Picking the perfect family car can be quite a dilemma, let’s cut through the bewildering array of mainstream cars on the market and take a look at the top 5 most affordable and versatile (ie, family friendly) hatchback models out there:
Best all-rounder: VW Golf 2009-2012
Pros: Great engines, refined designed, BlueMotion model cheapest to run
Cons: Expensive purchase price, nothing ground-breaking about it
Second-hand price: £5,363 – £23,870
The Golf 2009-2012 is the sixth restatement of this popular design. Known for its comfortable yet secure handling, reliable build standards, trustworthiness and low running costs – there’s no surprise it’s a popular family choice. The lowest ownership rates come through the diesel models such as the BlueMotion-badge golfs which ensure very low CO2 output (meaning low tax) and excellent fuel economy. Their petrol models with larger engines may be cheaper upfront but, be careful, they’ll cost you more in the long term. Having said that, if you don’t rack up much mileage, the 1.2l petrol Golf is a sensible option. If you’re apprehensive about the price, check out Volkswagen golf used car reviews.
Our favourite is the 1.6l Golf TDI BlueMotion because of its low cost performance.
Nicest drive for the driver: BMW 1 Series 2011-onwards
Pros: Brilliant engine range, excellent handling, rear-drive feature
Cons: Costly, competitors are more comfortable
The BMW 1-Series is a rear-wheel-drive, which is unusual for a hatchback. It has well-weighted and communicative handling, which makes it a popular choice by drivers from all the cars of its class. With BMW you have a pick of powerful engines and slick gearboxes and the interiors are always stylish – which should be expected from their premium vehicles. The 1-Series 120d is the best for running costs but for outright performance there’s no doubt that the M135i wins time and time again – exceptional performance that’s affordable too.
Second-hand price: £10,724 – £29,344
Ideal for plenty of space: Skoda Octavia 2004-2012
Pros: Large boot, drives really well, lots of kit
Cons: Noisy engines, lack of character
Second-hand price: £1,140 – £18,648
The Skoda Octavia is somewhat based on the VW Golf’s foundations, but is far superior in terms of space – both interior and boot size. There’s a lot of nice touches with this Skoda, like nifty storage solutions and boot hooks – it’s a model that’s been created with the family in mind. Plus, you’ll get a lot more kit for your cash than with some of the more luxurious brands like BMW and Audi. It handles well and uses the same family of engines as the Golf. The diesel engines are somewhat noisy, but smaller petrol designs suffer when it comes to fuel economy, so it’s just a price you pay for affordable running costs with this one.
Our favourite is the 1.6 TDI SE for its equipment and price.
Great for passenger comfort: Vauxhall Astra 2009-onwards
Pros: Very comfortable despite size, great value
Cons: A bit dull style wise, rival cars are more efficient
Second-hand price: £4,543 – £14,263
The Vauxhall Astra is one of the best-selling cars in the UK and we can see why it’s had such success. It ensures great value at every trim level, each packed with, and there’s discounts available on the forecourt too. The engine selection is large and you’ll find it a comfy drive even on long journeys. The Bi-Turbo diesel is probably one to stay away from, as it’s noisy yet pretty inefficient. We’d choose the 1.7 CDTi ecoFLEX SE – pleasing on the wallet and low cost to run long term.
Best for ‘standard kit’: Ford Focus 2011-onward
Pros: Loaded with kit, comfortable, efficient
Cons: Less premium than competitors, petrol engines not as efficient
Second-hand price: £6,746 – £23,688
The Ford Focus is the car that will spring to mind when most people think of a family hatchback; it’s been one of the best-sellers for a very long time, and shows little sign of slowing! The key features of this car are its blend of performance quality and handling, alongside its impressive list of as-standard kit. Our favourite is the Zetec 1. TDCI for its low running costs and load of extras.