Top ten large cars for family life

Some cars are better suited to family life than others, but the main attributes needed for a good large family car remain - plenty of room, practicality and low running costs are essential.

If you are looking for a people carrier - big or small, cheap or expensive - which is ideal for the family but can't choose which one is for you, this top 10 guide will help you choose the best car for large families, not matter what your budget.

Chevrolet Orlando

The Chevrolet Orlando is a vast people carrier with seven seats originated in the usual three row system. At 4,652mm long, it may seem long but it doesn't look that way, instead it resembles a stretched-out hatchback.

The Chevrolet Orlando's interior is very much hard plastics as opposed to cloth materials, which in regards to family trips with the kids can work to your advantage. The hard-wearing and durable interior is ideal for avoiding scuff marks from things such as bikes.

Speaking of bikes, the Chevrolet Orlando has a maximum load carrying ability of 1,487-litres with the seats down so if you want to throw a couple of bikes in the back you can.

The entry level Orlando is badged LS and comes with standard equipment such as air conditioning, remote central locking, six airbags, three 12v power sockets, tinted windows and an adjustable steering wheel.

A rear-view mirror allowing both driver and passenger to see all of the car's occupants also comes in handy when keeping an eye on the kids.

On the road the Chevrolet Orlando copes pretty easily on poor road surfaces which may come in handy with pot holes when dropping the kids off at school.

Summary: Plenty of space for the kids and any bikes you may have. Being able to handle bumpy roads is definitely an advantage when driving over potholes.

Prices start from: £15,495

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Range Rover Evoque

The three- or five-door Range Rover Evoque is the luxury choice in the family car segment and with the famous Range Rover name and stunning looks, the new 'baby' SUV is sure to be a head-turner on the school run.

On the road, it has fast accurate steering which copes with UK roads pretty well and four-wheel drive versions boast Land Rover's famous All-Terrain system.

Inside, the Range Rover Evoque is one of the most luxurious SUVs available and offers many different coloured leather interiors along with an array of exterior paint jobs - all courtesy of guest designer Victoria Beckham.

With heated front seats the Evoque is very useful for the winter months and will stop the car's occupants from complaining about the cold.

The Evoque's airbags and advanced restraint systems provide a great degree of safety for you and your passengers.

The choice of a roof rack for bikes and what not is also available and will pose a great advantage for day trips or weekends away.

Summary: A rather stylish 4x4 with more of a luxurious feel than other people carriers. Our car of the year for 2011.

Prices start from £27,955

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Mazda 5 MPV

The Mazda5 is a rare thing amongst large people carriers in that it features an attractive exterior with flowing lines more associated with smaller, or even sports, cars.

With solid body control and quick steering this MPV is a smooth drive as well, continuing the Japanese manufacturer's reputation for some of the best driver's cars.

The Mazda 5 has multiple seating modes and offers sliding doors which make getting things in and out of the car, like the kids, a lot easier.

One of the many seating options is to have a walkthrough aisle so that you can easily access the whole car and its occupants.

Despite the dramatic exterior design, the Mazda is great for long journeys with plenty of legroom for passengers and a raised roofline offering more headroom.

Other features include a fully integrated TomTom navigation system with 5.8-inch touch screen, Bluetooth hands-free and iPod connectivity.

Summary: If comfy and spacious is your type of thing then this is ideal.

Prices start from £18,165

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Seat Alhambra

The seven-seat Alhambra is without a doubt a hefty car which may pose a problem in narrow streets, but on the open road you'll soon see the benefits.

The Alhambra has got excellent handling and when it comes to smooth driving, and even quite driving, this is a good choice.

Along with up to 2,297-litres of space the Seat Alhambra has front and rear parking sensors, sun visors with vanity mirrors, adjustable heated mirrors and even a front passenger seat that folds into a table for those longs journeys where you want to play cards or have a quick snack.

With a EuroNCAP five star safety rating you can feel reassured that your family is well protected with features such as driver and front passenger airbags and seatbelt reminders for all seats.

The Seat Alhambra has won several awards for its style, refinement and comfort, including What Car? MPV of the Year.

Summary: A very safe and smooth ride with plenty of space.

Prices start from £23,525

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Vauxhall Meriva

The Meriva is a sturdy yet comfortable ride with five-seats, compact handling and a clever rear-opening door system.

Its small size means the Meriva is ideal for city-based families and for those where parking space is at a premium, but it still manages to make the best use of space inside.

The Vauxhall Meriva has a FlexDoors system with rear hinged rear passenger doors allowing easier access to passengers in the back and will be handy when helping your children with their seatbelts or bumper seats.

The Meriva is reasonably sized with an overall 1,500-litres of space. Not as much as the Seat Alhambra but still pretty spacious for a five-seat car.

It also comes with air conditioning and a quality sound system with USB connections, which most parents will know is a definite thumbs up when it comes to kids and their music.

Summary: The Vauxhall Meriva is compact and easily handles on the road.

Prices start from: £12,495

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Kia Sportage

The Kia Sportage pretty much speaks for itself with its stylish sporty appeal courtesy of hugely popular ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer.

With the choice of either two-or four wheel drive, the SUV crossover matches the high ride height and chunky styling of an SUV with the practicality of a hatchback.

Unfortunately the rear seats do not fold completely flat so if you are planning on filling the car with luggage and the whole family for a weekend away you may want to reconsider.

However its four wheel drive capabilities do make the Sportage ideal for day trips to country like environments where you may need that extra bit of power behind the wheel. Plus the 16-inch alloy wheels add a bit of style to those four wheels.

Some standard features include air conditioning, electric windows throughout, adjustable steering column, central locking, leather covered steering wheel and gear knob, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, great sound system with iPod compatibility, steering wheel mounted controls, on-board computer and fog lights.

Summary: If hills and country terrain is your thing then this is a good choice. Its low price is also very competitive.

Prices start from £17,295

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Renault Grand Scenic

The Renault Grand Scenic is a seven seat SUV that is a little older than other cars in the list.

Although this is the case the Renault Grand Scenic delivers an ultra smooth ride which will keep you and your passengers happy.

With plenty of stowage space the Grand Scenic has four underfloor compartments, up to four under-seat drawers, six map pockets, an 11-litre glovebox and nine litres of stowage in the sliding centre console.

These compartments may prove very useful on long journeys where you may want pack things like travel games or the kids' rucksacks.

Gadgets for the Grand Scenic car include instrument panel with a colour screen , air conditioning, a reversing camera for easier parking, TomTom sat-nav system as an option and upper-range 3D Sound audio system with three-dimensional sound spatialisation (Sounds fancy doesn't it).

There are lots of additional extras with the Grand Scenic depending on what trim level you choose.

Summary: Lots of little gadgets and secret compartments in this Renault which are very handy.

Prices start from £17,915

Peugeot 3008

The Peugeot 3008 delivers plenty of grip and body control even though it is a tall car. The five-seat crossover looks good but offers plenty of space as well.

With 512 to 1,604-litres of load space you will not be short of space when packing.

As well as being very spacious the 3008 has many fun little gadgets such as a pop-up satnav, electric handbrake, air quality sensor and optional black or grey leather interior.

The 3008 also offers a fancy tinted panoramic glass roof which makes each drive feel more like a 'scenic route' for your passengers.

Available in 4x4 configuration, the Peugeot 3008 also comes with the world's first diesel hybrid engine which boosts fuel economy and reduces CO2 emissions drastically.

Summary: Great car that would be perfect for days out and more mundane school run duties.

Prices start from: £15,495

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Fiat Doblo

Even though the Doblo looks quite bulky it handles demandingly bumpy roads with ease. Its design may not be suited to everyone's taste, but its boxy rear end is immensely practical.

The Doblo has sliding doors which are useful when packing and un-packing luggage, and passengers. Meanwhile, the Doblo's big seats are very comfortable and can be adjusted easily. They also fold quickly which when combined with the sliding doors makes the Doblo an easy car to get stuff in and out off.

When you first step into the Doblo you can automatically feel and see how much space there is with lots of head room and respectable leg room.

The Doblo also has a large fifth door which helps when putting things straight in the boot.

Summary: Plenty of space and handles those bumpy roads well.

Prices start from: £13,300

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Ford C-Max

The five-seat Ford C-Max is most definitely one of, if not the best handling cars in the MPV range. This is mostly down to the origins it shares with the Ford Focus, widely regarded as one of the best handling cars in the segment.

Its handling allows easy manoeuvres of things like country roads, as well as high speed manoeuvres on the motorway.

With rear sliding doors, Sony DAB audio system and panoramic roof the Ford C max is a great family car option.

There is plenty of space in the boot (which can be electrically opened on approach), under the seats and also in the walkway of the car that spans from the front seats to the back seats.

If you need more than five seats, the Ford Grand C-Max is also available with two (small) extra seats to accommodate more passengers.

Summary: This Ford has superb handling as well as the family qualities of any other people carrier.

Prices start from: £17,195

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