How we test family cars

Family cars are perhaps the most important breed of all: bunging kids, dogs, muddy boots, footballs and exhausted parents into a confined space, week in, week out, properly puts a car through its paces. Families are constantly looking for more space, more cupholders, more charging points, and better IsoFix – so Mumsnet teamed up with AutoTrader to ask real owners which cars make the best family transport.

The result is the Best Car for Families Award 2018. AutoTrader surveyed 10,000 drivers who have bought a new car in the last three years (i.e, a model that was made in the last three years and is the most current version on sale). Respondents were asked to rate their own car against the same attributes that the editorial team at Auto Trader uses when reviewing a car, which covers everything from how it looks, to how it performs, to how much it costs to own and run, to how practical it is. In addition, the owners surveyed were asked about their overall satisfaction with their car and how likely they were to recommend it to others.

For the Best Car for Families Award, we took the survey results of those with any children aged 16 or under. The results gave AutoTrader and Mumsnet our shortlist of three cars for Best Car For Families 2018. Erin Baker, Editorial Director of AutoTrader, mother to two boys, aged five and seven, and stepmother to two more boys, aged eight and 10, then put the three cars through their paces, with the help of Rachael Hogg, Digital Content Editor at AutoTrader.

Erin Baker, Editorial Director of Auto Trader and Rachael Hogg, Digital Content Editor at AutoTrader.

We drove all three comprehensively, both in slow-moving town traffic and out on the open road. It's really important when test-driving a car to get a feel for how it behaves in different road conditions: are you happy with the wind and tyre noise on motorways? Will you get fed up with the manual gearbox when in stop-start traffic? Does it have enough power for you to overtake confidently? Do the brakes and steering respond quickly enough for your liking?

It's also only once you’re on the move that you get a sense of whether the visibility is good enough for changing lanes or parking.

Then there's the interior, which is crucial for family cars. We analysed the design of the front space – are the dials and graphics easy to read, and the infotainment system easy to use? For that money, do you get all the bits and bobs you really want, like sat-nav or a good sound system?

Crucially, how do the cars fare on space – is there room for three child seats across the rear, and enough leg space for teenagers in the back? Does the boot accommodate an entire pram travel system plus the weekly shop?

Test driving family cars

Then there's the practicality: are there USB charging points in the back for the kids' iPads, and enough cubby holes for drink bottles, toys and the inevitable bits and pieces of Lego that seem to go everywhere?

Safety is obviously high on the list of factors to take account of. Are there airbags everywhere, does the car have four-wheel drive for extra grip, are there safety systems such as blind-spot warnings and lane-departure warnings as standard?

Last but not least, the finances – as well as how much a car costs you in monthly payments, what are the running costs like and what might you expect to sell it on for (known as the residual value)?

We took all these things into account when reviewing the shortlisted cars for the Best Car for Families award. You can read the full Mumsnet review of our winner, the Skoda Superb, here. Among those surveyed, the Superb came out top for “space for people and luggage” and “easy to make use of the space”. It also beat everyone else to claim top spot for reliability, durability and cost efficiency. It was ranked as the most comfortable to drive, and came second for a good raft of safety features.

The combined scores made the Skoda Superb our clear winner, a victory cemented by some of the owner comments: “The space is fantastic both in seating and luggage”, “the comfort in the vehicle is great for long journeys – you get to your destination feeling refreshed and able to do things rather than tired and washed out”, “exceptional value for money – it's refined, huge and well equipped”. Enough said.

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