School run stars - some of the best used family cars on the market

After months away from the classroom children around the country are either already back in class or about to head back to school.

That means the resumption of the school run and, like commuters, some parents may now be looking for a car that they can use to get their children to school rather than risking using public transport.

While some are turning to new cars, the used car market has also seen an upturn in business, so to help parents considering a new car for family duties we spoke to James Fairclough, CEO of AA Cars for advice on what to look for in a used family car as well as his picks for some of the best used family cars.

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“For many, the ideal family car will have a large boot and spacious cabin, accompanied by a good safety rating,” he says. “You should look out for a five-star Euro NCAP rating, the top score for safety.

“When purchasing any used car, it is important to buy from a reputable dealer and carry out a history check to confirm that the mileage and number of previous owners are accurate, and that it has not been stolen, been in an accident or written off. It will also confirm there is no outstanding finance to be paid.

"It is also recommended that you book a pre-purchase inspection by a qualified engineer before handing over any money. It is also worth considering taking out a warranty to provide further reassurance that you will be covered if your car requires any unexpected repairs.”

To help you navigate the sea of options out there, here are six of James’s favourite family cars.

Volkswagen Polo

Superminis have grown in size and spaciousness in recent years, and if you don’t want a big car for carrying the kids from A to B, the VW Polo is a great choice. It provides a sophisticated, practical and comfortable ride without compromising on aesthetics. It’s a sporty looking small family car with a large boot. The latest model, which has been around since 2017, boasts a 351-litre boot - providing plenty of room for a pushchair and a full weekly shop. The rear space is also generous, there’s a decent amount of leg room and plenty of space for three kids. Adding to its practicality, the latest mode is only available as a five-door. A five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP in 2017, and an 85 per cent score for child occupant protection makes it a great option if you’re looking for a small family car.

Honda Jazz

The Honda Jazz might not turn heads on the street when you drive by, but if you’re looking for a roomy and affordable small family car, you should consider this Japanese hatchback. Space and practicality are the Jazz’s forte, making it a great option for a family. The cabin is a lot more spacious than you’d expect, offering a serious amount of room in the rear seats, and it has a large 354-litre boot. Its back seats can also be folded down flat in case more boot space is needed. Even with two young children you won’t struggle for room – plus, the space makes it easy to reach across when helping a child into their car seat. The third-generation Jazz also has a five-star safety rating, including an 85 per cent ranking for child occupant protection.

Renault Zoe

If you’re looking for a more eco-friendly family car, then the Renault Zoe should definitely be on your shortlist. Generally speaking, small electric cars often aren’t very spacious and therefore aren’t well-suited to families – but the Renault Zoe is an exception. This 100 per cent electric vehicle comes with an impressive size boot for a small car. It also boasts a high roofline which allows easy access to the rear seats to fit child seats and get children in and out of the back.

While the new 2020 Renault Zoe offers a long electric range of 245 miles, earlier used models feature a smaller battery, with a likely range of around 100 miles – meaning they’re best-suited to city and town drivers. The Zoe is also a very safe car to drive which is of utmost importance. It has a five-star Euro NCAP rating – scoring 80 per cent in child occupant protection when it was tested in 2013.

Citroen C3 Aircross

Crossovers have become very popular in the family market, and Citroen has a long history of building small and practical cars. This small high-riding SUV is incredibly spacious, roomy in the back, with a 410-litre boot as standard and the additional height is a bonus when it comes to fitting car seats or getting kids out of them. Its light suspension soaks up the bumps well, making it a more comfortable journey for children on the back seats. It received the all-important five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, and was awarded a child occupant protection score of 82 per cent.

Skoda Octavia vRS

If you need room to fit a pram and everything else which comes with transporting a young family, the 590-litre boot is a big selling point of the third generation Octavia vRS. But its practicality does not mean it sacrifices on style — this is a hot hatchback mixing a powerful engine with sportier looks. It also received an especially high 86 per cnt score for child protection, indicating that this fun car really was built with the family in mind.

Volvo XC60

If you need a car which can handle the school run and the daily commute with ease, but which is also comfortable for long-distance drives, you can’t go far wrong with the XC60. This car promises a relaxing driving experience, and its comfy seats make longer journeys feel much easier. Opt for the petrol if you spend most of your time making smaller journeys around town, or the diesel if you do lots of long journeys where you’ll benefit from its improved fuel economy.

Nissan Leaf

The Nissan Leaf, a family hatchback, has established itself as one of the best all-electric cars in Europe. It does not compromise on space, with 435 litres in the boot, and the ability to comfortably seat four adults. The entry-level car’s 168-mile range from one charge may not be enough for all drivers, but the enhanced Leaf E+, which came out in 2019, with a larger battery promising 239 miles could fit the bill for families who regularly travel longer distances. It boasts a quiet and seamless drive - ideal when you are transporting the children from place to place.

This article first appeared on The Scotsman