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The most economical family cars

  • Petrol engines are getting more efficient
  • Here are the best family cars that promise over 50mpg
  • All are great to drive, cheap to run with lots of standard equipment

Are you planning on buying a new family car? Want one that will be economical and not expensive to buy?

The segment is wider and more varied than ever, with a greater flow of technology and efficiency available, but finding the correct family-friendly motor for your specific needs can still be tricky. Especially if you’re on a strict budget.

To help, we’ve picked our favourite petrol cars that cost less than £25,000, promise more than 50mpg, are suitable for four or five occupants and should prove an enduring purchase for many years to come.

With a seven-seat MPV, executive saloon, family hatchback, load-lugging estate car and even a convertible on offer, there really is a car for everyone.

BMW 3 Series saloon

3 Series saloon

Recently revised earlier in 2015, the BMW 3 Series is better than ever and ready to take on the new Audi A4 and Jaguar XE in the hotly-contested compact executive class. Chief amongst the revisions was the inclusion of the firm’s new three-cylinder turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engine, which is smooth, refined and typically for a powerplant of this type, punches above its weight.

This particular 3 Series feels sharp to drive, thanks to the lightweight engine block, though with just 134bhp and a 9.1 second 0-62mph time it’s far from the fastest in the range. At least it’ll achieve 52.3mpg, and emits just 124g/km CO2 – so at time of writing annual VED car tax is just £110. The 480-litre boot will come in handy too.

Find a used BMW 3 Series saloon here

Star rating: 5 stars
Pick of the range: BMW 318i SE saloon
New price: £25,580 - £62,850
Used price: £7,895 - £58,235
Performance: 0-62mph in 9.1 seconds, 130mph top speed
Efficiency: 52.3mpg and 124g/km
Boot space: 480 litres

Skoda Octavia Estate

Skoda Octavia estate

If you have a family, especially one that’s growing, there’s one thing you’ll appreciate more than anything else – and that’s a huge boot. There’s few family cars at any pricepoint that can match the Skoda Octavia estate for space with 610 litres available. Fold the backrests down and that increases to a van-like 1,740 litres.

With a £25,000 budget you can find yourself behind the wheel of a generously-equipped SE L model complete with the excellent 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 148bhp. Performance is taken care of by an 8.1 second 0-62mph time, while the efficiency headlines include 55.4mpg fuel economy and 119g/km CO2 output.

Find a used Skoda Octavia here

Star rating: 4.5 stars
Pick of the range: Skoda Octavia SE L estate 1.4 TSI
New price: £18,255 - £30,085
Used price: £6,560 - £19,870
Performance: 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds, 134mph top speed
Efficiency: 55.4mpg and 119g/km
Boot space: 610/1,740 litres

Citroen Grand C4 Picasso

Citroen C4 Grand Picasso

Family man Keith loved his Citroen Grand C4 Picasso when he ran it on our long-term fleet earlier in 2015, and it seems – from the sheer number spotted on the roads – that you, the buying public, are just as taken with the practical people carrier. With seven seats, ingenious design (inside and out) and a comfortable ride, it’s an appealing MPV.

Made more so by the fitment of the firm’s excellent 1.2-litre Puretech petrol engine. Sure three-cylinders may sound a little under-endowed for a car of such grand stature, but there’s 129bhp on offer, which allows the seven-seater to sprint from 0-62mph in just 10.8 seconds. Whats more it promises to return up to 55.4mpg and emits just 118g/km of CO2 too.

Find a used Citroen Grand C4 Picasso here

Star rating: 4 stars
Pick of the range: Citroen Grand C4 Picasso 1.2 Puretech VTR+
New price: £22,475 - £29,900
Used price: £7,820 - £19,620
Performance: 0-62mph in 10.8 seconds, 125mph top speed
Efficiency: 56mpg, 115g/km
Boot space: 165/790/2,181 litres

Ford Focus hatchback

No family-car wish list would be complete without a Ford Focus featuring, and so that tradition continues here. The great news is your £25,000 budget nest you a range-topping Titanium X with sat-nav and extra money left over to spend on that Christmas turkey. And with a claimed combined fuel economy of over 60mpg the savings will continue into 2016 too.

Again a three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine is fitted under the bonnet, this time 1-litres in capacity and producing 123bhp. It beats the Citroen from 0-62mph by two tenths of a second, and save for the 3 Series is the most fun car to drive of all on this list. With CO2 emissions of just 108g/km the savings continue too, with annual VED car tax of just £20.

Find a used Ford Focus here

Star rating: 4 stars
Pick of the range: Ford Focus 1.0 Ecoboost Titanium X Nav
New price: £19,495 - £31,765
Used price: £3,840 - £34,710
Performance: 0-62mph in 10.6 seconds, 120mph
Efficiency: 60mpg, 108g/km
Boot space: 316 litres

Audi A3 Cabriolet

Audi A3 cabriolet

Just because you’ve started a family doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun, and though it’s winter now, summer is just round the corner (honest). It’s only a four-seater, but the Audi A3 Cabriolet can genuinely accommodate full-size adults, and with the roof in place the boot can carry up to 320 litres of family paraphernalia. Lower the electrically-operated canvas hood and that drops to a still-usable 287 litres.

It’s fitted with the firm’s clever 1.4-litre CoD engine too, which shuts down a pair of cylinders under light loads to save fuel – the result being a claimed 55.4mpg combined economy figure. The only downside to the Audi is you’ll have to stretch your budget slightly, by £700 for the SE model – it might be near Christmas, but you can’t have everything.

Find a used Audi A3 Cabriolet here

Star rating: 4 stars
Pick of the range: Audi A3 Cabriolet SE 1.4TSI COD 150PS
New price: £27,395 - £41,190
Used price: £12,105 - £33,130
Performance: 0-62mph in 8.8 seconds, 135mph top speed
Efficiency: 55.4mpg, 118g/km
Boot space: 287/320 litres

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