Best family cars on sale in 2016

From Seat to Land Rover, there's more than one way to transport your loved ones around

Alongside the standard family saloon, large hatchbacks, MPVs and crossovers make up some of the best cars to choose from when it comes to selecting a family motor.

Overall, though, you need to pick a car that balances a number of key traits, including practicality, safety, running costs and comfort – for you and your passengers. Taking the time to choose a model that's fun to drive is important too, as you'll probably be covering a lot of miles in it.

Here are some of the top choices out there.

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Seat Leon

The Seat Leon is one of CarBuyer's favourite family cars. The site describes it as a family hatchback with Volkswagen group underpinnings, so buyers will be getting a car that shares many of its parts with the VW Golf - but with a very welcome £1,000 discount.

The Leon starts from £17,700 and its engine range, despite not being as diverse as the Golf, has enough options to keep the needs of most motorists covered. Kicking things off is a 1.2-litre petrol capable of returning 58mph. The 1.6 TDI Ecomotive can return up 83mpg on a combined cycle, making it the most efficient option, but the sporty FR models aren't bad in terms of fuel, too. Worth a look in if you've got the cash.

Vauxhall Astra

CarBuyer's top pick overall is the Vauxhall Astra - and the current model is the marque's best effort yet, it says, thanks to its excellent blend of technology and value for money.

Starting at £15,445, the Astra is "quiet, comfortable, and undemanding when you need a family workhorse", says the site. There's a wide range of engines, but the turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol and the 1.6-litre ecoFLEX diesel are the recommended choices – the 1.0-litre turbo is sprightlier than the entry-level petrol option and the diesel can return a claimed 85mpg. An estate version exists too, if you need even more space.

Land Rover Discovery Sport

The new Discovery Sport is not only a better-looking car than the Freelander it has replaced, but a more practical one, too.

The Disco Sport comes with an optional two seats in the boot, making it a tidy seven-seater on a wheelbase not much larger than that of a normal family hatchback. Design-wise, it melts elements of the big Discovery and the Evoque into one and is certainly at the top of the bunch when it comes to good looks.

At launch, the 2.2 SD4 diesel engine was the only option available, but Land Rover is beginning to phase in new Ingenium units. It's also every bit as capable off road as the badge suggests. Prices start from £32,395.

Nissan Qashqai

The Qashqai is easily "the country's favourite crossover SUV", says Auto Express.

The car had a big role to play in kicking off the trend for crossovers - SUV-inspired cars built on hatchback platforms – but could have been a disaster if Nissan hadn't managed "to blend the qualities of both vehicle types" it its "brilliantly well-rounded product".

It's a great all-rounder: comfortable, well built, well priced, economical and practical. One of the more sensible ways to ferry five people around, the 1.5 diesel versions will manage 74mpg and the option of all-wheel drive is there should you wish to spec it. On sale from £18,545

Seat Ateca

A direct challenger to the Qashqai's grip on the crossover market is Seat's first effort at an SUV. The Ateca is a crossover with Volkswagen group underpinnings, sharing many of its parts with the more upmarket VW Tiguan but starting off at a very competitive £17,990.

So far it's been a hit with the critics, who think it's a good-looking car with the quality that comes from VW parts. Particularly, it's been singled out as a better car to drive than the Qashqai, although the ride is a little firmer.

Petrol and diesel engines are available, as is the choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive.

Ford B-Max MPV

Some may wish to pluck for an MPV over a hatchback, crossover, 4x4 or saloon. The B-Max scores well because it's packaged brilliantly. It's not a big vehicle mimicking a van, as MPVs can sometimes be, but instead sits on a neat platform while giving more space than a conventional hatchback. No pillar between the front and rear door allows for the cabin space to be utilised to the max while making it very easy to get in and out of.

Prices start from just £13,195 and it's also quite a cheap car to run. There's no option of seven seats, though, so despite the interior space, it will still only carry as many people as a conventional hatch.

Mazda 6

Auto Express touts the Mazda 6 saloon as "one of the best-looking family cars on the market", its particularly dynamic design - featuring a big grille, swooping lines and slightly popped-out wheel arches - making other family saloons "quite plain by comparison".

It's a larger car than rivals such as the Ford Mondeo and has excellent head and legroom as well as a big boot – there's 486 litres in the back.

The 6 is also fun to drive, with "nicely weighted and responsive" steering and gearshift, while the engines available to spec are smooth and with enough power. They're also quite good on fuel - the 148bhp 2.2-litre diesel can return 72.4mpg and emits just 104g/km CO2.

Prices start from £19,795.

Skoda Octavia

What Car? named it their family car of the year, thanks to it being "classy, comfortable, and incredibly spacious".

A hatchback aping larger saloons, the Octavia is a bigger car than rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus. Space inside is brilliant for family needs and while it's not the most stylish car, build quality is excellent thanks to Volkswagen group underpinnings. Standard equipment is equally generous – air-con, alloy wheels and DAB Digital radio all come on the entry level model.

Aside from its size and equipment, the Octavia also represents great value. It starts from just £16,660 for the 1.0-litre version in its most basic S trim level. Loads of engine options are available, though, stretching right through to the turbocharged 2.0-litre you'll find in the Volkswagen Golf GTi.

Volvo XC90

Volvo's new XC90 is one of the best SUVs on the market in 2016, so despite its £46,850 starting price, it's one for families to consider. Auto Express ranks it among its choices for the best family cars on sale today.

A large, spacious, stylish seven-seat SUV with an excellent interior, the XC90 makes use of a tally of efficient four-cylinder engines. D5 cars are diesels, alongside the XC90 in T6 guise, which uses petrol power, and the range-topping T8 - a plug-in hybrid powertrain. Auto Express recommends the diesel.

There's a generous assortment of equipment on every car in the range and as an overall package, it matches the premium quality you'd expect to find in rivals from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, and Land Rover.

Jaguar XE

Sunday Times Driving ranks Jaguar's small saloon as its favourite mid-size family car simply because of the way it handles, saying it's the best car to be behind the wheel of in its category.

The XE is still a fairly fresh model – it was only introduced last year – and slips between its two main rivals in terms of price. The £26,990 tag makes it slightly more expensive than the BMW 3-Series, but undercuts the new Mercedes C-Class.

Auto Express is pretty keen, too, giving the XE five stars out of five and naming it its Compact Executive Car of the Year in 2015.

The cheapest version of the car makes use of a 2.0-litre diesel engine with 161bhp producing just 99g/km CO2, so it's tax free. Auto Express recommends the more powerful, 178bhp 2.0-litre diesel, though. The extra little bit of power is welcome and with CO2 emissions of 111g/km, the result is a tax bill of a mere £20. Jaguar claims this engine can return 67.3mpg on a combined cycle.

Be aware, though, that while the Jag is one of the best family cars to drive, it lags behind in terms of practicality - boot and cabin space are smaller than you'll find on key rivals.

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