Best Of

Best family cars available in 2018 and beyond

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

Words by: First published: 13th December 2017
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
  • Nissan Qashqai
  • 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.
Nissan Qashqai – the popular one
When the original Qashqai appeared in 2007, it revolutionised the family car market with its blend of family-hatch practicality and SUV styling. The latest model is still good, being practical, excellent to drive, very safe and impressively cheap to run. And there's plenty of room in the boot. A pair of child seats will fit in the back easily, and the raised ride height means it's pretty easy to get them in and out, too. The best engine in the range is the 110 horsepower, 1.5-litre diesel engine, which impresses with its power, smoothness and excellent running costs.
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.
Or, here are more family cars coming along in 2018, and beyond that…
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. We don’t yet know exactly how much the all-new Duster – due in the middle of 2018 – will cost, but we’d bet it’ll be several thousand less than the Nissan Qashqai, a car that’s roughly the same size. That means lots of space for people and luggage. Expect a nicer interior, extra luxury kit and more safety aids.
Citroen C5 Aircross – the comfortable one
Not only does it look the business and have ample space for five-plus-luggage, the C5 Aircross has another trick up its sleeve designed to keep your family as comfortable as possible. It’ll be the first of Citroen’s cars to feature a new suspension system using clever hydraulic cushioning to make the ride even smoother. It’ll also have double glazed front windows to help keep exterior noises at bay, and will most likely use Citroen's existing range of turbocharged engines, all of which are smooth and quiet,
Infiniti QX50 – the unknown one
The Infiniti QX50 might be the car to capture the imagination of the British public. As a mid-size premium SUV, it’s a rival for cars like the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes GLC, cars that are extremely popular thanks to their style and desirability. The Infiniti has some clever new tech, too, including an engine that can adjust the way it burns fuel to maximise power and efficiency. The turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine delivers 268 horsepower, but Infiniti claims it delivers the fuel economy and CO2 emissions of a diesel.
Mercedes CLS – the sexy one
Not all family cars have to be a paragon of practicality. If your kids are older and don’t need to carry so much stuff around, sometimes all you need is four seats and a decent boot. That’s what the forthcoming Mercedes CLS gives you, plus a whole heap of style, desirability and sexiness. The CLS was the original four-door coupe, an idea that’s been much-copied, and the latest version will get much of the same tech of the E-Class on which it’s based, meaning lots of luxury goodies and some clever semi-autonomous self-driving gizmos.
BMW X7 – the seven-seater one
It’s highly likely BMW will have a new flagship SUV in 2018, and it’ll probably look a lot like this: the X7 iPerformance Concept. Now the X5 has been overtaken by several newer rivals that are bigger, bolder and more practical, the X7 will compete with its sheer scale, not to mention its seven seats and sharp looks. It’s likely to have the same platform as the latest 7 Series saloon, along with much the same clever technology and a cabin that’s just as opulent.
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.