Got a family? Lucky you. Got any money? No, thought not. What you need is a good value used family car.
Anyone old enough to remember Dad’s old Austin A35 chugging gamely along with the whole family of five squashed inside will be glad to hear that the family member’s lot has improved out of all recognition in the last few years.
Now, you’ll enjoy space, comfort, peace and a raft of infotainment options in any one of a big range of great family motors. Even used ones.
Here’s our pick of the ten best on the market right now.
10. Honda Civic
Our pick: a 2014 1.6 i-DTEC SE with 42,000 miles will be around £9000
If keeping going no matter what is all you’re worried about, the crazily reliable Civic is the car for you. Throw in a massive boot and flip-up rear seats that by rights should feature in every family car and you’re made. Other cars ride and steer more satisfyingly though.
9. Vauxhall Astra
Our pick: a 2015 1.6i 16v SRi 5dr with 29,000 miles will be around £8300
Plenty of metal for your money: that’s the Astra. Petrol versions aren’t that exciting, diesels not that quiet, but comfort, space, efficiency are all more than acceptable. Driving manners are okay too. Not a car to be especially proud of, but functional and good value.
8. Nissan Pulsar
Our pick: a 2016 1.5 dCi Acenta with 33,000 miles will be around £9400
Two words you’re unlikely to find in the same sentence are ‘excitement’ and ‘Pulsar’, but if that isn’t an issue for you this Nissan will reward you by providing loads of passenger and cargo space, plenty of kit and a peaceful drive. Make sure you can put up with the cheap-looking dash and the flattish seats before buying, then enjoy what should be a trouble-free ownership experience.
7. Mazda 3
Our pick: a 2016 2.0 SE-L with 34,000 miles will be around £9500
Fuel economy and driving fun are the Mazda 3’s strong points, thanks to excellent diesel and petrol engines and a well-engineered chassis. Not so good for longer journeys if your tolerance of cabin noise is low, but you can always cure that by turning the stereo up.
6. BMW 1 Series
Our pick: a 2013 118i Sport with 30,000 miles will be around £10,100
BMW’s entry-level car provides a good drive with ‘posh badge’ value. The space isn’t optimal for a big family, and you won’t get much equipment in basic versions, but if engine efficiency and fun behind the wheel are a bit more important than having more places for Johnny to conceal his sticky lollies then the 1 Series will do the job.
5. Audi A3
Our pick: a 2014 1.4 TFSI Sportback Sport with 44,000 miles will be around £13,700
The A3’s annoying tendency to win lots of family car awards makes it difficult to find used ones at bargain prices, but if you can bring yourself to stump up the cash you’ll see why it’s expensive. Space, ride and handling and engine options are all excellent, and the package they’re wrapped up in is one definition of quality
4. Ford Focus
Our pick: a 2017 1.0 Ecoboost 100 Zetec with 29,000 miles will be around £11,895
More people in the UK buy Ford Focuses than any other family hatchback. That’s because of the excellent value of both purchase and running costs and the dynamism of the drive, even with the brilliant 1.0-litre turbo engine. A Golf is classier, but Titanium-spec Focus will leave you wanting for nothing on equipment. Huge choice of cars too.
3. Volkswagen Golf
Our pick: a 2015 1.2 TSI S 5dr with 26,000 miles will be around £12,000
Talking of the Golf, here it is at number three in our list and that’s all down to its all-round ability and appeal. Again, you won’t find many bargains, which tells you something, but at least the extra money you spend on buying one won’t melt away like snow off a dyke at resale time. Comfortable for a small family with the bonus of timeless styling and the still-respected Volkswagen badge.
2. Skoda Octavia
Our pick: a 2014 1.6 TDI Elegance with 49,000 miles will be around £9200
Another car that doesn’t quite match the Golf on class but that scores heavily in the key practicalities of room (which it has in abundance), equipment and handling. The suspension can be a bit noisy, and the style-conscious will probably give it a miss, but otherwise the Octavia is a brilliant used car choice for families.
1. Seat Leon
Our pick: a 2014 1.2 TSI SE with 17,000 miles will be around £11,800
Like the Octavia in offering a well-built and spacious cabin, like its close relative the Golf in its stylish all-round competence, and like both of them in handling and driving involvement – but cheaper and arguably better looking than both of them. Put it all together and it’s hard to put the Leon anywhere other than the top of our list.