Top 3 Most Affordable, Sporty, Parkers Awards Large Family Cars
If you are a car enthusiast you have probably noticed a slow, but steady erosion of sporty, personal cars such as two-seater roadsters and small, affordable coupés. Even the humble three-door hot-hatchback has all but vanished, with the last Fiesta STs five-door only and the same fate befalling the SEAT Leon, Golf GTI, and Audi A3. Family cars are taking over. Perhaps it’s down to electrification, perhaps safety, but the demand for new cars for just one or two people can’t be high enough to justify making them – if you fancy such things, you’ll have to scour the second hand cars for sale in search of cheap convertibles or fun track-day sporty models. However, the family car has continued to improve, meeting the requirements of ever more discerning customers looking for the best economy, tech, and safety without compromise.
The best family cars of 2023, therefore, represent more than just some new models; they cram in the lessons learned from electric cars, high Euro NCAP standards, and in-depth reviews from professional testers and owners alike, as it’s been much easier for buyers to share owners’ reviews and real-world experiences on websites and social media. There’s a catch – these cars are, like everything, rising in price faster than wages. It’ll be a while before they’re as cheap to finance as a used model or widely available second-hand. We think they’re worth waiting for, new or used.
1. Citroën C5 X
The Citroën C5 X is the most affordable, and best, Parkers Awarded large family car. When families first adopted the ‘4×4 meets family hatchback’ modern SUV, defined by cars like the Nissan Qashqai and Audi Q5, a big part of that was ‘being trendy’ and getting the warm glow of having a distinctive, personal new car on the driveway. Citroën’s unique styling for the C5 X – which in all other respects really is a successor to the familiar C5 saloon and estate, ticks the emotional desire box. It’s good looking, but also distinctive, and has a character your kids will remember.
You’ll appreciate the different approach Citroën takes to engineering as well, rather than the pothole-jarring, bump-thumping ‘sporty’ ride other family cars seem to have no escape from, it’s got progressive, cossetting suspension and supportive, but well-padded seats that work in harmony for a ride that evokes the soft riding on air feel of classic Citroëns without the complexity. To live with, maintain, and buy used it’ll be no more trouble than conventional cars – but it’s got the space, kit, and capability to fit family life perfectly.
2. Lexus NX
The Lexus NX is a sensible car and available with premium options. This upmarket Japanese brand has maintained a solid reputation since launch, and alongside Toyota, shares a track record for reliability that means a 10-year warranty is available with dealer servicing, even when bought second-hand. But before you balk at the price, under the skin it’s very closely related to the Toyota RAV4 PHEV, which will give you the foundations of what the Lexus NX achieves, but with less of the style and opulence, and if you’re financing the car on a PCP, they may be closer in monthly cost than you realize.
What the Lexus NX does well are blended electric-car commuting and city driving with long-distance ease and almost diesel-style running costs. It’s a plug-in with a substantial battery, allowing around 40 miles of real-world EV use, and with over 300bhp and four-wheel drive it’s no slouch, or ‘all-show’ fake 4×4. Given the £50,000 cost of the RAV4, we think the more stylish and convenience-lead spec of the Lexus feels like better value for around if you find the monthly figures are comparable.
3. BMW X5
Once a stand-out model in BMW’s otherwise low-roofed and driver-focused range, the X5 is almost lost in the flow of premium SUVs rushing down Britain’s motorways and A-roads. That’s not a bad thing, from a rather awkward shape at launch, it’s evolved into a beautifully proportioned tall family wagon, less overtly imposing, though in true BMW style, the grille is a bit much. Fortunately, you can’t see the grille from inside, where you’ll find more traditional BMW qualities, a satisfying, involved drive, high-tech infotainment, business features, and genuinely high-quality engineering that when maintained well should last decades.
Early X5s remained a popular used buy right up until ULEZ pushed the strong diesel into the countryside, and of course, there’s a plug-in option built for BMW’s business-focused market, it’s got a 60-mile range for impressively low company car tax. X5 is a cheap car, but compared to rivals from Jaguar, Land Rover, and Mercedes, it feels like the premium qualities are more than just appearance and veneer.