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

Vauxhall Astra

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£18,040

RRP from £19,085 to £29,510

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If you're looking for a spacious family car with low company car tax bills, the Astra is hugely compelling, while big discounts are available for private buyers, too. Just bear in mind that the best rivals now offer better ride comfort and more standard safety kit.

Read our review

Pros

  • Affordable company car
  • Roomy in the back
  • Big discounts

Cons

  • Missing safety kit on cheaper trims
  • Disappointing reliability
  • So-so performance
9

Seat Leon

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£18,163

RRP from £19,850 to £30,045

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Like its sister car, the Volkswagen Golf, the Leon handles well, has a strong range of engines and features a practical and user-friendly interior. True, some of the plastics feel rather cheap, but this is easier to forgive when you consider how well priced the Leon is.

Read our review

Pros

  • Tidy handling
  • Most trims are well equipped
  • Cheap to buy and run

Cons

  • Firm ride
  • Road and wind noise
  • Bland interior
8

Mazda 3

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£20,486

RRP from £21,835 to £32,355

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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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£19,634

RRP from £23,750 to £56,570

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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. For outright comfort, though, an Audi A3 is suppler, while a BMW 1 Series is more exciting in the bends.

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

Ford Focus

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£19,050

RRP from £20,685 to £32,495

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The Focus stands out as the best driver’s car in the 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 higher than sixth.

Read our review

Pros

  • Class-leading handling
  • Supple ride
  • Roomy rear seats

Cons

  • Mediocre performance
  • Golf is better equipped
  • Octavia has a much bigger boot
5

Toyota Corolla

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£22,678

RRP from £24,190 to £31,435

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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
4

Audi A3

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£20,977

RRP from £22,725 to £40,320

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Even though it's nearing the end of its life, the current A3 remains an excellent all-rounder and continues to set the standard for interior quality. In fact, it's not just better than other family cars in this respect, but most models from the class above. True, some rivals are less expensive, but the A3's higher initial cost will be at least partially offset by its strong resale values.

Read our review

Pros

  • Comfortable ride
  • Roomy rear seats and boot
  • Punchy petrol 35 TFSI petrol engine

Cons

  • Pricey to buy
  • Fiddly infotainment system
  • Audi's unimpressive reliability record
3

Skoda Octavia

As good as the A3 is, it's beaten by the Skoda Octavia, because that offers the same engines and similar levels of comfort for a lower price. Depreciation is also comparable, plus the Octavia has more rear leg room and a much bigger boot.

Read our review

Pros

  • Smart, practical interior
  • Most versions are cheap to buy and run
  • Generous standard equipment

Cons

  • Not as comfortable as the VW Golf
  • Falling behind the pack for standard safety kit
  • Pricier versions are best avoided
2

BMW 1 Series

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£22,893

RRP from £24,470 to £39,755

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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
1

Skoda Scala

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£16,768

RRP from £18,060 to £25,715

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The Scala ticks almost every box, with low pricing, a smooth ride, decent handling, a good infotainment system, amazing rear seat space and an excellent boot. It's the best all-round family car on sale today.

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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

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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