For a long time, the family car segment has been one which has brought plenty of variety. Spaciousness and practicality are two key components that families often require, but manufacturers have often looked at different ways to inject additional excitement into the segment and that’s reflected in the variety of cars that you’ll find available on the market today.

There are some key requirements that all these family cars need to deliver; ISOFIX points for child seats are a real must-have, as is a solid track record for safety and reliability.

We’d also advise doing your homework on any car you’re looking at – make sure you check out its MOT history using the government’s free online checker and perhaps try a more in-depth history check which can be bought and accessed online. It’ll give you a lot more information about any vehicle you’re considering purchasing.

1. Best family 7 seater car - Ford S-Max (2015-2023)

The Ford S-Max completely changed the family SUV segment. The original brought a more car-like driving experience but offered more space and versatility than even the largest of estate cars could deliver. We’re looking at the second-generation S-Max here, however, as it brought a slightly more refined driving experience without losing any of those practical features which made the original so popular.

It’s a car which brings very few downsides. It’s great to drive – and feels similar to the Focus in terms of driving style – yet it still has plenty of space and the ability to transport seven people. The only downside is the S-Max’s sloping roof, which means those rearmost seats are only really suitable for smaller children, but it’s still very handy to have them there.

Best Features

  • Drives like a far smaller car than it is
  • Very good value in the used market
  • Plenty of equipment as standard

Things to consider

  • The rear-most seats are a bit tight and not suitable for adults
  • Some interior plastics don’t provide the nicest finish
  • Due to longevity, many of these cars carry a high mileage

2. Best large family car - BMW 5 Series (2010-2017)

The BMW 5 Series is an executive model that suits family life down to the ground. It’s spacious, of course, and has more road-going focus than others on this list – meaning that it devours the miles – ideal if you’re a family who is often doing longer journeys.

This generation of 5 Series is readily available on the used market and there are numerous specs and colours to choose from. You’ll need to be mindful that maintenance costs will be a little higher with a 5 Series but when well looked after, these cars simply go on and on. There’s also an estate – or Touring, in BMW speak – available for drivers who want a little extra space.

Best Features

  • Very comfortable over long distances
  • Engines are refined and economical (if you opt for a diesel)
  • All versions get plenty of equipment

Things to consider

  • Expensive to repair if something goes wrong
  • Lots of high-mileage examples – so make sure you do proper checks
  • Lower seating position than others here

3. Best family SUV - Skoda Kodiaq (2017-present)

It’s the SUV which is often seen as a go-to for families these days and the Skoda Kodiaq is one of the most versatile and popular. Why? Well, in classic Skoda fashion, it’s been made to deliver excellent value without forsaking robustness and user-friendliness. It’s available in both five and seven-seater layouts, too, meaning that there’s an option for different-sized families.

There’s no sacrifice in terms of features, either, and while some might still find the Skoda badge off-putting, it’s those people who are at risk of losing out as the Kodiaq remains one of the best all-rounder family SUVs available today. A low as-new price also means that these are superb value in the used car market.

Best Features

  • Solid, well-made interior
  • Comfortable over long distance
  • Packed with standard features and safety tech

Things to consider

  • Some models can look a bit plain inside
  • Boot space is a little tight with all seven seats in place
  • Diesel engines can be a bit clamorous

4. Best 4x4 family car - Nissan X-Trail (2014-2022)

If you live in an area where things get a bit trickier over winter, the last thing you want is a family car that’ll let you down when the going gets tough. In this instance, a four-wheel drive could provide a good option, but you still want one that’ll be comfortable and usable when the weather is better.

Sure, there might be more ‘focused’ four-wheel drives, but when equipped with decent tyres the X-Trail can tackle some surprisingly difficult terrain.

It’s also got seven seats to provide that extra seating versatility, while the interior is covered in hard-wearing materials that are easy to clean and less susceptible to damage.

This third-generation X-Trail is also a potentially affordable used buy when compared to its competition, making it a good choice for value-focused drivers.

Best Features

  • Capable on tricky terrain – but you’ll need to fit off-road or winter tyres
  • Good value
  • All versions get a lot of equipment

Things to consider

  • Early diesel versions were a little underpowered
  • Some materials inside feel a bit cheap, though they are hard-wearing
  • Not as polished to drive on-road as others in the market

5. Best family hatchback - Ford Focus - (2011-2018)

Though SUVs and crossovers have risen in popularity with family car buyers over the past few years, simple hatchbacks like the Ford Focus continue to deliver in all the key areas that drivers in this market are after. It’s a car which won’t cost the earth to run, yet still has the large boot and spacious cabin that families need.

You’ll find that servicing costs will be more than respectable for this generation of Focus while its efficient range of engines will ensure fuel bills don’t skyrocket.

Doors which open widely will make loading in child seats a bit easier, too, and the compact dimensions of the Focus make it straightforward to park and position.

Best Features

  • Huge number of used Focus models available
  • Low servicing and maintenance costs
  • Plenty of kit on all models

Things to consider

  • High-mileage examples might show their age
  • Look out for car park dings and damaged alloys – they’re a common sight on Focus models
  • Doesn’t offer the high driving position of an SUV or crossover

6. Best electric family car - Mercedes EQC (2019-present)

You might be thinking about making the switch to an EV for your next family car, in which case The Mercedes EQC is a great option. The EQC was the first car to kick off the Mercedes ‘EQ’ range of electric vehicles and, since it’s been on sale for a few years now, makes for an appealing used purchase.

With a spacious and well-finished interior, it’s got the usual Mercedes niceties such as a large central screen and loads of other technology. The exterior looks pretty futuristic too with its full-width light bars making it appear like something fresh out of Tron. It’s also got that raised ride height which gives some drivers a little extra confidence when they’re behind the wheel. A range of up to 255 miles is decent, too.

Best Features

  • Feels smart and upmarket both inside and out
  • Lots of the latest technology inside
  • Practical and spacious with a well-sized boot

Things to consider

  • You’ll need a charge point at home for the best experience
  • Real-world range will likely dip during colder weather
  • Ride can feel a bit firm over potholes and bad roads

7. Best family estate car - Mercedes E-Class Estate (2016-2022)

If outright luggage capacity is what you’re after, then this humble estate car might be one to consider. Before SUVs and crossovers came onto the scene, it was usually the estate car which was the go-to for families, and while there might not be as many available as there once were, the estate still makes for a dependable and practical choice.

The Mercedes E-Class is one of the most spacious around. The recently taken-out-of-production generation seen here is easily accessible for a variety of budgets on the used market but still brings loads of features and a big, comfortable cabin.

The estate also has an enormous boot which can swallow up big trips to the shops or plenty of luggage and equipment when travelling.

Best Features

  • Large and comfortable
  • Good at towing if that is required
  • Refined nature makes it very quiet and comfortable on the motorway

Things to consider

  • Will cost more to repair and maintain than others here
  • Some interior plastics weren’t up to the standard you’d expect
  • There will be a lot of high-mileage examples to sift through

8. Best family compact car - Volkswagen Golf (2017-2020)

The Volkswagen Golf is a car which has ticked many boxes for countless families over the years. It’s the Golf’s classless style which has enabled it to find its way into the top charts; this is a car which looks just as at home parked outside a high-end hotel as it does loading up at the local supermarket.

The seventh-generation Golf is often regarded as one of the best ‘modern’ incarnations of the famous hatch, as it’s superb to drive yet as practical as ever.

For drivers after a family car which isn’t overly large or cumbersome to use then the Golf makes for a fine option. Numerous engine choices and specifications mean there’s something for everyone.

Best Features

  • Practical and easy to use
  • Loads of used examples available ensuring there’s a model to suit all tastes
  • Good variety of engine and gearboxes

Things to consider

  • More basic Golfs can look a little ‘plain’
  • Lower-spec models don’t get an awful lot of equipment
  • High-mileage examples are very common

9. Best fun family car - Audi S3 (2013-2020)

Family cars can still be great fun and the Audi S3 is a model which delivers thrills in spades. As a standard hatchback, it remains just as practical and useable as the standard S3, but with a punchy turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine under the bonnet, it can give even a top-end supercar something of a surprise.

With an all-wheel drive ‘quattro’ system the S3 is very well suited to British weather and if you’re after the best possible spaciousness then we’d opt for the five-door model – called ‘Sportback’ by Audi – which can bring a little more practicality than standard three-door versions.

All models get a well-sized boot and lots of high-quality materials.

Best Features

  • The S3 is great to drive while still being very practical
  • All models get loads of standard equipment
  • Quattro all-wheel-drive makes the S3 very handy in wet and slippery conditions

Things to consider

  • Running costs will be high – particularly fuel
  • Watch out for S3s that have had a hard life – a history check is paramount here
  • Rear-seat space isn’t the best

10. Best economical family car - Mazda 3 (2013-2019)

Perhaps, above all else, you want your next family car to be as fuel-sippingly economical as possible. One of the best that we can think of in this category is the Mazda 3.

Despite weighing up against cars like the Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf, the Mazda 3 presents a fine choice thanks to its excellent build quality and top-notch efficiency. Opt for a diesel-powered Mazda 3 and you could be looking at well over 60mpg without too much effort.

Aside from its fuel economy, the Mazda 3 has plenty to offer thanks to a spacious cabin which feels very well made throughout. The standard of equipment on offer is great, too, and since Mazda has a good reputation for reliability, the 3 shouldn’t cause you too many issues further down the line.

Best Features

  • Will cost very little to run and maintain
  • Well-made cabin feels top-notch today
  • Good to drive and refined

Things to consider

  • Some specifications make the Mazda 3 a bit boring
  • Not all that involving to drive
  • Rear-seat space is a little tight for taller passengers

What should you consider when buying a used family car?

To ensure you’re getting the right model to suit your family’s needs, there are lots of requirements to consider. Let’s take a look at some things to bear in mind.


Space is a big deal with a family car, so think about how you usually spend your time in one. Frequently lifting child seats in and out? You might want a car with doors which open wide. Got a big buggy to take along for the ride? A low, large boot can make transporting this easier. Children also aren’t small forever, so perhaps growing room is also a consideration if you intend to have the car for a few years.


Safety is naturally a big consideration with a family car.

All of the models that we’ve looked at in this feature come equipped with plenty of safety features, but you may want to have a look at previous crash test results for more information. It’s also worth bearing in mind the age of the vehicle; for example, if a crash test was completed in 2012 – and the car was awarded five stars – this doesn’t mean that it would still score five stars in today’s modern, more stringent tests.


Family cars can take a real kicking on a day-to-day basis. As a result, consider having a close look at the kind of materials used throughout a car’s interior to make sure that they’re up to the job.

Hard-wearing plastics are never a bad thing as they’re easy to clean, while a leather interior is often easier to keep looking nice compared with a cloth cabin.

Top tips for finding a used family car

There are some things to bear in mind which can make finding your next used family car a whole lot easier. Let’s check out some of the key tips before you sign on the dotted line.

What’s your budget?

Setting a budget at the start is important as it avoids any nasty surprises later on. It’s also worth remembering that your budget shouldn’t just take into account the cost of the vehicle, but also how much it’ll cost to tax, insure and maintain. Don’t forget about the yearly cost of an MOT, too.

Vehicle history

History is a big deal with used cars – particularly if you’re going to be relying on them to transport your family. You can ask the retailer of the car as many questions as you like, but we’d also check the car’s MOT history – which can be accessed for free online – and also use an online background checker to flag any issues. This could include outstanding finance – which you would be liable for if you bought the car – or if the car has previously been written off.

Seats and car child seat compatibility

Child seats are a requirement if you’re taking your kids in the car, so you need to make sure that they can be fitted properly. The cars on our list all feature ISOFIX connection systems, which allow the child seat to be bolted directly to the frame of the vehicle through a mount on the seat. However, we’d give these a dry run on any car you’re looking at to make sure that you’re happy with how they fit and work.

Fuel efficiency

Fuel efficiency is a big driver in how affordable a car is to run. Fewer trips to the pump means less money spent on fuel, so checking out a car’s fuel economy beforehand can make it much easier to estimate how much you’ll be spending on petrol or diesel each month.

How it drives

Practicality and ease-of-use aside, you also need to make sure that you’re happy with the way a car drives. The only way to do this is with a test drive. Listen out for any stray rattles or knocks, and make a note of how it accelerates and feels from behind the wheel. This will make it easier to reflect on and compare with other cars you’re looking at.

Frequently asked questions