While lots of us dream of cruising the highways in a sleek sports car or exploring the countryside in a cheeky two-seat convertible, the reality is that for many of us family life dictates something a bit more practical and down-to-earth.
The trend across the motor industry is for SUVs, with manufacturers trying to tell us that they’re the one-size-fits-all answer for all families. There are plenty of decent ones out there but, a raised ride height aside, they’re not necessarily any better than a good old-fashioned hatchback, saloon or estate.
So if you’re looking for an alternative to the tide of family SUVs on the market, here are 10 of the best large family cars on sale in 2020.
In terms of sheer space for your money virtually nothing can come close to the Skoda Superb - it’s absolutely massive yet prices start at just £25,000. The hatchback is incredibly spacious, comfortable, well equipped and comes with a range of engines and transmissions to suit every need. And for the ultimate in family load-lugging, the estate’s boot is an unrivalled 660 litres.
The Mondeo was once the default answer to the question “what’s the best large family car?”. It offered value, space and a driving experience no mainstream rival could match. In recent years its popularity declined as PCP made more premium models just as affordable and the world fell in love with SUVs. Yet, the Mondeo is still a great choice for families looking foe a traditional large hatchback or estate. It’s still good to drive and comes with a broad spread of trim levels and engines, even if it’s not quite as great value as it once was.
The Superb’s “little” brother is a very similar prospect to the Skoda flagship. A brand new model has just launched and is bigger, safer and more technologically advanced than ever. Like the Superb, the Octavia offers more space for driver, passenger and luggage than similarly priced rivals and comes in hatchback and estate body styles. The 2020 model brings adaptive cruise control, high-end infotainment systems and five USB ports so the whole family can charge their devices on the go.
Peugeot is enjoying a renaissance at the moment driven by its strong SUV offering. But alongside those high-riding options, the 508 is a leftfield but surprisingly strong addition to the range. It’s arguably the best-looking car in its class with handsome exterior and interior styling in hatch and estate guise. It’s also refined, comfortable and comes with a choice of economical diesel engines or unfashionably powerful petrols. High-tech features such as a night vision system, automatic high beams, lane position assistance and adaptive cruise control also make it an attractive package.
Volvo’s large family car also comes as a saloon, badged S60, but for ultimate practicality, we’re going for the V60 estate here. The Swedish brand’s march from dowdy and dull to daring and dynamic is evident in the V60’s aggressive exterior and Scandi-cool interior with its driftwood inserts and pale leather. The driving experience is a world away from older Volvos as well and, as part of a wider brand direction, it’s available as either a mild or plug-in hybrid. Chuck in Volvo’s reputation as a safety pioneer and you’ve got a winning, if pricey, family wagon.
Audi is another brand making plenty of inroads with its SUVs but it hasn’t abandoned its traditional family saloon/estate roots either. The latest A4 is a study in understated class, with subtle but recognisable styling and an interior that oozes quality. It’s also everything you’d expect from a premium German brand - refined, quick and smooth but also more expensive than some others on this list.
The Ford Mondeo’s perennial mainstream rival, the Insignia is much underrated. The latest generation is decent looking, solid to drive and plenty big enough for a family of four. Equally important, it better fulfils the value-for-money brief that the Mondeo, with huge amounts of kit, including high-end tech such as adaptive matrix headlights, for reasonable prices. One minor issue is the lack of an estate version.
The Camry name only returned to the UK in 2019 after 15 years away. Big saloons have never been big sellers for Toyota here but the brand is hoping for modest success with this all-new car. Based on the same platform as the luxurious Lexus ES and using the same hybrid drivetrain, the emphasis here is on comfort, refinement and equipment levels. Plus Toyota’s bombproof record for reliability.
Mazda’s 6 has long been a quiet contender to the ubiquitous Mondeo and is still up there, offering a more premium look and feel inside and out for similar money. The current model is a stunner and comes well equipped. There’s also an estate option if you want practicality and looks. The 6’s weakness is a limited range of engines. Just one diesel - a 2.2-litre with 148bhp - and one petrol - a 2.0, non-turbo with 142bhp - mean it can’t compete for as broad a range of customers as rivals.
Volkswagen sits towards the more premium end of the VW Group family and the Passat reflects that with a high-end look and feel that gets close to the traditional German “big three”. It’s well built, comfortable and packs in lots of the latest technology, and there’s an estate version too. Its biggest issue is that the slightly fancier finish over its Skoda stablemates brings a higher price too.