When you’re shopping for a new family car there are more options than you have fingers to count them.
There are many criteria under which you might be looking for your next family car. Most people start with affordability, but they want reliability, features and safety.
It’s very easy to overlook important aspects like customer service and resale, while putting too much emphasis on styling, fuel economy and specific characteristics. These 10 vehicle tick virtually every box.
Here’s a sharp shortlist to help you make an informed, smart choice in 2021.
These two seven-seaters deserve equal first in this list because they’re built on the same platform, so they’re essentially non-identical twins, and what one lacks the other makes up for. Sorento and Santa Fe have turned mundane family transport into a sleek, stylish and ultra-modern frontier.
This sounds like hype, but it’s the fact that ordinary mums and dads can afford either vehicle with loads of features and remarkable comfort, without having to pay six figures or luxury car tax, which makes them so hard to beat.
Both are impeccably safe (5 stars, ANCAP) including new front-centre airbags, and get bespoke Australian-tuned suspension courtesy of their respective engineering departments.
|‘S’ $49,000 (petrol) - ‘GT-Line’ $67,000 (diesel) (driveaway).||‘Santa Fe’ $49,000 (petrol) - ‘Highlander’ $70,500 (diesel) (driveaway)|
Such an underrated five-seat family wagon. The new Outback offers a massive 12-inch portrait touchscreen which feels like you’re at the helm of the Enterprise, and it’s on all model grades. All-wheel drive is cornerstone Subaru and is ideal for families who frequently venture to grassy camping grounds on school holidays and long weekends. AWD is also especially good for rural or regional families where washed away dirt roads, mud and gravel are routine. Don’t let anybody dissuade you from taking a test drive. Consider the base model for best value and payload while towing.
|Outback base model $45,000 - ‘Touring’ $52,800 (driveaway)|
A good value, general purpose family SUV which gives you plenty of options. GO up the range if you can afford greater luxuries, or go down the range for the essentials wrapped in a dignified aesthetic design which has stood the test of time. You’ll get great resale value out of CX-5, as well as a reliable, nicely proportioned and jack of all trades vehicle.
It’s not perfect (there’s no such thing), but it has decent legroom and boot space, plus the option of a diesel.
|‘Maxx’ $35,500 - ‘Akera’ $54,500 (driveaway)|
Utes are very popular for multi-purpose family use, offering five seats, a big, durable tray, and a grunty diesel engine with good mid-range power ideal for towing trailers for work or caravans for holidays.
The rougher nature of utes also means you tend to care less about keeping everything clean and worry about more important things. Trophy utes not included, obviously.
Triton is currently the best ute on the market for one main reason - its ulta clever ‘Super-Select’ transmission. Current Triton has been around for several years now and has proven very reliable and has good resale value. It’s also an awesome value ute at $52K for the highest model grade.
|Mitsubishi Triton dual-cab|
|Triton 4X4 ‘GLX’ $41,000 - ‘GSR’ $55,000 (driveaway)|
Essentially the same car with different clothes, available in both hatch or sedan body shape, and with crazy value from base model to performance version.
Generally having better boot space than their equivalent SUVs, these two offer oodles of safety and features, but they’re also significantly lighter than their respective SUV counterparts, so they’re noticeably more economical thanks to better power-to-weight ratios. Thanks to the popularity of SUVs, Cerato and i30 are also easier to find a good price on because dealers don’t have as high consumer demand for them. If you like a hot hatch, check out the i30 N-Line or Cerato GT and enjoy going fast without the German price.
|Hyundai i30||Kia Cerato|
|‘Active’ $30,000 - ‘N-Line Premium’ $38,000 - ‘i30N’ $48,000 - $53,000 (driveaway)||‘S’ $25,500 - ‘GT’ $36,000 (driveaway)|
A worthy competitor to the i30 N-Line and Certao GT, but with an arguably nicer interior. Mazda 3 is very reliable and comfortable vehicle with good driving dynamics.
A safe option in terms of resale, customer service, value and servicing costs - if you avoid the high end of the model range. A ‘G20 Touring’ at $37K is reasonable. You have hatch or sedan options, and a manual gearbox is easy to have if you like it old school. People who like performance might think about the $35K ‘G25 GT’ with a better power-to-weight ratio than the $38K ‘Astina’.
|‘Pure’ $30,000 - ‘X20 Astina’ $45,600 (driveaway)|
This was the first Mitsubishi product to result from the corporate merger with Nissan-Renault after 2016, and in 2017 Eclipse Cross was born. So far, it seems to be a fairly decent small-medium SUV at the right price. There’s also a wide range of configurations to help suit your unique driving situation.
|Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross|
|‘ES’ $31,500 - Plug-In Hybrid ES $50,000 (driveaway).|
Suzuki doesn’t get as much credit as it deserves, particularly the Vitara. The turbo version is quite a spritely little car without the larger price tag of bigger-volume brands.
Despite being cheap it doesn’t lack safety, which has been a rare combination, historically. This current Vitara has been around a few years now and seems quite reliable (Suzukis tend to be), and it will do all the short-journey city/suburb driving you would expect of it. Very little cash gets you a good list of features.
|Base model $28,000 - Turbo AllGrip (AWD) $39,500 (driveaway)|
A very small car with fantastic appeal to anybody on a tight budget. If you think about how much stuff you actually carry on a daily basis, most people would fit it all in a Picanto - shopping bags, a couple of school bags, maybe a child booster seat or two, coffee cups, a suitcase or handbag, maybe a footy or something.
Why do you need some enormous two-tonne SUV? Anybody shopping for a Corolla should consider saving thousands of dollars and take Picanto for a test drive. Again, there’s the Picanto GT for those who like things hot.
|‘S’ $18,000 - ‘GT Manual’ $21,490 (driveaway)|
The ultimate big-family hauler. That’s right, forget that sexy seven-seat SUV, because the Kia Carnival is king when it comes to moving people and stuff, en masse. And the base model offers plenty of features at a very digestible price.
You also have to give credit: it’s the best looking people mover you’ve ever seen. It is.
|‘S’ (petrol) $50,000 - ‘Platinum’ (diesel) $70,800|
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