The Top 10 Family Cars of 2018
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The Top 10 Family Cars of 2018
If you’re looking for a great family car here is the top 10 for 2017 which meets the needs of every parent’s needs.
Vauxhall Astra Hatchback
The latest Vauxhall Astra has been on sale since late 2015, and it’s fair to say it’s the best family hatchback the company has ever made.
The Astra is better built, more aesthetically pleasing and more economical than any of its predecessors. We rate it as the best family car you can buy today, thanks to its blend of modern technology, excellent value for money and superb overall ownership experience. The Astra is enjoyable to drive when you want it to be, yet quiet, comfortable and undemanding when you need a family workhorse.
Spend an extra £500 or so to secure the peppy and turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol over the entry-level engine, or go for the 1.6-litre diesel ecoFLEX model for its staggering 85mpg economy, free road tax and low company-car rate. Vauxhall also builds an estate version, called the Astra Sports Tourer if you need extra room. Read more.
Renault Megane Hatchback
While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there’s no denying the new Renault Megane is just too striking a design to ignore.
This beauty is more than just skin-deep, however, with the car offering one of the more attractive interiors in the class. Features such as the iPad-style portrait touchscreen (standard on mid-range models upwards), plentiful soft-touch plastics and comfortable seats mark the Megane out as having a more appealing interior ambience than the competition including (whisper it) the Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf – traditional frontrunners in this area.
The Megane is more about comfort than overt driver thrills, but it’s still enjoyable to hustle down a country road and it makes motorway journeys quiet and relaxing. Only an awkwardly shaped boot aperture and the odd scratchy piece of the plastic lower down inside let the Megane down slightly.
Skoda Octavia Hatchback
Always a sensible choice, the Skoda Octavia is more enjoyable to drive than you might think.
It’s also incredibly spacious – most noticeably in the back – while the huge boot dwarfs those found in cars from one or even two classes above. There’s not a bad engine in the range, either, with the entry-level 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol providing reasonable performance and returning over 60mpg; if you need greater efficiency, the diesel GreenLine returns 80mpg.
Interior quality is strong, and knowing you’re essentially driving the same car as the Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf – yet saving thousands of pounds – should provide a welcome sense of satisfaction. Choose the Octavia Estate if you need a more cavernous boot, the four-wheel-drive Octavia Scout for conquering light wilderness or the sporty Octavia vRS if performance is your thing.
SEAT Leon Hatchback
Another car sharing Volkswagen Group mechanicals, the SEAT Leon pips the Golf and Audi A3 on this list thanks to its lower price, distinctive looks and sharp driving experience.
SEAT offers a performance version of the Leon (called the Leon Cupra) while the Ecomotive model prioritises efficiency. If you’re after a good-value ‘hot’ hatchback then that Cupra model is one of the best available, it’s quick, great to drive and good value for money, too. As with the Octavia, there’s a Leon for everyone: buyers seeking practicality should investigate the Leon ST estate, the style-conscious may be drawn to the three-door Leon SC, while outdoorsy types will find the rugged Leon X-perience will get you to those hard-to-reach places thanks to its jacked-up ride height and four-wheel-drive system.
The standard five-door Leon gets our nod as a family buy thanks to its excellent all-round capabilities, decent practicality and strong driving experience.
Volkswagen Golf Hatchback
The Octavia is about £1,000 cheaper than the Leon, but the £500 or so gap between the SEAT and the five-door Volkswagen Golf is narrower.
Spend the extra cash on the Golf over the Leon and you’ll get a plusher interior, a more comfortable (though slightly less involving) driving experience, as well as the all-important VW badge and image. As with the cars above, VW offers an economical BlueMotion model (capable of over 80mpg) a three-door Golf, a Golf Estate, a rugged four-wheel-drive model (called the Golf Alltrack) as well the choice of two sporty models, the Golf GTI and Golf R.
Unlike Leon and Octavia customers, though, Golf buyers can also opt for the hybrid GTE, the all-electric e-Golf or the convertible Golf Cabriolet. Why is the Golf beaten by the Leon and the Octavia, aside from price? Well, the gap between these three cars is narrow, but the Leon is sharper to drive and the Octavia significantly more spacious; in fact, the standard Octavia hatchback’s boot is only 2.5% smaller than the Golf Estate’s.
Honda Civic hatchback
Each generation of Honda Civic looks more radical than the last, but despite the space-age looks, it’s still a practical five-door hatchback at heart.
The boot is massive and features a novel roll-out luggage cover, plus there’s loads of interior storage. The Civic feels very well built – Honda has a solid reputation in this regard – and there’s plenty of equipment fitted as standard. It’s very good to drive, too, with a wide range of engines, including a powerful 1.0-litre petrol that’s our pick of the range.
On the downside, the styling may not appeal to everyone, plus the sloping roofline means headroom is slightly restricted; otherwise, the Civic is hard to fault.
The Mazda3 is great to drive, cheap to run and seriously stylish. If its looks alone aren’t enough to sway you, a test drive may seal the deal, as the 3 gets the balance just right between comfort and driver enjoyment.
The top-spec 2.2-litre diesel engine adds about £2,500 to the Mazda3’s price, but it’s a gem of an engine that returns almost 70mpg, costs just £20 a year to tax (as long as you register it before April next year, after which that figure will increase significantly) and gets the 3 from 0-62mph in just 8.1 seconds.
It’s also impressively smooth, quiet and refined. SE Nav trim adds sat nav to the standard car’s impressive roll-call of equipment, which includes alloy wheels, cruise control, all-round electric windows and smartphone app integration. The Mazda3 also holds its value well on the used market, while reliability is another strong suit.
Audi A3 Sportback Hatchback
Even though the Audi A3 Sportback (the name Audi gives to the five-door A3) features lower on this list than other Volkswagen Group cars, its looks, style and interior quality are enough to tempt many into Audi dealerships, with the A3 being the eighth best-selling car in the UK last year.
Step inside and it’s easy to understand why: the A3’s dashboard design and sense of solidity are unimpeachable. The driving experience is sharp, comfortable and impressively quiet, and the A3 also comes with Audi’s excellent 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine. This partially shuts down during cruising, enabling the car to return 61mpg, incur just £20 a year in road tax and go from 0-62mph in a fraction over eight seconds – impressive figures for a petrol model.
Choose the digital dashboard dials (called ‘Virtual Cockpit’ by Audi) to feel like you’re driving a car from the future, and stick to smaller alloy wheels unless you like to know about every pothole you drive over. The A3 saloon adds a dash of executive flavour, the Cabriolet lets you enjoy the sun, while the fast S3 and RS3 run the Porsche 718 Boxster close in terms of straight-line speed. A high initial purchase price and vast options list mean the A3 is an expensive proposition, though.
Ford Focus hatchback
The Ford Focus continues to be an incredibly popular car, with millions sold since the first model was launched in 1999.
What makes it such a great family buy? Well, despite offering plentiful interior space and low running costs, the Focus has a well-deserved reputation for being great to drive; sharp, accurate steering combined with perfectly judged suspension make it the most enjoyable car in this class.
The ECOnetic diesel model can return up to 83mpg yet still offers a reasonable turn of speed, while the 345bhp Focus RS offers more power and performance for your money than almost any other car today. The Focus has steadily dropped down this list in recent times due to the fact that it’s showing its age compared to some of the more modern alternatives on this list, to which the dashboard is a rather unattractive testament.
It’s not quite as practical as some of its rivals, either, largely thanks to a smaller-than-average boot that has a rather small opening. Avoid the entry-level 1.6-litre petrol engine, as it’s slow and not hugely economical.
Peugeot 308 hatchback
An honourable 10th place goes to the Peugeot 308. Like the Megane, the 308 is good-looking, comfortable and pretty decent to drive. It also has low running costs, a wide range of engines and a large boot.
With 470 litres of load space at your disposal (more than 1,300 with the rear seats folded down), it’s second only to the Octavia in this regard. Unfortunately, however, this comes at the expense of rear passenger space. Other niggles include a steering wheel that may obscure the dashboard dials for some, while others will find it offers an awkward driving position, as well as a fiddly infotainment touchscreen.
Most models force you to use this to adjust the climate settings, although entry-level versions manage perfectly happily without this. Still, the 308 looks great in the metal and while there are foibles, these arguably contribute to its character – something certain people feel some modern cars lack.