We use cookies to allow us and selected partners to improve your experience and our advertising. By continuing to browse you consent to our use of cookies. You can understand more and change your cookies preferences here.


When you click on a retailer link on our site, we may earn affiliate commission to help fund our not-for-profit mission.Find out more.

8 Jun 2019

Affordable family cars reviewed - compact SUVs plus all shapes and sizes

Whether you're looking for plenty of space or something convenient to park in town, we've got the ideal family car for you

Compact SUV crossovers are very popular with families these days - and we've taken two of the latest for a spin. But there are plenty of other car classes to choose from as well. We've reviewed two family estates with plenty of space, plus two hatchbacks ideal for zipping around town and even the latest all-electric Smart car for city driving.

Named after a town on the island of Tenerife, the Seat Arona is a compact SUV with sporty styling. It competes in a rapidly growing market against popular rivals such as the Nissan Juke.

If you're looking for something with a more muscular look, check out the Jeep Compass. This characterful compact SUV sees Jeep moving into the family market. Although dedicated off-roaders shouldn't be disappointed, as Jeep's released a trim level specifically aimed at you.

Meanwhile, the Mazda 6 Tourer is Mazda's largest estate. It's aimed at those looking for a great-looking and practical car, but also the sporty driving dynamics Mazda is known for.

Looking for the most room possible on a budget? The Fiat Tipo SW estate makes for a tempting proposition. With an entry price even below a Ford Fiesta, it offers headroom, legroom and boot volume you might not get in cars more than twice the price.

If you're after something a bit smaller for city driving, we've reviewed the luxury hybrid Lexus CT200h hatchback, the Suzuki Swift Sport hot hatch, and the Smart EQ ForTwo electric car.

Best cars - see all our top car recommendations from our expert lab tests.

Seat Arona, £15,600

The Seat Arona is based on the Seat Ibiza supermini, offering drivers the appeal of a high ride height and trendy looks - at a good price.

The Arona aims to provide plenty of space on the inside for your family, without being too unwieldy to park and navigate around town.

Three petrol and two diesel engines are offered. Depending on the model, you get to choose from a five or six-speed manual or a seven-speed DSG semi-automatic transmission.

There are three main trim levels to choose from:

  • Basic SE, including metallic paint, five-inch touchscreen and sat nav
  • FR has sporty styling, sports supsension, drivingmodes and stronger brakes
  • Xcellence trim adds safety equipment, such as blind-spot detection and rear-cross traffic alert.

Extra-tech versions are available for each of these trim levels, too.

If you do buy this car, make sure it has received its VW seat belt fix, so passengers in the back are safe and secure.

Does this look like the perfect, affordable car for your family? Find out how it performed in our rigorous tests in our full Seat Arona review.

Jeep Compass, £22,261

If you like off-road looks but plan to spend most of your time on the road, the Jeep Compass could be the ideal car for you.

Jeep has aimed to provide you bags of space, with the option of all-wheel drive for occasional jaunts to the countryside.

There's even a hardcore off-road Trailhawk trim, with a raised suspension, front and rear skid plates, hill-descent control and a specific low-range mode for off-roading.

The other trim levels offer more sophisticated tech extras. The Longitude trim, for example, adds a reversing camera, 8.4-inch touchscreen with sat nav, and more.

The Compass competes against rivals such as the Volvo XC40 and Volkswagen T-Roc. So does it have what it takes to beat the competition?

Find out whether this is the ideal compact family SUV for you in our expert Jeep Compass review.

Mazda 6 Tourer, £23,725

The Mazda 6 Tourer has gone all out to provide not only a practical estate, but one that's looks good and is great to drive too.

Mazda hasn't downsized its motors as far as other manufacturers in recent years, giving you smoother engines.

All petrol engines are 2.0 litres in size (except the range-topping 194hp 2.5-litre) and all diesels are 2.2 litres.

All 6 Tourers are front-wheel-drive, with six-speed manual transmission as standard. Six-speed automatic transmission is available on almost all models.

Standard equipment is generous, including LED headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic lights and wipers, DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity and a comprehensive suite of active safety technology.

See whether you've found the right car in our comprehensive Mazda 6 Tourer review.

Fiat Tipo SW, £13,795

If you're looking for the most space possible in an affordable family car, the Fiat Tipo SW looks like a great choice.

It's larger and yet much cheaper than the rival Ford Focus Estate, and priced to compete against cars a class below its actual size.

And amazingly, Fiat's not skimping on the tech either. As standard you get DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity, autonomous emergency braking, cruise control and air conditioning.

If you're willing to pay a bit more, there's two higher trim levels, Easy Plus and Lounge, offering additional tech such as rear-parking sensors, a rear-view camera and even electric lumbar back support for the driver.

Sound like the next car for you? Our experts put it to the test - see our extensive Fiat Tipo SW review.

Lexus CT200h, £23,221

The Lexus CT200h hatchback is one of the premium brand's most affordable models, competing against popular rivals including the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series.

However, being a Lexus it's hybrid-only, taking much of its technology from the popular Toyota Prius. Power goes to the front wheels via a constantly variable transmission (CVT) and energy is recovered on braking.

An update in 2018 introduced a 10.3-inch touchscreen media display on all but entry-level models, and the addition of the important Toyota's Safety System+ for the latest safety improvements for your family. This includes autonomous emergency braking and lane-keep assist.

Looking to give your family a plusher ride? See whether this car has the fuel economy, reliability and great drive to be worth your money in our full Lexus CT200h review.

Suzuki Swift Sport, £17,578

The latest five-door Suzuki Swift hot hatch focuses on fun, rather than outright performance, aiming to make driving your family around cracking fun at a reasonable price.

The Swift Sport's well equipped, too. Suzuki has included all the desirable active safety kit that much of the regular Swift range does without.

It's not aiming to compete in the power leagues with the likes of the VW Golf GTI. Instead, the Swift Sport aims to give a more powerful, dynamic drive than the standard Suzuki Swift. The idea is to give you a bit more fun for normal driving out on the road, without the higher running costs of a full-on hot hatch.

It also has larger brakes and firmer sports suspension, which improves body control and agility.

Only manual transmission is available. It has a 140hp turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine, enough to get the dinky Swift Sport from 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds, and a top speed of 130mph.

Want to really take your family for a ride? We see whether this is a great practical and fun choice in our Suzuki Swift Sport review.

Smart EQ ForTwo, £17,695

The diminutive Smart EQ ForTwo car has had an all-electric makeover, aiming to be the perfect getaway for short city hops.

The EQ ForTwo's ultra-compact size, manoeuvrability and quick acceleration give it the edge in stop-start city traffic, where parking space is at a premium.

The EQ ForTwo can be charged in around two-and-a-half hours from home with a wallbox charger, or faster at a public charger. Smart claims it can drive for 99 miles on a single charge.

An app allows you to control certain functions remotely from your phone. This includes pre-entry climate control, which sets the temperature of your car before you set off, using mains power rather than the car's batteries.

Smart's EQ doesn't really have any city car rivals - it's larger than the almost bike-like Renault Twizy, but smaller than the Renault Zoe and VW E-Up.

If you're looking for a great way to get around town, there's something you need to know about this car before you buy. See our expert Smart EQ ForTwo review.