Australia’s cheapest family cars revealed

Moving Well | Tim Nicholson | Posted on 11 July 2019

We reveal the best-value and most affordable family cars for 2019.

If you’re in the market for a family car in 2019, there’s a good chance you’re not looking to buy a large sedan or station wagon. These staples of family motoring from decades past have dropped in popularity as buyers favour the flexibility of high-riding SUVs and even dual-cab pick-ups.

It is also likely that value for money and affordability are two of the top priorities when purchasing a new family hauler.

RACV’s 2019 Driving Your Dollars survey reveals the true cost of owning and operating some of Australia’s best-selling models. The breakdown of these hidden costs is then calculated as a weekly charge, inclusive of the initial purchase price.

Whether you are after a mid-size SUV for running around the city, a big four-wheel drive ute to go off-roading in, or a more traditional sedan or wagon, RoyalAuto has sifted through the results to find some of Australia’s best-value family cars.

Front view of red Mazda CX5 SUV parked in front of high-rise buildings at night

Mazda's popular CX-5 is one of the most affordable cars to run in 2019.

If you are yet to embrace the SUV revolution, there is plenty of value to be found from medium and large sedans. 

Highlighting the cost benefits of electrified vehicles, Australia’s best-value medium-sized sedan – and in turn the most affordable family car – is the Toyota Camry Ascent Sport Hybrid. The Hybrid costs $190.01 to own and run, slightly cheaper than the 2.5-litre petrol-powered Camry Ascent Sport that costs $197.76 a week. Despite its slightly higher price tag (+$2000) and greater depreciation, the average fuel costs for the Hybrid variant are 55 per cent less than the petrol model.

Other top-value sedans include the Mazda6 Sport petrol ($199.19 per week), the Subaru Liberty 2.5i petrol ($199.49) and the Hyundai Sonata Active petrol ($200.42). 

Holden’s Commodore RS 2.0L petrol liftback was the most affordable offering in the large segment by some margin, costing an average of $232.88 per week to own and run. The V6 version of the same variant was runner-up in that segment, costing more ($245.58) because of higher fuel costs and greater depreciation.

The Toyota Camry SL V6 was third in the large segment with $250.75, followed by the Skoda Superb 162TSI sedan on $251.06 and the four-cylinder Kia Stinger 200S on $268.28.

People movers might not be as popular as they were in the glory days of the 1980s, but eight-seat MPVs still offer great value. Honda’s Odyssey VTi topped its category on $217.68 a week, with the Hyundai iMax Active following it in second on $240.68. Kia’s top-selling Carnival S was third on $248.94.

The size and packaging of mid-size SUVs mean they appeal to people who don’t require a massive car, as well as small families with one or two kids. Given it is the largest single market segment in Australia, there are plenty of models to choose from.

The Ford Escape Ambiente AWD 1.5L was the best-value medium SUV in 2019, costing $198.38 per week to own and run. However, it only just pipped a pair of Toyota RAV4s. The Japanese car-maker’s all-new RAV4 launched in May and the 2.0L petrol GXL crept into second place, costing just nine cents more than the Escape. The GXL Hybrid RAV4 wasn’t far behind on $198.68.

The Kia Sportage Si AWD petrol ($201.04), Nissan X-Trail ST AWD petrol ($201.19) and Mazda CX-5 Maxx AWD petrol ($201.54) all offer strong value in the segment.

For buyers needing even more space, the two best-value large SUVs were the Subaru Outback 2.5i petrol on $212.99 and the Outback 2.0D diesel at $216.54. The Subarus were well ahead of the Kia Sorento Si AWD diesel on $232.27, which was followed by the Hyundai Santa Fe Active AWD diesel ($233.07), Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace 132 TSI Comfortline ($233.20) and Mazda CX-8 Sport AWD diesel ($233.54). The Outback is the only model in the segment not offered with seven seats.

Families after a little more adventure are increasingly opting for seven-seat SUVs that have real off-road capability. The most affordable five models in this category are all based on popular diesel pick-up models. Mitsubishi’s Pajero Sport GLX offered the best value at $245.13, with the Isuzu MU-X LS-M in second on $245.22, followed by the Toyota Fortuner GX on $246.63, the Holden Trailblazer LT on $261.93 and the Ford Everest Ambiente on $265.02.

Dual-cab pick-ups have experienced a dramatic uptick in popularity in recent years as they have become more car-like, offering greater levels of comfort and more safety features. The versatility of pick-ups means they can be a tradie workhorse, a weekend warrior for off-road getaways, and reliable family transport.

Mitsubishi dominated the 4x2 and 4x4 segment with its Triton GLX. In 4x2 guise the Triton costs $218.73 to own and run, while Ford’s Ranger 2.2 Hi-Rider was second on $228.99 and the Isuzu D-Max SX Hi-Ride was third in the 4x2 segment on $231.88.

Behind the Triton ($237.79) in the 4x4 pick-up segment was the Holden Colorado LS that costs $252.94 and then the D-Max SX on $259.07.