Here are the best family cars to buy in 2023
Need a car that serves the whole family? TG has your back: these are the best ones to buy this year
The Ford Focus ticks more boxes than just about any other hatchback. Good to drive? Check. Economical? Check. Room for five, decent kit and modern styling? Check, check and check again. Surely all that costs an arm and a leg though? Nope, it’s pretty darn affordable as these things go.
You could get out the measuring tape and argue that the Golf’s marginally bigger boot makes it more practical, but you’d be nit-picking. The Focus is the best family all-rounder there is, and that’s an end to it.Advertisement - Page continues below
If you wander over to the other end of the spectrum - no, keep going… further… almost there… perfect - you’ll find the fully electric Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo. With the entry-level 4S Cross delivering 470bhp and the top-spec Turbo S packing 751bhp, the Taycan Cross Turismo is proof that EVs can be a) immensely powerful, and b) family friendly. Alright, the amount of interior space is more Premier Inn than Four Seasons, but you and the kids will cope perfectly well. And who honestly notices leg room when Launch mode is applying 751bhp to the asphalt?
If you want bang for your buck, get a Dacia Duster. It’s genuinely incredible how good the plucky SUV is considering its ticket price of just under £14k. At this size nothing else comes close on price, and when your driving adventures max out at ‘the supermarket and back’, why would you buy anything else? Obviously there are drawbacks: the engines are a bit weedy, there isn’t much safety kit and the underpinnings are ancient by car standards. But it’s spacious and practical, and you’ll love it.Advertisement - Page continues below
Is this the best family SUV on the market? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Family life was at the forefront of the engineers’ thinking for this car, with much care taken to avoid the pitfalls that all too often lead to compromise. Take the engine bay: Volvo intentionally kept it small to allow more space in the cabin, and the roomy interior is only enhanced by an immaculate design and finish. On the move the XC90 is ultra smooth and dead quiet, and kit levels are great even at entry-level prices. Which is good because you’ll need north of £50k to buy one.
Skoda Superb Estate
Skoda has been on something of a hot streak lately, benefitting from all that Volkswagen Group hardware without being shackled by the stuffy, business-like brand image. And together with keen pricing, Skodas have become highly recommendable. The Superb Estate is no different: it’s got a mahoosive boot (660 litres with the rear seats up), oodles of room for five adults, a highly user-friendly interior and a premium finish that does enough to remind you this is no knock-off VW. It’s not a b-road driving machine, mind. But the chances are you won’t mind one bit.
BMW 5 Series
Actually, if you’re a family of thrillseekers then you could do a lot worse than the BMW 5 Series. There are performance-focused engines for those wanting to utilise its not-insignificant cornering ability, and eco alternatives for long crusades up and down the motorway. The 5 Series is awash with tech and luxury materials these days too, and you’ll be comfortable regardless of whether you’re aiming for an apex or the next service station. Not convinced? Remember this nameplate is pushing 50 years old and this 5 Series is probably the best iteration since the E39. High praise indeed.
Mercedes E-Class Estate
If you’re after class-leading comfort from your family car, then the E-Class Estate is the one for you. With a more relaxed attitude (and more interior space) than the 5 Series Touring, the Merc is less interested in breaking speed records and more interested in not breaking sweat. Oh and name a more practical family car than the one with basically the biggest boot of them all. Lift the E-Class’s tailgate and you’ll have 670 litres at your service. Enough to hold an Olympic-sized swimming pool… if the Olympics were made much, much easier.Advertisement - Page continues below
Let’s be honest, do you really need 592bhp for the school run? Of course not. But if you want to teach a few lessons in physics on the way, the Audi RS6 is an excellent place to start. We’ll let you work out force equals mass times acceleration in your own time (hint: 0-62mph takes 3.6 seconds), but the basics are these: lots of space, lots of tech and lots of speed. That’s it. Suitable for kids old enough to be entertained (rather than scared witless by) a 4.0-litre V8 with twin turbos.
The Volvo V90 arrived in Britain mid-way through 2016, but fast forward to the present day and it barely looks to have aged, so well is the exterior design. Inside it’s a similar story: the natural-looking, exquisitely finished interior makes the V90 a splendid place to be, regardless of what’s going on outside. It does everything else you’d expect from a big Volvo too; lots of space, big boot and engines that are happiest at a relaxed pace. Get the hybrid and you’ll even take the stress out of fuel bills, not that the diesel’s circa 50mpg offered any to begin with.Advertisement - Page continues below
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio
The Audi RS6 was one thing, but an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio on a list of the best family cars? Picture the scene: one morning there’s a knock on the door. It’s the kids. They’ve missed the bus, and it’s exam day. You’ve got 20 minutes to get them to school, or their A-Levels will be a write-off. University place gone. Futures shattered. Without thinking, you all pile into your Giulia and scythe through the local suburban roads. By the grace of God (and your 503bhp V6) you catch every amber light and arrive with moments to spare, hopes and dreams still intact. Fancy super-saloon doesn’t look so silly now, does it?
If you need new wheels, forget the hours of trawling through configurators, or the agonising stand-off with a dealer - just get a Golf. Why? Because there’s a 90 per cent chance that it’ll do the job, regardless of what that job is. VW’s king of versatility can turn its hand to anything: commuting, shopping, weekends away. It’d probably play the violin if you could spec opposable thumbs. The Mk8 combines all that competence with the latest tech and connectivity, just be wary of the cheap-looking materials inside.
Audi Q4 e-tron
The electric age is a-coming, and there are already countless EVs that’d slot into family life quite happily, two-car garage or otherwise. The Audi Q4 e-tron is a prime example, offering between 208 and 316 miles of range depending on the size of the battery, and single- and dual-motor options that pitch power between 168bhp and 295bhp. Underneath it’s basically a Volkswagen ID.4, but the e-tron is better as it avoids the worst of VW’s electronic faux pas. The inside is a predictably high-quality affair, with a smooth drive and near silent ride. Even the wipers manage to keep shtum. Impressive.
Not the most exciting choice this, but then everyone needs a pair of sensible shoes and it’s no different when it comes to cars. The Peugeot 3008 is one of the best SUVs you can buy, combining an eye-catching design with neat handling, capable engines and a ride that strikes a good balance between too soft and too hard. Let’s call it the Goldilocks zone. Peugeot has also come up with an interesting interior (unusual for this segment), so it’s the furthest thing from generic and mundane at the price point.
Say hello to the most popular Porsche in the UK. The key to the success of the Macan is that it does more than its owners are ever likely to ask of it, with off-road and b-road abilities that are rarely stretched to breaking point. Factor in the space for five and the cavernous boot, and it’s easy to understand why the Macan hasn’t been surpassed since it arrived in 2014. The only thing it’s missing is electrification: the next-gen Macan will be exclusively electric, and the current one is petrol only.
Not all family cars have to be heavy-stepping estates or SUVs, sometimes a perky little supermini fits the bill just fine. Like the Focus, Ford's Fiesta lives up to that description as a strong performer in virtually every category you could possibly measure a box with wheels. Case in point: it has been the best-selling car in the UK for yonks, and only this year has the newer Vauxhall Corsa stolen a march on the ever-popular Fiesta. It’s economical, highly affordable, great to drive, and it’ll take everyday life in its stride. Happy days.
The new Vauxhall Astra has surprised many, including us, for its revamped kerb appeal. From the bland, boring hatchback of yesterday, the Astra is now a bold offering. It's a strong enough contender for family shortlists that it won our 2022 Family Hatch of the Year award. We particularly appreciate the wide choice of engines, both in size and fuel type. They're all turbocharged, yet average carbon emissions are down by a whopping 19 per cent. Entry-level prices are kind to family household budgets, as is fuel economy, and Vauxhall is pretty generous with the kit it includes as standard too.
Aston Martin DBX
There was a time when Aston would’ve scoffed at the idea of making an SUV, but then the world started buying them in their gazillions and that attitude quickly died. Rather remarkably, the DBX still manages to feel like an Aston Martin despite its size, providing an interesting take on a formula that was crying out for some character. It uses the same 4.0-litre V8 that resides in the Vantage and DB11, so naturally it’s pretty rapid. There’s air suspension too, and while the ride isn’t impeccable it’s not bad considering the humongous 22-inch wheels. It’ll seat four adults happily (five at a push) and the boot is a whopper. You’ll need deep pockets for fuel though.
The Seat Ateca has been around for a few years now, but it’s still one of the best five-seat crossovers on sale on account of its excellent range of engines, driving manners, practicality and competitive pricing. The only thing that really lets it down is another Seat product, the Leon Estate, which is all of those things but more so. And newer. Still, if it’s an SUV you’re after the Ateca is deeply capable. Just be prepared to spend a bit of time getting used to the labyrinth of menus on the infotainment system.
Land Rover Discovery
The Discovery 5 is the most luxurious, off-road capable Land Rover you can buy without straying into Range Rover territory, making an ideal family car. That go-anywhere ability will pay dividends on the most arduous of journeys, and the fact that there are seven seats adds a dimension of usability that some of the largest rival SUVs can’t match. 2021 has seen the Disco’s looks refreshed, and there’s much improved infotainment in the shape of JLR’s ‘Pivi Pro’ touchscreen. Engine options cover petrol, diesel and mild-hybrid options, so there’s something for everyone.
The latest version of the BMW X3 has transformed it from an also-ran to a class leader, which is good news for the German brand as the competition consists of heavy hitters like the Audi Q5, Mercedes GLC and Jaguar F-Pace. Inside it’s civilised and spacious, and BMW’s tech is among the best you’ll get from any car manufacturer right now. The engines return decent economy and the ride is good too, although we’ve only sampled the X3 with adaptive dampers which add hundreds onto the price. Costly extras are a running theme sadly, so be frugal with the options list.
Another seven-seater (true of most versions, anyway), the Skoda Kodiaq is in esteemed company as a former Top Gear award-winner. In 2016 we named it the ‘Best Car for Big Families’, and in the present day it remains a great choice with a complete set of appealing qualities. The cabin is vast, the on-board tech is bang up to date, and like most Skodas these days it’s almost unbeatable value for money. Sure, the rear two seats are only really suitable for tots, but that’s par for the course in this segment.
BMW M3 Touring
On the surface, this is a sensibly-sized estate version of one of the best saloons you can currently buy, a BMW 3 Series. Underneath the surface, this is a 503bhp road-rocket with one of the most famous performance badges affixed to its boot. BMW M has finally built an M3 Tourer, and it's a good 'un: sure, it's not flawless, but the M3 Touring is eye-wateringly, cheek-pufflingly good to drive fast, and because it shares a body with the excellent 3 Series Touring, it’s also an incredibly competent, well-made family car.