Never before have we been presented with such an eclectic mix of cars designed to carry the whole family.
Years ago, the most effective family machines were MPVs – multi-purpose vehicles – but these days, parents typically want SUVs.
And it's easy to see why, with SUVs mixing the space and functionality of an MPV into a more fashionable body shape. Chances are that if you're reading this, you're tempted by a family-sized SUV yourself.
But there are so many out there, so which one is best for you?
Fear not, dear parent, because we're here to help. We give you six characterful SUVs ready to make family journeys that much nicer.
We could have started this list under the £15k mark, because at the time of writing, Dusters start from £13,750 on cinch. Honestly, Dacias are certified bargains.
But with just over fifteen grand to spend, you can bag yourself a two-year-old 8,000-mile Duster in Prestige trim, which adds a few great extra features – including snazzy alloys, parking sensors, and satin black cabin trim – to this plucky model’s base.
With a Renault-supplied turbocharged 1.3 petrol engine under the bonnet, you’ve 130hp to play with. And best of all, the Dacia’s hard-wearing interior is tough enough to handle any unforeseen tantrums. Perfect.
Range Rover Evoque
The Evoque might seem like a far cry from a value-focused Dacia, but on cinch, Land Rover’s smallest Range Rover variant can be had for less than £20k. With £20,950 to spend at the time of writing, you can access a 2017 Evoque with 70,000 miles on the clock, equipped with Land Rover’s muscular turbo-diesel 2.0-litre, parking sensors and an electric tailgate.
Not only that, you get a car dressed in one of the most widely-liked bodies out there. The Evoque remains at the height of fashion, so at this price, it’s an absolute steal.
Adding to that, should your family jaunts occasionally include lightly-flooded country lanes or slippery sections of road, the Evoque brings with it Land Rover’s rugged reputation. It’s matched by impressive on-road dynamics.
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Given the fact that this crossover SUV shares many parts with the brilliant Ford Fiesta, it’s of little surprise that the Puma – essentially a jacked-up, more spacious version of its hatchback sibling – is such a cracking car.
It offers all of the charm and character of the Fiesta in a more practical crossover base, with lots of cabin kit and a boot that’s surprisingly spacious. That last feature is helped by an underfloor storage area that can hold wet wellies or smelly PE kits alike thanks to its rubber lining.
The Puma is cracking value for money at the moment, with nearly-new cars – we have a one-year-old, 900-mile model at the time of writing – up for barely over £21k. Plus, with Ford’s 1.0-litre mild-hybrid petrol engine, the Puma is as clean and frugal as it is fun.
For those with taller kids, there’s always the Volvo XC60. This is a pretty big car with even bigger abilities, mixed together with Volvo build quality, style, and luxury.
Yet given those compelling traits, with little more than £30k you’re in reach of some of our nicest and newest XC60s, including a handful of highly-specced 'Momentum' models we found at the time of writing. This variant is as fit for a family getaway as it is handling the weekly shop.
The list of XC60 features is enormous, with 18-inch alloys, roof racks and heated, electric seats fitted to even the most lightly-specced cars, providing a glimpse of the level of kit aboard each of these mid-sized Volvo SUVs.
Volvos are also tremendously tough and safe, and the XC60 delivers strongly by all counts in those departments.
The Cupra Ateca is the hottest offering of this list, because it mixes 300hp of turbocharged 2.0-litre power with sports suspension and aggressive looks.
Cupra – SEAT’s performance division – has ramped up the standard Ateca so it can be as entertaining on an open road as it is practical on the morning commute.
If you want to make the other parents envious – or, indeed, give the kids something to brag about to their friends – a Cupra Ateca will tick many boxes.
Of course, this isn’t an all-out racing machine, because Cupra’s work to the engine and suspension has had no effect on the Ateca’s SEAT-ensured usability. Nor does it send the Cupra’s price skyrocketing; at the time of writing, we have a two-year-old, 4,400-mile example up for £32,750.
Electric cars don’t need to be the future – they can be the now, as shown by the e-tron, Audi’s most advanced SUV and the electric car of this selection.
Thanks to the model’s popularity since launching in 2019, our stock of e-trons has grown rapidly, and as of September 2021, £44,250 brings it into range. Talking of range, this is an EV capable of 175-200 miles between charges even in its base specification.
Better still, if you’ve access to a 125kW rapid charger, this entry 71kWh e-tron’s battery can be taken from 10-80% in just 26 mins.
Opting for a used Audi can really help keep those costs low.
For most families, this practical, highly-equipped and emission-free SUV will only need to be charged once or twice a week, making the transition to electric about as easy as it gets.