Family cars lead tough lives – they need to cope with the kids and eat up the miles of the weekly commute.
With demands such as these, you'll need to know which cars are up to job – and those that can't take the heat of family life.
The best of the best
Our favourite family car is the Mazda 6. It’s fun to drive, well-priced and well-equipped.
There’s plenty of room inside the 6 and the simple seat-folding mechanism is an extra bonus, which off-sets the fact that some of the interior might not look as snappy and appealing as the exterior.
While it might not be the quietest contender, as an all-round package it’s still a top performer and highly dependable.
What Car? pick of the Mazda 6 range - 2.2D 163 TS
The best of the rest
Next up is one of the best-known names in motoring – the Ford Mondeo. You might dismiss it as too obvious a choice, but you’d be missing out if you did.
Superb handling ability is matched by a composed, quiet ride that makes the Ford a true all-rounder.
It’s also a big car, so you won’t want for space inside, and build quality is durable.
What Car? pick of the Ford Mondeo range - 2.0 TDCi 140 Zetec
A car with this name certainly has a lot to live up to, and the Skoda doesn’t disappoint.
The sumptuous materials, plentiful equipment and impressive build quality might make you think you’re in an executive car, but the prices won’t.
Get in the back and you could be in a luxury car – there’s an amazing amount of legroom – while the boot is huge. There also the bonus of a clever, combined hatch/bootlid.
What Car? pick of the Skoda Superb range - 1.4 TSI S
The Passat is an incredibly comfortable mile-muncher, so if you spend a lot of time on the motorway, it could be ideal.
There’s not as much room as in the Skoda Superb, but the Passat certainly isn’t pokey, and it's well-equipped, too.
It’s not a bad-looking car from the outside, although some of the plastics in the cabin feel a bit on the cheap side.
What Car? pick of the Volkswagen Passat range - 2.0 TDI CR 140 S
You won’t buy an Avensis to look flash, but beauty is only skin deep, and the Toyota’s talents go way beyond that.
Reliability is king, while all of the materials in the cabin are top-notch and the controls operate smoothly.
It’s easy to drive, comfortable to travel in, and now comes with the peace-of-mind of a five-year warranty.
What Car? pick of the Toyota Avensis range - 2.0 D-4D TR Nav
There are no one-star family cars, but the Kia Magentis is the only car to get just two stars. The replacement for the Magentis arrives at the Paris motor show at the end of September and will go on sale in the UK early in 2011.
It should continue to offer lots of equipment and space for the money, but hopefully it will also take a stride forward in terms of the driving experience and quality.
Renault’s three-star Laguna is next. It certainly looks pretty stylish and is well-equipped, but the ride is harsh and the resale values could make you wince.
The Vauxhall Insignia is stylish and comes loaded with creature comforts, safety equipment and cutting-edge features, but refinement is just okay, while the steering doesn’t make for a fun time at the wheel. However, the Insignia now comes with a free lifetime warranty (for the first owner – the second will have to pay).
The B-Class from Mercedes-Benz has lots of space and can cruise nicely on the motorway. It’s expensive, though, and, again, the way it drives won’t light your fire.
Our final three-star family car is the Peugeot 407, which is about to be replaced by a car that will closely follow the ‘5’ concept seen at this year's Geneva motor show. We’re keen to see if Peugeot has improved the poor ride and seat comfort of the outgoing model.
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