Find the best car to suit your family needs
When it comes to buying a family car, there are many factors to consider, such as safety, size, fuel efficiency, reliability, practicality and features, to name just a few. The car should ideally suit the family in the present day, as well as into the future. Families grow, individuals within families grow, and needs and wants change, so it’s worth thinking ahead and planning to buy a vehicle that will suit changing needs.
There is a surplus of great cars for sale at Pickles for families to choose from, and to help with the decision-making process, we’ve put together a family car hot list focusing on two of the main factors for most – safety and space.
When it comes to the manufacturing and sales of cars in Australia, safety is a key consideration, and understandably so. The Australian automotive industry places a strong emphasis on vehicle safety standards, and manufacturers operating in Australia must comply with the Australian Design Rules (ADRs), which outline safety and performance requirements for vehicles. Further to that, the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) assesses and rates the safety performance of vehicles available in the Australian market, both new car models, and used models through the Used Car Safety Ratings (UCSR) program. Looking at the ratings – whether it be ANCAP, UCSR or other rating bodies – can raise consumer awareness in a general sense, and can help families and individual buyers find a car that is compatible with their needs and they feel safe driving. However, prospective buyers should be aware that, while most manufacturers include a full suite of safety features in their higher end options, some of these may not be available on the basic versions, particularly older models.
Some cars for families to consider which have received high ANCAP safety ratings include:
This car has advanced safety features, including autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning and blind-spot monitoring. It’s also known for its impressive handling. Its stylish appearance (think sleek lines and bold proportions) makes it an ideal choice for families seeking an SUV that stands out from other options.
Popular amongst families, the RAV4 has a 5-star ANCAP safety rating. Its suite of safety features includes autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist, and Toyota Safety Sense. On top of its high safety profile, the Toyota RAV4 boasts a spacious and versatile design, with a multitude of features that cater to all ages.
Another high ANCAP rating performer, the Subaru Forester is fitted with a number of safety technologies, including autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist. The SUV’s all-wheel drive system gets good reviews thanks to its enhanced traction and stability, and makes it a great compact SUV choice for families who love to explore the outdoors.
Drive Car of the Year for 2022, the Kia Sportage includes side door exit warning, rear cross traffic alert, rear parking camera, parking sensors as well as the usual active safety features.
Space is a key consideration when buying a car, and even with just one or two kids, space can become tight. Sufficient space equals comfort, and that refers to legroom, the ability to stretch out, and storage capacity. An important consideration for families could be the ability to install three child restraints across the back seat. Families often require extra space for luggage, prams, camping gear and so on, and a car with ample boot space is needed to fit all those extras in. SUVs tend to be a good family choice. Compact models can be more affordable and fuel efficient, and are often easier to drive and manoeuvre through city streets, but passenger and cargo space is less when compared to bigger vehicles. Large SUVs have more interior space overall – legroom, headroom, cabin and boot space – so are a good choice for larger families (and smaller families who travel large). Some great options to consider are:
This popular SUV features three rows of seats, offering ample room for large families. Toyotas are also known for their reliability and safety profile.
For off-road adventures (who says families can’t get off the beaten track?), the Ford Everest is worth considering. With a spacious 7-seat layout, it’s renowned for its off-road capabilities, and has a strong towing capacity for boats and campers.
Another great model for off-road adventures (and another Toyota), this is a robust vehicle made for manoeuvring rough roads. With three rows of seating and a big boot, the Land Cruiser can fit 8 passengers.
Often referred to as a People Mover, the Carnival is another option with a roomy interior and versatile seat arrangements for eight. Older models typically offer three sets of ISOFIX-compatible seats in the second row, but the new 2023 model has five ISOFIX-compatible seats, which is a good option if you have lots of smaller kids to drive around. Few cars on the market are capable of accommodating so many child seats.
Fuel economy is often high on the list when buying a family car. However, the high cost of entering the electric vehicle market can be restrictive for some. The three main options for such buyers are petrol, diesel and hybrid.
The most economical of the petrol engines is the Toyota RAV4, although not by a great deal. While the Mazda CX-5 and Subaru Forester are similar in their petrol consumption, the Mazda is a more energetic performer. Of the diesel engines, the Kia Sportage is one of the most economical in the small SUV class.
The Toyota RAV4 offers a hybrid engine across both 2WD and AWD variants with consumption below 5 litres per 100 kilometres, while the Subaru Forester’s hybrid engine isn’t as economical. Those seeking a larger car such as a Toyota Kluger or Kia Sorrento should be looking for hybrid models which offer enhanced fuel economy to match their larger footprint, but these will only be available in more recent models.