Best Of

Best family cars

Families come in all shapes and sizes, and family cars should too. There are so many options, so which are best?

Words by: Additional words by: Phill Tromans First published: 23rd July 2018
Families come in all shapes and sizes, and family cars should too. Whether you’ve got a small family and need an urban runaround, or you regularly carry three children and some of their friends, you’ll be looking for something practical, cheap to run, easy to drive, and able to stand up to the treatment children can inflict upon it.

To help steer family car buyers in the right direction, we’ve rounded up some of the best family cars, from city-friendly SUVs to spacious seven-seaters. We’ve also given you a rundown of some brand-new cars coming along in the next year and beyond, and included our top five family car-buying tips.

Our favourite family cars include:
  • Renault Captur
  • Peugeot 3008
  • Skoda Superb Estate
  • Skoda Kodiaq
  • Seat Alhambra
Renault Captur – the small one
Small supermini-SUV crossovers are all the rage right now. They combine supermini-sized ease of use, with the high driving position and chunky style of an SUV. At the moment, our favourite is the Renault Captur. It’s more practical than many of its rivals, it’s smooth and quiet on the road, and it’s offered with some really good engines. We’d point you towards either the 120 horsepower petrol or the 90 horsepower diesel, both of which deliver a good mix of performance and economy.
Peugeot 3008
Peugeot 3008
Peugeot 3008 – the funky one
We always prefer to let you make your own mind up about a car’s looks, but we’re pretty confident that Peugeot’s 3008 will grab plenty of eyes as it drives past. Once a dowdy MPV in a previous generation, the latest 3008 is now a funky SUV that’s also comfortable and practical. It also comes with plenty of equipment and lots of safety kit, which is always appreciated in a family car.
Skoda Superb Estate – the affordable one
If you’re after as much space as possible for as little money as possible, the Skoda Superb Estate should be top of your shopping list. It’s based on the same platform as the Volkswagen Golf, but it’s much bigger and costs a lot less. The boot has an unrivalled 660 litres of space with the rear seats up, and 1,950 litres with them folded flat, which is plenty for all the stuff that goes along with having kids. The cabin is just as roomy and it’s a lovely place to spend time in. The car is comfortable and enjoyable to drive, especially with the 150 horsepower 2.0-litre diesel engine. It has fantastic strength, as well as impressively low running costs.
Skoda Kodiaq – the stylish one
Another recommendation for Skoda here... it does a great job of providing huge space for a modest outlay. The Kodiaq is as roomy and versatile as any of its large seven-seat SUV rivals, but version-for-version, it costs thousands less than most of them. Despite that, it’s well equipped and feels effortlessly classy inside. It’s also comfortable, quiet and relaxed on the road, perfect for any family journey. To top it off, it has all the style and image SUV buyers crave.
Seat Alhambra – the massive one
If space for carrying people is your top priority, the Seat Alhambra is pretty much untouchable. It’s essentially the same car as the Volkswagen Sharan, but much cheaper to buy. There’s loads of space for seven inside, as well as their luggage, and the sliding rear doors make it incredibly easy to get the kids in and out, even in tight parking spots. It should also prove pretty reasonable to run, too, thanks to its fine range of petrol and diesel engines. There’s no hiding its boxy MPV styling, but that does mean you get a vast amount of space inside, even with seven people on board.
Dacia Duster
Dacia Duster
Dacia Duster – the cheap one
Like Skoda, Dacia is a firm specialising in providing a lot of metal for not much money. But with Dacia, the prices are unbelievably low, and the latest Duster is several thousand less than most of its key competitors of the same size. You do have to make a few sacrifices in quality, technology and dynamic polish to get that affordability, but the sacrifices aren’t as severe as they were with the previous Duster, and most are worth making.
Our top five tips for choosing the perfect family car

1. Safety
Check whether the car has been awarded a maximum five star Euro NCAP rating – this is the standardised crash safety scoring system across all new cars on sale in Europe – but also look into that car’s individual score for areas such as child occupancy protection, too. The Volvo XC90, for example, is one of the safest family cars on sale, scoring 97% for adult occupancy protection and 87% for child occupancy protection.
2. Shape
Try to choose a car shape that is tall and boxy. That may not sound as appealing as a sporty coupe, but having a boxy shell lets you maximise every last litre of space. A tall car also helps give you a commanding driving position on the road ahead, as well as lighten the load on your back if you’re having to stoop to install child car seats or get buggies in and out.
3. Seats
It’s critical you check the flexibility of those rear seats. Are they all the same size, so you can avoid any arguments about who sits in the middle? Can you slide them forward, making it easier for mum and dad up front to pass things back? Are they easy to tumble and fold, and how many chairs have Isofix points so you can install child car seats? Remember, if you need a full seven-seater, are Nan and Grandad going to find it easy to access those rearmost chairs?
4. Storage
Most cars come with plenty of storage cubbies, but be sure to check whether they’re a good size for all your parental paraphernalia. Are they easy to reach if you have any spillages when driving? Do the kids have enough storage if, for example, you want to hide their toys and games when the car is parked up?
5. Specification
Specifying your vehicle correctly will not only help make your life easier, it will help ensure you get a better price for your car when you come to sell it. Remember, dark cabin materials are better at hiding stains and spillages, but also consider options such as a reversing camera in addition to reversing sensors, hill-hold assist to prevent the car from rolling back on any awkward hill start, plus a panoramic sunroof to increase your sense of space and light. And if you do longer journeys, it’s wise to consider a setup for tablets or DVD screens.