Best family cars 2024 – top choices for you & your children

What makes the best cars for families, and which models should you be considering? Here we count down the best 10 family car models – and name the one to avoid...

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by
Alasdair Rodden
Updated19 January 2024

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. The very best offer an engaging and enjoyable driving experience, as well as the practicality, safety and reliability rating you’d expect.

We've tested every family car on the market, spending thousands of hours evaluating everything from engine performance to seat comfort, and from infotainment to how much we can fit into their boots. With that depth of testing, when we say the Toyota Corolla is Britain's best family car, it's an accolade you can trust.

Best family cars 2023

Here we list the 10 best cars for families – 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 Deals service.

Our pick: 1.8 Hybrid Icon 5dr CVT

0-62mph: 9.1 sec
MPG/range: 64.2mpg
CO2 emissions: 100g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 361 litres
Insurance group: 17E
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Low CO2 emissions and great fuel economy
  • Comfortable ride
  • Loads of standard kit

Weaknesses

  • Cramped in the back
  • So-so infotainment system
  • 12.3in digital instrument cluster could be easier to use

The best family car is also one which could help you save money. That’s because the Toyota Corolla is a hybrid, which means it can run partly on electric power. It can’t go as far without petrol as plug-in hybrid cars, but on the plus side it doesn’t need to be plugged in to recharge its battery. It is incredibly efficient, too – in our real-world fuel tests, the Corolla averaged an impressive 50.5mpg. 

There’s plenty of room in the front of the Corolla, and while the Ford Focus and Peugeot 308 offer more room for your rear passengers, the Toyota has a softer ride than the former and better body control than the latter.

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.

Read our in-depth Toyota Corolla review

 

Our pick: 2.0 eHEV Sport 5dr CVT

0-62mph: 7.9 sec
MPG/range: 56.5mpg
CO2 emissions: 113g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 415 litres
Insurance group: 28E
Driving
Interior
Practicality
Buying & Owning

Strengths

  • Impressive fuel economy
  • Big boot
  • Lots of luxury and safety kit

Weaknesses

  • Quite pricey
  • Rear head room isn't great
  • Road noise intrudes

The Honda Civic is a superb all-round family car , striking 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 – and faster than the Toyota Corolla can manage.

The hybrid set-up also allows it to drive using the electric motors alone at low speeds, and achieve impressive fuel economy figures (it returned 49.5mpg in our Real MPG test).

So much useful kit is included as standard that we recommend sticking with entry-level Sport trim.

Read our in-depth Honda Civic review

Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

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

Weaknesses

  • Firm ride on FR models
  • Road noise
  • Fiddly infotainment system

A former Family Car of the Year at our annual What Car? Car of the Year 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.

Read our in-depth Seat Leon review

Our pick: 40 TFSI e Sport 5dr S Tronic

0-62mph: 7.6 sec
MPG/range: 256.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 26g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 280 litres
Insurance group: 24E
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Sharp handling
  • Excellent driving position
  • Strong and frugal engines, including the excellent plug-in hybrid

Weaknesses

  • Interior quality is good but could be better
  • Fiddly infotainment system
  • Audi's unimpressive reliability record

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, too.

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.

Read our in-depth Audi A3 review

Our pick: 1.5 TSI SE Technology 5dr

0-62mph: 8.5 sec
MPG/range: 52.6mpg
CO2 emissions: 121g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 600 litres
Insurance group: 19E
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Plush interior
  • Huge boot
  • Low BIK rates for plug-in 1.4 TSI iV 204

Weaknesses

  • Heating controls are in the touchscreen
  • Rivals sharper to drive
  • Touchscreen can be tricky to use on the move

If practicality is your priority, look no further than the Skoda 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 boot capacity is 600 litres, which is colossal for the class – even though the rival Mercedes A-Class comes with seats which split and fold in a more useful 40/20/40 configuration, rather than the Octavia's 60/40 split.

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.

Read our in-depth Skoda Octavia review

Our pick: 125kW SE EV 51kWh 5dr Auto

0-62mph: 7.7 sec
CO2 emissions: 0g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 289 litres
Insurance group: 27D
Driving
Interior
Practicality
Buying & Owning

Strengths

  • Incredibly well priced
  • Competitive range between charges
  • Long warranty

Weaknesses

  • Some interior materials disappoint
  • Slightly unsettled ride
  • Infotainment system is fiddly

The first fully electric car to feature on this list is also one of the cheapest around – the MG4.

Everything aside from the range-topping XPower model is powered by a single electric motor, with our recommended Standard Range models drawing power from a 50.8kWh battery. With an official range of up to 218 miles, the MG4 isn't the electric car with the longest range, but it is reasonably quick – covering the 0-62mph sprint in 7.7sec.

We've been impressed with how much kit comes as standard, especially on entry-level SE trim, which comes with everything from adaptive cruise control to rear parking sensors. 

The interior is pleasantly spacious, and your passengers will be more comfortable in the back of the MG than they would be in the rival Renault Megane E-Tech.

Read our in-depth MG4 review

Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

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

Weaknesses

  • No hybrid option
  • Interior feels a bit cheap
  • Pre-facelift cars didn’t have great resale values

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.

Read our in-depth Skoda Scala review

Our pick: 150kW V1 58kWh 5dr Auto

0-62mph: 7.3 sec
CO2 emissions: 0g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 385 litres
Insurance group: 25E
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Good range between charges
  • Relatively fun handling
  • Quiet cruising manners

Weaknesses

  • Much pricier than MG4
  • Awful touch-sensitive dashboard buttons
  • Slightly firmer ride than ID 3

If you like the sound of the Volkswagen ID 3 (also on this list) you’ll probably love the Born electric car. It's based on the same underpinnings but gets more angular styling and a more polished interior.

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.

Read our in-depth Cupra Born review

Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Loads of standard kit and safety equipment
  • Sprightly performance
  • Decent to drive

Weaknesses

  • Iffy interior quality
  • Tesla Model 3 can use better charging network
  • Infotainment system needs some upgrades

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 big-selling Volkswagen 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 347 miles.

Unfortunately, the ID 3 is let down by a cheap-feeling interior and a fiddly, laggy infotainment system.

Read our in-depth Volkswagen ID 3 review

Our pick: 1.0 EcoBoost Hybrid mHEV Titanium 5dr

0-62mph: 10.2 sec
MPG/range: 61.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 118g/km
Seats: 5
Insurance group: 15E
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Great handling
  • Well equipped
  • Roomy rear seats

Weaknesses

  • Not that cheap to buy
  • Low-rent interior
  • Octavia has a much bigger boot

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 Volkswagen Golf and other rivals, sure, 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.

Read our in-depth Ford Focus review


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And the family car to avoid...

Fiat Tipo

The Tipo is a spacious choice, but it's let down by poor resale values values and a cheap feeling interior, plus many rivals are both better to drive and more comfortable. Read our review