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Top 10 best family cars to buy 2024

What are the best family cars on sale? Whether you're after an SUV or an affordable hatchback, our top 10 list reveals all...

​Finding the best family car can be more challenging than you might think, given that both adult and child passengers tend to ask a huge amount of their car each and every day. Fortunately, car makers are facing up to the challenge, and buyers looking for their next family car are pretty spoilt for choice.

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Family hatchbacks offer great fuel economy and plenty of space in a compact package, and the best examples are great all-rounders with a good mix of qualities. A number of buyers, though, will need the extra space of an SUV or estate. Here, as a rule, you get more rear legroom, a bigger boot and superior long-distance comfort, but you’ll pay a bit more to buy one and fuel economy might take a hit.

For the ultimate in flexible interior space, you’ll want an MPV with either five or seven seats, but the modern trend in family cars leans very much towards SUV and crossover models. With these you get the higher driving position and easier access that comes from the elevated ride height. Some models even offer light off-road capabilities.

The best family cars to buy now

Our expert road testers have driven every family car that you can buy in the UK, and we’ve rounded up the very best options right here. There’s something for everyone, too, with SUVs, MPVs, estates, hatchbacks and even fully-electric cars all making an appearance. Read on to find the best family cars to buy now, listed in reverse order.

10. Skoda Octavia

The Skoda Octavia is a brilliant all-rounder that delivers on the essentials: competitive pricing, plenty of space and practicality, useful on-board tech and a range of efficient petrol and diesel engines.

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Take a walk round Skoda's family hatch and you'll notice the classy, clean design, while the interior quality is a huge plus point, too, and easily a match for more premium rivals. Yet, with a starting price of less than £26,000, the Octavia represents great value, while the 600-litre boot and huge passenger space make you feel that you're driving a car from the class above. We love the Skoda’s robust quality, along with the comfort on offer and how easy it is to drive on a daily basis.

9. Toyota Corolla Touring Sports

The Toyota Corolla Touring Sports recently received a facelift that included the usual styling tweaks, but more importantly, upgrades to its hybrid system and a new infotainment setup that make this practical family wagon better than ever.

Both the hybrid-only Corolla hatchback and Touring Sports estate are available with a 2.0-litre petrol engine under the bonnet, however, we’d go for the 1.8-litre petrol as it still offers great performance, over 60mpg fuel economy, and means you get a slightly larger boot. 

It’s surprisingly good to drive for an eco-focused car, but of course, this is an estate so practicality is key. Boot space measures up to 596 litres with all the seats in place, and the low, square load area makes it easy to carry even the bulkiest items.

8. Hyundai Tucson

With the fourth-generation TucsonHyundai set its sights on some of the more premium offerings in the hugely competitive mid-size SUV market. Striking and distinctive looks, plenty of standard equipment across the range and an overall sense of top build quality are just some of the features that have earned the Tucson the title of Mid-size SUV of the Year at our New Car Awards for three years in a row.

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It’s a great choice for the family, too, because some clever engineering has resulted in plenty of space for both front and rear passengers. There’s also room for their luggage, with a vast 620-litre boot at your disposal.

Although Hyundai has worked to make the Tucson more appealing to those in the market for a more premium SUV, prices aren’t too steep. A petrol-powered Tucson in SE Connect trim starts at under £32,000, and comes with forward collision-avoidance assist, ​Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, climate control and parking sensors all as standard.

7. Hyundai Kona

The original Hyundai Kona was a very sensible small SUV, but it lacked the rear cabin space or luggage capacity to take on the best family cars on the market. That’s all changed with the all-new second-generation Kona, which is more spacious than its predecessor – especially in the back – and boasts a much more impressive 466-litre boot. 

The rest of the cabin feels notably more upmarket than the previous Kona’s, with the dashboard in all models dominated by a pair of 12.3-inch displays. The Kona also gets the latest version of Hyundai’s infotainment software, with a cleaner interface that features larger and easier-to-prod ‘widgets’.

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The second-generation Kona Electric is available with 48kWh or 65kWh batteries, the latter offering a claimed range of 305 miles. It’s comfortable, a cinch to drive around town and very refined, too. All excellent qualities for a family car.

6. Honda Civic

Like the Toyota Corolla, the 11th-generation Honda Civic is available exclusively with a self-charging hybrid powertrain. It’s smooth, efficient and capable of returning over 50mpg without breaking a sweat. The Civic also has a cleaner look this time around, a larger glasshouse for better visibility and a longer, sleeker profile. There’s no two ways about it: this is a handsome family hatchback.

Meanwhile, the Japanese hatchback’s cabin is more spacious than ever, feels solidly built and features a infotainment system far better than those in previous Civics. The latest Civic trumps its Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus rivals for luggage capacity too, with an impressive 410-litre boot.

5. Nissan Qashqai

The Nissan Qashqai is credited as being the car that really kicked off the SUV boom. It wasn’t really the first, but its mixture of car-like handling, practicality, build quality and pricing hit a sweet spot when it launched in 2007. The current one is hugely popular and it’s easy to see why: the Qashqai is an excellent family car with lots of space, quality and kit. 

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The current model can be had as a mild hybrid or with an ‘e-Power’ system. This is made up of a 156bhp electric motor that drives the front wheels with power supplied by a 1.5-litre petrol engine. The result is a very EV-like driving experience with instant torque and a smooth power delivery. It’s also pretty efficient, managing a claimed 53.3mpg. 

4. BMW 3 Series

The BMW 3 Series has been one of the best cars you can buy for decades. The current G20 generation is longer and wider than the previous version, but it’s up to 55kg lighter, has a 25 per cent stiffer body, and drives even more sweetly no matter which powertrain you choose. 

Even the entry-level 182bhp 320i’s rear-driven nature is a joy. The loss of a six-speed manual from the range was a shame, but the eight-speed ZF auto is fantastic, with speedy shifts when you want, and seamless changes when you’re cruising. The more powerful petrol and diesel versions have enticing driving dynamics and are relatively efficient, but the plug-in hybrid doesn’t have the EV range of its rivals. The availability of a Touring estate throughout the range is a real bonus. 

3. Peugeot 408

With the coupe-SUV segment booming right now, you’d be forgiven for thinking Peugeot has cashed in by creating the 408. In fact it’s more of a lifted fastback (that’s what the firm says at least) and it slots between the 308 and 508 in the French brand’s range, rather than a coupe variant of the 3008 SUV, which itself has just become a lot more rakish. 

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Regardless, there’s much more to the 408 than its bold styling. The single non-hybrid turbocharged petrol engine is our pick of the range, given how cheap it is compared with the plug-in hybrid’s list prices. That’s not to say the 178bhp and 222bhp plug-in versions are bad, however, because they deliver a decent range of up to 40 miles on electric power and have plenty of poke. Several leasing deals have popped up recently, with the well equipped GT models coming in at less than £200 per month. 

The interior is classy and surprisingly spacious, with screens aplenty and a very impressive 536-litre boot. All models have a smaller than average, slightly octagonal steering wheel and Peugeot's i-Cockpit digital driver’s display that you’re meant to look over the wheel to read. The set-up isn’t for everyone, however, so we recommend giving it a try yourself before signing on the dotted line.

2. Skoda Superb Estate

The current Skoda Superb Estate’s longevity is something to behold. It won our Estate of the Year award when it was launched in 2016 and it’s still one of the best wagons you can buy. Goodness knows how good the next-generation Superb will be when it arrives later this year. 

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While the Skoda Superb hatch is good, we highly rate the Estate model, thanks to its 660-litre boot. It’s supremely refined on the move, due to its soft suspension. The 1.5-litre TSI petrol has enough power and offers respectable fuel economy. We like the 197bhp 2.0-litre diesel, which is a great choice if you cover long distances, but while the higher-power petrols are fast, they seem like a bit of an indulgence – especially the 276bhp 2.0-litre.

1. Dacia Jogger

It doesn’t take long to realise why we gave the Dacia Jogger our Family Car of the Year award in 2023. Simply put, the Romanian model is cheap, big and efficient. Don’t think the Jogger skimps on interior quality or technology, however. The cabin feels well screwed together and while there’s some hard-touch plastics, we’re sure they’ll stand up to family life. 

The Jogger really sits in a class of its own, thanks to its bargain price tag, especially in the entry-level Essential petrol form. There’s a hybrid version, too, which bumps up the already impressive fuel economy to an astounding 56.5mpg. It might sit on Renault Clio underpinnings, but the Jogger feels like a big, solid car that really settles down at speed, thanks to its comfortable ride. 

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The Jogger’s unconventional shape has been driven by function over form, but a recent facelift has given it a sharp new look, while the brilliantly designed modular roof bars add to the car’s versatile appeal. That boxy shape means the third-row seats are surprisingly spacious, too.

Top 10 best family cars

  1. Dacia Jogger
  2. Skoda Superb Estate
  3. Peugeot 408
  4. BMW 3 Series
  5. Nissan Qashqai
  6. Hyundai Kona
  7. Hyundai Tucson
  8. Honda Civic
  9. Toyota Corolla Touring Sports
  10. Skoda Octavia

How to choose the best family car

It's important for family car buyers to break down the role that a new family car needs to fill while considering their options, so below we answer the most common questions.

How many seats do you need? A four or five-seater might be enough for your family, but there are seven-seaters available if you need them. There are even eight or nine-seaters on the market, too. Take a look at our dedicated pages for the best seven and eight-seater cars to find out more.

How often would you use seven seats? It's worth considering how often you'll travel seven-up. If a car is available with seven seats or five seats and a bigger boot, the latter might be a better buy if you won't be using the third row that often.

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How much room do the seats need to have?  If you've got grown-up kids, it might not be enough to simply have a car with two extra seats in the boot. The smallest seven-seaters will only have room in the rearmost row for small kids, so teenagers could be cramped in the back. And, of course, small kids grow, so if you're planning on keeping a car for a long period, that should also be factored in.

How often would the family car be used? If you don't use the car during the week and only need a family car at weekends, then you could go for something that has higher running costs than average just so you get the extra space you need. Likewise, if you're using a family car for the school run, then you're probably better off with something that's a bit smaller, while kit such as parking sensors and cameras will be a bonus.

How much boot space do you need? A conventional hatchback might be big enough, but if not, estate versions of hatches offer more room. The same goes for larger family cars that are available as estates, while crossovers and SUVs have similar space, but their raised ride height mean they might be harder to load.

What about extras? If you go out and do activities, do you need to carry extra items such as bikes, skis or a canoe? If so, does the car you're looking at have roof rails? If it does, is the roof low enough that you can lift items up there easily?

This is all worth considering, and once you have an idea of what kind of family car you want, take a look at our top 10 and see which ones we think are the best at the business of being family transport.

Need to transport a big family? Check out our list of the best seven-seater cars...

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Shane is responsible for looking after the day-to-day running of the Auto Express website and social media channels. Prior to joining Auto Express in 2021, he worked as a radio producer and presenter for outlets such as the BBC.

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