1 Citroën C4 Picasso
Its avant garde design and comfy suspension are in the best traditions of classic French cars but modest running costs and family friendly interior should make the C4 Picasso painless to own.
Its boot is huge and the three rear seats all come with Isofix anchors, can be slid forwards or backwards or folded flat independently of each other. Driving excitement clearly wasn’t top of the engineers’ to-do list, but your kids won’t care.
- Price: £18,270-£26,760
- Our pick: PureTech 130 VTR+, £19,570
- Engine: 1199cc, 3 cylinders
- Acceleration: 0-62mph: 10.1sec
- Top speed: 122mph
- Fuel | CO2: 56.5mpg | 115g/km
2 BMW 2-series Active Tourer
The 2-series Active Tourer is the first BMW-badged car to have front-wheel drive, so — like its main rivals — there’s no need for bulky equipment transferring power from the engine at the front to the rear wheels.
As a result it is spacious and practical with a low boot sill, good square load area and a nifty sliding rear seat that allows you to increase bootspace at the expense of rear legroom — or vice versa.
It’s not bad to drive either. It handles neatly, steers sweetly and rides comfortably. Think of it as a bit of Waitrose luxury while you haul the shopping from Lidl.
- Price: £23,010-£32,725
- Our pick: 218d SE, £26,775
- Engine: 1995cc, 4 cylinders
- Acceleration: 0-62mph: 8.9sec
- Top speed: 127mph
- Fuel | CO2: 68.9mpg | 109g/km
3 Ford B-Max
It’s not much longer than a Fiesta but Ford’s B-Max is much more versatile. Anyone who has ever tried to strap in a screaming infant while their car is parked in a tight spot will appreciate the sliding rear doors. They don’t bang against other cars and there’s no pillar between the front and back doors so you have a huge opening to lift a baby seat in and out. The front passenger seat folds flat, as well as both rear ones, so there’s plenty of room to slide in a flat-pack wardrobe.
Throw in agile handling and a frugal 1-litre EcoBoost engine with perky performance, and you’ve got the perfect mini-MPV
- Price: £13,095-£19,325
- Our pick: 1.0T Zetec, £16,095
- Engine: 999cc, 3 cylinders
- Acceleration: 0-62mph: 11.2sec
- Top speed: 117mph
- Fuel | CO2: 57.6mpg | 114g/km
4 Vauxhall Meriva
Vauxhall’s answer to easy access is family friendly rear-hinged “suicide” doors, so that when you’re buckling in a child, you’ve got most space where you need it: in front of the rear seats.
The Meriva is a reassuringly functional car: the dashboard uses chunky dials and buttons — easy to find and adjust when your mind is on squabbling kids in the rear; the back seats slide to let you choose the balance between legroom and boot space; and Vauxhall claims that the Meriva has 32 storage areas, including a boot that can be divided up to suit different loads.
- Price: £13,160-£22,145
- Our pick: Tech Line 1.6 CDTi 136PS S/S, £16,995
- Engine: 1598cc, 4 cylinders
- Acceleration: 0-62mph: 12.5sec
- Top speed: 115mph
- Fuel | CO2: 74.3mpg | 99g/km
5 Citroën Berlingo Multispace
If it looks suspiciously like a van with windows, that’s because the Berlingo Multispace is a van with windows. What it loses in design cool it gains in the advantage of a huge cabin, which offers a cavernous 3,000 litres of luggage space with seats folded — twice what Citroën’s C4 offers.
It’s also lined with storage nooks and crannies, from roof compartments to underfloor cubbyholes. The van origins are obvious from the noisy ride and cheap ’n’ cheerful interior. But that’s why the price is so low — and the kids will coat it in jam and crumbs anyway. Higher spec versions come with seven seats. Avoid the laggardly petrol model at all costs.
- Price: £13,355-£18,540
- Our pick: Blue HDI 100 Feel, £16,040
- Engine: 1560cc, 4 cylinders
- Acceleration: 0-62mph: 12.4sec
- Top speed: 103mph
- Fuel | CO2: 65.7mpg | 113g/km
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