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Choosing a family car is not what it used to be. Now, there are so many different options to suit your family’s size and lifestyle. Families can choose anything from a hatchback or saloon right through to an MPV, SUV or 4×4 – they are all built to suit a family’s needs well.
For the purpose of this guide, we’re focusing on hatchbacks and saloon cars, which if you are a family of 3-4 people, will be well suited to your needs.
Before you enter the showroom, you should ask yourself the following questions, in order to ascertain if a saloon or hatchback car is the right purchase for you:
Many smaller hatchbacks such as the Volkswagen Golf or Vauxhall Astra offer better fuel economy and lower running costs as well as a slightly bigger, easier to access boot, while saloon cars such as the Ford Mondeo or Skoda Superb tend to be more spacious with added comfort and practicality and more security for your luggage thanks to a separated-off compartment. Hatchbacks will tend to be cheaper as, in general, they are smaller cars, but saloon cars are often better-looking – the decision really boils down to personal taste and how much cash you have to spend.
Running costs can be a deciding factor when considering a family car. Larger saloon cars such as a Ford Mondeo or Volkswagen Passat will cost more to run than a Ford Focus and will depreciate much quicker. In fact, the Ford Focus is one of the most popular family cars to buy thanks to its industry leading mpg figures and general all-round curb appeal, meaning it’s able to retain its value very well. In addition, it’s worth bearing in mind that spare parts and servicing for larger cars will usually be more costly.
If you require a large amount of space, opting for a larger saloon car will provide your passengers with more leg and head room, particularly in the back. The Ford Mondeo and Skoda Superb are two of the class-leading family saloon cars sporting spacious interiors with ample sized boots, while the Audi A4 and Mercedes C-class saloons are best avoided as they offer more cramped coupe style interiors with little room in the back for taller passengers.
The type of engine you choose will determine the amount of cash you have to pay at the pump. Diesel cars will usually offer you better mpg and lower road tax and modern versions come with plenty of pulling power, but you’ll pay more to purchase one and fuel tends to be more expensive. Choosing a petrol model remains an attractive option, particularly if you intend to use your car for shorter journeys, and most of the new petrol powerplants are very fuel efficient too.
NB: Buyers must be aware that the appeal of diesel cars may change as the air quality implications of diesel (notably emissions of nitrous oxides and particulates) continues to be re-addressed.
You’ll pay more for a premium badge, but it will usually depreciate more slowly meaning you’ll benefit when it comes to selling the car on. Premium family cars which retain their value superbly well include the BMW 3-series, Volkswagen Golf and the Ford Mondeo. On the downside, premium cars will cost more to own and run and you are less likely to get as much equipment thrown in for free. Furthermore, discounts on new premium cars tend to be less generous.
Choosing a family car with a higher specification will guarantee you maximise its value when it comes to resale. For example, a family car with plenty of added features such as leather upholstery, climate control, heated seats or sat nav, will retain its value a lot more than a basic specification model. In addition, certain cars suit automatic transmission such as the Mercedes C-Class saloon, so it is worth investing in it to ensure you cater to buying trends at resale.
Some of the premium saloon cars such as the BMW 3-series and Volkswagen Passat, perform similarly to sports cars when driven and offer excellent performance. If you tend to do lots of motorway driving, a saloon is probably a better choice as many of the best family saloons are smooth and capable, and very well suited to longer journeys. Furthermore, there’s plenty of little luxuries to keep passengers entertained and safety technology is a high priority. The downside to larger family cars is that you may compromise on ride comfort, so it’s best to avoid additional extras such as larger alloys or sports suspension.
Green technology is increasing in popularity and there is now a growing selection of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars available to purchase. Should you be thinking about owning a family hybrid car, the Honda Insight or Toyota Prius both offer a reliable alternative to petrol driven cars. If you prefer to opt for a plug-in hybrid car (batteries that can be externally charged from the mains), you will further benefit from a £5,000 government grant. Plug-in hybrids typically offer buyers lower CO2 figures, exemption from road tax and higher mpg figures. Newcomers to watch out for include the BMW i3 and the VW Passat GTE plug-in.
With any saloon or hatchback family car, you’ll compromise on boot space, so if you’re struggling to find a car that offers the space you need for a growing family, it might be time to think about upgrading to an estate. Estate cars will cost you more cash but they do offer plenty of extra practicality for those with a busy, family orientated lifestyle. If you’re thinking about investing in an estate car, take a look at our short guide.
Take a look below at our list of favourite family cars available to purchase in 2016.