What do you look for when searching for a family car? Space for all your offspring, car seats, pushchairs, sports kit, toys, luggage, weekly grocery shop, flat pack furniture, grandparents, and dogs? An entertainment system to lull your children to sleep on long drives—or just on the way to the supermarket? Leather seats you can wipe down easily, preferably in a dark colour that won’t show the jam and chocolate stains? A peerless crash safety rating and autonomous emergency braking? Five generous doors through which you can manoeuvre bulky carseats and screaming toddlers? Enough room in the boot for a double-wide pushchair and enough cup holders for five sippy cups (them) and one very large coffee (you)? UV tinting on the back windows so the sun doesn’t disrupt a precious nap? Good fuel economy so you don’t squander your kids’ university savings accounts on petrol and leave them an overheated husk of a planet?
All of the above plus a pinch of style because you haven’t forgotten aesthetics just because you had kids, ok?
We’re running down the list of the best family cars, from hatchbacks to people carriers.
- Volvo XC60: This SUV is the safest vehicle on the road, having notched the highest score ever on the EU’s NCAP ratings. Front and side airbags and a sturdy frame mean passengers were protected from both head-on and t-junction collisions while advanced seat belt tech meant they’re unlikely to suffer from whiplash. Autonomous emergency braking and lane assist come as standard, contributing to the 98% safety rating the XC60 earned for adults and 87% it notched for child passengers. A safer car typically means a cheaper car insurance policy too.
- Skoda Karoq: Affordable, spacious, and fitted with a large boot and dark upholstery, the Karoq is a sturdy family car that can withstand all the sporting equipment, muddy cleats, spilled drinks, and carpools of family life. Even entry level models come with a generous touch screen infotainment screen, so you can find your way to that away match and sedate the ankle-biters with Peppa Pig. And the whole thing is teeming with interior storage, from a cubby under the steering wheel to a lidded slot in front of the gearstick that’s equipped with a USB port and perfect for charging your phone. The boot is even more capacious and practical, with entry level models clocking in at 521 litres and expanding to 1630 litres with the rear seats removed, in case you ever manage to shed the kids for an afternoon and head to Ikea.
- Volkswagen Polo: A generous, economical supermini, the Polo is a great alternative for smaller families, coming equipped with ISOFIX fittings on the two rear seats, a respectable 280-litre boot for its supermini size and low running costs, and a dust and pollen filter for those tired of wiping noses. It won’t be substantial enough for mummy bloggers churning out babies and picnics for follows. Its a squeeze in the back for adults, but if all your companions are under three-feet tall, it’s a steal at under £13,500. It also boasts a 5-star NCAP rating.
- Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer: Who says people carriers need to be stodgy? This intergalactically-named seven-seater has a deceptively sleek exterior and the possibility to upgrade to luxurious—and easy to wipe down—leather. It also has a huge boot, especially with the rear two seats flipped down, and enough storage areas—include two lidded cubbies right on the dash—for all your snacks and toys. Or your kids’. Although the Grand hasn’t been crash tested by the Euro NCAP, it’s 5-seater brother the simple SpaceTourer notched a 5-star rating. Add on a Kids’ Pack for integrated rear sun blinds and a mirror to keep a close eye on the troublemakers in the third row.
- SEAT Alhambra: There’s no slimming this MPV’s boxy figure but looks aren’t everything, especially when you see this baby’s powered sliding rear doors and generous boot. If you need to transport seven people, there’s no more comfortable way to do so; even seven adults will have elbow room. And at under £24,000 it’s a cheaper dupe of the Volkswagen Sharan, with a similar 5-star safety rating. And think of all the shopping trips and car pools you can accomplish with ease, all the toddlers you can wrangle in and out of those sliding doors. Once you’re converted to the people carrier lifestyle, it’s difficult to imagine going back to a modest 5-seater. Except maybe when all the kids move out of the house.