Top Ten Family Cars in Australia
For decades, if you'd asked any Australian what a 'family car' was you would get a very clear definition; a big Australian-made six-cylinder sedan or wagon. Now that we're well into the 21st century, that answer has fractured into several pieces. The decline of local manufacturing and creation of several new market segments means that families are increasingly turning to smaller, more space-efficient vehicles to ferry around their families.
These days the most popular categories for families are small cars, which have grown considerably in size, and medium SUVs which are starting to include seven-seat options. Dual-cab utes have also become a lot more civilised, safe and sophisticated and they too are increasingly becoming a first-car choice for families. We will focus on them another time. Here, in no particular order, are our Top 10 Family Cars. All entrants have a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
The ubiquitous Corolla has been mass-produced in vast numbers since the 1960s, along the way galvanising a reputation for solidity, reliability and affordable maintenance costs. The new Corolla comes in sedan or hatch and can be had with either a six-speed manual or CVT automatic. For the first time, there is a hybrid version that sips as little as 4.1L/100km (official average), while the sporty and vibrant ZR features a panoramic roof, 18-inch milled alloys, leather seats and state-of-the-art infotainment system. Corolla has always been a sound investment and that's why it continues to dominate Australian sales charts.
If you like your family hatch with a bit more sporting flair, the Mazda3 could be the car for you. With an efficient range of SkyActiv engines and transmissions, the 3 just received a mid-cycle update, including interior refreshments and 'G-Vectoring' technology for smoother and more predictable cornering. The chassis is one of the sharpest in the class, while every model from Maxx upwards gets the brilliant 'MZD Connect' infotainment system and rotary controller. Definitely a car that makes the daily commute a more lively and entertaining affair.
Hyundai's all-new, third-gen i30 builds on what has made it such a hit with Aussie buyers and adds more infotainment and safety than ever before. Tuned by Australian engineers on an all-new platform, the new i30 packs more style and user-friendliness into the small car. Three engines are on offer; a 2.0-litre with a class-leading 121kW, a turbo-diesel 1.6 with 100kW that sips 4.4L/100km, and a sporty 1.6 Turbo with 150kW matched to a dual-clutch seven-speed auto. Safety features include autonomous emergency braking and automatic high beam.
The most popular SUV in Australia is no longer a Toyota Prado or Ford Territory (now extinct), but the CX-5. With petrol and diesel engines on offer, the CX-5 is noteworthy for not just possessing the road manners of a car, but the manners of a very fine-driving car at that, making it exceptionally easy to manoeuvre in addition to having the practicality of an SUV. An all-new version builds on the outgoing car's virtues while adding refinement and more efficiency. It is also larger than the car it replaces. A seven-seater could be on the way soon, too.
For decades the RAV4 has been a popular choice, but has grown quite considerably since its 1990s debut as a fun, tall mini-SUV with some off-road capability. Unlike many rivals, the RAV4 still has family friendly off road credentials and has increased in size to accommodate family demands of the present day. As with most Toyotas, dependability and unbeatably low servicing costs are part of this car's enormous appeal.
The Korean carmaker can seemingly do no wrong lately, with the latest Tucson proving to be very easy to drive, affordable to maintain and backed by a five-year warranty. An upmarket and logical interior sets the pace for user-friendliness, and easy to read dials are an added safety bonus. All variants have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with engines including a 2.0-litre with 121kW, a 1.6 turbo with 130kW or a turbo-diesel with 136kW and 400Nm.
When it comes to value, Hyundai has had an edge in that department for a long time. Although based on a 2011-vintage car, the 2016 Accent Active ticks plenty of boxes including 5 star ANCAP safety, colour touch-screen infotainment system, full-size spare wheel and five-year warranty. The 1.4-litre engine makes 74kW and is paired to either a five-speed manual or CVT auto for $2000 more. It is one of the more spacious offerings in its class and still proves very popular with buyers.
When the latest X-Trail was released, Nissan threw a curve ball at the competition by making seven seats available in a medium SUV for the first time. With 2.5-litre petrol and 1.6-litre turbo-diesel power, the X-Trail can satisfy most family requirements, with the added bonus of an optional four-wheel drive system to tackle difficult terrain. With these attributes packed into a medium SUV for the first time, it's easy to see why the X-Trail is one of the segment heavy hitters in terms of sales.
The all-new Honda CR-V is pushing ahead with an all-new chassis, completely reimagined interior and seven seats for the first time. An emphasis on connectivity and luxury materials inside makes the CR-V a genuinely premium proposition. One thing Hondas always do well is space-efficiency, with folding 'Magic Seats' giving the car more usable space than any rival can muster. The handsome new CR-V, available from Q3, 2017 continues the tradition of efficient and quality transport from Honda.
Nothing can match an MPV for sheer volume and versatility in this class, though you'd be forgiven for forgetting about them with the enormous popularity of SUVs. Kia's latest offering lets you choose between gutsy V6 and diesel power, with a well-calibrated chassis that truly shrinks around the driver and is easier and more fun to drive than you'd possibly think. Features such as parking sensors and birds-eye view camera make parking far easier than it has any right to be, while the three rows of seats are treated to more space and luxury than most SUVs can come near and the boot with all three rows up is in a class of its own with more than enough space for everyone’s luggage.
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