Best used family cars for less than £20,000

Whether it's something sensible, something smart, something practical or just a great all-rounder, our guide will help you work out which used family car is best for you...

Once upon a time, buying a used family car meant ending up with a humdrum hatchback possessing less kerb appeal than a wet sock.

Best used family cars for under £20,000

Happily, those times are long gone. There’s so much choice on the used family car market these days that you’re bound to find something to give you the practicality, reliability and space that you need combined with the style, comfort and quality feel that you want.

What’s more, many of today’s modern family cars feature high-tech infotainment systems that allow you to stream music from your phone, and some are even almost as much fun to drive as a sports car, proving that you really can have it all. But which one is best for you? To help you decide, we’ve brought together and ranked our top 10.

10. Honda Civic

Honda Civic

If reliability is your primary concern, you probably won’t do much better than the Honda Civic. It has a fantastic record, with owners reporting an extremely low number of faults.

Honda Civic (cont.)

Honda Civic - interior

What’s more, the Civic has a huge boot and a decent amount of rear leg room. Just be aware that there isn’t much rear head room for adults and the ride and steering aren’t as polished as some rivals'.

We found 2019 Honda Civic 1.0 i-VTEC EX, 2148 miles, £17,000

9. Vauxhall Astra

Vauxhall Astra front three quarters

Want lots of car for your cash? Well, the Vauxhall Astra offers just that, because it’s cheap as chips. We’d suggest going for the sprightly turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine over the noisy diesels,

Vauxhall Astra (cont.)

Vauxhall Astra - interior

On the whole, the Astra is reasonably comfortable, reasonably spacious, reasonably efficient and reasonably good to drive. A very reasonable car, in other words, even if it isn't one that will earn the envy of your friends.

We found 2019 Vauxhall Astra 1.4T 150 SRi Nav, 3099 miles, £12,500

8. Hyundai i30

Hyundai i30

The Hyundai i30 is softer than most of its rivals, giving a reasonably comfortable ride without being floaty. Its turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine dishes out decent rather than Earth-shattering performance but shouldn’t drain your wallet.

Hyundai i30 (cont.)

Hyundai i30 - interior

Plus, the i30 offers plenty of equipment as standard, including air conditioning, alloy wheels, a DAB radio and automatic emergency braking. Also, every example should still have plenty of warranty coverage left, which is comforting.

We found 2019 Hyundai i30 1.6 CRDi Premium SE, 2500 miles, £17,650

7. Mazda 3

Mazda 3 driving

If you want great fuel economy but also a car that’s fun to drive, you should have a look at the Mazda 3. Both diesel and petrol versions achieve impressive real-world efficiency, while an involving chassis means it’s a treat if you get a bit of twisty road to yourself.

Mazda 3 (cont.)

Mazda 3 interior

The Mazda 3 is also one of the best looking family cars available, although the downside of it's swoopy roofline is that it’s not particularly roomy in the back, plus the small window can make it feel gloomy. Stick to sitting in the front and you'll be treated to an interior that's a triumph of supple materials and quality touches that give it a premium feel.  

We found 2019 Mazda 3 2.0 Skyactiv-G SE-L Lux, 6000 miles, £17,490

6. BMW 1 Series

BMW 1 Series front three quarters

Fancy the quality, image and exciting driving style of a BMW but in a family hatchback package? That’s where the BMW 1 Series comes in. The sacrifice you make is that it isn’t as spacious as some rivals and standard kit is a bit stingy on some versions.

BMW 1 Series (cont.)

BMW 1 Series - interior

But if driving involvement is paramount or you just want the quality and kudos of a BMW, the 1 Series will be hard to resist. And as an added bonus, it offers a range of very efficient engines.

We found 2019 BMW 1 Series 118d Sport, 3386 miles, £16,980

5. Ford Focus

Ford Focus front action

The Ford Focus is Britain’s most popular family hatchback, and it isn’t hard to see why. First up, it’s cheap both to buy and to run. It’s also great to drive, with a lively chassis and responsive steering.

Ford Focus

Ford Focus dashboard

Ford's 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine is peppy enough for most people, too, and while the Focus isn’t quite as classy as the Volkswagen Golf inside, the ubiquitous Titanium variant does at least get plenty of equipment. What’s more, there are loads of examples out there to choose from, so finding a good one shouldn’t be hard.

We found: 2019 Ford Focus 1.5 Ecoboost 150 ST-Line, 2078 miles, £16,500

4. Volkswagen Golf

Volkswagen Golf front - 67-plate car

The Volkswagen Golf is a fantastic all-rounder, combining excellent comfort, enjoyable handling, enough space for most small families, a high-quality interior and quiet road manners.

Volkswagen Golf (cont.)

Volkswagen Golf interior

Of course, the smart styling and VW badge make it a desirable car, and so it commands a bit of a premium over some of its rivals. But it still isn’t too expensive, and for its considerable range of talents, we reckon that extra is worth paying.

We found 2019 Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI Evo Match Edition, 5073 miles, £18,000

3. Seat Leon

Seat Leon 1.4 ECOTSI 150 FR

Sharp styling makes the Seat Leon an instant eye-catcher, but its beauty isn’t just skin-deep. It’s great fun to drive, too, with a taut chassis that makes it responsive and involving. Yet it's also comfortable, and it's endowed with a spacious interior full of tactile materials.

Seat Leon (cont.)

3. Seat Leon 1.4 ECOTSI FR interior

Okay, so it isn't quite as plush as the Volkswagen Golf, but you can forgive that when you realise the Leon is cheaper to buy than not just that car but also the Skoda Octavia.

We found 2019 Seat Leon 1.5 TSI Evo FR, 1332 miles, £16,293

2. Skoda Octavia

Skoda Octavia front - 67-plate car

A strong combination of comfort, equipment and space have made the Skoda Octavia a real favourite with family car buyers. Granted, its interior isn’t quite as swish as that of the Volkswagen Golf, but what it does offer is a vast boot and loads of room for rear-seat passengers.

Skoda Octavia (cont.)

Skoda Octavia 1.5 TSI 150 SE L - interior

Indeed, until recently the Octavia held the record at What Car? for most carry-on suitcase you can fit in the boot (11, by the way) that has only been beaten by the obscenely enormous BMW X7. What’s more, the Octavia drives tidily, with composed handling and a comfortable ride, and it’s great value.

We found 2019 Skoda Octavia 1.5 TSI SE Technology, 4294 miles, £14,295

1. Audi A3 Sportback

Audi A3 Sportback

As a new car, we reckon the Audi A3 Sportback is the best family hatchback around. In fact, it was recently crowned our 2019 Used Family Car of the Year. Despite being a premium product, it still has a spacious and practical interior that’s covered in high-quality materials, superb ride and handling and an excellent range of engines.

Audi A3 (cont.)

Audi A3 30 TFSI S line S tronic [Tech Pack] - interior

But the great news is that you don’t have to pay a proper premium to get in one, because there are plenty of nearly new examples around in well-equipped Sport guise for similar money to the other cars on this list.

We found 2019 Audi A3 Sportback 1.5 35 TFSI Sport, 10,321 miles, £18,850

Find out what the family cars to avoid are in the following slides >>

MG 6

2015 MG6 1.9 DTi review

It may be very cheap, but the MG 6 feels it, too; a tacky interior and noisy, thirsty engines await any buyer.

Citroën DS4 / DS 4

Audi Q2 vs DS 4 Crossback vs Seat Ateca

Cramped rear seats, a small boot and a bone-shaking ride are defining features of the DS 4 (formerly the Citroën DS4).

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