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What are the best family cars in Australia? How to choose the right one for you

Vidhu Bajaj avatar
Vidhu Bajaj
- 8 min read
What are the best family cars in Australia? How to choose the right one for you

If you have small children or you are planning to start a family, you might be looking for a family car that's spacious, safe, and comfortable to drive. Depending on your requirements, you'll find there are a range of options for family cars, from affordable hatchbacks that can comfortably seat four passengers to minivans that are spacious and can seat up to eight passengers. Besides the number of seats, you'll also want to compare the safety rating of different car models, price and fuel economy.

How to choose the best family car for you?

Choosing a family car can be challenging because you aren't selecting one based only on your style or taste. Factors like safety ratings, available space, and seating comfort take precedence over style and technical specifications because they make for a safe and comfortable ride, something you need when you have kids or elders riding as passengers.

Since safety is the utmost priority, comparing ANCAP Safety ratings is a good place to start your search for a reliable and safe family car. The Australasian New Car Assessment Program, or ANCAP, is a car safety assessment programme based in Australia. ANCAP crash-tests cars and awards them ratings between one to five stars. These ratings provide information on the level of safety provided by vehicles - the higher the rating, the safer the car. 

You can visit the ANCAP website and set the category to the type of car you wish to buy. This will show you a list of vehicles with their safety rating and fuel type. When comparing cars, remember that ANCAP Safety's rating criteria are updated yearly even though the ratings remain valid for up to six years. You can sort the list by the latest rating year to find the safest cars in a category. You can also compare the Child Occupant Protection score of different cars if you have small kids or infants at home. 

If you're looking for a family car solely based on ANCAP Safety ratings, you could consider the following options:

  • GVM Haval H6
    This is a mid-size SUV that can seat up to five people. It received a five-star ANCAP Safety rating in 2022. The vehicle scored 90 per cent in the Adult Occupant Protection tests and 88 per cent in Child Occupant Protection.

  • Mitsubishi Outlander
    This one is a roomy vehicle with space for up to seven people. Its variants came on sale in October 2021 and received a five-star ANCAP Safety rating in 2022. Mitsubishi Outlander is especially safe for families with small kids and infants. It scored 92 per cent in Child Occupant Protection tests, ranking it as one of the safest family cars for kids.

  • Kia EV6
    An environmentally friendly option for your family, the Kia EV6 is a fully electric, spacious SUV that received a five-star ANCAP Safety rating in 2022. The car offers ample boot space to fit a strolley and other sundry items for family trips.

Best family cars in Australia according to expert reviews and ratings

Comparing cars according to their ANCAP Safety ratings can be a good starting point to shortlist the best cars for your family. However, apart from safety, there could be other factors that matter to you in a car, including size, comfort, and price. 

To compare features other than safety, you may find other reviews, such as Drive Car of the Year, helpful. They compare cars based on several factors like safety, technical specifications, price, aesthetics, comfort, fuel economy, and so on. 

For 2023, Drive picked the following top family cars in Australia:

1. Kia Carnival 

Kia Carnival was ranked the best large car for families by Drive in 2023. Its roomy interiors, ISOFIX-compatible seats and ample cargo space make it a great choice for families. The car also features sensible sliding doors that take minimal space to open, making it a comfortable option for crowded car parks.

2. Hyundai Palisade

The runner-up in the category of large family cars, Hyundai Palisade can carry up to eight people with ease and comfort in its plush cabin with incomparable riding comfort. However, the huge vehicle may be a little difficult to control in extreme conditions.

3. Nissan X-Trail

According to Drive, the all-new Nissan X-Trail is a “family car that moves with the times”. It was judged the best medium SUV for 2023 by Drive, thanks to its practical and thoughtful cabin with plenty of space, decent fuel economy, and excellent engine and transmission combo.

4. Kia Sportage

The Kia Sportage was the winner of 2022’s Drive Car of the Year Best Medium SUV title. Even though it slipped to the runner’s up position this year, it remains an excellent choice in the segment with a nice design and good riding comfort.

What are some factors to consider when comparing family cars?

The factors for selecting a car depend on the reason for buying the car. A family car is generally a utility vehicle. It should have enough space for your entire family, and provide comfort and safety. Some of the factors to think about when choosing a family car include:

  • Safety: Regardless of your reasons for buying a car, safety should be the number one consideration. The need for safety is amplified when it's a family car, so make sure you check ANCAP Safety ratings before deciding. Ideally, you would want to buy a car with a higher and latest safety rating.

  • Seating capacity and boot space: When it comes to family cars, size trumps style. Check the car's seating capacity and interiors to ensure your entire family can fit in comfortably. Plan for the future and select a car with extra seating space if your family is going to grow. Make sure there is ample boot space; you might need it to lug around baby strollers, school bags, and bicycles.

  • Price of the car: It's common to take out a car loan to pay for a car, but it's worth checking whether you can keep up with the repayments and other costs like fuel, maintenance, and car insurance.

  • Fuel type and efficiency: You can choose between conventional, electric, and hybrid cars. Electric and hybrid cars might be costlier, but they are generally environmentally friendly and will save you money in the long run. With conventional cars, make sure you compare mileage to know which is the more economical option.

    It’s also possible to get a discounted interest rate on your car loan if you’re buying an electric car. Some lenders offer special loan products to encourage borrowers to purchase eco-friendly cars. An example of such a product is the Green Car Loan offered by Loans.com.au with a competitive interest rate, no ongoing fee, and instant approval for eligible applicants. 

    If you’re going for a conventional car, make sure you compare mileage to know which is the more economical option.

  • Tech Specs and features: Modern cars have incredible features that make driving pleasant and stress-free for the driver, a comfortable and enjoyable experience for passengers, and enhance the vehicle's overall safety. What you want to look for in a family car are features like child seat attachments, airbags for all passengers, adequate cargo space, soft and comfortable seats, and so on.

  • Financing your family car: You can always apply for a car loan if you can't pay for your car upfront, but it's important to be realistic about the type of car you can afford to buy. The amount of money you can borrow for a car depends on various factors, including your income, credit score, and debt-to-income ratio, which is the ratio of your total debts to your income. A borrowing capacity calculator can help you determine how much money you might be able to borrow for a car to narrow down your search accordingly.

    When buying a car, you should also remember to factor in all the other costs apart from the purchase price, such as car insurance, fuel, maintenance, repairs, and so on. The actual amount a car will cost you also depends on the interest rate on your car loan. Secured loans are generally cheaper than unsecured loans. Your interest rate is also affected by your credit score and the type of vehicle (new or old) you wish to purchase. You can compare car loans from different credit providers online to find a competitive deal that offers you the best value for your money.

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Product database updated 04 Mar, 2024

This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Mark Bristow before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.