Best family cars 2019

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...

Best family cars
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What Car? team
23 Oct 2019 10:20

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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2019 Vauxhall Astra front

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 full Vauxhall Astra review >>

9. Seat Leon

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2019 Seat Leon front

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 full Seat Leon review >>

8. Mercedes A-Class

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Mercedes A-Class

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, a Volkswagen Golf is suppler, while a BMW 1 Series is more exciting in the bends.

Read our full Mercedes A-Class review >> 

7. Ford Focus

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Ford Focus

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 seventh.

Read our full Ford Focus review >>

6. Toyota Corolla

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Toyota Corolla 1.8 VVT-i Hybrid Icon Tech

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. The 2.0-litre version is particularly good, because it's punchy as well as efficient, while the Corolla's ride is cosseting and its standard spec generous.

2020 BMW 1 Series front

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 pretty small, though.

Read our full BMW 1 Series review >>

4. Skoda Scala

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Skoda Scala

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. In fact, only its cheap-looking interior and weaker than average resale values deny it a place on the podium.

Read our full Skoda Scala review >>

3. Audi A3 Sportback

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Used Audi A3 Hatchback 2013-present

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 full Audi A3 Sportback review >>

2. Volkswagen Golf

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Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI Evo Match 5dr

Like the A3, the Golf will be replaced next year, and like the A3, it remains one of the best family cars out there, despite its age. It's practical, tidy to drive, comfortable, and the infotainment system is very well equipped and easy to use. If you're looking for something that's more affordable than prestige-badged models, but still has a bit of upmarket presence and feel, then the Golf merges those two worlds very well indeed.

Skoda Octavia

As good as the Golf is, it doesn't finish top, because the Skoda Octavia offers the same engines, and similar levels of quality and comfort, for a lower price. Depreciation is also comparable, plus the Octavia has more rear leg room and a much bigger boot. It's the best all-round family car on sale today.

Read our full Skoda Octavia review >>

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 full Alfa Romeo Giulietta review >>

DS 4

Citroën DS4 / DS 4

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 full DS 4 review >>

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