Best family cars 2021

  • We list the best new family cars for 2021
  • From small cars to crossovers, estates and electric cars
  • There’s a wide range of practical family cars to choose from

Having a family – especially a growing one – means your choice of car is an incredibly important decision to make. Not only is it a big investment, but it also needs to suit your lifestyle and demands, whether you want the most economical family car or the most affordable.

The good news is there’s a broad selection available, whether it’s a family hatchback, five- or seven-seater SUV or MPV or even a zippy electric car to keep your carbon footprint in check. You'll also want your next car to be packed with technology to keep the family entertained, with the latest infotainment systems, DAB digital radio, and Bluetooth connectivity.

Hatchbacks remain a popular choice for families: they're not too big, they are very practical, and the running costs are reasonable. Larger crossovers and SUVs are becoming more common as family cars, with their increased ride height, but they can be more expensive - both to buy, and to run. You'll likely get much better MPG values in a hatchback than in a heavier crossover. 

Safety is of vital importance when you're choosing a car to cope with family life, so check out the Euro NCAP safety ratings on any new car you're considering buying. You also need to think about whether your baby car seat is compatible, and how many Isofix points there are in the car. 

Scroll down to see our selection of the best cheap family cars in a range of bodystyles. We've come up with two sensible options in each category, with a third alternative if you're after something a little different that's still affordable. 

Best family car - SUVs

SEAT Arona


If you’re looking for one of the best small family cars, the SEAT Arona could be for you. It offers a compact footprint in an appealing crossover bodystyle, with enough room to fit a small family and some luggage in its spacious interior. The boot offers 400 litres of room with an adjustable boot floor, which isn’t quite as big as a Citroen C3 Aircross’s boot, but it makes our recommendation here because it’s a much better all-rounder with a more user-friendly media system and better drive. Pick from a wide range of trim levels and efficient engines.

We’d recommend: Arona FR 1.0 TSI 115

New price: £17,580 - £25,420 
Leasing price: from £215 per month
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Used price: £11,620 - £19,660
Fuel economy: 55 - 65 mpg
Insurance group: 8 - 18

Read our full SEAT Arona review

Suzuki Vitara

Suzuki Vitara crossover

The Suzuki Vitara is a more rugged small crossover than most of its rivals, offering four-wheel drive on some models and genuine off-road ability. It feels like it could easily withstand the rigours of family life, offers just enough space for a small family and quite a fun drive at the same time. If you can get over it not having a premium badge, you'll find a car packed with kit that's excellent value on PCP finance, too. 

We'd recommend: Vitara 1.0 Boosterjet SZ-T

New price: £16,999 - £25,649
Leasing price: from £264 per month
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Used price: £6,860 - £20,705
Fuel economy: 44 - 70 mpg
Insurance group: 11 - 21

Read our full Suzuki Vitara review

Or try a... Renault Captur

Similar in size to the Arona and Vitara, the Renault Captur is a stylish small crossover with a well-designed interior that offers more space than you might expect. The engines are frugal - if a little underpowered for regular trips on the motorway - and refined, making it an ideal small family car to nip around town in. Plus, you can unzip the seat covers and chuck them in the washing machine! 

We'd recommend: Captur Iconic TCe 90

Read our full list of the best small SUVs here

Best family cars - SUVs

Ford Kuga

Ford Kuga ST-Line

It's been around for a while now, but the Ford Kuga offers cracking value for money with low monthly payments on PCP finance, a well-built interior with plenty of room for a family, and a big boot. It also looks like a proper SUV with a high-up driving position and a very composed drive, meaning you shouldn't feel like you're compromising too much. The dashboard may look a little fussy compared with rivals, but it's easy to use, the touchscreen media system is bright and simple to operate and there's plenty of room. The engines available - a range of EcoBoost petrol and TDCi diesels - are all strong yet refined, and you get a lot of equipment for the money on pretty much any model in the range. 

We'd recommend: Kuga ST-Line 1.5 EcoBoost manual

New price: £23,375 - £37,200
Leasing price: from £230 per month
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Used price: £6,805 - £25,590
Fuel economy: 31 - 64 mpg
Insurance group: 14 - 27

Read our full Ford Kuga review

Skoda Kodiaq

Skoda Kodiaq SE L

Skoda makes excellent family cars – whether it’s a five-seater family car or with space for seven. The Kodiaq is its largest model with a pair of seats in the boot that really boost its practicality. A great size for kids or the occasional adult, when folded into the floor they free up a huge 630 litres of boot space.

If you choose a five-seat Kodiaq, this is up to 720 litres as there’s no third row to eat into floor space. With all seats in place, there’s 270 litres of space on offer, which is fine for the weekly food shop or a few bits and pieces, while room in the front and middle row is very generous, with a solid interior throughout. A huge range of models are available – whether it’s a sporty vRS or off-road-focused Scout, powered by a selection of strong engines. It’s very easy to drive and park too, and doesn’t feel intimidating, despite its large dimensions.

We’d recommend: Kodiaq SE L 2.0 TDI 150 DSG

New price: £25,775 - £42,895
Leasing price: from £265 per month
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Used price: £14,710 - £39,625
Fuel economy: 38 - 56 mpg
Insurance group: 12 - 29

Read our full Skoda Kodiaq review

Or try a... Dacia Duster

The Dacia Duster has the exterior dimensions of a smaller crossover, but with a more traditional SUV/off-roader look. Pound-for-pound it’s a great cheap family car as it costs a similar amount to a small hatchback, but offers a practical interior, a generous equipment list on higher-spec models and some impressive off-road ability should you feel so inclined.

Inside, the dashboard is more utilitarian than expensive-feeling, but it’s simple and easy to use. Further back, rear seat space is generous and the 445-litre boot is well-shaped and easy to access. The higher ride height means it’s easy to get the kids in and out, and they get a good view out, too.

We’d recommend: Duster Comfort TCe 130 4x2

Best small family hatchback

Volkswagen Golf

VW Golf 1.5 TSI Evo

You can’t go far wrong with a VW Golf hatchback. It offers a great image, a high-quality interior and a generous list of standard equipment for the money, as well as a very comfortable drive and a range of efficient engines – it makes the ideal small family car. There’s plenty of space in the back seats for child seats or older passengers, while its 380-litre boot is practical and comes with a neat underfloor storage area too. Every Golf is easy to drive and live with, with a user-friendly touchscreen and simple controls throughout. It’s an excellent all-rounder if you don’t need the extra space of an SUV or large estate car.

We’d recommend: Golf Match 1.5 TSI Evo 130

New price: £20,955 - £37,665
Leasing price: from £244 per month
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Used price: £5,085 - £29,540
Typical used monthly cost: £125 - £729
Fuel economy: 35 - 83 mpg
Insurance group: 7 - 39

Read our full Volkswagen Golf review

Kia Ceed 

Kia Ceed First Edition

The Kia Ceed offers a 395-litre boot and a range of T-GDI petrol or CRDI diesel engines, with a smart interior that feels solid and comfortable. The Peugeot 308 may offer the largest boot at 470 litres, but it’s hard to recommend as a family car because the interior space just isn’t good enough.

The Ceed, however, offers a spacious interior to almost match the Golf, with a generous standard equipment list and a relaxed, comfortable and refined drive across the range. High-spec models can be pricey, but the good news is even lower-spec models come with more equipment than equivalent rivals.

We’d recommend: Ceed Blue Edition 1.4 T-GDI 

New price: £18,600 - £27,490
Leasing price: from £207 per month
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Used price: £12,770 - £20,810
Fuel economy: 41 - 74 mpg
Insurance group: 8 - 22

Read our full Kia Ceed review

Or try a... Ford Focus

The Ford Focus is a common sight on UK roads, and it's easy to see why thanks to a family-friendly interior, plenty of engines and trims to choose from and an abundance of dealers ready to sell you one. The range can seem a little confusing because there are so many choices, so go for one of the EcoBoost petrols if you spend a lot of time in town. They're frugal and pretty punchy, and cost less to buy. A mid-range Titanium or ST-Line will have all the equipment you'd need. 

We'd recommend: Focus 1.0 EcoBoost 125 Titanium/ST-Line

See our selection of the best hatchbacks here

Best large family hatchback

Skoda Superb

Skoda Superb Sportline

If you’re not one of the many buyers yearning for an SUV with a high driving position, the traditional large family hatchback is still one of the best family car options. The Skoda Superb – in particular – is excellent value with an interior almost matching a large luxury saloon for space, while the boot is enormous at 625 litres. That’s just five litres short of the Kodiaq. It boasts a very relaxed and comfortable drive, a high-quality interior with ergonomic layout and some neat touches to make life a little easier such as an optional bin for the door pockets and extras for the boot to keep odds and ends in check.

We’d recommend: Superb SE L Executive 1.5 TSI 150 DSG

New price: £24,655 - £36,520
Leasing price: from £346 per month
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Used price: £9,280 - £27,915
Fuel economy: 39 - 76 mpg
Insurance group: 12 - 29

Read our full Skoda Superb review

Skoda Octavia

Skoda Octavia SE L

If you don’t need the sheer size of the Superb, thankfully Skoda also offers the Octavia. It’s actually based on the Volkswagen Golf, but somehow manages to pack in a vast interior with acres of space for passengers, kids and paraphernalia, as well as a 590-litre boot. That’s more space than a larger Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport, but comes with smaller exterior dimensions. Despite its low cost, it still feels solidly built and comes with the comprehensive kit list and engine options we’ve come to expect from Skoda.

We’d recommend: Octavia SE L 1.5 TSI

New price: £18,610 - £30,165
Used price: £4,980 - £23,920
Fuel economy: 41 - 80 mpg
Insurance group: 12 - 29

Read our full Skoda Octavia review

Or try a... Volkswagen Arteon

The sleeker alternative to the sensible Passat saloon is actually the more sensible choice as it has a large hatchback tailgate as opposed to a restricted saloon bootlid. That means it's easy to access the Arteon's 563-litre boot, while the rear seat space is very generous and the rest of the interior suitably premium and high-quality that's packed with kit. 

We'd recommend: Arteon Elegance 1.5 TSI

Best family cars - Saloons

Jaguar XF

Jaguar XF R-Sport

You’re not mistaken – the Jaguar XF really is a great-value family saloon thanks to some attractive PCP finance offers making it cheaper than many less prestigious alternatives. That means you get sharp styling, a hugely desirable badge and a modern, plush interior for a great price. Plus, the 540-litre boot is practical enough for most, interior space is generous and it’s also great to drive. For the best value XF, you’ll need a petrol-powered model which are powerful, although running costs will be higher than a diesel (but these cost much more per month on finance).

We’d recommend: XF R-Sport P250

New price: £34,950 - £50,535
Leasing price: from £517 per month
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Used price: £11,305 - £37,505
Typical used monthly cost: £279 - £925
Fuel economy: 34 - 57 mpg
Insurance group: 25 - 42

Read our full Jaguar XF review

Volvo S90

Volvo S90 saloon

Like the Jaguar, the Volvo S90 is a prestigious and luxurious saloon car that regularly boasts some appealingly low finance costs, meaning you can get your hands on a premium car for non-premium prices. The S90 is a stylish and modern saloon with a tech-heavy interior and a very relaxed and comfortable drive, with vast rear legroom and a useful 500-litre boot. It’s also seriously safe thanks to several advanced pieces of safety and driver assistance technology, providing great peace of mind for families.

We’d recommend: S90 T4 Momentum

New price: £37,965 - £58,405
Leasing price: from £594 per month
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Used price: £14,970 - £43,845
Fuel economy: 41 - 61 mpg
Insurance group: 27 - 44

Read our full Volvo S90 review

Or try a... Mazda 6

One of the few mainstream saloons left, the Mazda 6 represents great value thanks to tempting PCP finance costs, a great drive and a spacious interior that's bursting with equipment in higher trim levels. Stick with the petrols for the best deals, but all come with sharp styling and a well-built interior. 

We'd recommend: 6 2.0 165 Sport Nav+

Best family cars - Electric 

Kia e-Niro

Kia e-Niro

Sister car to our 2019 Parkers Eco Car of the Year – the Hyundai Kona Electric – the Kia e-Niro comes with one of the biggest boots of any electric family car, at a much more reasonable price than something like the Tesla Model S. At 451 litres, it’s actually bigger than a regular Niro because the battery pack is located beneath the rear seats instead of under the boot floor. And because it’s a practical crossover bodystyle, it’s easy to get in and out of and there’s a generous amount of interior room. It’s packed with standard equipment, and will travel almost 300 miles on one charge if you’re not too heavy on the accelerator pedal.

We’d recommend: e-Niro First Edition EV

New price: £23,845 - £32,995
Leasing price: from £440 per month
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Used price: £12,665 - £23,630
Fuel economy: 64 - 76 mpg
Insurance group: 12 - 14

Read our full Kia e-Niro review

Nissan Leaf

Nissan Leaf

It may not look the most attractive electric car, with slightly odd proportions, but the large, tall body of the Nissan Leaf lends itself to a spacious interior and a 435-litre boot – making it an ideal electric car for families. The boot itself is a large size, but there are some awkward shapes and intrusions which will make it slightly less user-friendly to use if you want to chuck a lot of luggage in. The latest version of the Leaf (called e+ 3.Zero) claims up to 239 miles between charges, so range anxiety shouldn’t as much of a problem as it used to be, while enhancements in 2019 to the car’s media system make it much more user-friendly.

We’d recommend: Leaf Tekna 40kWh

New price: £27,995 - £35,895
Used price: £17,720 - £27,235
Typical used monthly cost: £437 - £672 
Insurance group: 21

Read our full Nissan Leaf review

Or try a... Hyundai Ioniq Electric 

The Ioniq is available as a traditional hybrid, a plug-in hybrid and full-electric model, which claims around 160 miles on a full charge. It's very relaxing to drive thanks to silent running, comes with a high specification on either Premium or Premium SE models and also has a spacious interior that feels light, bright and airy. The boot isn't massive, but it'll be big enough for most small families and won't cost much to run. 

We'd recommend: Ioniq Electric Premium

Best family cars - Estates

Skoda Octavia Estate

Skoda Octavia Estate

You may have spotted just how many Skoda models are in this list, and that’s because the Czech company makes great family cars. Getting an estate version of the affordable Octavia means you get an even more spacious interior with greater headroom, and a vast 610-litre boot at the back. If you want a bit more badge appeal, the similar VW Golf Estate offers 605 litres of space and a slightly plusher feeling interior. Or if you’re not interested in the Skoda, it could be worth looking at the Peugeot 308 SW – offering a huge 660-litre boot, extensive kit list and – crucially – much more rear seat space than the 308 hatchback.

We’d recommend: Octavia SE L 1.5 TSI 150

New price: £19,810 - £31,365
Leasing price: from per month
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Used price: £5,280 - £24,665
Fuel economy: 35 - 80 mpg
Insurance group: 12 - 29

Read our full Skoda Octavia Estate review

Volvo V60

Volvo V60 Momentum

The V60 is another Volvo offering great value PCP finance – which applies to the larger V90 estate – but the V60 is a fantastic blend of space, value for money, luxury and size. It doesn’t feel enormous to drive like the V90 can, but it still offers a practical 529-litre boot with some clever touches to keep luggage in check, there’s easily enough room for five in the spacious cabin and it all feels luxurious, modern and very well built. The engine range is strong and economical for the most part, and it’s very easy to drive. There’s a reason it’s the Parkers Best Large Family Car for 2019.

We’d recommend: V60 Momentum D3 Automatic

New price: £32,415 - £57,205
Leasing price: from £355 per month
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Used price: £34,315 - £37,970
Fuel economy: 40 - 64 mpg
Insurance group: 24 - 34

Read our full Volvo V60 review

Or try a... Kia ProCeed 

The ProCeed may look like a swooping coupe-like estate, but underneath that sleek rear end is a whopping 594-litre boot. Fold the seats down and there's not as much overall space as the two above, but if you don't really fold the seats down very often, the square, usable shape of the boot with the seats up is immensely practical, and there's a very generous amount of legroom in the back, too. It's also vrey good to drive, and good value on PCP finance. 

Best people carriers

Peugeot Rifter

Peugeot Rifter

If you want the ultimate family car, your best option is often a more traditional MPV or a van-derived people carrier. The boxy shape offers a huge interior with room for up to seven seats, and the Peugeot Rifter offers acres of interior space, up to seven seats and a huge boot. You can remove all the seats if you so wish, and a bright and airy cabin will keep everyone happy. It's also very comfortable and more refined than you expect, but you’ll have to be alright with the looks and the van-like feel. If you don't like this one, you can choose the Citroen Berlingo or Vauxhall Combo Life for a different look, but the same mechanical bits used underneath the body work.

We’d recommend: Rifter BlueHDi 130 Allure

New price: £20,915 - £28,115
Leasing price: from £281 per month
View lease deals
Used price: £14,255 - £22,315
Fuel economy: 48 - 68 mpg
Insurance group: 8 - 15

Read our full Peugeot Rifter review

Ford S-Max

Ford S-Max

A more traditional MPV than fashionable SUVs is the Ford S-Max, but it still offers a sleek design for such a large car and doesn’t reek of taxicab like its Galaxy big brother. There’s room for seven in the comfortable cabin – with some of the best seats in the business up front. Individual seats in the rest of the cabin make it very flexible for families, and a range of powerful engines make it a great long-distance companion. If you don’t need the third row of seats all the time, they fold into the floor easily and offer up a huge 700-litre load area instead.

We’d recommend: S-Max Titanium 2.0 EcoBlue 190 Automatic

New price: £28,410 - £40,720
Leasing price: from £315 per month
View lease deals
Used price: £11,620 - £31,645
Fuel economy: 35 - 56 mpg
Insurance group: 16 - 34

Read our full Ford S-Max review

Or try a... BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer

While it isn't quite the full-on seven-seater, BMW's people-carrier is often great value on finance, and for the money you get an efficient family car with high-quality interior, flexible seating and the choice of some great engines that are cheap to run but also provide ample power. It's also pretty good to drive, plus it has a desirable badge. Just make sure it's big enough for your needs as the third row really is for small children only. 

We'd recommend: 220i Sport Gran Tourer

What to read next:

Which hatchback should you buy?
The best hybrid cars for 2019
Everything you need to know about electric cars

*Deals are correct at time of publication. Everyone’s financial circumstances are different and credit is not always available – Parkers cannot recommend a deal for you specifically. These deals are indicative examples of some packages available this week. Bauer Consumer Media Limited is an appointed representative of ZenAuto Limited for the broking of regulated hire agreements. ZenAuto Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. ZenAuto Limited's registered office is Number One, Great Exhibition Way, Kirkstall Forge, Leeds LS5 3BF. ZenAuto Limited's company registration number is 10967345. ZenAuto is the trading name of ZenAuto Limited. Terms, conditions and exclusions apply.