Best family cars 2020

What makes a good family car and which models should you be considering? Here we count down the top 10 – and reveal the ones to avoid...


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What Car? team

Many people who once would have chosen a traditional 'family hatchback' are now buying SUVs and MPVs instead.

However, that doesn’t mean the family hatchback market is dead; it still accounts for a huge number of sales and is very competitive, so there are some great buys out there.

But what makes a good family car? Well, it has to be practical, cheap to run, good to drive and well equipped; in other words, it needs to be good at pretty much everything.

Here we count down the top 10 – and reveal the models that are best to steer clear of.

10

Kia Ceed

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£17,773

RRP from £18,855 to £27,935

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There are more practical options, but Kia's family hatchback impresses with a class-leading warranty, a well-sized boot and the fact that entry-level versions represent good value for money. Stick with the 1.0-litre petrol engine and '2' trim and you'll enjoy the sweet spot in the Ceed range.

Read our review

Pros

  • Entry-level versions represent good value for money
  • Class-leading warranty
  • Decent-sized boot

Cons

  • Not especially practical
  • Weak safety and security ratings
  • Unsettled ride over rough surfaces
9

Honda Civic

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£18,023

RRP from £20,130 to £33,885

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It may be the raucous Type R hot hatch that's our favourite in the Civic range, but the regular car makes a good case for itself too, with lots of standard safety kit and a big boot. It's decent to drive, too.

Read our review

Pros

  • Decent to drive
  • Lots of standard safety kit
  • Big boot

Cons

  • Woeful infotainment system
  • Rear head room could be better
  • A bit too noisy
8

Mazda 3

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£21,300

RRP from £21,840 to £32,365

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Although Mazda trades on a sporty reputation, the 3 doesn't get anywhere near to a Ford Focus in terms of handling. However, it's impressively refined and comes very well equipped, while interior quality is a match for prestige brands and the infotainment system is great.

Read our review

Pros

  • Plenty of standard kit
  • Refined and quiet at speed
  • Great build quality

Cons

  • Average handling
  • Cramped rear seats
  • Boot could be more versatile
7

Mercedes A-Class

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£20,833

RRP from £23,755 to £56,595

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Safe, good to drive and with a truly spectacular interior, the A-Class is one of the most appealing family cars on sale today. And while the entry-level diesel (A180d) makes most sense for the majority of buyers, the more powerful A250 petrol is also worth considering. A BMW 1 Series is more exciting in the bends, though.

Read our review

Pros

  • Strong safety rating
  • Feature-packed infotainment system
  • Good to drive and pretty comfortable

Cons

  • Not cheap
  • Restrictive and pricey option packs
  • A200 petrol engine sounds thrashy
6

Toyota Corolla

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£22,799

RRP from £24,195 to £31,440

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The Corolla's rear seats are cramped for six-footers, but this hybrid family car offers super-low fuel consumption and CO2 emissions that make it an excellent choice for both private and company drivers. In addition, the Corolla's ride is cosseting and its standard spec generous.

Read our review

Pros

  • Seriously low CO2 emissions
  • Comfortable ride
  • Loads of standard kit

Cons

  • Cramped in the back
  • Below-par infotainment system
  • Lots of road noise
5

BMW 1 Series

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£23,333

RRP from £25,005 to £40,470

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Among today's premium family cars, the 1 Series is great if you're looking for entertaining handling blended with decent ride quality. You also get a classy if understated interior and the most intuitive infotainment system around. The boot is on the small side, though.

Read our review

Pros

  • Superb build quality
  • Entertaining handling
  • Class-leading infotainment system

Cons

  • Mercedes A-Class is safer
  • Not that well equipped
  • Mediocre boot
4

Volkswagen Golf

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£22,633

RRP from £23,300 to £29,905

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A new Golf is always big news, but this latest version picks up right where the old model left off, offering buyers many of the premium features they'd expect in a more expensive car for a sensible price. It's exceedingly comfortable – especially if you opt for adaptive suspension – and offers tidy handling too. We think the strong and frugal 1.5 eTSI petrol engine will suit most buyers best.

Read our review

Pros

  • Exceedingly comfortable ride with adaptive suspension
  • Tidy handling
  • Strong and frugal 1.5 eTSI hybrid engine

Cons

  • Frustratingly fiddly infotainment system
  • Interior quality could be better
  • There are more spacious rivals
3

Ford Focus

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£21,057

RRP from £22,210 to £34,710

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The Focus stands out as one of the best driver’s car in this class, with handling that truly entertains, plus this is complemented by a fine ride. It's the iffy interior quality and slightly lacklustre performance that stop it finishing any higher on this list.

Read our review

Pros

  • Great handling
  • Quiet at speed
  • Roomy rear seats

Cons

  • Mediocre performance
  • Low-rent interior
  • Octavia has a much bigger boot
2

Skoda Scala

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£19,119

RRP from £20,655 to £25,720

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The Scala ticks almost every box for a family car, with low pricing, a smooth ride, decent handling, a good infotainment system, amazing rear seat space and an excellent boot. If you're looking for a great all-rounder, few cars can beat it.

Read our review

Pros

  • Comfortable ride and tidy handling
  • Spacious rear seats and a big boot
  • Cheap to buy and run

Cons

  • Not as dynamic as a Focus
  • Poorer resale values than its main rivals
  • Interior feels a little cheap
1

Seat Leon

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£17,775

RRP from £19,855 to £30,050

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As good as the Scala is, though, it's beaten by the latest Seat Leon. This five-star family hatchback is great to drive, offers loads of space for both passengers and luggage, and is well equipped too. Add in that it doesn't cost the Earth to buy and run, and comes with a strong range of engines, and it's a class-leading choice. If you want the best family car around, look no further.

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Read our review

Pros

  • Great to drive
  • Loads of space in the back
  • Well equipped

Cons

  • Firm ride on FR models
  • Road noise
  • Barely any optional extras available

And the family cars to avoid...

Alfa Romeo Giulietta
Alfa Romeo Giulietta

You might be tempted by the Giulietta's sharp looks, but we'd urge you to resist, because the ride is brittle, the interior feels cheap and the Giulietta is seriously cramped in the back. Read our review

DS 4
DS 4 & 4 Crossback

The DS 4 may have been designed to take on prestige models such as the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series, but it lacks their quality feel and its suspension is far too stiff and unforgiving. Read our review

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