Words by Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto-Trader
There’s a lot to think about when you’re expecting your first child: aside from how to cope with sleepless nights, what sort of car you should buy, and what sort of budget you need, usually come somewhere on the list. Priorities (apart from cost) normally include boot space for buggies, Isofix attachments for child seats, wipe-clean surfaces, safety, reliability, storage space for endless wet wipes…
Here are some of our top picks that have everything you’re looking for (note we’re quoting list prices to give you an idea, but explore monthly finance deals online or at a retailer)
A spacious five-seater that will cost you but is oh-so-beautiful inside. This SUV feels like a truly luxurious family car, with light leather and wood options and a large touchscreen tablet controlling all functions. It scores top marks for safety (Volvo invented the three-point seatbelt) with a plethora of warning aids and emergency steering and braking. Our favourite on this list, but also one of the most expensive once you spec it up.
The 8th version of the Golf is about to appear, meaning there should be some decent discounts on the current one, which is an excellent family hatchback. Small enough to make parking a doddle, but with a big enough boot space for folded buggies, this popular family car comes in petrol, diesel or electric form. Isofix bars are easy to reach, too.
Skoda Octavia estate
A near-perfect all-rounder, combining space, frugal but smooth petrol and diesel engines, a good infotainment system and fair pricing. As Skoda is owned by VW Group, you are essentially buying a VW but for less money. You won’t find more boot and leg space, and the latter is crucial for toddlers whose legs jut straight out over the booster seat.
The most expensive one on our list, but worth it if you’ve got the cash to splurge. A huge, five-seat, pure-electric SUV with loads of space and an automatically rising tailgate which is crucial when your hands are full of baby. It’ll charge overnight in your garage or head to a rapid charger for a 30-minute wait that will leave you with enough juice for about 250 miles. The best choice for those new parents worried about the state of the world their kids will inherit.
Seat Leon estate
Often ignored, this small estate (think Golf estate) is another family car from VW Group. You get loads of storage including a compartment underneath the driver arm rest and a drawer underneath the driver’s seat plus cupholders and a decent glove box. The dark fabric surfaces wipe clean easily and it’s bright and airy in the rear. There are also updated safety systems on the current model. The Octavia has more boot space, but the Leon feels easier to drive round town.
Excellent value for money for this mid-size SUV. It feels like nearly every family has owned a Sportage at some point in their lives and it’s easy to see why: great styling, with a rear-view camera as standard. You have to lift the buggy a bit higher into the boots of SUVs but the upside is good forward vision and a greater sense of safety. Best of all is the reliability track record of this car: it came top in the family SUV class. You get Kia’s 7-year warranty should anything go wrong, which it won’t.
Ford Focus estate
Another mid-size family estate in this list, but that’s because the body shape really does offer the best combination for new parents of easy loading, decent performance and safety, and fuel consumption that won’t break the bank. Simple dark surfaces that don’t show spillages, and generous safety equipment is standard, including emergency braking, which recognises cars, pedestrians and cyclists. The wide, deep boot is perfect for travel systems, and the Isofix bars are easy to reach.
Mini Countryman PHEV
A plug-in hybrid is perfect for many new parents, who find themselves constantly doing short trips to get emergency supplies of Sudacreme and nappies. If that’s you, you may find you can run entirely on electric battery, which you keep topped up at home, with no need to switch to engine power. Most plug-in hybrids are good for 20-30 miles on electric power. There’s an electric tailgate for opening the boot when your arms are full, and enough space to rival any other small SUV. Only downside is that beautiful interior, which you won’t want to ruin with baby sick.
A great-looking small SUV with smart Isoxfix covers that remove to reveal the bars. Door pockets have drinks holders for large bottles and the rear seats slide forwards and back, and recline, to allow easier access to little ones. Keyless entry and an electric tailgate both help over-burdened parents load the car.
Audi Q3 Sportback
It costs £3,000 more than the standard Q3 SUV, but in return you get a stunning new profile with a rear sloping roof like a sports car. Despite the slinky rear, the boot is still wide and large and there’s plenty of head room in the back. Buy the quattro version and you get the security of four-wheel drive. All versions have generous safety equipment, and the Audi Q3 has great reliability and residual records.