Your family is growing, your needs are changing and you need a new, more spacious car? But how do you choose the right vehicle for you? And what exactly is a family car? What are the advantages and disadvantages of a sedan, station wagon, minivan or SUV? Find the answers to all your questions in this guide!
What is a “family” car?
We often hear this term coming back to talk about different types of cars. The fact is that this is a rather relative concept, since it can be applied more or less to any spacious vehicle, as long as it comfortably accommodates a family of 4 people and their luggage. As a result, coupe and other city cars are excluded, but the pseudo-category of “family cars” will include trunk sedans, estate cars, minivans, and finally the most popular segment of the moment: SUVs and crossovers.
What type of family car should I use?
The best family car actually depends on your expectations and the use you make of your vehicle. Each segment has a number of advantages, more or less important, to be taken into consideration according to your situation.
Once an icon of the 5-seater family car; the large road sedan segment has been in decline for years now. Manufacturers may try to offer ever more modular and technologically advanced models, but this category is difficult to attract families. At first glance, three-box sedans are among the least versatile wagons. Often pointed at are their lowered roofline, which makes it less easy to install a car seat, and their imposing hood, which adds to the overall length without benefiting the interior space. However, they are not entirely without advantages. First of all, they are unbeatable in terms of comfort on long journeys, with seats generally designed to provide excellent support and flawless soundproofing. For real car enthusiasts, they also offer powerful engines, dynamic handling, and elegant, statutory design. Moreover, their low popularity among buyers can also be transformed into an advantage, with discounts that are often very interesting on these models.
Derived from trunk sedans, estate cars have a roof extended to the rear of the vehicle, making it possible to considerably increase the size of the passenger compartment and the trunk height, and consequently to benefit from increased modularity. As for driving, it is relatively similar to that of sedans. The disadvantages will mainly concern the design, which some will not appreciate, and in some cases a slightly higher consumption because of the higher weight and aerodynamic constraints. Estate cars are therefore a solution that, like sedans, is limited to families with one or two children, but with more space for more versatility. A few rare exceptions also manage to offer 7 places, but these are only extra places.
Long a family favourite, the minivan is unbeatable in terms of modularity and interior space. Their low floor and high roof height make it easy to load large objects, and the rear doors, especially when sliding, have a wide opening to simplify the installation of car seats. In addition, many minivans have 7 seats thanks to a retractable third row, enough to satisfy large families, or families with two children who occasionally take on friends or family as well. What are the disadvantages? To offer so much space and functionality, minivans must compromise on their platform and aesthetics. Thus, even if the style is more and more worked on, minivans have long suffered from an image of a “brick on wheels”. Their driving experience is also not the most exhilarating compared to vehicles in other segments, even if the technology has been able to make the latest models much more dynamic. Finally, they often suffer from a relatively high weight, which will affect their consumption, especially when they are equipped with petrol blocks.
Created on the basis of small utility vehicles, the ludospaces make the most of their interior volume, by fitting it out to offer a comfortable interior with clever storage space. The collateral advantage of this common base is that it often makes them more economical than equivalent minivans. With smaller external dimensions than the latter, MPVs can also overcome the problem of the imposing dimensions of MPVs that may discourage some buyers. Most often sold in a 5-seat configuration, but sometimes offered in a long 7-seat variant, they are very versatile vehicles with a large trunk volume, capable of assuming the role of both a family car and a leisure vehicle.
SUVs (Sport Utility Vehicles) are vehicles designed to combine the habitability of a minivan with the capabilities of an off-road vehicle, while offering a good level of comfort on the road. While in the past 4×4 transmission was one of the defining characteristics of this type of vehicle, fuel taxes and other environmental regulations have made it an increasingly irrelevant choice for most buyers. As a result, manufacturers have begun to offer this type of transmission as an option, and some are even only available in two-wheel drive. For the rest, the concept has remained the same: a high driving position, a body reinforced by visible plastic protections, a single volume design favouring the interior space, and sometimes a third row of seats to offer 7-seat SUVs. Many models even have characteristics of urban women or even sports cars. There is a kind of mix of genres in this segment, which is why they are also called “crossovers”. SUVs are the most popular today, and it’s no coincidence that they combine good driving comfort, habitability and versatility in the same vehicle, while providing a sense of safety thanks to their elevated driving positions. However, they are not entirely free of defects: First of all, while they are a good compromise, they are not generally excellent everywhere. In addition, they are generally more expensive to purchase, and their weight is generally quite high, resulting in fuel consumption as a result.
Finally, one last point: in case you are looking for originality, just look around you to see that crossovering is not exactly the best way to stand out.