Best family cars 2023
What makes a good family hatchback and which models should you be considering? Here we count down the top 10 family car models – and name the one to avoid...
Family cars are still a hugely popular way to get around, despite the apparently unstoppable rise of the family SUV. And there remains a wide choice of models battling it out in this highly competitive sector of the market.
The demands of family life are a big ask for a car, of course. Practicality, safety and a good reliability rating are all essential, but it's also important to find something with low running costs and a comfortable ride on long journeys. And while you wouldn't expect a family car to be as exciting to drive as a sports car, the very best models still offer an engaging and enjoyable driving experience.
Here, then, we list our top 10 family cars – as well as the model we recommend avoiding. If anything on the list takes your fancy, you can click through to our full review to read more, or find the best prices available through our free New Car Buying service.
The Civic tops this list because it’s the best all-rounder on the market, and strikes a wonderful balance between practicality, quality, efficiency and driving pleasure.
It feels refined and precise, thanks to a combination of good handling, a comfortable ride and excellent performance. In fact, during our testing we found it could sprint from 0-62mph in 6.8sec, which is quicker than its official figure.
So much useful kit is included as standard that we recommend sticking with entry-level Sport trim.
- Impressive fuel economy
- Big boot
- Lots of luxury and safety kit
- Quite pricey
- Rear head room isn't great
- Road noise intrudes
Conventional petrol-electric hybrids offer better fuel economy than their pure-petrol counterparts but don't need to be plugged in, and the Corolla’s 1.8-litre hybrid system is one of the best in the business. When we subjected it to a real-world fuel economy test it averaged 50.5mpg.
There’s plenty of room in the front, so the driver can make the most of the Corolla’s cosseting ride, although rear space is disappointing.
Entry-level Icon trim is our pick of the range, and comes with a long list of standard equipment, including adaptive cruise control, heated front seats and sat-nav.
- Low CO2 emissions and great fuel economy
- Comfortable ride
- Loads of standard kit
- Cramped in the back
- So-so infotainment system
- 12.3in digital instrument cluster could be easier to use
A former Family Car of the Year at our annual new car awards, the Leon is a good buy for anyone looking for fun and practical family transport.
On the fun side, the steering is well-weighted and the suspension performs well on twisty roads. Plus, the 128bhp 1.5-litre petrol engine has plenty of punch, the driving position is highly adjustable to suit nearly any driver, there's plenty of leg and head room in the rear, and the boot is a good size.
The Leon comes well equipped as standard, but we’d recommend upgrading to FR trim, which adds an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, rain-sensing wipers and more.
- Great to drive
- Loads of space in the back
- Well equipped
- Firm ride on FR models
- Road noise
- Fiddly infotainment system
The current A3 Sportback isn't as posh inside as the 2013-2020 Audi A3 but it’s still plush and well built, as well as great to drive. The driving position is fantastic, and the car handles well without sacrificing comfort.
Engines are plentiful, with diesel, petrol and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) options available. Our favourite is the 40 TFSIe PHEV, which can officially travel 40 miles on electric power alone. Its low CO2 output keeps company car tax rates low.
We recommend Sport trim for the PHEV, because it comes with smaller wheels that offer both the comfiest ride and the longest electric-only range of the bunch, further reducing the benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax for company car drivers.
- Sharp handling
- Excellent driving position
- Strong and frugal engines, including the excellent plug-in hybrid
- Interior quality is good but could be better
- Fiddly infotainment system
- Audi's unimpressive reliability record
If practicality is your priority, look no further than the Octavia. Taller people will be comfortable in the front and rear thanks to generous leg and head room, and the back seat is wide, which makes carrying three back-seat passengers easier than in many rivals.
The Octavia’s comfort and frugality make it an excellent car for covering long distances. Even in more expensive trim levels, it's cheaper than many rivals, whether you're a cash buyer or use a PCP finance deal.
- Plush interior
- Huge boot
- Low BIK rates for plug-in 1.4 TSI iV 204
- Heating controls are in the touchscreen
- Rivals sharper to drive
- Touchscreen can be tricky to use on the move
The Scala represents one of the cheapest ways of getting behind the wheel of a great family car. It has a comfortable ride, precise steering and a highly adjustable driving position.
Head and leg room are impressive, whether you're in the front seats or the rear, and the boot is one of the biggest in the class. In fact, one of the only cars that can beat the Scala in those areas is the slightly more expensive Skoda Octavia.
Entry-level SE trim comes with all of the kit you’re likely to need, including cruise control, automatic lights and automatic wipers.
- Comfortable ride and tidy handling
- Spacious rear seats and a big boot
- Cheap to buy and run
- Noisier at speed than the quietest rivals
- Poorer resale values than its main rivals
- Interior feels a little cheap
The suspension has been lowered and stiffened for sportier handling, making it sharper and more engaging to drive than its Volkswagen sibling. An e-Boost option temporarily increases the power output from 201bhp to 228bhp, but its impact feels minor from behind the wheel.
Overall, the Born improves on the ID 3, but the volume and climate-control buttons on the dashboard and steering wheel are too fiddly.
- Good range between charges
- Relatively fun handling
- Quiet cruising manners
- Much pricier than MG4
- Awful touch-sensitive dashboard buttons
- Slightly firmer ride than ID 3
For those who want their next family car to be electric, the ID 3 might still be worth considering. It’s as practical as many petrol-powered models, and has roughly similar dimensions to the VW Golf.
Well-weighted steering and fantastic body control help make it genuinely fun to drive too – something that can’t be said of all its electric car rivals. Performance is good, with 148bhp or 201bhp motors available, and the larger of the two battery options gives you an official range of up to 336 miles.
Unfortunately, the ID 3 is let down by a cheap-feeling interior and a fiddly, laggy infotainment system.
- Loads of standard kit and safety equipment
- Sprightly performance
- Decent to drive
- Iffy interior quality
- Tesla Model 3 can use better charging network
- Infotainment system needs some upgrades
If you want a family car that’s great fun to drive, it’s hard to go wrong with the Focus. No matter how you spec it, Ford’s family car will offer a good balance of handling and comfort. The ride is firmer than in the VW Golf and other rivals but not to the point of being uncomfortable.
The entry-level 1.0 Ecoboost 125 petrol engine is our favourite, because it offers decent performance and fuel economy for a reasonable price. Similarly, we'd recommend sticking with entry-level Titanium trim, which comes with plenty of kit as standard.
The reasonable price makes it an attractive cash buy, but its underwhelming interior and faster depreciation compared with some rivals stop it moving higher up our list.
- Great handling
- Well equipped
- Roomy rear seats
- Not that cheap to buy
- Low-rent interior
- Octavia has a much bigger boot
In at number 10 is the 1 Series – a great example of a dynamic premium family car. Build quality is rock solid, and the interior's soft-touch materials and sturdy switches make it a more pleasant place to spend time than the Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class.
The quality feel continues with the infotainment system – the BMW iDrive set-up is second to none, combining physical controls with a touchscreen for maximum versatility.
A reasonable ride, sporty handling and quick steering mean the 1 Series is as good to drive as it is to sit in, and the entry-level 118i petrol engine is brisk and easy to live with.
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- Superb build quality
- Sporty handling
- Class-leading infotainment system
- Mercedes A-Class is safer
- SE trim not that well equipped
- Road noise at speed
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