Tuesday 21 August 2018

Family high fives

In the market for a family car? We look at five alternatives in the categories of Green, MPVs, Crossovers and Compact SUVs, writes Geraldine Herbert

Skoda Kodiaq
Skoda Kodiaq
BMW Active Tourer
Citroen C4 Cactus
VW Touran
Nissan Leaf
Dacia Duster
Toyota C-HR
Peugeot 5008
Mazda CX-3
Opel Zafira
Ford S-Max
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Honda HR-V
SEAT Arona
Volvo XC60 T8
Subaruu XV
Jaguar E-Pace
Kia Niro PHEV
Hyundai Tucson
Renault Scenic

Green Cars

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Kia Niro PHEV
 

Kia Niro

Kia's Niro is the Korean car maker's first hybrid. This crossover sits between the Sportage and the Cee'd hatchback in their line-up. With chunky styling and a high ride-height that aids visibility, the body cladding gives it a tough muscular look. Despite the styling, however, there's no four-wheel-drive option so think of the Niro as more of a high-riding family hatchback than an SUV. Inside, the layout will be familiar to any Kia owner and it is well built with good quality materials throughout. The dash is clean and all the controls are easy to access. Aimed at family buyers, there is plenty of space and it is satisfyingly roomy in both front and back. And while there's no cunning third row of seats waiting to spring out of the floor, fold the rear seats down and you get a very decent 1,425 litres. A plug-in version of the Niro hybrid is also available and is powered by a 1.6-litre GDI petrol engine with a 8.9kWh battery pack and a 43.5kW electric motor. This wizardry means CO2 emissions of just 29g/km and a zero-emissions, pure-electric driving range of 58km along with a very frugal 1.3l/100km.

Prices start from €29,094 for hybrid and €35,995 for PHEV.

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Volvo XC60 T8
 

Volvo XC60 T8 Hybrid

Crowned World Car of the Year 2018, the new XC60 is safer, roomier and more advanced in every area you can imagine. In terms of styling, it borrows heavily from the design philosophy already applied to the XC90, S90 and V90 and exterior inspired cues include the Thor hammer-style front lamps, sculpted sides and vertical tail lights. Inside there is hip Scandi style in bucketfuls and it is beautifully finished throughout. Powering the range is a choice of petrol or diesel engines along with a 400hp fuel-sipping petrol electric hybrid. According to Volvo, the hybrid can achieve 2.1l/100km with CO2  of just 49g/km. As you might expect from Volvo, the XC60 has more safety measures than a bungee jump and is crammed with active and passive features. Prices for the hybrid start at €68,450 but it's worth remembering you're paying not just to go from A to B, but one of the best kinds of luxury, a feeling of smugness.

Prices start from €68,450.

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Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
 

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

It may look like a regular Outlander but the Outlander PHEV (above) was the world's first four-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or PHEV in short. Interior space is good, with plenty of room in the rear for three; there is no seven-seat option with the hybrid due to the extra space needed to accommodate the battery. Powered by a 2.0-litre petrol engine combined with two 60kW motors, the combined fuel economy is a staggering 1.91/100km with carbon emissions of just 42g/km. Realistically, those figures would only be achieved if the car was used for short commutes, but in real driving terms, the car is still highly efficient and can drastically reduce running costs. On the road the focus is firmly on comfort and economy rather than performance but it is smooth and responsive and silent. Tread delicately at low speeds and it will glide around under electric power alone and so quietly you'll forget you're in a car. If you are looking for the full SUV experience, including four-wheel drive while doing your bit for the planet, the Outlander PHEV is hard to beat.

Prices for the PHEV start at €49,900.

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Nissan Leaf
 

Nissan Leaf

With a more sleek and aerodynamic exterior the Leaf is not as radical a design change as the new Micra but it's certainly a big improvement on the previous version.

Nissan is hoping to win over a new generation of customers with its much-improved driving range and roomier interior. The new model has a range of 378km based on the NEDC test but the new and more reliable real-world motoring WLDT test reduces this to a realistic 270km - still a significant improvement on the 190km on the previous version. With a quick charger, the 40KW battery can be brought up to 80pc capacity in 40-60 minutes, but home chargers would take 8-10 hours. Inside, it is spacious enough for four adults to sit inside comfortably while the boot is a decent 435 litres. And it is packed with technology including the e-Pedal that allows the car to be driven with just one pedal. Also new is Nissan's autonomous drive technology, ProPilot, which is designed to make everything easier, from dealing with traffic jams to keeping your distance on the motorway. Good to drive and well priced, if you are considering an electric car it would be worth test driving the new Leaf.

Prices for the Nissan Leaf start at €26,290.

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Toyota C-HR
 

Toyota C-HR

With a sleek coupe-shape roofline, bulging wheel arches and sharp creases, the funky C-HR (above) is certainly the one to stand out in the supermarket car park. Inside it's surprisingly roomy, even in the back, although kids may find their vision slightly compromised by the upward-sloping rear windows and tall passengers may find it a little too snug. The boot offers a reasonable 377 litres of space. The cabin looks great and is really easy to use, with everything buyers demand, including an 8in touchscreen for sat-nav, reversing camera and a full range of infotainment features. The C-HR is good to drive, the ride is firm and the steering accurate while the suspension absorbs bumps nicely and keeps you cosseted from wind and road noise. The 1.8-litre petrol-electric hybrid will save you plenty of trips to the pumps by returning 3.8l/100km. Stylish, lively and green, the C-HR will appeal to the young and the young at heart, injecting some real fun both into the brand and the compact SUV sector.

Prices for the C-HR hybrid start at €29,350.

Crossovers

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Citroen C4 Cactus
 

Citroen C4 Cactus

Citroen's new C4 Cactus is designed to fill the void left by the retired C4 Cactus but in a more SUV-like way. Gone is the eye-catching styling and in place a more muted crossover. And those distinctive air bumps are now concealed at the bottom of the door but they remain a mark of distinction and a talking point. Inside, it is deceptively big and there is adequate room throughout and a surprisingly big boot that can swallow 358 litres. New also is Citroen's Advanced Comfort Programme - this new suspension means the car rides comfortably over all surfaces and while the drive experience is not notable, there is little to complain about. There's a good selection of engines, ranging from a three-cylinder 1.2-litre PureTech unit to the frugal 1.6-litre BlueHDi diesel. The 1.2-litre turbo petrol version, which emits as low as 104g/km of C02, makes a lot of sense. Not as quirky as it once was, the C4 Cactus will still make you smile.

Prices start from €19,995.

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Honda HR-V
 

Honda HR-V

Bigger than the Nissan Juke but smaller than the Qashqai, Honda's HR-V coupe-like styling will undoubtedly turn heads, while touches such as the hidden rear door handles beautifully enhance the look. Step inside and you find the HR-V is brimming with understated style. It is also loaded up with much of the technology drivers have come to expect, including a seven-inch Honda Connect touchscreen that is fitted as standard on grades above entry level. Clever details increase the usable space inside, including the fuel tank, which is in the centre of the vehicle beneath the front seats, allowing for a flat floor and greater legroom for rear-seat passengers. In addition, the versatile 'magic seats' offer the ability to carry long, tall, or wide items in numerous configurations and it has one of largest boots in its class, with 453-litre capacity and 1,026 litres with the rear seats folded away. There is a choice of two engines: a 130bhp 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol or a 120bhp 1.6-litre i-DTEC diesel. Average fuel economy is impressive and the petrol model returns 5.6l/100km with CO2 emissions of 130g/km, so it's €270 a year to tax. On the road, it is not the most exciting to drive but the use of space inside is clever and it is well equipped, stylish with excellent practicality, making the Honda HR-V a crossover worth considering.

Prices start from €23,995.

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Jaguar E-Pace
 

Jaguar E-Pace

Chic, sleek, sophisticated, the E-Pace certainly has an edge over rivals. Inside, it is well thought out, modern and comfortable, with nods to the F-Type throughout. It is also awash with charging points and USB connections as well as a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot for up to eight devices. Every E-Pace also features the latest generation of Jaguar's Touch Pro infotainment system. Natural voice control technology, a 10in touchscreen interface and a customisable home screen make interactions with the system quick, simple and intuitive. The boot is a spacious 577 litres, but despite its size the car never feels particularly roomy inside and space in the back is far from generous. On the road, the bodywork is heavier than you'd expect, the result is a reassuring sturdiness but the downside is a weighty car that feels cumbersome when compared with the larger F-Pace. If you decide to buy one, there are numerous decisions to make: petrol or diesel, manual or automatic, FWD or AWD and four trim levels. Plenty of people want an engaging and premium SUV that will garner admiring glances in a supermarket car park and for those, the E-Pace is a price many will find worth paying.

Prices start from €36,000.

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Mazda CX-3
 

Mazda CX-3

Based on the Mazda 2, the CX-3 combines rugged looks and a high-riding driving position but doesn't sacrifice any of the small car's sharp handling and general nippiness either. Featuring Mazda's signature look, the CX-3 is a good-looking car and could easily be mistaken for a CX-5 from a distance. Four trim levels are available: SE, Executive, Executive SE and GT. Inside, it is nicely finished and a 7in touchscreen and cruise control are standard but the stylish exterior means a compromise with space, so it's a little cramped and visibility is not great. The CX-3 is available as a 2.0-litre petrol SkyActiv-G (120ps) in front-wheel-drive and 1.5-litre diesel SkyActiv-D (105ps) in both front- and four-wheel-drive versions. On the road it's really fun to drive and will make you want to slalom down empty back roads. In terms of safety, the CX-3 was awarded four out of five stars by Euro NCAP. With very smart styling and driving dynamics that outclass many rivals, Mazda has packed a lot into such a small package.

Prices start from €20,995.

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SEAT Arona
 

Seat Arona

Looming in the mirrors of the Renault Captur, Peugeot 2008 and Opel Mokka, SEAT's Arona is designed for those looking for style and functionality. Despite being based on its supermini sister, the Ibiza, the Arona is taller, longer and wider so better able to compete as a family-sized crossover. Outside there is much to admire and while there is no AWD version, the bumpers, wheel arches, extra ground clearance and roof rack all hint at more than just the urban jungle. Inside, the dashboard is all very familiar and is easy to use, but it lacks the styling flair of the exterior. The swathe of plastic across the dashboard is dull and charmless, but overall it all feels of reasonable quality. There are three petrol engines to choose from: a three-cylinder, 95PS 1.0-litre TSI, which is linked to a five-speed manual gearbox. Also available is a more powerful 115PS version and a new four-cylinder, 150PS TSI mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. A diesel 1.6-litre TDI will be available with 95 and 115PS but pick of the engine range is the 1.0-litre TSI. The Arona compact SUV hits just the right note with sporty styling, keen pricing and good driving dynamics.

Prices start from €17,995.

MPVs

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BMW Active Tourer
 

BMW Active Tourer

Easily the most practical BMW in the range, the 2 Series Active Tourer and Gran Tourer come with five or seven seats and the option of four-wheel-drive. It's a family car that is small enough to be parked just about anywhere, while the versatile interior will appeal with plenty of space and storage areas throughout. Along with a range of petrol and diesel engine choices comes a petrol/ electric hybrid powered by a 1.5-litre, 136hp, three-cylinder petrol engine driving the front wheels and an 88hp electric motor driving the rear wheels. According to BMW, it will achieve a fuel-sipping 2l/100km while CO2 emissions are a mere 46g/km. On the road all versions drive well and are reasonably refined, though tyre noise is an issue. BMW has prioritised practicality, space and functionality over driving dynamics so it's not the ultimate driving machine BMW built a reputation on but it's a well-equipped and comfortable family car.

Prices start from €33,440.

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Ford S-Max
 

Ford S-Max

Ford's S-Max has won legions of devoted fans as the driver's MPV of choice. Outside it is a smart and handsome-looking car while inside the family-focused interior comes with seven seats and flexible space and storage options. Based on the Mondeo, the S-Max is good to drive and while comfort is the key priority it still manages to feel lively on the road. Buyers can choose from a variety of petrol or diesel engines and all offer a good blend of economy and performance, given the size of vehicle. There is also the option of four-wheel-drive but unless you really need it, it would be hard to justify the extra cost and reduced fuel economy. The S-Max's combination of driver enjoyment, space and ride comfort have always tempted buyers and while MPVs struggle to lure buyers away from SUVs, few offer the versatility and driving dynamics of Ford's people carrier.

Prices start from €39,285.

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Opel Zafira
 

Opel Zafira Tourer

The Flex7 seating system may no longer be the Zafria's unique party trick but it is still an impressive MPV. Inside there is a great comfort and space for seven with really good visibility plus kids will love the way you can hide all your rubbish away in a variety of slots and cubby holes. On the road it is good to drive and while not designed to set any speed records on the Nurburgring, there is plenty of oomph for overtaking confidently and it's more agile than you'd think given its size. Engine-wise there's a decent selection, so choice is no problem. Opel's armoury  of active and passive safety features include Opel Eye, a driver-assistance system that continuously monitors surrounding vehicles and road markings. Spacious, with a practical interior and good to drive, the Zafira is a good choice for a growing family.

Prices start from €29,995.

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Renault Scenic
 

Renault Scenic

When Renault's Scenic rolled off the production line more than 30 years ago, it transformed the world of family motoring forever. Revamped in 2016, it now sports a more steeply angled roof, a two-tone colour scheme, rugged looks and with enormous 20in wheels as standard, it certainly has got kerb appeal. According to Renault, the cabin accounts for 80pc of the car's entire volume. It also boasts a best-in-class 572 litres of boot space. Inside, it has benefited from higher quality materials and behind-the-wheel visibility is excellent with a really good driving position. A new 8.7in portrait touchscreen allows everything to be controlled via the R-Link system. Space is one of the key priorities in a family car and the Scenic feels much more roomy than the previous version. Buyers are likely to opt for the diesel 1.5-litre dCi with 110bhp or 130bhp. With a sharper design, extra equipment and improved driving dynamics along with a good dose of French flair, it makes rivals look positively dull.

Prices start from €26,300.

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VW Touran
 

VW Touran

The golden age of MPVs may have passed but amid the clamour it is worth remembering why people carriers once held such a prominent place on the list of family must buys. Volkswagen's seven-seat Touran is a reminder of the quintessential virtues of an MPV. There are better-looking MPVs on the market but inside there is an impressive amount of space to allow sufficient distance between siblings, which is always a major plus for family motoring. Crucially, all Tourans come with seven seats as standard - with three-point seat belts all round and five Isofix anchor points. The second row of seating has three individual seats of equal size. The car is jammed with clever stuff to keep you and all aboard safe, including a host of safety features and an active bonnet with pedestrian monitoring that comes as standard. On the road its refined and smooth to drive and feels small and nimble. One petrol engine is on offer (a 1.2-litre) or buyers can choose from two diesels: a 1.6 or a 2.0-litre. This sensible MPV may not garner any admiring glances but for a family car it offers pretty much everything you could want.

Prices start from €30,045.

Compact SUVs

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Peugeot 5008
 

Peugeot 5008

In the age of the Urban SUV, Peugeot has looked at the most important, decision-shaping consumer desirables within the family-buying market - style, space and elegance - and have re-imagined their 5008 from the wheels up and it is no longer a boxy MPV but rather a smart SUV. Distinctive and elegant outside, inside everything is smooth and logical and behind Peugeot's small steering wheel is a virtual cockpit - the iCockpit digital dashboard. The contemporary design is elegant and there's the impression that every detail has been considered. The car comes with six engine choices and three trim levels, including an impressive 1.2-litre turbo petrol, so there's something for everyone. The 5008 blends the best practicality of an MPV with the appeal of an SUV, making it a very enticing family car. While it will be battling for market share with some very accomplished rivals, it has the capacity to nudge its way in and create a following all of its own.

Prices start from €29,345.

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Dacia Duster
 

Dacia Duster

It's over six years since the Duster was launched in Ireland at a time when the country was gripped by the worst economic recession in decades. Since then budget crossover has proved a huge success. Outside, it is smartly styled with roof rails and splashes of chrome. Wheel-arch protectors and door kick plates complete the no-nonsense image. Inside, families with active lifestyles will relish the functional approach. Those who don't need 4x4 capability can go for the front-wheel-drive option, ushering in even cheaper prices. A new SE Summit trim joined the range this year has all the equipment that features on the range-topping Prestige trim level, and its SUV style is further enhanced with the addition of chunky body side and wheel-arch mouldings. On the road the Duster it is not the most dynamic but it is functional and comfortable and this rugged-looking SUV costs thousands less than its big-money rivals. It is worth noting that it was awarded just three stars out of five when it was crash-tested by the Euro NCAP. The Duster is a frugal, efficient family car at a fraction of the price of most other SUVs.

Prices start from €16,890.

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Hyundai Tucson
 

Hyundai Tucson

Hyundai replaced their popular ix35 compact sport utility vehicle with the Tucson in 2016 and it signalled a new emphasis by the Korean car maker in terms of styling and sales ambitions. With striking looks, good equipment levels and comfort throughout, the Tucson became Hyundai's best-selling car and one of the most popular choices among new car buyers in Ireland so far this year. Power comes from a choice of a petrol and two diesel engines with, depending on trim level, either front- or four-wheel-drive and manual or automatic transmissions. Five trim grades are on offer: Comfort, Comfort Plus, Executive, Premium and Premium Plus. Designed, built and tested in Europe, the Tucson is relaxing to drive and the steering feels satisfyingly responsive. The Tucson embodies all that Hyundai does well: generous standard equipment, economical to run and well priced.

Prices start from €26,245.

Skoda Kodiaq

Named after an Alaskan bear, the Kodiaq is Skoda's seven- or five-seat SUV. Inside, three adults fit comfortably in the back, and, in the seven-seat option, the middle three seats slide forward to allow extra room for the two rear ones. Families will love the roomy and versatile seating arrangements, but the two seats at the back are best saved for children as they are quite small and only suitable for short journeys. With all seven seats in place, the Kodiaq has a reasonable 270 litres of boot space. Nice touches include the rubber guard that unfolds every time you open a door, to prevent damage to the frame in case the door knocks against another object. There are a range of engines, manual or DSG transmission options and two- and four-wheel-drive available, so there's plenty of choice. But most people who buy the Kodiaq are couples with children and this Skoda's most desirable trait is its seven seats. Despite its size, the Kodiaq rides very well, is agile and the steering well weighted. Skoda's Kodiaq offers space, comfort and practicality and is an all-purpose family car at a very competitive price.

Prices start from €29,750.

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Subaruu XV
 

Subaru XV

With rugged good looks, extra ground clearance and genuine off-road ability, Subaru's XV is an impressive SUV. While this year's 'revamp' may look like a simple tweak, improvements have been made throughout and it's now stylish without making a fuss. Inside, the cabin is classier too and cleanly laid out with an easy-to-use infotainment system and clear displays. Two engines are available: a 1.6 and 2.0-litre petrol both mated to Subaru's capable Lineartronic CVT transmission. On the road it feels solid and reassuring but the noise from the CVT is disappointing and the ride may be a little on the harsh side for some. Fuel efficiency is not a strong point and the official figures of 7l/100km for the petrol version feels optimistic in the real world. The XV also comes with the latest iteration of Subaru's EyeSight safety technology that uses images from two cameras so it detects not only vehicles but also motorbikes, bicycles and pedestrians. Roomy, well-equipped and built for adventure, the XV is a small SUV with serious clout.

Prices start from €33,495.

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