Is the faithful family wagon starting to show its age? Have you outgrown your current hatchback? Or are you simply looking to upgrade to something that smells delightfully like a new car? No matter what the reason, today's crop of sub-£20k family-friendly machines is better than ever. New gadgets, such as park assist and lane departure warning systems make life simpler, while improvements to engine technology mean you can get further on a single tank of fuel.
We've picked five excellent family vehicles that cost less than £20,000 and set out reasons why they deserve your attention. Take a look below:
Medium hatchback: Ford Focus
The humble Ford Focus regularly tops the list of bestselling cars in the UK and for good reason; it packs a technological punch, looks great and offers the sort of reliability any family deserves. Just £17,400 snares the 1.6-litre TDCi Zetec version that comes with the excellent Ford SYNC technology – which takes care of Bluetooth voice control and USB connectivity – and neat 16-inch alloy wheels.
The five-door body style should be enough for most families but a larger estate version is available for just £1,000 more. A modern Ford won't disappoint and unlike many rivals in this price range, the Focus actually offers a fairly engaging drive, with a slick gear change and well-weighted steering.
Ford Focus 1.6-litre TDCi Zetec | £17,400 |
Small off-roader: Nissan Qashqai
Nissan arguably kick-started the small SUV revolution in this country with the Qashqai and the latest iteration vehemently sticks to the core values of spaciousness, practicality and value. A manual DIG-T Acenta model comes in just under £20,000 and that buys you a hardy interior and a media system with a 5-inch display, automatic lights and wipers, as well as an excellent petrol engine that is both efficient and surprisingly nippy around town.
Load space is very good too, with 430 litres of boot space and a split-folding rear bench for the occasional trip to Ikea. The latest generation also features Nissan's updated design language that finally gives the Qashqai a more premium road presence.
Nissan Qashqai DIG-T 115 Acenta | £19,850 |
Estate car: Skoda Octavia Estate
Skoda customers are among the happiest car owners in the UK; regularly claiming that the customer service and aftercare they receive on a new purchase is unrivalled. Excellent reliability is also an extremely tempting factor with modern Skodas, as is the fact that most parts are handed down from far more expensive Volkswagen and Audi Group products.
The new Octavia is made even more desirable by much-improved exterior styling and the offer of a 1.2-litre TSI estate model for under £20k. That price will only just about secure the 'S' trim version, which shies away from fancy gadgets such as intelligent park assist and adaptive lighting, but it does offer tons of space and a refined ride.
Skoda Octavia Estate S 1.2 TSI | £17,115 |
People carrier: Citroen Grand C4 Picasso
If it's interior space and human-lugging abilities you're after, you can't go too wrong with Citroen's mostly excellent people carrier. What the Grand C4 Picasso lacks in driving thrills, it more than makes up for with a versatile seven-seat interior layout, modern dash and extremely low running costs.
A sub-£20k budget buys the 1.6-litre VTi engine, which isn't quite as good as its 1.6-litre diesel sibling but it is perfectly up to the task of getting the big Citroen up to speed. Owners will enjoy the premium styling and interesting interior, although the touch-screen display can be a little fiddly at times. Overall, it provides excellent value for such a large car that comes packed with the latest technology as standard.
Citroen Grand C4 Picasso 1.6 VTi 120 VTR | £19,460 |
Medium hatchback: Kia Cee'd
Think of the Kia Cee'd as a better value Ford Focus. It's just as spacious, features similar levels of on-board tech and offers a powerful 1.6-litre diesel in the sub-£20k price bracket. In fact, even the lavishly specified Cee'd 3 models come in under budget and these offer Bluetooth with voice recognition, a reversing camera, LED daytime running lights and electronically adjustable and foldable mirrors.
All modern Kias also come with a seven-year warranty and the full five-star safety certificate from Euro NCAP – both features offering peace of mind to families looking for hassle-free motoring.
Kia Cee'd 1.6 GDi 133 | £19,195 |