Cheap family cars don’t force you to compromise on the essentials. They are generally all roomy five-door five-seaters, with big boots and great practicality.
Although you don’t get the latest hybrid engine tech, fuel-efficient petrol and diesel engines will help save you money. The fact that most engines have a turbocharger these days means you won’t go short in terms of pulling power, either.
Cheap family cars may not have fancy features such as smart Alcantara seats, but the kids would only smudge cheesy Doritos into them anyway. What they do offer is brilliant bang for your buck. Here are 10 of the best.
The Skoda Scala is an intelligently designed family hatchback that delivers excellent value for money. It costs well under £19,000, yet offers up a roomy interior and a smartly finished dashboard with a high-mounted central touchscreen. Alloy wheels, lane-keep assist and autonomous emergency braking are standard, too. The Scala takes styling cues from the larger Skoda Octavia, and has a profile similar to the super-roomy estate. Luggage space is also impressive, thanks to a giant 467-litre boot capacity. This is significantly larger than pricier family cars such as the Volkswagen Golf. Our preferred engines are the fuel-efficient TSI petrols, particularly the super-smooth yet great-value 1.0-litre version.
The Dacia Jogger is arguably a new type of car. It certainly ticks the ‘cheap family car’ box, with prices starting from less than £15,000 – yet you get a crossover-style estate with raised ride height and the surprise inclusion of seven seats. The third row folds flat into the floor, or can be removed entirely to yield a huge boot. Passengers will appreciate how they sit higher than those in the front, while the driver will appreciate the easy-driving nature of the Jogger, along with its perfectly decent 1.0-litre turbo engine. Equipment levels are all-inclusive and the Jogger is so cheap, most owners actually pick a mid-grade or even range-topping model – still for well under £20,000.
The Dacia Duster is another super-affordable family car. Again, prices start from less than £15,000, which this time buys a high-riding crossover SUV with a rugged stance and appealing looks. It is a spacious five-seater, with all passengers enjoying the higher-set seating position and better view outwards of an SUV. The latest Duster has a smartly-finished interior, with sturdy controls and solid build quality, while the 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine is more than sufficient for everyday driving. You can also get a 1.5-litre diesel Duster, which comes with the added bonus of all-wheel drive, again for an affordable price.
The Fiat Tipo stands alone among the Italian brand’s range of small city-friendly cars. It’s the model aimed at families, and has recently been reinvigorated with some of the chic style of the new 500, thanks to a well-judged facelift. We love the new Fiat badge in the grille, while the interior has also been updated. A spacious five-door hatchback, the Tipo also has a big boot, so is ready for most things family life can throw at it. The latest 1.0-litre turbocharged engine is also a big improvement on older, non-turbo engines. You can also get an SUV-style Tipo Cross if you want crossover styling, although this isn’t quite as cheap as other value-priced models.
Citroen has focused on families with the novel-looking C4, a hatchback infused with crossover SUV features. It sits higher off the road than a conventional car, and long-travel suspension sits within the rugged plastic-clad wheelarches. The suspension has been set up to deliver an exceptionally smooth ride, in the Citroen tradition. Combined with low noise levels and a very plush set of seats, it all combines to create a beautifully comfortable drive. The 1.2-litre turbo engine is the perfect complement to this; you can also choose a silent-running Citroen e-C4 electric version, but this costs significantly more.
The Kia Ceed has recently been facelifted, giving this family-focused five-door hatchback a dynamic new look. The front end is more like that of a hot hatch than a mainstream model, and modernity is enhanced by the use of Kia’s smart new logo throughout. It remains a very well-equipped car, with even the entry-level ‘2’ grade arriving with a standout array of gadgets. The cheapest 1.0-litre petrol engine is fine, while the 1.5-litre version delivers surprising verve thanks to a power output of nearly 160hp. Reliability should be excellent, backed up by Kia’s excellent seven-year warranty.
The Hyundai i30 is the luxurious sister car to the Kia Ceed. If Kia is targeting the SEAT Leon, Hyundai has designs on the Volkswagen Golf – albeit for prices that are several thousand pounds cheaper. The dashboard may be a bit plasticky in places, but it looks smart, particularly the touchscreen infotainment systems. On the move, noise levels are very low and the ride is plush, soaking up bumps with real finesse. We’re quite taken with the new N-Line trim, which mixes i30 N hot hatch looks with a more affordable ownership experience. Hyundai also offers a fine five-year warranty that comes without a mileage cap.
The MG HS is a large, value-priced SUV for families who want something a bit more striking to sit on their driveway. It looks upmarket, with even the entry-level HS Excite getting 18-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels, while the roomy interior has plenty of soft-touch plastics to give a quality feel. A vivid 10.1-inch touchscreen is standard and sat-nav is included, as is a colour reversing camera. The 1.5-litre T-GDI petrol engine produces a sprightly 162hp and you can enhance the upmarket feel with a seven-speed DCT automatic gearbox. The standard MG Pilot autonomous drive-assist tech is also impressive, given prices that start from several thousand pounds less than a Nissan Qashqai.
The SsangYong Korando is a modern-looking family SUV with plenty of space on board, despite prices that start from just over £20,000. It is sporty and distinctive, with sharp body creases and a smart set of LED headlights. The interior is posh, with plenty of metallic highlights, and the wraparound feel is more akin to a premium SUV than a value-priced family car. Even the basic Korando has luxuries such as a noise-reducing acoustic windscreen, and you can opt for all-wheel drive as you move up through the range. This roomy all-rounder also comes with SsangYong’s superb seven-year, 150,000-mile warranty.
The Honda Jazz is a cheap family car that’s a bit different from the others. It is notably more compact on the outside, measuring just over four metres long. However, brilliant packaging makes it extremely roomy on the inside, with a particularly commodious rear seat that has acres of space even for adults. You can also fold the seat bases upwards and create an innovative extra-tall load space, thanks to standard Honda Magic Seats. The latest Jazz comes with fuel-saving e:HEV hybrid engine tech, allowing plenty of engine-off pure electric motoring. Quality has been given a real lift, with a premium feel inside. Reliability should be perfect and prices start from just over £20,000.
The versatile Dacia Jogger leads the race in terms of the best boot space. With the third row of seats in place, it has 160 litres for luggage. But fold them away and you can have almost 700 litres of boot space in five-seat mode. That’s better than almost every large estate car on sale. The third-row seats can be removed completely, too – if you do this and also fold away the middle row, the Jogger provides more than 2,000 litres of boot space.
These family-friendly cars may be cheap, but they’re not mean when it comes to interior space. All of the cars listed in our guide have ample room for rear-seat passengers and generally have commodious boots as well. With many of them, fold the rear seats and they become almost van-like. Even the compact Honda Jazz has plenty of space in the back, thanks to its ingenious packaging and clever engine tech.
Don’t think you need to compromise on reliability by choosing a cheap family car. Indeed, the simpler nature of these vehicles means they could actually prove less problematic than more expensive motors. Many brands reassure owners of their cars’ reliability by providing long, multi-year warranties: five years and unlimited miles for Hyundai, for example, or seven years and 80,000 miles for MG. Kia stretches to seven years and 100,000 miles, while SsangYong extends this further to 150,000 miles.
GREAT DEALS FROM GREAT DEALERS