class above. Just because it’s cheap, though, doesn’t mean the Superb Estate is cheerful: it’s a thoroughly grown-up and serious car, with a reassuringly solid driving experience, a well-made and designed interior and (perhaps most importantly) acres and acres of space. The boot is bigger than the Mercedes E-Class Estate’s (again, a car from the class above) while rear-seat passengers could be forgiven for thinking they’re in a limousine, such is the legroom on offer back there. Add engines that offer excellent fuel economy (76.3mpg from the GreenLine diesel), speedy performance (the 276bhp 2.0-litre petrol goes from 0-62mph in just 5.8 seconds) or a blend of the two, and you’re left with a great family car that caters for all tastes. Read more.

Key points

4.6 / 5
Price 
£20,260 - £36,365

Skoda Octavia Estate

For about £2,500 less than a Superb, you could get the smaller but similarly accomplished Skoda Octavia Estate. The Octavia is well-built, enjoyable to drive and comes with such a wide range of engines that finding the right one for you will be simple. Despite being a smaller car from the class below, the Octavia Estate’s boot is only 50 litres smaller than the Superb Estate’s. Inside, while the Octavia’s dashboard isn’t quite as plush as the Superb’s, the amount of room on offer is broadly comparable. Factor in a five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating, an impressive seventh-place finish (out of 150 cars) in our 2016 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey and a generous amount of standard equipment, and it’s clear to see why the Octavia Estate is an excellent choice for families after a spacious and affordable car. Read more.

Key points

4.9 / 5
Price 
£17,880 - £29,410

Mazda6 Tourer estate

The Mazda6 Tourer estate is one of the best driving cars on this list. While it’s enjoyable winding down a twisty B-road, this doesn’t come at the expense of comfort: Mazda’s engineers have perfectly balanced the 6’s suspension, so it offers a great deal of driver involvement with little body lean, yet still manages to insulate you from potholes and poor road surfaces well. The Mazda6 Tourer is also comfortable, well-equipped and – while looks are subjective – a distinctively handsome car. The only things preventing it from featuring higher on our list are a relatively high price tag and an interior design that can’t quite match the exterior styling. We recommend the 2.2-litre diesel, which returns an excellent 67.3mpg, yet is powerful enough to get the Mazda6 Tourer from 0-62mph in just 9.3 seconds. Read more.

Key points

4.7 / 5
Price 
£21,725 - £28,795

BMW 5 Series saloon

It’s the most expensive car on this list, but the BMW 5 Series has such a wide breadth of abilities – as well as that all-important BMW badge – that for some people, nothing else comes close. Interior space is generous, all cars come with leather seats and sat nav and, above all else, the 5 Series is excellent to drive, with well-weighted steering, well-judged suspension and a range of powerful yet efficient engines. The popular 520d returns 66mpg and goes from 0-62mph in under eight seconds, while the 535d – although it’s expensive – has fuel economy of around 52mpg, yet will go from 0-62mph in a sports-car-rivalling 5.3 seconds. If you can justify the 5 Series’ relatively high purchase price, running costs won’t break the bank and secondhand values (particularly for the diesel models) are rock-solid. Read more.

Key points

4.8 / 5
Price 
£31,115 - £58,075

Volkswagen Passat saloon

The Volkswagen Passat is a sleek, subtle and sophisticated family saloon that can easily hold its own against rivals from BMW, Audi and Mercedes. Volkswagen aimed to build a ‘premium car without the premium price’ and – while it’s a little more expensive than some of the cars on this list – the Passat still represents good value for money. The interior is spacious, luxurious and comfortable, the driving experience offers a good blend of relaxed cruising and driver enjoyment, while the (diesel-only) engine range offers a choice of performance, economy or a combination of the two. If you need more space, the Passat Estate has a vast boot, while for those who require extra grip and light off-road ability, there’s the four-wheel-drive Alltrack model. The hybrid GTE model is expensive to buy, but incredibly cheap to run. Read more.

Key points

4.5 / 5
Price 
£22,680 - £40,180

Ford Mondeo hatchback

The latest Ford Mondeo is better-looking and more comfortable than ever before, but it’s lost some of the driving magic that made its predecessor such a special car. Still, the Mondeo is good to drive, even if it’s not quite the star performer it once was. The trade-off is that you get a quieter and more ‘mature’ driving experience, together with excellent hatchback practicality (as long as you avoid the saloon-only hybrid model). The engine range is brilliant, from the near-80mpg of the 1.5-litre ECOnetic diesel to the interesting 1.0, 1.5 and 2.0-litre EcoBoost petrols. The Mondeo’s seats are impressively comfortable on long journeys and the brakes are powerful, while the Estate adds extra practicality. The exclusive Vignale range is worth a look if you’re after a very well-equipped Mondeo, combined with a premium purchase and after-sales experience. Read more.

Key points

3.9 / 5
Price 
£20,545 - £32,395

Hyundai i40 saloon

The Hyundai i40 is one of the most upmarket and accomplished cars every made by Hyundai. While this means it’s no longer as much of a bargain as Hyundais of old, the i40’s interior and exterior looks make it a serious contender in the large family car class. While the driving experience is geared towards comfort rather than speed, the i40 does a great job of insulating you from potholes and broken tarmac. The 113bhp diesel engine returns up to 67.3mpg, but we think it’s worth upgrading to the 139bhp engine, as fuel economy barely suffers, but the extra performance makes the i40 easier to live with on a day-to-day basis. While the entry-level S model is reasonably well-equipped, all other i40s get sat nav, parking sensors, cruise control and DAB radio, so if you can afford to upgrade, you’ll probably be glad you did. Read more.

Key points

3.8 / 5
Price 
£19,695 - £27,595

Kia Optima saloon

While the Kia Optima shares many parts with the Hyundai i40, it features slightly lower on our list, mainly due to its higher list price and the lack of an estate model. Like the i40, the Optima prioritises comfort over driver involvement, while the slightly higher purchase price is compensated for by more generous standard equipment (all cars feature sat nav, for example) and the lack of an entry-level engine. The 139bhp 1.7-litre diesel returns 67.3mpg and takes the Optima from 0-62mph in 10 seconds dead; while performance is far from earth-shattering, it’ll be sufficient for most people’s needs. Kia’s class-leading seven-year/100,000-mile warranty and generous fixed-price servicing packages mean Optima ownership should be a painless affair. Read more.

Key points

3.5 / 5
Price 
£21,495 - £28,895

Toyota Avensis saloon

The Toyota Avensis doesn’t quite have what it takes to compete with the best cars in its class, but it’s a thoroughly well-rounded and competent car nonetheless. If you’re after a traditional saloon that offers hassle-free family transport, the Avensis is well worth a look. The 1.6-litre diesel engine returns 67mpg and costs just £20 a year in road tax, and while the entry-level Active model feels slightly sparsely equipped, it offers reasonable value for money. A 2015 facelift means the Avensis looks modern and feels up-to-date, while the supportive seats and comfortable suspension mean long journeys are a relaxing prospect. The Avensis doesn’t excel in any one particular area, but it’s competent in all. Read more.

Key points

3.3 / 5
Price 
£18,085 - £26,795

Vauxhall Insignia hatchback

The Vauxhall Insignia is another fairly traditional entry on our list of the best large family cars, but that doesn’t mean you should discount it. A comfortable interior and driving experience, together with a wide range of engines and trim levels, mean finding the right Insignia is guaranteed – as long as you’re prepared to negotiate the 13 different trim levels Vauxhall offers. We recommend the SE, as it includes useful extras without pushing the Insignia’s price up too high. Speaking of price, the Insignia loses more money on the secondhand market than some of the cars on this list, while if you carry adults in the back regularly, they may find headroom a little tight. Read more.

Key points

3.5 / 5
Price 
£17,439 - £27,894