What to look for in a family car

Whether you’re buying one because the kids are getting bigger or because there’s a new arrival on the way, it’s worth doing some research before splashing out on a new family car. Not only do you want a model that fits you all in comfortably, you also need one that keeps everyone safe – and doesn’t cost the earth to run. This quick guide to what to look for in a family car will help you to make the right decision, so that everyone – from your baby or teenager to your bank manager – is happy with your choice.

Type of car

A five-door rather than three-door vehicle is generally far more practical for families of all sizes, while wide-opening or sliding doors are an advantage for those who need child seats.
Larger families, with say three or more children, may also need a five or six-seat vehicle. Well-thought-of cars in this category include the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso and the Seat Alhambra, which offers seven seats and has CO2 emissions of just 146 grams per kilometre – not bad for such a big vehicle. If you want to spoil the kids – and make long journeys easier for everyone to bear – you may also want to think about paying for extra features such as DVD screens on the backs of seats.

Safety

When it comes to driving your children around, their safety is always of the utmost importance. You can check which makes and models will best protect your little treasures by heading to the Euro NCAP site, which provides details of crash test results. According to Euro NCAP, the Volvo V40 is the safest new car you can buy today, while the Citroen Picasso and the Honda CR-V also get five stars. For families with young children, it also makes sense to pick a car with Isofix car seat mounting points that make seat fitting faster and more secure.

Boot space

All mums with small children know that being able to fit a pushchair into the boot is a must. But even if you are beyond the buggy stage, you still need a car that can fit the weekly shop or the holiday cases into the boot, as well as the dog, if you have one.

FamilyCar

The Skoda Yeti and the Nissan Qashqai are two highly-rated family cars that come with good boot space, and the option of 4x4 for those who like to get off the beaten track or who live in rural areas. The Ford Focus 1.6 ECOnetic estate also gives you loads of boot space – particularly with the rear seats folded down – and costs nothing to tax as it has CO2 emissions of just 88 grams per kilometre.

Running costs

Buying a fuel-efficient vehicle will save you a lot of money in the long term – especially if you cover a lot of miles a month. What’s more, choosing a car with a smaller engine will also help to make it cheaper to insure. Insurers place cars into one of 50 groups, depending on factors such as engine size and how much they cost to repair. The higher the group, the higher the insurance premiums you will have to pay, which is why you should check which group a particular model is in (the lists are maintained at www.thatcham.org) before taking the plunge.

Taxing problem

Last but not least, don’t forget that powerful cars also tend to pay more car tax. You would, for example, pay nothing to tax the ECOnetic Ford Focus mentioned above because its emissions are less than 100 grams per kilometre. However, the Seat Alhambra would cost £140 a year to tax, while and driving a powerful model that emits 225 grams of CO2 per kilometre would mean paying out almost £500 a year. You can check rates on www.gov.uk/vehicle-tax-rate-tables.

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