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Top 10 best new family cars

Families come in all shapes and sizes, so naturally, family cars must, too. Here's our top 10

Words by: Additional words by: Andy Pringle Last updated: 9th November 2016
Families come in all shapes and sizes, so naturally, family cars must, too. Whether you’ve got a small brood and need an urban runaround, or you regularly carry three children and some of their friends, you’ll be looking for something that’s practical, cheap to run, easy to drive and able to stand up to the tortuous treatment that small children can inflict upon it.

To help steer family car buyers in the right direction, here we’ve rounded up ten of the finest family cars, from city-friendly superminis to spacious seven-seaters. And, at the bottom of the page, we've included our Top 5 family car-buying tips.

Our top 10 family cars include:
  • Skoda Fabia hatchback
  • Renault Captur
  • Citroen C3 Picasso
  • Skoda Superb Estate
  • Nissan Qashqai
  • Volkswagen Passat Estate
  • Ford S-Max
  • Seat Alhambra
  • Land Rover Discovery Sport
  • Volvo XC90
Top 10 family cars - Skoda Fabia
Top 10 family cars - Skoda Fabia
Skoda Fabia hatchback
The Skoda Fabia is an excellent small family car. It’s one of the roomiest superminis on sale, with plenty of cabin space and a properly capacious boot – almost on a par with what you get in bigger cars like the Ford Focus. It’s also got an excellent range of petrol and diesel engines, but we recommend the 89bhp petrol engine, which is smooth, powerful, clean and efficient. The Fabia is also a quietly handsome car and the interior feels really robust; well up to surviving sustained abuse from children. To cap it all, the Fabia’s a doddle to drive, too, with light, easy controls, an excellent view out and a logically laid-out dashboard.
Top 10 family cars - Renault Captur
Top 10 family cars - Renault Captur
Renault Captur
Small supermini-SUV crossovers are all the rage right now and it’s easy to see why. They combine supermini-sized ease of use with the high driving position and chunky style of an SUV; and, at the moment, our favourite is the Renault Captur. With its chic looks, great range of engines and almost endless personalisation options, it makes a great deal of sense. It’s more practical than many of its rivals, such as the Nissan Juke, and to some eyes, it looks nicer, too. The small dimensions mean it's easy to park, while the raised ride height means it's easy to get the kids in and out of the back seats. Our favourite engine is the 1.5-litre 89bhp turbodiesel, which is plenty powerful enough for the car, while also delivering cheap running costs, thanks to its low CO2 emissions and excellent fuel economy.
Top 10 family cars - Citroen C3 Picasso
Top 10 family cars - Citroen C3 Picasso
Citroen C3 Picasso
Citroen is producing some excellent MPVs at the moment, and the C3 Picasso is no exception. It’s one of the more stylish mini-MPVs, but despite this, it doesn’t lose anything in terms of practicality. Both cabin- and bootspace are right up there with the class-leaders, while the car is smart to look at inside, too. It’s flexible inside – three children can fit across the rear bench with ease – as well as being light and airy, while the range of 1.6-litre diesel and 1.4-litre petrol engines is clean, efficient, smooth and perky enough for most families. They won’t cost the Earth to run, either, thanks to impressive CO2 emissions and fuel economy. If you’re after a small MPV, you should definitely take a look at this one.
Top 10 family cars - Skoda Superb estate
Top 10 family cars - Skoda Superb estate
Skoda Superb Estate
If it’s sheer space you’re after – both in in the cabin and in the boot – for not much outlay, then the Skoda Superb Estate should be very high up on your shopping list. It’s based on the same platform as the excellent Volkswagen Golf, but provides a loads more room for much less money. It drives really nicely, too, and the interior is a lovely place in which to spend time, but it’s the boot which is really impressive: it has an unrivalled 660 litres of space with the rear seats up and a gargantuan 1,950 litres with them folded flat - plenty of space for all the paraphernalia which goes along with having kids. That’s considerably more than you’ll find in a Mercedes E-Class estate, and for much less money. If you want the best Superb, go for the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine. It has fantastic strength, as well as impressively low running costs.
Top 10 family cars - Nissan Qashqai
Top 10 family cars - Nissan Qashqai
Nissan Qashqai
When the original Qashqai appeared in 2007, it revolutionised the family car market with its blend of family-hatch practicality and SUV-like styling. This latest model has carried that baton on superbly, being practical, excellent to drive, very safe and impressively cheap to run. The boot's big enough to fit a week's food shop in, as well as the nipper's pushchair. It’s a handsome car, too – even smarter than the first model – and the interior is really spacious and flexible. 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 108bhp 1.5-litre diesel engine, which impresses with its power, smoothness and excellent running costs.
Top 10 family cars - VW Passat estate
Top 10 family cars - VW Passat estate
Volkswagen Passat Estate
The most recent Volkswagen Passat has brought a real step-up not just in terms of quality, ride comfort and refinement, but also in space and practicality. This is a huge car, with loads of space in the back and a truly vast boot to swallow all manner of stuff. Couple this with a supremely supple ride – which should keep the family nice and comfy on long road trips – and a range of brilliantly smooth, quiet and powerful diesel engines, with impressive running costs and you’ve got yourself a winner. Both the 118bhp and 148bhp diesels make sense as a company car purchasse – as does the plug-in hybrid GTE – and most versions come really well equipped, too.
Top 10 family cars - Ford S-Max
Top 10 family cars - Ford S-Max
Ford S-Max
The surprisingly sporty Ford S-Max is arguably the most driver-focussed MPV on the market right now, and it’s properly fun to drive. Body lean is well controlled and the steering is nice and direct. Amazingly, it does all this without compromising on ride comfort. It’s practical, too, with adequate seating for seven, as well as a big boot (massive with all the rear chairs folded down) and a plethora of cubby holes and cupholders dotted about the cabin. All the materials feels sturdy and well put together, too, which means infantile abuse should be kept at bay. There’s a good range of engines, too, with the best of the bunch being the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel. Pair this with the six-speed manual ‘box, and you’re on to a winner.
Top 10 family cars - Seat Alhambra
Top 10 family cars - Seat Alhambra
Seat Alhambra
If space for carrying people is your top priority, then the Seat Alhambra worth taking a long, hard look at. 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. True, there’s no hiding its boxy MPV styling, but that does mean you get a simply vast amount of space inside; even with seven people on board.
Top 10 family cars - Land Rover Discovery Sport
Top 10 family cars - Land Rover Discovery Sport
Land Rover Discovery Sport
Class-leading practicality, a nice interior, exemplary safety credentials, and it’s good to drive: so runs the verdict of our expert review of the Discovery Sport, and it's a perfect summary of why this is such a fine family car. Beneath those typically Land Rover lines is a seven-seat cabin that provides practicality and quality in equal measure. True, some rivals give a more sporty drive, but this gives a blend of ride and handling that is ideal for a family ferry; and, being a Land Rover, it's also superb if you ever need to head away from Tarmac. To cap it all, the Disco Sport has lots of safety equipment and its running costs are very good for a car of this type.
Top 10 family cars - Volvo XC90
Top 10 family cars - Volvo XC90
Volvo XC90
The latest XC90 had an awful lot to live up to and, thankfully, it delivers. In terms of high-end family SUVs, very little this side of a Range Rover will deliver such flexibility and such opulence in equal measure. The Volvo will carry seven people with ease, and the tablet-style touch-screen infotainment system is a leap forward for the class. Granted, you may want to keep the kids’ sticky fingers away from it, but they should be well entertained in the back; and, there's plenty of space in the boot for a food shop and a pushchair; even with all seven seats in place. Choose any one of the 2.0-litre diesel engines and you’ll go away happy – they’re smooth, powerful and refined – while entry-level Momentum trim is probably the one to go for, too. The XC90 is quite a pricey thing to buy, but you won’t feel short changed. This is a fine family car.
Our Top 5 Family Car-buying tips

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. Granted, 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 granddad 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,s 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.
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