Best cars

Top 10 most economical family cars 2022

Choose one of our top ten most economical family cars and you'll save money while being able to carry passengers and their luggage.

Skoda Octavia hatchback

Fuel efficiency is an important factor to consider when choosing a new family car, given how much fuel represents as a proportion of your annual motoring budget. Thanks to the latest fuel-saving technology, there are plenty of economical family car options to choose from.

Where diesel may originally have been the fuel of choice for those seeking the best economy, modern turbocharged petrol engines and hybrids are now capable of matching or even beating the levels of fuel economy offered by recent diesel engines.

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2022

Our list has a mix of plug-in hybrid and full EVs, along with traditional petrol and diesel options. It also covers a variety of sizes to fit most families, however if you’ve already made your mind up to switch to a fully-electric vehicle then check out our round-up of the best electric cars on sale right now.

Volkswagen ID.3 hatchback review

Best Small Company Car: Volkswagen ID.3
Carbuyer rating

4.4 out of 5

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Volkswagen has been transitioning away from cutting-edge diesel technology to battery electric vehicles. The Volkswagen ID.3 shows how far the company has come, offering a decent 260-mile range from a single charge (58kWh battery) and evermore competitive pricing as the gap between the Golf and the electric ID.3 narrows.

For family buyers looking to tick as many boxes as possible, without stretching their budget too far, the ID.3 offers impressive performance with plenty of space and technology. Its interior isn’t quite as luxurious as some would expect from VW, however this is one of few downsides to Volkswagen’s mass-market EV.

Tesla Model 3 saloon review

Tesla Model 3 saloon fron 3/4 cornering
Carbuyer rating

4.4 out of 5

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The family saloon car has been put in danger of extinction in recent years by the masses of SUVs now available, and previous favourites like the Ford Mondeo are now consigned to history. Tesla hasn’t given up on the bodystyle yet, and after the success of the Model S, the Model 3 arrived to make the all-electric family car more accessible. Buyers are now offered performance on par with some supercars in a straight line and even the entry model boasts 305 miles of driving range. 

It’s important to keep an eye on the budget when shopping for a Tesla 3; even though this is the brand’s most affordable car, it can quickly get expensive depending on the battery pack and options you choose, along with any subscription services you sign up to.

Skoda Fabia hatchback review

Skoda Fabia Monte Carlo - front
Carbuyer rating

4.4 out of 5

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The smallest car on our list may fool you into thinking it’s too small to be a family car. Yet, clever use of space makes this a frugal and affordable car that feels big inside. There aren’t any hybrid power options like the Toyota Yaris, but this makes its list price very competitive. Most buyers will opt for the 1.0-litre petrol engine, but a 1.5-litre model is also expected in time for those that want more power.

Despite its low price, the Fabia has excellent smartphone connectivity and space, along with a much larger boot than a Ford Fiesta. One negative is that its interior is rather dull to look at, but this isn’t likely to concern families that expect to see crayon marks within a few weeks of purchase.

Mercedes C-Class saloon review

Mercedes C-Class saloon driving
Carbuyer rating

4.3 out of 5

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If a premium feel and the latest gadgets are priorities for your economical family car, then the Mercedes C-Class has to go on your shortlist. It isn’t just the quality interior feel that impressed us though, the plug-in hybrid C-Class can now achieve 63 miles of driving range using electricity alone. Most drivers will find that covers their daily commute, and when the weekend comes, a long journey is hassle-free thanks to the petrol engine. 

We found the C-Class was tuned with comfort in mind, more so than its direct German rivals, so it misses out on the sporty feel of a BMW 3 Series. However, this makes it a pleasant place to be, that’s also likely to keep passengers comfortable. It should be noted that while the C-Class is very economical, it will cost more to maintain than most of the other cars on this list.

Peugeot 3008 SUV review

Peugeot 3008 SUV front cornering
Carbuyer rating

4.3 out of 5

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The practical and efficient 3008 makes it onto our list thanks to its family-friendly design and ease of ownership, even edging out some premium models. Critical to this is its ability to offer lots of space, without feeling large and cumbersome on the road. There’s also a wide range of efficient engines, including a plug-in hybrid option so no matter if you still want a petrol or diesel, or want to cut your fuel bills, there is a 3008 for you.

A 2021 facelift ensured it remains a strong contender in its class, and while some options may look underpowered on paper, on-road performance remains perfectly adequate. Watch out for the options list, though, as the price can quickly mount up.

Skoda Superb Estate review

Skoda Superb Estate
Carbuyer rating

4.8 out of 5

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The second Skoda to make our list is the hatchback version of the larger Superb model, but the estate offers even more space for those that need it. Families will be happy to hear that an impressive amount of safety equipment is fitted as standard, and that there’s lots of space for growing families. A petrol and diesel model are offered with impressive fuel economy, but it’s the plug-in hybrid that can really slash monthly bills.

Although the Skoda is impeccably put together and scores well in reliability it isn’t the cheapest for servicing and comes with a standard three-year warranty. This shouldn’t put you off shopping for the Superb, but is worth considering if you are looking to keep the car for an extended period of time after the warranty has expired. 

SEAT Leon Estate review

SEAT Leon Estate review gallery
Carbuyer rating

4.1 out of 5

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The largest version of the SEAT Leon extends luggage space without compromising driving feel, or the car’s sharp styling. If a family car with flair is a priority then the Leon estate offers a great compromise, and the plug-in hybrid is capable of 38 miles to a charge.

Those after sharp handling will be pleased SEAT offers the sporty FR trim even with their most efficient engine choices, although some may find the ride a bit too firm. We recommend shortlisting the Leon if your family car needs space, but you don’t want to move to the next class up in size. However, the interior may feel a little less premium than you’d have hoped for.

Volkswagen Passat GTE Estate

Carbuyer rating

4.1 out of 5

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Now only offered as an estate, the Passat has been the go-to for many family buyers over the past couple of decades. It may not be as premium as a BMW 3 Series, or as cheap as some Korean rivals, but it offers dependable, well built transport for families. As diesels have drifted out of public demand, the Passat has adopted a plug-in hybrid setup GTE with a 1.4-litre petrol engine, offering a great balance of fuel-efficiency and power.

The 35 miles of battery range should be enough for most day-to-day driving duties from school runs to rush hour commutes, but boot space is compromised to fit the battery pack. The high purchase price was another downside, although the fuel savings may make up for this depending on your driving habits.

Renault Megane E-Tech Electric SUV review

Renault Megane E-Tech driving - front
Carbuyer rating

4 out of 5

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The Megane has grown in size and is now firmly in small SUV territory rather than a raised hatchback. We praised the handling that, although it is very responsive, doesn't fall into the trap of becoming uncomfortable with overly stiff suspension to try and sharpen how it feels. The E-Tech is also impressive because by EV standards it is quite light – a whole 200kg less than the Volkswagen ID.3 hatchback. This not only makes it drive better, but helps to increase efficiency, with a range of 292 miles claimed from the larger 60kWh battery, while even the smaller 40kWh model manages 186 miles.

The Megane should be shortlisted if you want an electric family vehicle that retains style, but we suggest sitting in the vehicle as its rear space may be tight for taller families, or those with older children.

MG ZS EV SUV review

2021 MG ZS EV - front 3/4 dynamic
Carbuyer rating

4 out of 5

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MG not only offers an affordable entry into fully-electric motoring, but its range and driving experience are on par with more expensive rivals, making this a good all-rounder. The Long Range model can travel 273 miles between top ups, and MG claim that figure can go as high as 370 miles around the city.

You won’t miss out on the latest connectivity with the MG ZS EV, although its interior quality is a compromise to help keep its cost down. Those wanting sharper handling will also find the MG disappointing, although this isn’t likely to be a priority for most family EV buyers.

Check out our best hybrid cars, or see our best family cars.

Top 10 most economical family cars 2022

  1. Volkswagen ID.3
  2. Tesla Model 3
  3. Skoda Fabia
  4. Mercedes C-Class
  5. Peugeot 3008
  6. Skoda Superb Estate
  7. SEAT Leon Estate
  8. Volkswagen Passat GTE
  9. Renault Megane E-Tech
  10. MG ZS EV

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