Choosing the perfect family car can be a rather challenging task.
As much as would like to get a petrol-guzzling, V8-powered SUV from one of the premium brands, it is not very likely that the family vehicle of your choice will be much fun to drive. When choosing the perfect family car, people usually have other priorities.
Family cars need to be reliable, spacious, practical, safe and reasonably powerful to keep you out of trouble on motorway merges and overtakes.
However, some of these things depend on the size of your family and your specific needs.
Do you have one or two children, or maybe four or five? Do you often drive grandparents with you? Do you drive your children and their friends often? Do you travel long distances very often and need smartphone chargers in the back?
All of these dictate the kind of a vehicle you are looking for and the required equipment, not to mention purchase budget, fuel efficiency and other ownership costs.
We will try to help you figure out what kind of a car you would need, what you should and should not consider and what your best options are. We will list the most important requirements and include vehicle example options for small and large families that should give you the idea of how the requirements look in reality.
But first, let’s set some ground rules for buying a family car that should apply for the vast majority of people in need of such vehicle:
1. You Need A Car With Good Safety Features
You will be transporting your most precious ‘cargo’ in these cars and the latest safety features should be included. Luckily, manufacturers know this and the most revered ones inevitably include them.
2. You Need A Reliable Car
You need your family car on a daily basis and if it breaks down often all other benefits are meaningless. What is the value of loads of space, great equipment and modern features if the car is in a workshop?
You will drive it every day and probably for a long time. This also means that fuel efficiency could be important.
Go for proven brands, proven engines and gearboxes and no-fuss tech features.
3. You Need A Car That You Can Service Easily And Quickly
Even the most reliable vehicles need to be serviced sometimes and a good brand service network and a brand that is common on our streets is a great idea. Also, vehicles with complicated electronic systems are not a good idea. You need a vehicle with high parts availability that can be fixed quickly and inexpensively.
In addition to this, bringing your car to an honest and reliable workshop will make things a lot easier too.
4. You Need An Affordable Vehicle
This, of course, depends on your budget, but make sure you buy a vehicle that you can well afford without stretching your finances. If there is any extravagance, it should be reserved for interior practicality and advanced safety features.
Luckily, well-established brands will offer many great features in middle-class cars, so you will be able to enjoy the most important features for a reasonable price.
Shop around for the best car loans to ensure that you get the best rates and terms.
5. You Need A Car That Is Reasonably Spacious
Obviously, this feature is different for different families, but we will try to cover the most common sizes of family vehicles below. Also, depending on the type of your car, the interior should be as versatile as possible and easy to access.
If you opt for a car that is made by a common and renowned manufacturer, you should already have most of the requirements. For example, Honda and Toyota are famous for having reliable, practical and safe vehicles and they are reasonably common.
With such a wide availability all over the world, they also have the burden of competing with the rest of the industry in pretty much every segment of the automotive market, so they will offer all of the most common features and some extra in order to stand out from the crowd.
Now let us talk about the different sizes of family cars and some vehicles that tick all the boxes in each of the sizes.
If you don’t need loads of space, your best pick would be a hatchback. Even though they are officially smaller in dimensions than saloons, hatchbacks have boots connected to the rest of the cabin, their rear seats almost always split and fold for more space and their boot lids have huge openings.
Moreover, they are very common. Almost every non-specialized brand offers at least one hatchback in their lineup, but often even more than one. This also means that competitiveness between brands in this segment inevitably brings additional perks for buyers.
They are also easier to park than most saloons and pretty light so they can even provide some driving fun to go along with better fuel economy.
However, being at the very border of the family car size, you should make sure the boot is large enough for chunky baby stuff like prams. Make sure you test this before buying.
One of the best examples in this segment is the Honda Fit Hybrid. It packs a 1.5L engine paired with an amazing 7-speed DCT gearbox that ensures the official fuel consumption of 31.4 km/L. It is surprisingly fun to drive with direct steering feel, almost no body roll, instant torque delivery from the electric motor and a zippy dual-clutch gearbox.
More importantly, it has class-leading interior space and stunning versatility. Thanks to smart engineering solutions, leg and headroom in the back are incredible for a car of these dimensions. Rear seats even recline and if you opt for the Magic Seat feature, you can even carry cargo that no other hatchback can dream of fitting inside.
There are many great features on the Honda Fit Hybrid, but its incredibly versatile interior is definitely the one that will draw most family hatchback buyers.
If you do need something bigger but still sensible and affordable, an estate is the next step. The increase in dimensions translates to more interior space and a larger boot while still following the same practical philosophy. If there was ever a question if a pram can fit into your hatchback, there should be no such worry with a proper estate.
The class leading versatility of the Fit in the hatchback segment is carried over to its sibling in the form of the Honda Shuttle Hybrid. Being a higher class vehicle, aside from the increase in space, also adds more features and an Earth Dreams i-VTEC engine that provides the best mixture of pulling power and fuel economy thanks to its advanced systems but also an electric motor and the same 7-speed DCT gearbox seen in the Fit Hybrid.
The Magic Seat function that was optional on the Fit is standard across the range and the smart solutions like far forward engine placement and putting the petrol tank under the passenger seat offer unmatched spaciousness in a reasonably compact package.
In short, if you liked the smart and practical features of the Fit, but need more space for up to five passengers, the Shuttle should be your first pick.
However, if five seats are not enough, you need an MPV with seven. Unlike hatchbacks and even some estates which can be designed to serve other purposes, MPVs are designed specifically for driving families and loads of cargo around. This is why most of them have predictable, boxy bodies that are easy to navigate despite their size and loads of interior space and versatility.
An example of an MPV that ticks all the main boxes and definitely adds more features to stand out is the Toyota Noah Hybrid. Aside from the fuel efficient yet sufficiently powerful hybrid powertrain, the Noah offers unmatched interior practicality.
For example, rear doors slide open automatically for easier access in tight parking spaces. Getting into the third row of seats is also very easy thanks to sliding second-row seats that open up a huge entry space.
Need a bed? No problem. The second-row seats can also fold back and connect to the third row seats giving you bed length.
There is one problem with 7-seat vehicles. With all seven seats in use, you usually have very limited cargo room. This is where the Noah definitely stands out.
Even with seven people inside you get great boot space and all this in a vehicle that is only 4.7 m long and that has turning radius of just 5.5 m.
Toyota also takes great care of their passengers, so Safety Sense C is standard on this vehicle.
Now you should know what some of the most important features are for a family car and what makes some vehicles stand out from the rest. If you need more guidance while choosing your family car, or if you are looking for something in a different price range, feel free to contact us to help you choose the perfect car for your family.