Family car: the very term conjures up an image of something practical, sensible – and perhaps a little boring. When you need a car to carry the kids and pets, not to mention all the assorted accoutrements that they need, it’s easy to assume that something with a little bit of panache might be too much to hope for.
Well, we’re here to tell you that it isn’t. Family cars might be practical, but they don’t have to be dull. And even if you’re looking for something second-hand, there are plenty of great options out there to choose from – some of which make surprisingly good bargains. To prove it, we’ve brought together five of our favourite family cars that offer a little extra style or excitement to their owners.
BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe (2013-present)
BMW markets the 4 Series Gran Coupe as a four-door coupe, but in reality it’s much closer to a sleek version of a five-door family hatchback.
So despite its svelte looks, it comes with a full complement of five seats, with two Isofix points in the back for child seats, as well as a wide-opening hatch for the boot that makes it easy to load buggies, bags, and even the family beagle. What’s more, it’s great to drive, with slick, well weighted steering, a responsive chassis, and a great line-up of engines – the petrol-powered 420i strikes a good balance between power, efficiency and smoothness.
Price from: £9,000
We found: 2017 420i Sport Gran Coupe, 11,000 miles, £17,750 (CarGurus Great Deal)
What to look out for: Timing chain rattles on petrol cars built before 2015, electrical niggles, corroding alloy wheels
Volkswagen Golf GTI (2005-2009)
Largely credited with the revival of Volkswagen’s GTI nameplate, the fifth-generation Golf GTI was much-loved for its entertaining handling.
But that isn’t all it has to offer. Its 197bhp 2.0-litre turbo engine might not sound like much in the context of today’s hyper hot hatches, but it still packs enough of a punch to be entertaining. Meanwhile, it’s smart and spacious inside, with either retro plaid cloth or optional leather upholstery lending a touch of class, while on the outside, the Mk5’s red pinstriping, reassuringly solid styling and target-style rear lights still look smart, despite its age.
Price from: £3,000
We found: 2007 Golf GTI, 99,000 miles, £3,995 (CarGurus Great Deal)
What to look out for Rusty front wheel arches, failed air conditioning compressors, misfires, white or blue exhaust smoke, sluggish acceleration
Jaguar XE (2015-present)
Jaguar’s rival to the BMW 3 Series hasn’t been quite the success its maker might have hoped for. It is hampered by its rather small rear seats, but there’s still a reasonable amount of room in the back for the kids. The dog will have to stay at home, though, because the XE is strictly a saloon, and the boot is also a little on the small side.
However, if you can live with these downsides, the XE’s excellent handling, comfortable ride quality and luxurious equipment list all make it a very tempting way of carting your family around. And that’s without mentioning its sharp styling, with a snarling front end and smooth side profile that’ll have you looking back over your shoulder each time you leave it.
Price from: £7,000
We found: 2015 XE 2.0TD Prestige, 26,000 miles, £11,279 (CarGurus Great Deal)
What to look out for: Sluggish automatic gearboxes, premature brake disc wear, petrol models tend to be much more reliable than diesels
Mazda 6 Tourer (2013-present)
Proof that a practical family estate car need not be dull comes with the Mazda 6 Tourer. Granted, there are estates out there with bigger boots, but a slight hit in terms of practicality is the price you pay for one of the sleekest estate cars out there. What’s more, the 6 is great fun to drive – no, seriously – with crisp steering, excellent body control and lots of grip. Indeed, you might be surprised by how much fun you can have at the wheel of one of these.
Combine that with a smart, well built interior and an excellent reliability record and you have a compelling family estate that you won’t be embarrassed to see sitting on your driveway.
Price from: £4,000
We found: 2014 6 2.2TD Sport Nav Tourer, 46,000 miles, £8,995 (CarGurus Great Deal)
What to look out for: Missed services on diesels, glitchy satellite navigation screens
Nissan Murano (2005-2008)
So you want an SUV – but you also want it to have the power, handling and style of a sporty coupe. Impossible, right? Well, not quite. Allow us introduce you to the Nissan Murano.
Beneath eye-catching styling, the Murano houses a 3.5-litre V6 – the very same engine you’ll find in the Nissan 350Z sports car. It’s powerful, responsive, and it sounds great. And while the Murano itself isn’t quite as much fun as the car from which it nabbed its powerplant, it’s still remarkably agile for an SUV.
Of course, the payoff for a big petrol engine in a big car is big thirst. As a result of that, however, the Murano is so cheap to buy these days, that you might be able to stomach the big fuel (and tax) bills afterwards. Besides, given the extensive list of equipment you get thrown in, you might think it’s worth it.
Price from: £1,000
We found: 2008 Murano, 72,000 miles, £2,750
What to look out for: Automatic gearbox failures not unknown; tyres can be expensive to replace
In the market for a used car?
CarGurus makes it easy to find great deals from top-rated dealers. CarGurus compares price, detailed vehicle data and dealer reviews to give each used car a deal rating from great to overpriced, and sorts the best deals first. Find out more and begin your used car search at CarGurus.