Best family cars for all requirements
Family cars are the most bought category of car so here is a list of family cars based on your needs. At the end will be an overall winner so read on…
Best for practicality
For £29,540 a vastly practical Skoda Superb L is what I believe to be the most practical family car on the market. With the seats up it has a boot capacity of 660l (more than a 165 more than a Mercedes-Benz GLA SUV) and with the seats down it has a whopping 1,950l of space. More, it uses its space more wisely with handy features everywhere such as a gesture below the boot will automatically open the boot, admittedly smacking you in the head-it’s a bit of a gimmick. What isn’t a gimmick is a handle to pull down the seats. This feature wasn’t available on the previous generation Superb; rather than hanging you newly bought suit in the passenger window you can now hang it on a shelf in the boot which is a handy feature too. Because it is an estate it is also much easier to carry heavy items in comparison to an SUV that has a higher distance from the boot base and maybe a load lip. By a long way, this car wins the award for the most practical family car however in other areas isn’t so outstanding.
Best for comfort
You probably aren’t surprised by my choice of make to fill this category. Yes, it is an Audi. Specifically, the A4 35 TDI costing £36,390. It isn’t he standard car in the range (the 30 TDI) as its engine is rather weak with a 0-60 figure of over 9 seconds. This 35 TDI will do the sprint in 8.2.
A lot of factors affect a cars comfort such as the gearbox, the ride, the seats, the infotainment, the road, tire and wind noise and luxury, the list goes on. And I must report that this car fills these boxes well. The ride is subtle even in S-line trim and the smaller wheels add to the ride too. The Sat-Nav can’t match the BMW and Mercedes systems but on the whole with Android Auto and Apple Car Play is nevertheless good. Adaptive dampers will make it seem as if you aren’t moving on the road, so if you do longer journey’s, especially if not on motorways, this is a must have. What beats any cars in any class is the digital dials which we take for granted looking at the fuel, speed, and revs. It is clear and despite lots of menus, it is very intuitive. It can almost match BMW quality but triumphs over Mercedes-Benz flashy but flimsy interior. The seats are supportive and hug you; in Technik trim adjustable lumbar support is standard as a bonus. The driving position is unfaultable with lots of available adjustment in the seat itself and the steering wheel. The quality is on par with the 3 series which means it is impeccable with very little fake woods and metals. And the plastics are mostly soft touch and plush. Lastly, for the size of the car, the front space is flawless with plenty of places to rest your arms etc and headroom is similarly generous. It is well worthy of winning this comfort category.
Best for a big budget
The Mercedes-Benz A45s may look that underneath the mad body kit like conventional hatchback but underneath it is hottest hatchback ever, full stop. It has the most powerful 2l engine or 4 cylinder. It teaches many companies that you don’t have develop a heavy V6/straight 6 or even a V8 because it produces an out of this world 415 BHP. Around 10 years ago we complimented supercars with this power. In the real world this is the fastest car in the world completing 0-60 in around 3 ¾ and a limited top speed of not 155mph but 168mph whatever the weather thanks to sophisticated 4 wheel drive and because it is a 4 cyclinder it will deliver healthy emissions and economy, which means you can spend more time enjoying the drive instead of paying with a face mask for fuel. It’s hard to see why you should pay extra for the AMG GT. It also feels as if it has lots of power in reserve and even though from the outside the acceleration looks brutal it is effortless like a Rolls Royce Phantom. A Rolls Royce is luxurious too and although the merc isn’t comparable it does make quite a nice cruiser. For starters, the infotainment is the same as what you’d find in an S-class and despite those sports seats looking like they are for style and weight they are supportive and suitable for motorway miles. There are 64 colours of ambient lighting too to suit your mood.; the only complaint is that cruise control isn’t even an option-in the UK it simply isn’t available. But for your inner 8-year-old there are also geeky stuff such as 0-60 timers and lap timers. However, there is one elephant in the room…its price. At £52,000 and £60,000 with a few must have options it is outrageous for a hatchback. For my American viewers that is around $83,000. It’s a shame because this is a truly admirable car that without a silly price tag would not only be the best family car but best car ever. If you want to read more about a hot hatch for a fraction of the price, scroll down to Used family cars.
Best family SUV
The Volvo XC40 is a great family SUV for many reasons. Firstly, its value, it costs similar to non-premium cars such as the Vauxhall Grandland X, Hyundai Tucson, Honda CRV, Kia Sportage and Peugeot 3008 and has an excellent driving position. I believe its design is good too, a baby version of the more expensive XC60 and the even more expensive XC90. Its interior quality almost trumps the German rivals and let’s not forget that this is an SUV starting from around £25,000. Flair is also a strong point which is expressed with the large 9-inch Tesla style infotainment screen but underneath it isn’t as good as German rivals; it isn’t as intuitive, and the touchscreen is fiddly to operate. As for storage there are lots of spaces but don’t start thinking that they are uselessly small as the from door pockets can hold two large bottles with plenty of space left over for er … er … apples. It may not be a driver’s car, but it excels at what the customers want-comfort. It rides over bumps well and has very little noise; the only complaint is that there is bad visibility but 360-degree camera is available. The equipment may be generous but like with German cars when you glance at the options list you can’t say no and after a few options an entry level car will realistically be around £30,000. It almost wins the overall family car by being a good all-rounder but lacks going to 11 in areas which some other family cars do manage.
Best used family car
I believe the overall best used family car is the BMW 1 series specifically with a 2l petrol/diesel or 3l petrol in range topping M140i/M135i form (depending on the year). The reason I’ve picked this car is due to, unlike any hatchback on the market, it has rear wheel drive in all trim or engine sizes. Unfortunately, as RWD costs more than front wheel drive 1 and 2 series cars are now only front wheel drive. However, don’t see this as a downside as this means there are some proper bargains out there. You can find a range-topping M140i with a sub 5 second 0-60 time for 12k. If you like a diesel the 125d has an exceptional performance from its twin turbo diesel engine and is up against the hot hatches such as the VW Golf GTD and Ford Focus ST diesel. It has 44 BHP more than a Lotus Exige and does the sprint in 6.3 seconds so is no slouch. As for the M140i, it is the most popular 6-cylinder hatchback ever produced and there is a reason for this; it has flawless handling. If you see understeer, you are looking at the wrong car and with the traction control fully off you can do some old school sliding, sadly you will never do this but it’s nice to know that it is so well engineered this is possible. But don’t think that it is a disaster on the road because it can deal with the typical British roads-over potholes it is surprisingly comfortable for a car setup for road-racing. As for the lesser variants, quite a lot of its big brothers spice is carried other. However, its practicality is much below rivals. It is especially poor for back seat passengers as the rear drive components use up interior space and boot space equally.
Overall best family car
It may not be a hatchback, but it doesn’t stop it from being a great car for families. The new 3 series is better than the previous generation which at the time excelled too. The criteria for a 3 series are to be fun to drive but also comfortable and this generation pulls this off better than any predecessor or in fact any car. All car reviewers will say the 330e is the variant to have and I agree but it is rather expensive so if you want to spend less you shouldn’t consider a completely different car as an almost equally powerful than petrol and are cheaper too. For under £40,000 a sub 7 second 0-60mph 320d is available which will (like the 330e) return great running costs. The interior is a masterpiece with class leading quality. It’s spacious for you too so the taller can get comfortable. I don’t need to mention the driving position as it is unfaultable and despite some plastics, they feel like an all-around extended leather package. The infotainment may use the same controls, such as the swivel wheel, but all technology doesn’t get close to the intuitiveness and user friendliness of it. It may not have android auto, but do you need it…no as the i drive system is sublime with lots of settings but few buttons. This system is better than rivals when seen in the Rolls Royce’s. There are loads of engines and trims but the interesting and important ones are the BMW M340i which comes in estate form but is rapid too. The other is the BMW 330d which is also rapid with a 0-60 time of around 5 seconds and therefore proves you shouldn’t pay fore for the M340d. It entertains just like the previous model with lots of grip with X drive and the sense you could drift without but doesn’t compromise with ride as the stroke-dependant suspension and well thought dampers make the ride subtle especially if you don’t opt for M sport trim. You may think family cars are supposed to be inexpensive too and you are very right and there are some great value, used options. I found a 9,000 Cat N 320i for £19,000 in the current shape and a 22,000-mile 320d in current shape for £20,485. That’s ford fiesta money! A new C class with a higher starting price is coming this spring/summer but will have to go a long way to beat the 3 series let alone upholding the family car winner. It is a well-deserved win.