What kinds of things are essential in your family car? Well that’ll depend on the needs of your particular family. Mine are all about school runs, easy parking and useful storage for stuff for sticky fingers and days out! Have a look at my top tips and adapt the checklist for your next purchase.
A day in the life of our family car
Perdita (my Picasso) has a life of her own. She’s a feisty filly but keeps herself tidy with a bit of help! Every weekday starts with the school run so I need plenty of places to tuck away wet wipes, plasters, bottles of water and so on, all likely to be called upon during those journeys at some point of another. You can see why good storage is pretty high on my list of essentials.
Joint runs with friends sometimes mean we need to fit in an extra child car seat. Children under 3 must travel in a child car seat so we’ll definitely be going for a new car with the maximum run of ISOFIX settings in the back.
It goes without saying we need room for the buggy and this can be provided by a whole range of cars on the market. You don’t need to limit yourself solely to the larger ones, such as the Land Rover Discovery (great for off-roading too) or the Ford Tourneo Connect. Buggies also fit easily into smaller cars such as the Ford Fiesta or Kia Ceed.
The flexibility of moveable seating is high up on our list of essentials, proving its worth time and again when we‘re having to load up the car and still fit a mate or other in the back! A range of cabin and boot space options can be provided by the seating in MPVs or people-carriers, such as the Citroen Berlingo, named most reliable family MPV last year.
Perdita’s little life-savers for dealing with the children have included the extra rear-view mirror, window shades and the cigarette lighter. I can keep the mirror trained on the kids to immediately nip any shenanigins in the bud. Most cars now do have window shades – worth checking so you can keep temperatures down during those sunny and sometimes fractious journeys. And my friend Milly swears by the cigarette lighter; she plugs a cunning bottle-warming gadget into it she’s managed to source. What a help!
Safety features strongly in my checklist. I want peace of mind as I’m driving my tiddlers hither and thither. Check out the Euro NCAP safety ratings for how safe the cars are you’re considering. Have a look at the Nissan Qashqai. It’s the safest small family car money can buy.
Economical engines and CO2 emissions are probably also worth looking at if you want maximum fuel economy and low tax, to say nothing of playing your part in greening the environment. There are plenty of cars that do well in this regard within highly rated family car options and these include the Citroen C4 Picasso, SEAT Leon hatchback and Ford B-Max mini MPV.
Or you could of course go for the high profile winners. There’s the Vauxhall Astra, voted by What Car? as best 2016 family car under £16,000. And there’s the perennial best selling small family car, the Ford Focus.
Essential items checklist
If we put all this together, a list of basics starts to emerge. Use this to guide your thinking and tailor it to your family’s particular circumstances.
• Child car seat ISOFIX settings – number and location
• Airbags – number and location
• NCAP score
• Additional rear view mirror to focus on the kids
Flexible cabin space
• Fold-down seats and flexibility of options
• A full third seat in the back for granny to helpfully keep the peace
• Boot space for buggies
• Plenty of pocket space for children’s drinks, snacks and car games
• Fold down picnic tables for kids in the back
• Coffee holder for mums in the front!
• Under-seat storage for extra holiday packing
Fuel economy and emissions
• Engine options, oomph and running costs
• CO2 emissions and tax savings
• Cruise control – to make those long day trips easier
• Speed limiter – to effortlessly stay within ever-changing motorway speed restrictions
• Aux inputs to play your own music and podcasts through the sound system
• DVD screens
Well I hope I’ve helped you to pin down your specific requirements from your next family car. Why not go along to your local dealer who’d be glad to provide further information and help. You can book to test drive the cars starting to match your requirements and see if they stack up. Happy hunting!