Top 10 best large family cars 2021
If you need space, pace and low running costs, check out our top picks for the best large family cars.
Large family cars are an excellent choice for anyone who needs plenty of space for both passengers and luggage. Although the more traditional family car has been overshadowed by the popularity of SUVs in recent years, there are plenty still in production; the ones on this list are our pick of the bunch.
The lower ride height of conventional family cars conveys quite a few significant advantages. Firstly, thanks to the fact they tend to be lighter and more aerodynamic than their SUV counterparts, large saloons, estates and hatchbacks usually offer better fuel economy. If you are a particularly keen driver, then sitting lower to the ground tends to mean less body lean when cornering, making for a more pleasurable driving experience.
These cars tend to be cheaper than their MPV and SUV rivals but to move up from a normal family hatchback like the Ford Focus to a larger model, you’ll need to spend a little more money. For this extra outlay, you’ll get more, though: more space, more powerful engines and more standard equipment.
We’ve picked 10 excellent family cars that meet all those criteria. Our selection covers saloons and hatchbacks, which make perfect companions to family life. Most of these cars are also available as estates if you need the extra space. Each is available with a wide range of engines, allowing you to prioritise economy, performance or a combination of the two.
If you're not convinced by the many charms a traditional family car offers, head on over to our recommendations for the best 4x4s and SUVs and the best people carriers and MPVs. If you don’t think you need the space a large family car offers, meanwhile, our selection of the best family hatchbacks should be your next destination.
But for now, here are our top 10 picks for the best family cars on sale now.
The Skoda Superb fully deserves its model name because it’s such an excellent all-rounder. While it costs roughly the same as an upmarket hatchback, the Superb is actually similar in size to an estate, with an actual estate version also available.
Just because it undercuts some competitors on price, doesn’t mean the Superb is lacking in quality: 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. 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 (around 55mpg from the 2.0-litre diesel) and you’re left with a great family car that caters for all tastes.
The Volkswagen Passat is a sleek, subtle and sophisticated family saloon that can easily hold its own against rivals from premium brands. 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 an extensive engine range provides a choice of prioritising economy, performance, or lower CO2 emissions. A hybrid option is now available in the form of the GTE. If you need more space, an estate version is also available. Despite being resolutely sensible, the Passat still manages to cut a dash in the metal and there’s a model for almost everyone.
The Mazda6 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 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 around 54mpg but still has enough power to reach 62mph from rest in ten seconds.
The Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport combines large-executive-car space and comfort with family-car pricing and running costs. It betters much of its competition in all areas, which is something its predecessor couldn’t manage. The Insignia is big, but makes good use of the fact: practicality is excellent, with great rear leg and headroom and good boot space (490 litres).
There are plenty of economical petrol and diesel engines to choose from, and most of them will give company-car drivers a decent Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) rate. One of the biggest surprises is just how good the car is to drive, and it makes a competent, relaxed cruiser on long journeys. There are eight trim levels to choose from and a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating too. To top it all off, the Insignia is one of the most stylish cars in its class.
There are plenty of similarities between the Arteon and the Volkswagen Passat, although you need to pay a bit more for the svelte styling of the Arteon. It’s not a cheap car by any means, but you get lots of kit and a hatchback tailgate, rather than the Passat’s saloon boot. We prefer hatchback openings as they’re much more versatile, allowing you to carry bulky items more easily.
It’s fair to say that the interior doesn’t have quite the same pizzazz as the exterior but all models get a swish digital instrument cluster and sat nav. Engines are familiar, too, with a 2.0-litre diesel capable of over 50mpg and a few smooth petrols. The 2020 facelift added a Shooting Brake estate variant, plus a fast R version, so the Arteon has broader appeal than before.
The boldest-looking large car we’ve seen from Peugeot for years, the 508 steps into a hard-fought arena with a swagger and the character to back it up. Its styling is purposeful, with a sporty fastback profile and plenty of eye-catching details like the LED ‘fangs’ on the front bumper, muscular rear wheelarches and a full-width rear light panel. Inside, it’s just as interesting, with a slick, contemporary feel to the dash design that’s refreshing for the sector. It shares a small steering wheel with the 5008 MPV, over which Peugeot’s i-Cockpit display helps lend the car a hi-tech feel.
There’s a broad range of PureTech petrol and BlueHDi diesel engines or a plug-in hybrid version. Importantly, the new model is great to drive, too, with ride and handling that’s easily a match for the competition. The big rear hatch makes the 508 a practical choice, although the boot isn’t huge and rear headroom is in short supply for taller occupants. There’s an estate model if space is an issue.
Based on the Mercedes A-Class, the new CLA gains a sublime interior but adds extra practicality. The boot measures 460 litres - 40 litres more than the boxier A-Class saloon and 90 litres more than the A-Class hatchback. Mercedes has made this car much bigger inside than the previous CLA and, while the swoopy shape does cut into headroom a little, it’s now a lot more spacious.
The engine range currently includes five petrol engines (including a high-performance 421bhp AMG CLA 45) and a diesel and hybrid option. Both the CLA 180 and CLA 200 models achieve nearly 50mpg. The diesel, meanwhile, manages over 55mpg and gets from 0-62mph in just 7.1 seconds. As all models come with LED lights, heated leather seats and Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment system, the entry-level AMG Line car will satisfy most buyers.
Toyota hasn’t sold a car wearing the Camry badge in the UK for over 10 years but it has returned as a model that’s economical and well built. The Camry is only available with one 2.5-litre petrol hybrid powertrain and in two trim levels, so it shouldn’t take you too long to choose the version for you.
Both Design and Excel trims are well equipped, with leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats and a reversing camera all coming as standard - so we’d stick with the former. The car’s a hybrid, so you can enjoy a 0-62mph dash in 8.3 seconds yet still get over 50mpg and the Camry is easily spacious enough for a family. The back seats are especially roomy, and the boot is big too.
The reintroduction of the Toyota Corolla has seen it return as an efficient low-emissions hybrid. In saloon form, it uses the 1.8-litre petrol engine and electric motor from the Prius for a CO2 emissions figure of under 85g/km, placing it in a low Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) banding for company-car drivers. Fuel economy is also impressive with around 65mpg possible if you drive carefully.
The interior is well-built and full of neat design touches. Equipment levels are generous too, with heated front seats, DAB radio, a rear-view camera and dual-zone air conditioning all fitted as standard. Toyota’s five-year/100,000-mile warranty means owning a Corolla should be painless, while a 471-litre boot gives it excellent – if not class-leading - rear storage space.
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. The engine range is brilliant, from the huge claimed fuel economy of the smallest diesel - over 59mpg- to the interesting 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrols, and, as with most competitors, a hybrid option is now available too.
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 – although it remains to be seen whether you’ll pay the price for choosing this upmarket option when it’s time to sell on or trade in.