The best cheap family cars

  • Find out the best used family cars for less than £10k
  • Top buying tips included
  • Could one in our list be your next used car buy?
  • Find out the best used family cars for less than £10k
  • Top buying tips included
  • Could one in our list be your next used car buy?

If the family’s expanding and you need a new car, there’s a baffling amount of choice out there.

A budget of £10,000 will secure you a huge number of options, but worry not. We’ve picked out our favourite cheap family cars that make excellent vehicles to carry the most important things in your life.

Ford Mondeo Estate (07-14)

The best cheap family cars - Ford Mondeo Estate

Pros: Enormous boot, great to drive and stylish
Cons: Large size can make it hard to manoeuvre, confusing trim levels

With pricier German rivals firmly in its sights, the Ford Mondeo Estate makes an excellent large family car for under £10k.

Arguably more comfortable than offerings form BMW and Audi, the Mondeo takes family-friendly refinement to a whole new level. It’s cavernous boot and configurable rear seats make it a practical car, with elegant styling disguising its spaciousness. The cabin features high quality soft-touch plastics, and despite myriad trim levels, all feature plenty of kit. Most popular is the Zetec trim, which gets climate control, an MP3 audio socket and fog lights.

On the road, the Mondeo is composed and agile; you don’t lose the great driving dynamics of the hatchback by stretching it. Again, there is a multitude of engine options so do some research to help you pick. Our favourite is the 1.8-litre TDCi, offering low emissions and fifty miles to the gallon. Given how well the Mondeo measures up, the Germans should certainly watch their backs.

Parkers star rating: 4.5 stars
Used price range: £1,635 - £15,945
Pick of the range: 1.8TDCi Zetec

Click here to see used car deals for the Ford Mondeo Estate

Peugeot 5008 (10-)

The best cheap family cars - Peugeot 5008

Pros: Good to drive, upmarket features and versatile seating
Cons: Firm ride, looks ungainly

Combining driver appeal and versatility, the Peugeot 5008 is a popular, good value compact people carrier. Suitable for families who need extra seating, the 5008 can carry seven in reasonable comfort thanks to its intelligent layout. Practicality is also excellent, with the 5008 capable of swallowing up to 1,754 litres with the seats down.

Like all good family cars, the cabin is well laid out and functional, with storage space throughout. The 5008 also gets plenty of equipment with the Exclusive trim toting a heads-up-display, Bluetooth and parking sensors. This being a family car, Peugeot even throws in a boot-mounted torch.

The ride is a little firm, but it feels sharp on the road despite its height. It’s the 1.6-litre HDI diesel engine that offers the best compromise between performance and economy.

Parkers star rating: 4.5 stars
Used price range: £3,455 - £17,385
Pick of the range: 1.6HDi Exclusive

Click here to see used car deals for the Peugeot 5008

Skoda Superb Estate (10-)

The best cheap family cars - Skoda Superb Estate

Pros: Refined, great value and enormous in every direction
Cons: Length makes it hard to park

It’s hard to imagine a more complete family car than the Skoda Superb. Despite being priced against the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra, the Superb delivers, well, superbly by any test of a family car. Excellent ride quality, combined with acres of legroom and a quiet, refined cabin make the Superb a lovely place to be.

It’s full of family touches; cubby holes everywhere, a flat boot, rechargeable torch, self-drying umbrella in the door and 1,856-litres of boot space with the seats down. Cars rarely get more practical than this.

Power comes courtesy of petrol or diesel engines, ranging from 1.4 to 3.6 litres in size. Mated with a six-speed manual or automatic gearbox, all are perfect for long distance cruising. A 1.6-litre Greenline gives an impressive 64mpg, but if you intend to use that monster boot to full capacity, plump for a 2-litre diesel.

Parkers star rating: 4.5 stars
Used price range: £3,930 - £22,645
Pick of the range: 2.0 TDi CR SE

Click here to see used car deals for the Skoda Superb Estate

Vauxhall Astra Hatchback (2015-on)

The best cheap family cars - Vauxhall Astra Hatchback

Pros: Lower running costs & more space than predecessor
Cons: Ordinary image, more space in rivals

The seventh-generation Astra faces strong competition, but it’s lighter - on average 200kg over its predecessor - and roomier. The lightness means the Astra is nimble around town and on windy back roads.

Extra space inside means it’s comfy for four six-foot adults, while the boot is a decent size, if not massive. There are lots of storage cubbyholes for children’s odds and ends, but the best feature is probably OnStar - the telematics and concierge service. Not only can it diagnose any faults or warning lights which may appear on the car’s dash, but ask it for directions and they’ll be downloaded to the sat-nav. 

Parkers star rating: 4 stars
Used price range: £8,915 - £15,235

Click here to see used car deals for the Vauxhall Astra 

Mazda 6 Hatchback (07-12)

The best cheap family cars - Mazda 6

Pros: Great styling, spacious and good to drive
Cons: Ride can be unsettled, interior quality could be better

One of the best looking cars in this list, the Mazda 6 is a strong contender as your next family motor. Despite being a hatchback, it has plenty of legroom and passenger space; all packaged in an upmarket, sporty body packed with toys. You even get a Bose audio system on the range topping Sport Luxury model.

The interior switchgear does feel a little cheap, but it’s still refined and there’s minimal sound intrusion. Mazda has been generous with storage throughout, with the luggage area swallowing 1,702 litres with the rear seats down. The 2.2-litre diesel offers class-leading capability.

Parkers star rating: 4.5 stars
Used price range: £2,200 - £8,025
Pick of the range: 2.2TS

Click here to see used car deals for the Mazda 6

Ford S-Max (06-14)

The best cheap family cars - Ford S-Max

Pros: Vast cabin, tight handling and powerful engines
Cons: Awkward handbrake and no air conditioning on Edge trim

Carrying seven in comfort, with sporty styling and a truly fantastic drive, the Ford S-Max is a very convincing family friendly package.

Based on Ford Galaxy underpinnings, the S-Max takes practicality seriously; its seats fold completely flat giving you a huge load space and you get 27 cubby holes. It’s comfortable, and has plenty of kit. However, it’s a shame that air-con isn’t included on the entry level Edge model. The 2-litre TDCi is the best compromise, and still offers competitive performance.

Parkers star rating: 4 stars
Used price range: £2,240 - £21,185
Pick of the range: 2.0 TDCi

Click here to see used car deals for the Ford S-Max

Mitsubishi Outlander (07-13)

The best cheap family cars - Mitsubishi Outlander

Pros: Comfortable and good to drive,VW diesel excellent
Cons: Narrow boot and cramped rearmost seats

Perfect for larger families requiring something with a bit of off-road pedigree, the second generation Outlander is a versatile and surprisingly well-built choice. It handles well on the road, with accurate steering keeping the body under control when cornering. Switchable four-wheel drive makes it capable in all conditions.

The available VW diesels are refined and have plenty of low-end shove. On the inside, the boot accommodates 541 litres with five seats up and is generally well built. Some cheap plastics remain, and the legroom of the folding rear seats is disappointing. Kit levels are good value, with air conditioning and electric windows as standard.

Parkers star rating: 4 stars
Used price range: £3,465 - £13,855
Pick of the range: 2.2 Di-D GX3

Click here to see used car deals for the Mitsubishi Outlander

Volvo XC90 (02-14)

The best cheap family cars - Volvo XC90

Pros: Comfortable, classy and excellent diesel engines
Cons: Sluggish automatic gearbox, poor handling

The XC90 is a car that ticks all the boxes; hugely practical, very safe and refined throughout. It has a classy image, and has a very comfortable ride whether on the motorway or around town. Parents also praise its practicality, in particular the split tailgate makes a perfect bench for taking off muddy wellies.

The boot carries 615-litres with five seats up, and still takes 215-litres when using seven. In the cabin quality lives up to the Swedish firm’s reputation, and is generous with equipment. The one available 2.4-litre diesel has plenty of shove, and is reasonably refined.

Parkers star rating: 4 stars
Used price range: £1,495 - £34,000
Pick of the range: 2.4 D5 SE

Click here to see used car deals for the Volvo XC90

Volkswagen Passat Estate (05-11)

The best cheap family cars - VW Passat Estate

Pros: Great motorway cruiser, excellent build quality
Cons: Rivals bigger, VW badge costs

The Passat Estate makes for an upmarket family car. As you would expect from a VW, the build quality and cabin refinement is exceptional and a significant step up from the predecessor.

It’s supremely comfortable, especially on long journeys, and has a spacious cabin. The SE model is the pick of the bunch with leather upholstery, heated seats and a multifunction infotainment screen. Power comes from a variety of VW engines, the best being the 2-litre TDI also seen in Audi’s A4. Our only gripe is the Passat’s boot isn’t as big as rivals.

Parkers star rating: 4 stars
Used price range: £1,155 - £8,030
Pick of the range: 2.0 TDI SE 4MOTION SWB

Click here to see used car deals for the Volkswagen Passat Estate

Vauxhall Insignia Hatchback (09-)

The best cheap family cars - Vauxhall Insignia

Pros: Decent standard kit, refined and comfortable
Cons: Not as good to drive as the Mondeo, poor efficiency

Coming from a long line of family favourites, the Vauxhall Insignia is a comfortable cruiser, along with being great value for money.

Our choice, the Tech Line, features sat-nav, a DAB radio and plenty of connectivity, making it a great-value proposition. New engines make the Insignia quieter and more refined than ever, and in 2013 the new 2-litre diesel powerplant manages 76mpg and emits just 99g/km of CO2. Handling still lags behind the Mondeo as it lacks composure while cornering.

Parkers star rating: 4 stars
Used price range: £2,250 - £16,410
Pick of the range: 2.0 TD CR Techline

Click here to see used car deals for the Vauxhall Insignia

Citroen Grand C4 Picasso (07-13)

The best cheap family cars - Citroen Grand C4 Picasso

Pros: Family friendly cabin, comfy ride
Cons: Cheap interior plastics and jerky semi-auto gearbox

With classic Citroen good looks, and plenty of family friendly touches, the Grand C4 Picasso is an enjoyable car to live with.

The cabin is light and airy due to the enormous windscreen, and has extremely versatile seating. Rear seat DVD players, tray tables and an inbuilt air freshener on VTR+ models make this a great car for families on long trips. Seats fold flat in seconds to create a huge load space, and the C4 has plenty of cubbyholes.

Kit levels are good value; a cool box, rechargeable torch and air conditioning are all included on the VTR+. Handling is not its strong point, with the car rolling in the corners and the steering lacking in feel. The 1.6 HDi returns 48mpg and will suit most owners’ needs, it also doesn’t come with the erratic semi-automatic gearbox.

Parkers star rating: 4 stars
Used price range: £1,165 - £11,330
Pick of the range: 1.6 HDi VTR+

Click here to see used car deals for the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso


Top tips for buying a cheap family car

Watch out for bumps and scrapes
Check the car you’re looking at is in decent nick, both inside and outside. There’s no reason to settle for less, as minor damage doesn’t cost loads to repair. Pay particular attention to trims inside the cabin; since these are family cars they’ll have been given a workout by people of all ages.

Check all electrics
Make sure all electrical functions work correctly. That includes windows, lights, the horn, the stereo and all heater or air-conditioning systems. If they don’t, it could prove very costly to repair as such systems are often very complex.

Does it suit your lifestyle?
When you go to a dealership or view a car for a private sale, it’s wise to ensure it’ll fit into your life. Are there child seat mounting points in the required places? Do the rear doors open wide enough for your purposes? Is it comfortable and easy to drive?

Safety first
A serious consideration for a family car buyer is safety. Everyone wants the peace of mind that should the worst happen and an accident occurs, the occupants can stay as safe and well as possible.

How many airbags does the car have? What’s its EuroNCAP crash-test score? Does it have any extra kit available as an optional extra? This aspect of car buying is more important than ever, and you might be surprised how many cars fall down

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