How to Choose the Best Family Car
Published 12 April 2019
Choosing a family car can be trickier than it sounds. Your vehicle needs to fit your family now and be suitable as they grow and your family grows. It can be hard to know how to choose the best car for your family.
Choose the Body Type
Deciding on your preferred style of car first can help narrow down your options and get your search underway quickly.
The hatchback sector offers a huge range of five-door vehicles and remain popular with families. The hatchback market has been constantly reinvented with car manufacturers offering some great designs.
Hatchback cars come in a number of sizes. The most popular car in the UK, the Ford Fiesta, is a small hatchback. The Ford Focus is a medium-sized hatchback, and the Ford Mondeo is a large hatchback. The Focus is a great example of a family hatchback with a five star NCAP rating.
A five-door hatchback has two front and two back doors on either side, plus a hatchback boot. There are five-door versions of most hatchbacks, and their big advantage is that they are easy to get into for rear passengers.
If you are budget conscious family then a hatchback could be a good choice as they are cheaper to buy or lease and to economical to run.
Another advantage of hatchbacks is that their smaller size means they are easy to park and manoeuvre, which is a consideration if you live in the city.
Modern hatchbacks tend to be relatively spacious for both luggage and people.
If a hatchback doesn’t offer your family enough space, an estate could be the next best choice. For design conscious families who may have been put off by the boxy design of Estates in the past, you can be reassured that the sharp angles have been replaced by softer curves and stylish looks.
An estate car is essentially a hatchback with an extended body giving more passenger space and a larger boot – offering a more flexible family car. The large boot opening makes it easy to load and unload the bulkiest of items.
The additional length of the car offers more storage, but that longer wheelbase can make it more challenging to park and to manoeuvre.
Estate cars sit lower to the ground like hatchbacks; so if you want a higher driving position you’ll need to look at MPVs or SUVs. However if you want plenty of space in a car and good fuel economy the estate car could be the best choice.
An MPV (Multi Purpose Vehicle) often referred to as a people carrier, is a hatchback with a higher driving position, and typically seating for five or seven.The MPV class is split into small MPVs and large MPVs. For example the ever popular Renault Scenic is a small SUV with 5 seats and the Renault Grand Scenic is the larger model with 7 seats.
MPVs have been a popular choice for families for many years; due to their extra seating capacity, large accessible boot and high driving position.
If your family generally only requires 5 seats, but on the odd occasion needs to transport up to 7 then some MPVs offer a third row of seats that pull up from the boot floor. A good example is the SEAT Alhambra MPV. Naturally when in use this reduces the boot space; but could be a good option if you need the extra flexibility.
SUVs or sport utility vehicles are bigger and taller than other cars which is why they are popular with families. SUVs have a higher ground clearance to allow for driving over rugged terrain. Keep in mind that not all SUVs are 4×4’s, in fact if fuel economy is important you should not choose the four wheel drive option.
The high roof provides lots of internal headroom, so great for tall adults or growing teenagers. Sitting up higher, means the driver can see further down the road, looking over other vehicles – able to see oncoming hazards quicker.
SUVs can accommodate between 5 and 7 passengers depending on the model. The Volvo XC90 comes with 7 seats as standard. Depending on the size of your family the SUV or MPV could be your only choice.
Original SUVs were designed to be rugged and cope with difficult terrain. As manufacturers realised the popularity of SUVs for people who never took them off-road, but loved their practicality – the designs have become more stylish and many no longer offer off-road capabilities.
Inside the vehicle also benefits by having lots of storage space, a large boot volume and room to stretch your legs out.
Smaller compact SUVs are available and they are known as Crossovers.
Narrowing Down the Detail
Once you have decided which body type you prefer you can start looking at specific makes and models with a view to how well it will suit your family needs. The following will help you identify what to look for.
Isofix Mounting Points
If you have young children or expect to have a baby in the future then Isofix mounting points make fitting a car seat easier and safer.
Isofix is an international standard that makes safely fitting your car seat quick. Rather than the car seat being fixed with the seat belt, the Isofix connectors on the car seat lock into the Isofix anchor points built into the car.
It’s important to note that having an ISOFIX car seat, and ISOFIX connectors in the car doesn’t mean they will fit together. So if you already have car seats it’s a good idea to take them with you when considering a new car. Or once you have the car make sure you try out car seats before you buy.
If you need 3 car seats or boosters in the rear you will need to ensure you choose a car that has 3 full sized, individual seats.
Also look out for the ability to slide each individual seat separately – so you can offset each seat which helps when fitting in car seats or boosters. This also gives you flexibility to increase boot space or passenger space as you need it.
Easy-to-fold rear seats that lie flat when dropped increase load carrying space when you need it.
Opting for five doors instead of three is a given for a family car. Do check that the back doors open wide enough for you to easily install a child car seat and get younger children in and out of the car.
Wide opening doors are beneficial to family members who have bad backs or generally find it difficult getting in and out of the car.
Some MPVs have sliding rear doors which makes it super convenient, especially in cramped car parks; such as the Ford B-Max
Can you switch off the passenger airbag?
It isn’t recommended to fit child seats in the front passenger seat. However if you need to fit a rear-facing child seat to the front passenger seat, you must choose a car that allows you to deactivate the front airbag.
Euro NCAP safety ratings
Check the Euro NCAP scores for crash safety and child protection. You will want to know that in the event of an accident you and your family will be protected.
Plenty of Space
Look for a car with lots of storage space to hold all the belongings your family needs – toys, wet-wipes, mobile phones and chargers etc
Take your pram or pushchair when you go car shopping and make sure that it fits easily in the boot, and that it is easier to get in and out.
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