Back to school: Best new cars for the school run

All ready for the back to school period?

Pens and paper: check. School uniform washed and ironed: check. School bag: check.

The right car for the job: check…?

The back to school rush to prepare for the upcoming year is one of the most important dates in a parent’s calendar. As well as getting your kids mentally and physically prepared to start back, you also have to prepare yourself.

Most of the obvious bases will be covered, like stationary, uniforms and sports kits for when the kids get to school, but what about actually getting them there?

A quick search on UK-based parenting website netmums.com will reveal that the words ‘dreaded’, ‘school’ and ‘run’ crop up again and again, usually in that exact order.

A lot of the comments made by users on netmums.com details how each and every August the trepidation starts to set in as the anxiously await the first of September.

Grumpy kids, congested traffic and long, time consuming trips are some of the biggest pitfalls that parents seem to particularly loathe.

Unfortunately, we can’t guarantee that your school run will go entirely smoothly, but we can offer a few suggestions as to the best cars for the job. After all, you have enough problems to worry about with the start of the school season, so why not remove the problem of the best car from the equation?

Range Rover Evoque

Since its release, the Range Rover Evoque has gone on to become one of the most successful Land Rover-built models in history.

In its first year alone, the Evoque garnered 100 awards, picking up accolades ranging from MSN’s Car of the Year to awards from Top Gear and many more.

It’s no surprise, either. Snug, stylish and functional, the Evoque raised the bar in the compact SUV section upon its release and continues to be one of the key benchmarks that all forthcoming small 4x4s are measured against.

With its sloping roofline, thin headlights and substantial front bumper, it certainly looks the part. It can also be specified with a total of 12 body colours, three roof colours and seven different wheel designs, so buyers can personalise their Evoque to match their own personal styles.

It was also updated in the middle of last year to include a wider range of standard equipment.

Seven new driver assistance features are now stuffed inside to keep you firmly on the road, along with a bold dashboard, touchscreen infotainment system and ambient interior LED lighting.

 

The ride is high with excellent visibility from the windscreen, which rear parking sensors come standard on every model to make it easier for you to park the relatively vast Evoque in tight school parking spaces.

Available in three or five-door variants, the Evoque is also plenty flexible, with the five-door version offering more accessibility for a greater amount of passengers. Space inside is generous, while the seats are comfortable, meaning occupants shouldn’t have a grumpy ride, even in the early mornings.

The five-door Evoque also boasts a 575-litre boot, which can expand to 1,350 with the rear seats folded down. This vast storage space is perfect, particularly for smaller children who require buggies, or for book-packed schoolbags.

A range of diesel engines are available, with the entry-level 147bhp 2.2-litre model the best all-rounder for the average driver. For those looking for a little extra kick, there’s another 2.2-litre engine with 187bhp or a 2.0-litre turbocharged 237bhp version.

With a 0-60mph time of around seven seconds, the latter is by far the fastest, but naturally the most fuel-hungry. It’s also unlikely that you’ll get bogged down in any early morning drag races, either, so the smaller engine is probably the best.

It’s also the most economical of the lot, managing 56.6mpg with CO2 emissions of 133g/km, so it’s worth investing in the smaller model if you’re concerned with cost-effectiveness, which virtually any parent surely is.

Prices for the Range Rover Evoque start at £28,000 for the five-door two-wheel drive model. It’s a little more expensive than some of its contemporaries, but if style is as important to you as function, surely there’s no better choice.

Vauxhall Zafira Tourer

Vauxhall’s Zafira Tourer model has long been the go-to choice for parents with larger families.

With a relatively low cost and supersize seven-seater capacity, the Zafira Tourer is one of the Luton-based carmaker’s most successful models.

Not just a hit with buyers, the Zafira Tourer has won a wide array of awards, including multiple awards for being the pick of the small MPV class.

It mightn’t be quite as graceful or glamorous as the Range Rover Evoque, but it definitely looks smart in its own right with high and slim window lines and sculpted flanks.

Inside, it’s neat and easy to use with large buttons on the centre console, plus plastic interior trim that’s easy to wipe clean in the event that messy munchkins muck up the cabin.

A panoramic roof can also be specified for a little extra light inside, while the higher level Tech Line trim adds SatNav and ambient lighting.

Seating flexibility is high, with the second row seats being able to be moved back and forth or individually folded to free up space as needs dictate. The middle seat can even be stowed away, freeing up the two outer seats to slide in and increase elbow room for occupants.

Folding the third row seats maximises luggage capacity, but even with all seats in place, the Zafira Tourer still have an incredible 710 litres of boot space, plus a narrow and low load floor to make lifting luggage in and out child’s play.

Rear seats are a little cramped for adults, but children will be just fine in them. Folding them away expands boot capacity to 1,860 litres, which should prove more than enough for virtually any amount of apparel that parents and children can throw at it.

With a new 1.6-litre diesel engine, the Zafira will produce just 109g/km of CO2 with a combined fuel economy of 68.9mpg.

The unit will produce up to 134bhp, allowing the Zafira Tourer to sprint from 0-60mph in just over 10 seconds.

Road and engine noise are also at a minimum inside the cabin, with the newest version coming with much less clatter than its predecessor, keeping the ride smooth, quiet and (hopefully) stress-free.

Prices for the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer start from £20,145, making it one of the more cost-effective choices for parents with larger families.

Nissan Qashqai

With a revised and bolder look, Nissan’s latest version of the Qashqai went on sale in the UK this February.

Along with its slick new looks, the new model also comes with a distinct V-shaped grille, plus wraparound front headlights and Nissan’s ‘Boomerang’ rear lights.

All models feature LED daytime running lights and 19-inch alloy wheels are also available on the Qashqai for a little extra.

A range of driver assistance and safety functions also feature in the new Qashqai, leading the model to be crowned the “world’s most parkable car”  while it also garnered the top five-star rating from the Euro NCAP  safety test.

It’s well-built on the inside with plenty of soft-touch plastic, plus the infotainment system is intuitive and easy to use. For long-distance school runs, the Qashqai also makes an excellent motorway cruiser with a refined and quiet ride, while the raised height offers premium visibility.

Legroom and headroom inside is also good, with room in the back for all but the lankiest of adults. The boot space is slightly smaller than either the Range Rover or the Vauxhall at 380 litres, but the low boot lip means that sliding heavy items into the boot is easy.

As well as that, the Qashqai’s electric parking brake frees up extra space for smart storage including cup holders and door bins, plus a large glovebox to store all the wet-wipes and lunchboxes you can get your hands on.

Power comes from a range of engines, including a 1.5-litre diesel and 1.2-litre petrol unit. The 1.5-litre diesel makes the best option for motorway cruising and will take the model from 0-60mph in twelve and a half seconds.

It’s also impressively cheap when compared with conventional SUV models, with the 1.5-litre diesel being the most economical.

Fuel economy clocks in at 74.3mpg, while CO2 emissions are as low as 99g/km, making the Qashqai equipped with that engine exempt from road tax, one less thing to worry about.

As well as that, the Qashqai is also much cheaper than its main rivals, with prices ranging from £17,595 for the entry-level model to £27,845.