Best family cars

Here are the family best cars to make a parents life easier and their young ones safer

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While raising kids can be a rewarding endeavour, it's also a major upheaval in your life. You've probably had to child-proof your entire house and relearn the meaning of the word "tired". Maybe you've been making do with your old car, which is cheap to run but not very kid-friendly. Picking the right family car could make your life a little less stressful and smoother sailing.

How to choose a car suited to parents

If you go on any car review website you'll likely find 150 different brands, each producing between 1 and 15 different models, meaning there are potentially over 1,000 unique passenger vehicles available to buy today. How on earth do you narrow down this mind-boggling number of cars and pick one that'll make your parenting life less challenging?

Here are some beneficial attributes to look for in a car – factors that will help you create a shortlist of vehicles that you and your kids will be thrilled to ride around in:

Safety is the number one priority

First off, safety is paramount and is our key consideration. Everything else on the list will result in a more practical car, but a safe car could mean the difference between walking away from a smash with minor scratches or ending up in A&E. Fortunately, the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) thoroughly crash tests new cars before giving them a star rating. Five stars is the maximum possible rating and as car technology advances, the test becomes more stringent. That means newer models generally are considered to offer more protection in an accident than older ones.

Each ANCAP score is broken down into sub-categories of Adult Occupant Protection, Vulnerable Road User Protection (pedestrians and cyclists), safety systems and most importantly, Child Occupant Protection. Ideally, a new car would have an 85% or higher child safety score. Active safety assists are like having an auxiliary back-up driver to keep you safe by providing an additional level of support in case you become distracted because your kids are screaming while reversing in a car park (blindspot assist and rear traffic alert) or during a lane change on the motorway (lane change assist). Some cars will even monitor the driver's concentration levels and alert them if they need a break. Adaptive cruise can reduce driver fatigue by automatically maintaining a set speed and distance to the vehicle in front. For pre-owned cars, you can use the howsafeisyourcar.com.au website to check the safety score.

Cabin space

Journeys with kids of all ages means you have a heap of stuff to carry. Newborns and infants need feeding supplies, strollers, spare nappies, car seats, and the list goes on. If you have two kids then the number of bags increases exponentially. Older kids require booster seats, toys, food, drinks and a stroller. Likewise pre-teens and teenagers will no doubt be bringing along half of their possessions and that's before you pack your own luggage. If you're going on holiday, you could be packed to the roof. So internal space is a crucial thing to look for in a new car.

Take your family along with you if you're testing cars down at a dealership. Make sure the car has sufficient child restraint anchors (known as ISOFIX points), preferably on the middle row. Does the car have seven or eight seats? That may prove useful as more young ones arrive over the years, extending the useful lifespan of your chosen vehicle.

Ease of use and driving assists

In the old days, cars were very rudimentary. They had a steering wheel (sometimes power assisted), seatbelts, a radio/cassette player and wing mirrors. Nowadays, even the most budget-friendly cars will have lots of accessories and fancy gadgets. Some of them might sound like a gimmick, but others are really useful and will definitely make driving a stress-free task.

Look out for models that have parking sensors and reversing cameras; they'll make tight multi-storey car parks that little bit easier and in the US alone, it is estimated rear cameras could save as many as 95 lives per year and potentially 7,000 injuries.

Keyless entry is legendary. If you've got your arms full carrying your sleeping child and shopping bags, you can simply open the door rather than having the hassle of remembering which pocket you put the fob in. A few cars even have gesture-controlled boot tailgate opening, again a boon for parents weighed down with bags. A hands-free phone system helps you legally update your employer or kid's school if you get stuck in traffic. A car that's easy to drive and operate should fit neatly into your life, rather than proving a nuisance.

General practicality

Don't forget practicality when shopping for cars. If you find any of the controls hard to operate while driving, look for one that is more intuitive. Cars with triple-zone climate control will keep the whole cabin cool rather than just the front two passengers. Some manufacturers offer rear entertainment screens with built-in wireless headphones and DVD players, entertaining your children for hours on long trips.

Automotive designers have become masters at utilising the maximum available cabin space, integrating neat cubbies and storage bins that put essentials like wet wipes and snacks within arm's reach. A few car makers even install refrigerated consoles for storing drinks.

If you have young kids, leather seats are wipe-clean and can repel juice spills rather than absorb them. Removable mats will also limit the time you spend cleaning your car. Built-in sun shades quickly shield your young ones from the heat and bright lights, as will rear privacy glass. Having roadside assistance and breakdown cover (included for several years with the purchase of a new car from some brands) will take the edge off an unexpected problem and prevent you from being stranded by the kerb for hours on end.

Boot space

Look for a car with a large boot space. Occasionally, cars that appear big externally may actually have pretty poor cargo capacity, due to the body shape or style. Boot volume is measured in cubic litres according to a German standard, VDA. The larger the number, with the middle row seats in use, the more room you have to carry stuff. Remember to check that the wheel wells and interior trim pieces don't physically restrict the useable space. You might enjoy cars with false floors, increasing storage and making loading a little easier as the floor is flush with the boot sill.

Price

Price is always going to be a major deciding factor. While a $70,000 SUV might be the perfect solution for a family of four, if you don't have the means to buy one, there's no point considering it. Check out running costs and servicing charges before committing to a purchase to see if you can truly afford a car. Decide on your budget first and make sure to use our car finance calculators to save hundreds of dollars over a car loan term.

WATCH: Finder countdown of the top cars for families

Top seven cars for people with kids

Small to medium cars

Just because a car is small, it isn't necessarily a bad car for families. OK, so you'd probably avoid a micro/light car like the two-door Fiat 500, but a VW Polo or a Mazda3 would make the ideal vehicle for a couple with a young baby, especially if you live in a city.

VW Polo 2019 hatch

Car: Volkswagen Polo (five door)
Internal space (cabin width/boot depth) 1,384mm/699mm
Boot size (seats up/folded down) 280 litres/952 litres
Useful interior features Heat-insulating tinted glass standard across range, child safety door locks, boot has an adjustable floor
Safety rating 5 Star ANCAP
ANCAP Child Occupant Protection 85% (42 out of 49)
Safety assists Manual speed limiter, seat belt reminders, AEB, adaptive cruise control, two front airbags, front side chest protection airbags, side head protection airbags front and second rows, blindspot monitor, fatigue reminder and detection, emergency stop signal, forward collision warning, reverse camera, tyre pressure monitoring – standard across the Polo line-up
ISOFIX child seat anchors Two
Price From $22,289
Who's it for? Up to three adults and one newborn to teenage child
Summary Comes with 1-year roadside assistance

Mazda3 hatch 2019

Car Mazda3 (five door)
Internal space (exterior width/boot depth) 1,795mm/not published
Boot size (seats up/folded down) 351litres/1,263 litres
Useful interior features Sat nav is standard, as is an 8.8-inch infotainment display, Bluetooth handsfree is included, the Mazda3 has front and rear bottle holders, rear vents on all models (apart from the base G20 Pure) and tinted green windows
Safety rating 5 Star ANCAP
ANCAP Child Occupant Protection 89% (43.8 out of 49)
Safety assists 360-degree around view optionally available, keyless entry on top four models. Standard features include blind spot monitoring, airbags for front occupants, side, curtains (front and rear) and driver's knee, driver attention alert, forward obstruction warning, lane keep assist, rear parking sensors, rear camera, rear cross traffic alert, seat belt warning, smart braking, traffic sign recognition and tyre pressure monitoring
ISOFIX child seat anchors Two
Price From $28,629
Who's it for? Up to three adults and one newborn to teenage child or two adults and two kids
Summary A very popular car, often in the top three monthly best-selling vehicles overall

Large passenger cars

For those who need a little more room to breathe.

Picture not described

Car Ford Mondeo Wagon
Internal space (exterior width/boot depth) 1,421mm/not published
Boot size (seats up/folded down) 500litres/1,605 litres
Useful interior features Ford's SYNC3 infotainment system is one of the best in the business, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. All Mondeos have DAB+ radio, iPod integration and sat nav. The infotainment touch screen measures 8 inches across. Front passenger seats are heated on Titanium models, as are rear outer seats. Dual-zone climate control is found on all Mondeos. A power opening tailgate features on the top-spec Titanium Mondeo
Safety rating 5 Star ANCAP
ANCAP Child Occupant Protection Not individually assessed at time of testing
Safety assists Standard safety features comprise of: front driver and passenger airbags, seat-mounted front occupant airbags, driver's knee airbags and front and back curtain airbags. All Mondeos have emergency assistance, all-round parking sensors, MyKey, hill launch assist, reversing cameras and inflating outer two rear seatbelts. The higher grade Titanium wagon also has adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, as well as enhanced active park assist, lane keep aid with departure warning, pre-collision AEB and adaptive suspension, plus a smart keyless entry.
ISOFIX child seat anchors Two
Price From $39,028
Who's it for? Up to three adults and one newborn to teenage child or two adults and two kids
Summary Take all of your stuff and your kids in comfort

Skoda Octavia wagon 2019

Car: Škoda Octavia Wagon
Internal space (exterior width/boot depth) 1,449mm/1,050mm
Boot size (seats up/folded down) 588litres/1,718 litres
Useful interior features You can store 1.5-litre bottles in the Octavia's front doors and 500ml ones in the rear door trim panels. The rear centre arm rest folds down to reveal additional cup holders. There's a net storage system in the boot, as well as remote paddles to fold the rear seats. Wagons also have a roll-out cargo area cover and folding hooks. As if that's not enough, the Octavia has inbuilt umbrellas – it's a real class act this car. Dual-zone climate control is a welcome addition, as is smartphone connectivity through an 8-inch touchscreen
Safety rating 5 Star ANCAP
ANCAP Child Occupant Protection Not individually assessed at time of testing
Safety assists Adaptive cruise control, front assist with city emergency brake, electronic stability control (incl. hill hold control), anti-lock braking system (ABS), multi-collision brake, reverse camera, rear parking sensors, tyre pressure monitoring, fatigue detection, front and rear seat belt reminders are all standard Octavia features. All Octavias have at least front occupant airbags, side airbags, front and rear airbags and driver's knee airbags
ISOFIX child seat anchors Two
Price From $27,390
Who's it for? Up to three adults and one newborn to teenage child or two adults and two kids
Summary This is one to go for if you want the option of a sporty family car, with Škoda's trademark practicality

Volvo V90 Cross Country 2019

Car: Volvo V90 Cross Country
Internal space (exterior width/boot depth) 1,460mm/1,812mm
Boot size (seats up/folded down) 560litres/1,526 litres
Useful interior features Leather seats as standard make the Volvo easy to wipe down, optional packs add panoramic roofs with automatic sun shades, tinted rear glass and four-zone climate control keeps everyone temperate. The rear side windows have sun blinds. Keyless entry and handsfree boot opening are standard and you can hide the contents of your boot with a cover. This car is fully equipped for almost everything life can throw at you
Safety rating Not tested, but the S90 version has 5 stars
ANCAP Child Occupant Protection Wagon not tested, but the S90 sedan has 80% child protection rating and 93% for safety assists.
Safety assists Volvo Intellisafe including: collision mitigation with large animal detection, steering evasive action assist, pilot assist (adds steering assistance to adaptive cruise), lane keep assist, blind spot information, run-off road mitigation, slippery road alert, hazard light alert, road sign information, speed limiter, driver alertness control, rear collision warning, cross traffic alert, 360-degree camera, parking assist pilot, optional built-in booster seats
ISOFIX child seat anchors Two
Price From $80,990 MSRP
Who's it for? Up to four adults and one newborn to teenage child or two adults and two kids
Summary A hybrid mix of the increasingly popular SUV and the original family wagon by Volvo

Small and medium SUVs

SUVs are all the rage with new car buyers at the moment, thanks to a combination of excellent value for money, safety equipment and a high seating position.

Picture not described

Car: Nissan X-Trail
Internal space (exterior width/boot depth) 1,543mm/not available
Boot size (seats up/folded down) 565 litres/945 litres
Useful interior features Bluetooth hands-free, second row passenger air vents, intelligent key, cruise control, heated and cooled centre console cup holders are all standard
Safety rating 5 Star ANCAP
ANCAP Child Occupant Protection Not individually assessed at time of testing
Safety assists Standard safety equipment includes: front, front-side and side curtain SRS airbags, vehicle dynamic control, forward collision warning, rearview camera and intelligent emergency braking. Higher-end models have blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, intelligent emergency braking with pedestrian detection and lane keep assist
ISOFIX child seat anchors Two
Price From $32,990
Who's it for? Up to three adults and one newborn to teenage child or two adults and two kids
Summary A highly rated SUV ideally tailored for family life

Mitsubishi Outlander 2019 SUV

Car: Mitsubishi Outlander
Internal space (exterior width/boot depth) 1,306mm/991mm
Boot size (seats up/folded down) 477 litres/1,306 litres
Useful interior features Dual-zone climate control on all models plus rear vents apart from on the base spec five-seater ES. All models have plenty of cup and bottle storage space. It's nice to have the option of seven seats, but this will reduce the useable boot space
Safety rating 5 Star ANCAP
ANCAP Child Occupant Protection Not individually assessed at time of testing
Safety assists Driver and front passenger airbags (plus side protection, driver knee airbag, curtain airbags), emergency brake assist system, smart braking, reversing camera, speed limiter, activity stability assist and traction control are all standard features. Top-spec Exceed Outlanders have forward collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, misacceleration avoidance, auto-high beams, blind spot warning, multi-around monitor, lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert
ISOFIX child seat anchors Two
Price From $28,990
Who's it for? Up to three (five on seven seaters) adults and one newborn to teenage child or two (four on seven seaters) adults and two kids
Summary Mitsubishi says the Outlander is built for a growing family. And it's the only one available as a hybrid in our list

Large SUVs

Large SUVs are perfect for those who need even more room, additional tech and a vehicle that's not scared of venturing off-road.

Toyota LandCruiser 200 4x4 2019

Car: Toyota LandCruiser 200
Internal space (exterior width/boot depth) 1,549mm/1,155mm
Boot size (seats up/folded down) 620 litres/1,943 litres
Useful interior features The LandCruiser is available as a five, seven and eight seater! GXL seems to be the pick of the range for families, as it offers seating for eight, privacy glass, side steps, a smart-entry system, dual-zone front climate control with rear cooler controls, a rear 220V outlet, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite navigation and a 6.1-inch touchscreen with DAB
Safety rating 5 Star ANCAP
ANCAP Child Occupant Protection Not individually assessed at time of testing
Safety assists Cruise control, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, vehicle stability control, active traction control, hill start assist and third row curtain airbags are all standard. The top spec model can be outfitted with smart active safety assists
ISOFIX child seat anchors Three anchorage points
Price From $84,718
Who's it for? Up to three (six on eight seaters) adults and one newborn to teenage child or two (five on seven seaters) adults and two kids
Summary When you need to take your whole family, including the dog, out into the bush

Picture not described

Car: Range Rover Sport
Internal space (exterior width/boot depth) 1,541mm/629mm
Boot size (seats up/folded down) 780 litres/1,686litres
Useful interior features An expensive SUV, for sure. But the Range Rover Sport has a sound-proofed windscreen, power-adjustable front seats, leather upholstery, two-zone climate control, the InControl navigation and remote access app, a 10-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth and other features. The more you spend, the more you receive, to the point where you get keyless entry, rear-entertainment screens and other nifty features. You can also purchase two additional rear seats to make it a seven-seat SUV
Safety rating Not tested
ANCAP Child Occupant Protection Not tested
Safety assists In terms of safety, the basic S trim grade has front and rear parking aids, a speed limiter, emergency braking, a rear camera, cruise control, lane departure warnings, an interactive driver display and remote locking/cooling with the InControl app. Smart and active assists are optional extras, also unlocked by purchasing a higher trim grade Range Rover Sports
ISOFIX child seat anchors Two
Price From $105,481.10
Who's it for? Up to three adults and two newborn to teenage children (sixth and seventh seats ideal for children who do not need a booster seat)
Summary When you want to waft around in luxury

Having kids can be overwhelming sometimes, leaving you with little time and patience for much else. Following this guide and using the below finance calculator will hopefully help you choose a great family car that you and your kids love, at a price that you can readily afford. If you have found the vehicle you want, it might be worth comparing car loans below to see what the repayments would be on a number of different loan options. Comparing finance could potentially save you hundreds of dollars.

Rates last updated November 21st, 2019
$
Name Product Interest Rate (p.a.) Comparison Rate (p.a.) Min Loan Amount Loan Term Application Fee Monthly Service Fee Product Description Monthly Repayment
Latitude New and Used Car Loan
6.99% (fixed)
8.1%
$5,000
1 to 7 years
$295
$10
You'll receive a fixed rate of 6.99% p.a.
Apply for a loan from $5,000 to finance a new or used car. Flexible repayments and options to finance a classic car.
IMB New Car Loan
5.45% (fixed)
5.8%
$2,000
1 to 7 years
$250
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate of 5.45% p.a.
A low minimum borrowing amount of $2,000 that you can use to purchase a new car or one up to two years old.
Beyond Bank Low Rate Car Loan
5.49% (fixed)
5.73%
$25,000
1 to 7 years
$175
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate of 5.49% p.a.
Take advantage of a competitive rate, pre-approval and no early repayment fees when you finance a car under two years old.
Loans.com.au - New Car Loan
4.89% (fixed)
5.44%
$5,000
3 to 5 years
$400
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate of 4.89% p.a. based on your risk profile
Finance a new car and benefit from features such as fast approval, no ongoing fees and an optional balloon payment.
RACV New Car Loans
From 5.69% (fixed)
6.39%
$5,000
1 to 7 years
$499
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate from 5.69% p.a.
A larger loan of $5,000 or more to help you buy a new or used car. 5-hour pre approval available and no ongoing fees.
Stratton Finance New Car Loan
From 4.69% (fixed)
5.64%
$10,000
3 to 7 years
$700 (for private seller vehicles this fee is $608)
$9
You'll receive a fixed or variable rate depending on the lender you are approved with
Apply for up to $100,000 and use cash or trade in a vehicle to use as a deposit. Optional balloon payment available.
Credit Concierge Car Loan
From 4.79% (fixed)
5.34%
$10,000
1 to 7 years
$400
$0
You'll receive a interest rate from 4.79% p.a. with a comparison rate from 5.34% p.a.
Get access to over 20 providers to fund a new or used car.
Westpac Car Loan
8.49% (fixed)
9.67%
$10,000
1 to 7 years
$250
$12
You'll receive a fixed rate of 8.49% p.a.
Finance a new or used car and benefit from convenient features for car buyers including a car search tool and the option to borrow extra for on-road costs.
St.George Secured Personal Loan - Fixed Rate
From 8.49% (fixed)
9.6%
$3,000
1 to 5 years
$195
$12
You'll receive a fixed rate from 8.49% p.a. based on the value of your car
Get a competitive rate and apply for a larger loan up to $80,000 when you attach a new or used car as security to the loan.
CUA Secured Fixed Car Loan
6.79% (fixed)
7.16%
$5,000
1 to 7 years
$265 ($175 Establishment Fee + $90 Security Administration Fee)
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate of 6.79% p.a.
A secured loan with a high maximum borrowing amount up to $100,000. Redraw facility and no monthly fees.
NRMA New Car Loan
From 5.69% (fixed)
6.39%
$5,000
1 to 7 years
$499
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate of 5.69% p.a.
Purchase a new car with this loan and benefit from a fixed rate and no monthly fees. Pre-approval available within 5 business hours.
IMB Secured Personal Loan
6.45% (fixed)
6.8%
$2,000
1 to 5 years
$250
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate of 6.45% p.a.
Benefit from this competitive rate by securing the loan with a vehicle up to 6 years old. Use this flexible loan for any purpose.
Australian Military Bank Car Loan
From 5.71% (fixed)
6.57%
$1,000
1 to 7 years
from $100 to $500
$10
You'll receive a fixed rate between 5.71% p.a. and 8.66% p.a. based on your personal credit history
A flexible loan to help you finance a car, motorbike or boat up to five years old.
NRMA Used Car Loan
From 6.99% (fixed)
7.7%
$5,000
1 to 7 years
$499
$0
You'll receive a fixed rate from 6.99% p.a.
Finance a used car with NRMA and benefit from a fixed rate term and no monthly fees. Pre-approval available within 5 business hours.

Compare up to 4 providers

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