The best family cars

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6 of the best family cars for £5000
With a budget of £5,000, you’ll be able to choose from a range of modern, comfortable, well equipped and - most importantly - safe family cars for you and your children. Stephen Errity from Auto Express magazine has picked a mixture of the best compact MPVs, family SUVs and large hatchbacks available at this price, so you can choose the type of car that best suits your needs.
Ford Focus C-MAX
Ford Focus C-MAX (2003-2010)
eBay loves: Great to drive and plenty of choice on the used market
Watch out for: No seven-seater version available

The Ford Focus has always been a highly rated hatchback, but it became even more practical when this C-MAX compact MPV version was introduced in 2003. It retains the standard Focus’ impressive handling and comfort, while adding extra space and flexibility for passengers and luggage. There’s a wide choice of engines: 1.6, 1.8 and 2.0-litre petrol options plus 1.6 and 1.8-litre diesels, with the 1.8s offering the best balance of performance and economy. The bare-bones Studio trim level (offered up to 2007) is probably best avoided, as you don’t get air-conditioning, but all other specification levels are well equipped. Like most Fords, the Focus C-MAX has a good reliability record, plus an extensive dealer network and relatively low repair costs if things do go wrong.
Honda CR-V
Honda CR-V (2001-2006)
eBay loves: Comfortable, practical and extremely reliable
Watch out for: Petrol engine can be noisy when pushed hard

SUVs have become popular as family cars in recent years, with owners happy to bear slightly higher ownership costs in return for a comfortable raised driving position plus plenty of space. The Honda CR-V is one of the best, and for £5,000 you’ll be able to get behind the wheel of the second-generation model. It’s not the most exciting car to look at or to drive, but you will enjoy excellent Honda build quality and reliability. It was initially offered with a 2.0-litre petrol engine that performs well but can be thirsty on fuel, so look out for the 2.2-litre diesel model, which arrived in 2005. This engine offers a great mix of smooth pulling power and wallet-friendly economy. All models are well equipped: even the entry-level SE has air-con plus electric windows all round. 
Kia Cee’d hatchback
Kia Cee’d hatchback (2007-2012)
eBay loves: A great-value hatchback all-rounder
Watch out for: Not as fun or stylish as some rivals

Korean company Kia started to give the European establishment a run for its money when it introduced the Cee’d. The big draw for many buyers is the seven-year warranty - most used examples will still be covered by this for a while - but the Kia Cee’d is also a fine car in its own right. The 1.6-litre petrol engine is the pick of the range, feeling livelier than the sluggish 1.4-litre. There’s a choice of two 1.6-litre diesels, too, and up to 2009 you could also get a 2.0-litre diesel. Cee’ds are very well equipped for the price - the GS model includes desirable features such as alloy wheels, an auxiliary connection for MP3 players and a leather-trimmed steering wheel. You also get a big boot and spacious back seats. On the downside, the Cee’d is not very entertaining to drive and the interior plastics can seem a bit cheap compared to a Ford Focus or VW Golf.
Mazda 6 hatchback
Mazda 6 hatchback (2002-2007)
eBay loves: Lots of well priced examples available
Watch out for: Ride can be slightly too firm at times

As MPVs, SUVs and crossovers become more and more popular, the traditional large hatchback has fallen out of favour as a family car. But it shouldn’t be ruled out completely by family buyers. The Mazda 6 is a great example, and represents superb value on the used market. It’s one of the roomiest cars in it class, with a 500-litre boot, and you get plenty of upmarket kit such as air-con as standard. Other positives include smart styling inside and out, plus a sporty drive - although it may be a little too firm and sporty for some. A TS car fitted with the strong 2.0-litre diesel engine would be our pick of the range - but lower-mileage drivers will be just as happy with the 1.8 and 2.0-litre petrol models, too.
VW Touran
VW Touran (2003-2010)
eBay loves: Highly flexible seating layout
Watch out for: Boxy and unglamorous styling

The Volkswagen Touran is a good choice if interior space and practicality are your absolute top priorities. You get seven seats as standard (or a vast load area if you remove some or all of the rear seats). The downside of all that space is a rather boxy shape from the outside, and the Touran is pretty dull to drive, but you won’t be left wanting when it comes to comfort or convenience. As this car is based on the popular Golf, you get a wide choice of petrol and diesel engines, and the 2.0-litre TDI diesel is particularly good at balancing power with fuel economy. The entry-level S model will be adequately equipped for most buyers, with air-con, ISOFIX child-seat anchors, cruise control and 15-inch alloys all included as standard.
SEAT Leon (2005-2012)
eBay loves: Stylish and fun option in this class
Watch out for: Not quite as practical as some rivals

Adding Spanish flair to the family car market, the SEAT Leon shares many parts with the more grown-up VW Golf, but offers much better value for money second-hand. Swoopy styling means it’s one of the best-looking family cars, and it’s a satisfying drive, too, particularly with the punchy 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine. Interior and boot space are reasonable, if not class-leading, while the Leon can feel a little firm on bumpy roads. Air-con, adjustable steering and electric mirrors are standard, but look out for nice optional extras such as Bluetooth connectivity and sat-nav.
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