Choosing an SUV for your family car

A reliable family SUV is a big-ticket car purchase that requires a good deal of thought – especially with so many great options on the market these days. You'll need something that shuttles everyone safely through routine school runs and fun road trips. In this ultimate guide, we answer all your queries about choosing an SUV that takes care of your growing family's ever-growing needs.

Blue Kia sorento

What are the pros and cons of choosing an SUV for a family car?

Originally, SUVs were designed to handle tricky terrain rather than troublesome teenagers. Today though, they seem to have left the rough roads behind. In fact, they’re often the number one choice for parents with the kids regularly in tow. But why are SUVs some of the best family cars?

πŸš™ Pros:

  • Roomy interiors and lots of cargo space
  • A high driving position means a better view of the road
  • Can tackle difficult weather and terrain more easily
  • Make for great road trips, thanks to higher power and better towing capabilities

Of course, SUVs may not be the best choice for everyone when it comes to finding a family car.

πŸš™ Cons:

  • Smaller cars tend to be more fuel-efficient as they’re lighter
  • Hatchbacks in particular are easier to manoeuvre in narrow, jam-packed streets
  • If you have a large family, you may prefer the interior configuration of an estate or people carrier. These might offer more seats, more boot space or both, depending on the make and model.

Read on if you think that a family SUV might be the right option. If you’ve changed your mind, check out our other articles on the best family hatchbacks and the best MPVs for families.

Practical features to look for when purchasing an SUV as a family car

βœ… Size
Although bigger SUVs may offer more interior space, they can be frustrating to drive on narrow or busy roads. Plus, you might find them more difficult to park (we all know how tight those supermarket spaces can be).

βœ… Number of seats
Before you make your purchase decision, it’s a good idea to check how many Isofix child-seat fittings you’ll need. You may want to plan for this in advance.

βœ… Accessibility
When you test drive a car, we recommend checking how easy it is to fix child seats. You can do this by opening the doors as wide as you can and seeing if you can fully lean in and out quickly and comfortably.

βœ… Interior design
Cubbies to put away odds and ends are a bonus in any car, but they’re a necessity in a practical family motor. You may not think much of it while purchasing your car, but trust us – the keys, chargers and water bottles need a place to go on a rushed school run.

βœ… Towing capacity
If your weekend adventures include caravans and motorboats, it’s important to make sure that your car is able to pull a trailer with relative ease on the motorways. With their bulky designs and powerful engines, most SUVs can manage this with ease.

βœ… Boot space
We think it’s sometimes worth choosing extra boot space over legroom in the rear seats. Children might be loud, but thankfully they’re small too.

Which family SUV has the biggest boot?

Be it the occasional road trip or the weekly grocery run, boot space is something you can’t compromise on if you’ve got little ones. Some family SUVs with the biggest boots include:

πŸš™ The Toyota Highlander
This SUV’s roomy cabin offers almost 200L with all three rows in place. With the third row folded, this grows to 529L. Finally, it reaches an impressive 1862L with the second row folded.

πŸš™ Mazda CX-9
With all seven seats in use, the CX-9 offers 230L of boot space. You get 529L with the third row folded, which can be expanded to a total of 810L.

πŸš™ Nissan Pathfinder
There are 453L with all seats up, 1354L with the final row down and a total capacity of 2260L.

πŸš™ Kia Sorento
The Sorento may only have 142L with all three rows in place, but this is offset by 605L in a five-seat configuration and a total load volume of 1662L.

If you’d like to find out more, our experts have compiled a list of the best family cars with big boots to help you make the right choice.

Pro-tip: When it comes to boot space, it’s not just about the volume. While on your test drive, it’s good to check how easy it is for you and your other half to lug bulky or heavy items in and out of the boot.

Brown toyota rav4

Which SUV is safest for families?

There’s a general perception that SUVs are a safe option due to their large size. Here are some of our top picks when it comes to the safest family SUVs:

πŸš™ Toyota Rav4
This large SUV comes with a long list of safety equipment which includes automatic emergency braking (including for pedestrians and cyclists), traffic sign recognition, lane keeping assistance and an SOS emergency call function.

πŸš™ Skoda Kamiq
This smaller SUV is exceptionally comfortable and simple to drive. Lane-keeping assistance, automated emergency braking (with pedestrian recognition) and seven airbags are standard safety features.

πŸš™ Lexus UX
This hybrid SUV offers a Safety System Plus option that incorporates adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, and road sign detection.

πŸš™ Mazda CX-30
The CX-30 protects the driver and front-seat passenger exceptionally well, earning it a 99% adult occupant protection rating.

You don’t have to pick the top-performers on the list, but do eliminate the poor performers right away. The best way to verify car safety is to have a look at the Euro NCAP ratings for the car. Don’t forget to compare child occupant safety ratings to be confident of your choice.

If you’re buying used, it’s important to get a good sense of whether the model is dependable in the long run. Frequent issues will not only rake up bills at the mechanics but may also pose a significant threat to safety. You can check out our rundown of the most reliable SUVs to find out more.

white Volvo XC40

What is the most economical family SUV?

For most of us, the family car is a lifelong companion – taking you through the good times and bad times. It’s important to make sure that it isn’t going to rack up high fuel costs on all those school runs and road trips. As well as the most economical SUVs, you can also take a look at our picks for the most eco-friendly SUVs to keep those green credentials intact. Here are some of our top picks for economical family SUVs:

πŸš™Volvo XC40
The XC40 is fuel-efficient, with petrol engines available in three trim levels, as well as mild-hybrid alternatives.

πŸš™ BMW iX3
This all-electric luxury SUV is designed for speed and efficiency. The iX3 has a top-of-the-line battery built for enhanced charging speed and range – you can go 282 kilometres on a single charge.

πŸš™ Nissan Qashqai dCi Visia
This popular family SUV employs a diesel engine to get up to 75 mpg, making it an excellent non-hybrid performer.

πŸš™ Peugeot 5008The PureTech engine technology used in the 5008 provides a more efficient drive by utilising direct fuel injection to its three cylinders to provide the performance you’d expect from a larger engine.

When it comes to buying an SUV, here are the important things to consider to ensure you get good value for money:

βœ… Price vs. features: Are you compromising too much because the higher trim levels are too expensive?
βœ… Expected running costs: Compare taxes, insurance rates, service costs, warranty period and fuel economy.
βœ… Depreciation: Will you get good returns in the used-car market after a few years?

What are some extras and options worth considering?

Don’t overlook the handy gadgets and tech when shopping for a family SUV. Here are a couple of key features worth keeping in mind:

πŸš™ In-car entertainment. Anyone who’s been on a family trip can tell you that keeping the kids entertained is priority number one. Rather than fiddling with buttons every time you want to hit repeat on Disney’s latest numbers, we recommend that you invest in Android Autoplay or Apple CarPlay systems that accept voice commands.

πŸš™ Leather seats. Cloth-covered seats are the common option in entry-level trims, but it’s worth upgrading to leather to save yourself some time. Road trips with kids and pets are messy affairs, so it’s good to make sure your car interior is easy to clean.

Your family car is going to generate a lifetime worth of memories. So why compromise? If you want the extra perks without increasing your budget, take a peek at our SUV listings. To avoid surprises later on, it’s best to look for models that have a good reputation and don’t depreciate too soon. Check out our Gumtree best of hub to learn more and narrow down the best option for you.


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