Star Cars 2009: Family cars - Family cars

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  • The best upcoming models
  • Small family cars
  • Family cars
Toyota Avensis
Price from £15,500 (est)
On sale January
What’s great? A hassle-free ownership proposition

The new Avensis is no show-stopper to look at, but then Toyota has always put practicality and dependability above glitz and glamour.

The Avensis plays to these strengths. The styling’s subdued, but the cabin and boot have more space than the old car’s, boosting practicality, while lower emissions and fuel consumption reduce running costs.

From launch, the saloon and estate will have three diesel and three petrol engine options, all more powerful than their predecessors, and four trim levels. A continuously-variable Multidrive S transmission is available on the petrol, while the diesel has an automatic option for the first time.

All models come with seven airbags, stability control, front electric windows, CD stereo with steering wheel-mounted controls and remote central locking. While base models get manual air-conditioning and steel wheels, everything else has alloys and climate control.

Top-end options include adaptive cruise control and a high-tech device to help you stay in lane on the motorway.

There’s also a pre-crash safety system available. This detects if a collision is unavoidable and tries to minimise impact speeds and injuries by pre-loading the brakes and tensioning the seatbelts in anticipation.

All this safety kit just serves to emphasise where Toyota sees the Avensis’s market. Although there are suggestions the seats will be mounted low in the cabin to give the car a more sporty feel, that sort of thing won’t fool anyone. The Avensis probably won’t do sporty, but it will do just about everything else.

Seat Exeo
Price from £17,000 (est)
On sale April
What’s great? (Old) Audi quality for Seat prices

Think there’s something familiar about the Seat Exeo? That’s because it’s a revamped version of the previous-generation Audi A4.

Does that mean the Exeo is already out of date? Well, it’s likely to struggle to match the standards of the best compact executives, but it’s also likely to be substantially cheaper, aiming squarely for the family car market.

Seat hopes to score highly by loading the car with plenty of standard equipment, including a USB connection (allowing MP3 music players to be plugged in), cruise control, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, climate control and alloy wheels.

The Exeo is expected to go on sale with 141bhp and 168bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel engines, and a 196bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine.

A Sports Tourer estate version is also expected to go on sale by the end of 2009.

VW Passat Bluemotion
Price from£18,500 (est)
On saleMid-2009
What’s great? The great emission figures – and the correspondingly low road tax bill

An estate car that costs a mere £20 a year to tax for the road? You’d better believe it. However, this will only emerge from the realms of fantasy if the latest Volkswagen Passat Bluemotion gets the go-ahead for sale in this country.

Talks were still ongoing as to whether the car would be marketed in the UK as we went to press, but if – as seems likely – it does, then buyers will be able to take advantage of carbon dioxide emissions of just 109g/km and fuel economy of almost 69mpg.

Curiously, those figures are likely to be achieved in three phases next year. Initially, a stop-start system would be fitted to a current Passat TDI; then it would get a new 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine lowering CO2 emission levels to 114g/km; finally there would be additional detailed changes to reach the 109g/km goal.

The 1.6 engine destined for the Passat is the same one that will go into the Golf Mk VI Bluemotion, which will have CO2 emissions of only 99g/km.

Vauxhall Insignia
Price from £16,000 (est)
On sale Sports Tourer (spring), Ecoflex (summer), VXR (autumn)
What’s great? Space, economy and performance respectively

The Vectra is dead, long live the Insignia! After its unveiling at last year’s British Motor Show, the Insignia already has a familiar feel about it, but its line-up will be extended throughout the course of 2009.

First up will be the Sports Tourer, or estate. It has 540 litres of space with the seats up, which expands to 1501 litres with them down. That means the Insignia is big – but not as vast as its main rival, the Ford Mondeo.

Green-minded buyers may want to wait until the summer, when an ecoFLEX Insignia with emissions below 140g/km of CO2 and better fuel economy will be launched.

However, those after performance will have to wait for the VXR, which will have four-wheel drive and a 2.8-litre V6 petrol engine expected to put out around 320bhp.

Mazda 6
Price from £19,000 (est)
On sale Early 2009
What’s great? More power, more efficient
2.2 diesel can put out up to 185bhp, return up to 51.4mpg and cut CO2 to just 147g/km.

Subaru Legacy
Price from £18,000 (est)
On sale Early 2009
What’s great? Old qualities, new form
A mild refresh outside and a raft of trim changes to improve the quality on the inside.

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