7th December 2021
Raising a family comes with a long list of paraphernalia; the introduction of a new baby requires so much stuff it’s a wonder it all fits in your house. Leaving home is no escape either, with entire industries built around fitting all the baby essentials in your family car.
In case you thought you didn’t have to carry the additional weight for too long, it doesn’t stop once they’re out of nappies either. Child seats, pushchairs, all the tackle that comes with raising a child has to fit in and around the boot of your car.
There comes a point when a parent realises they may need a bigger car, or one more suited to raising a child. But the question remains, how big should you go? How essential is boot space, and what are the costs?
We’ve put together a guide on how to find the right car for you and your family; feeding, changing and school runs, however, are all up to you.
What features does your family car need?
One of the best things you can do to help you decide which car you should pick is to determine what you need the car to do. For example, if you need a vehicle that can carry seven family members, a three-door hatchback won’t quite cut it.
Likewise, understanding what you need to be able to do in your car can be highly beneficial when it comes to your pre-purchase research. Some small (and not so small) features can make driving with children a lot easier, safer, and manageable. Something that can make all the difference when travelling long distances with the family.
An additional rearview mirror
Having a rearview mirror is essential (and a legal requirement) for safe driving, useful for reversing, viewing vehicles behind you and …keeping an eye on those sitting in the back seats. However, keeping one eye on the kids or pets in the back can be distracting and ultimately dangerous.
Some cars come with a second mirror set-up that’s ideal for furtive glances in the back, but Volkswagen and their seven-seat family car, the Touran, comes with a screen that works with a GoPro camera which can be mounted in the rear and live stream what’s going on in the back direct to your dashboard – removing the need to take your eyes off the road.
Simply getting in and out of the car can be tricky when there are seven of you urgently waiting to stretch your legs after a long drive. Larger family cars often come with a sliding door, which for all their practicality, can look unsightly in some models but, when done right, can look sleek and well designed. Check out the SEAT Alhambra or VW Sharan to see what we mean.
Similarly, how wide a car door can open may vary greatly. If you’ve got a child in one hand, a dog in the other, and several bags of shopping scattered about your person, having a car with wide doors can make the difference between a juggling act and an ordered game of Tetris.
Being able to rearrange the space inside your car can be incredibly handy when the busy lifestyle of a family requires transportation. Easily foldable seats or intelligent seating can be a lifesaver when trying to maximise space and improve practicality.
There’s a theme of having eyes in the back of your head running through the first two of these additional features, but it’s something most parents would quite happily welcome. Reversing cameras in cars are becoming increasingly popular as the camera quality improves and prices drop. In some vehicles, reverse cameras come fitted as standard; if not, it’s possible to purchase your own and set it up.
When your boot is filled and the kids are being distracting, having a direct line of communication between you and the rear bumper can be incredibly useful. A relatively new addition to the world of automating is self-parking cars that can seek out a vacant spot and park the vehicle with little to no input from the driver.
How reliable are self-parking cars?
In 2015, the American Automobile Association, or the AAA, carried out a number of tests to determine the speed and accuracy of self-parking technology. They found that the self-parking cars consistently parked better than manual drivers, reducing the number of kerb strikes by 81% and parking 10% faster than humans. Not only this, but the self-parking cars were able to complete the task in almost half as many manoeuvres.
How big should your family car be?
Understandably the size of your family car is determined by how many people you need to carry; a seven-seat family car is a must if there’s six of you but might be overkill for a family of four. Depending on how often you’re willing to buy a car and if you plan on expanding your family, you may want to account for future plans when deciding how big you want to go.
Bums on seats aside, it can be wise to account for the additional extras of family life that can take up extra room inside your car. Whether it’s fitting luggage in the back for a trip to the airport, pets (big and small) or all the kit that comes with keeping active children entertained, you’re going to want to be able to comfortably fit everything in without feeling as though you’re neck-deep in football boots, tennis balls and trikes.
Often the type of car determines the size; for example, you can fit more in an SUV than a coupe, though this rule of thumb isn’t always one you can always rely on. With hatchbacks varying greatly in size, how much you can fit inside is determined by the model and make.
Here’s a rundown of some popular body styles that lend themselves to a family lifestyle.
Undoubtedly the most popular body style in the UK, hatchbacks, as mentioned, vary in size and shape, contributing to the popularity of these vehicles as they offer up a range of options for most road users. The one thing that defines them is that their whole rear end opens when accessing the boot. They tend to have a shorter wheelbase than estates or MPVs, so may be suited to smaller families. Hatchbacks can still have a surprising amount of boot space, 5 doors for easier access to the rear seats, and their more compact size lend themselves to parking in tight spaces.
The estate car has a special place in family life in the UK, generally seen as an all-rounder capable of ferrying kids, the dog and the bathroom sink to and fro without taking up the same space as an SUV. For many, these practical family cars with big boots have a strong appeal and are more than capable of carrying things on the roof, with many coming with a roof rack as standard, or at least as an additional extra.
Most commonly seen on premium manufacturers like Audi, saloons are longer than hatchbacks offering more room for passengers on the inside, especially for those in the backseats. Instead of the entire back opening up, the boot of saloons are entirely separate from the passengers and can be more cumbersome when loading. If you’re going on a family trip and you own a saloon, it will probably pay to invest in a good quality roof rack and topbox, saving limited boot space for essentials only.
Known as multi-purpose vehicles, owners of MPVs benefit from their versatility and space. Once referred to as people carriers, later models are compatible with families of all sizes, with seats that can fold, slide and adapt to your needs. With an abundance of space and a host of helpful features for busy parents – the extreme practicality of MPVs and their relatively economic reputation makes them a consistently popular choice.
Increasingly popular on British roads, the SUV has become an overarching name for several vehicles that offer practicality and hardiness. While initially designed for rough roads, the best family SUVs offer an equally smooth ride on tarmac, with many modern versions designed with smooth roads in mind. Much like the MPV, they tend to offer plenty of space for both passenger and luggage, though with a slightly more premium feel.