Australia’s best family cars of 2023

Kia Carnival

Toby Hagon

Posted July 18, 2023

Small or medium SUV? 4x4 ute or large SUV? There’s a myriad of vehicles in Australia for families to consider. Here’s the best family cars to test drive in 2023.

Choosing a car for the family can be a daunting task and inevitably involves compromises whichever way you jump. There’s a vast array of new cars that deliver on space, safety, driving nous and tech. Some do it better than others. 

Here are the best family cars on the market right now in Australia.

Best family cars in Australia to buy 2023


Best small family hatch: Mazda3

Also consider: Subaru Crosstrek

Traditional small hatchbacks like the Volkswagen Golf are a dying breed in the wake of an onslaught of small compact SUVs and medium SUVs. But there are still some very convincing city-sized five-door hatchbacks that will happily transport smaller families around the suburbs. 

One of the best is the Mazda3 ($30,320), which despite its age has an engaging driving experience and secure road manners. The Mazda3’s cabin ambience is above the norm, too, with quality finishes and excellent attention to detail. An above average audio system is a bonus. There’s also no shortage of tech in the Mazda3, although it’s a shame the central screen can’t be operated by touch on the move.

Another terrific option is the Subaru Crosstrek ($34,990). It’s technically a small compact SUV but shares its five-door body with the Subaru Impreza hatch.

The latest incarnation of small compact Subaru SUV (which was previously known as the XV) has generous back seat space and a quiet, comfortable cabin that makes touring a breeze. Driving all four wheels, the four-cylinder engine occasionally needs to be worked hard, but it’s helped by a willing CVT auto.

Best city family SUV: Kia Seltos

Also consider: Toyota Corolla Cross

Small compact SUVs aren’t necessarily small these days, as the Kia Seltos demonstrates. There’s ample space for smaller families.

In more affordable front-drive guise ($29,500) the Kia Seltos has only modest performance, but choose an all-wheel drive and there’s a four-cylinder turbo ($39,300) that more effortlessly builds pace. The Kia Seltos corners with confidence and is respectably settled over bumps. It’s also well equipped in terms of safety features and tech, too.

Another worth considering is the Toyota Corolla Cross. The petrol-electric models ($35,500) work best, with the brand’s latest generation hybrid technology in a comfortable and practical five-door body. Wait lists for the Toyota Corolla Cross hybrid models can be lengthy, so shop around to compare wait times.



The Mazda3 is a terrific small family hatch. Image: Supplied.

Best mid-sized SUV: Nissan X-Trail

Also consider: Kia Sportage

Mid-size SUVs have a flavour to suit almost every taste, but it’s the Nissan X-Trail ($36,750) that currently stands tall.

The latest generation Nissan X-Trail is among the most spacious of the breed and there are seven-seat options ($39,790). The additional third row of seats won’t suit adults, but it’s fine for little ones.

On the road, the Nissan X-Trail is also a polished performer, whether zipping around town or transporting the family on a road trip holiday. Light steering is accurate while the compliant suspension soaks up bumps nicely. The Nissan X-Trail’s ageing 2.5-litre engine is arguably its weakest link, but the smarts of the standard CVT transmission helps maximise what’s on offer. If the budget stretches - and you’re prepared to wait a few months - then the Nissan X-Trail’s E-Power hybrid system brings some EV driving manners while using less fuel.

An excellent alternative is the Kia Sportage ($32,795), which comes with the choice of a four-cylinder driving the front wheels (it’s a tad underpowered), a turbo driving all four wheels or an excellent (and frugal) diesel all-wheel drive that is terrific for road trips.

Best seven-seat family car: Toyota Kluger

Also consider: Mazda CX-8

Large SUVs are the perfect workhorses for three- and four-child families.

Toyota’s Kluger ($55,120) provides sprawling middle row space and an easily accessible third row for the family. What the Toyota Kluger lacks in cabin elegance it makes up for with space, while ensuring the basics are done well.

A recently arrived four-cylinder turbo promises V6-like performance from the Toyota Kluger while using less fuel. But it’s the hybrid system that makes most sense in the Toyota Kluger.

If you need an extra seat - for up to eight - then consider the Hyundai Palisade, which also has a beautifully appointed cabin.

But it’s the Mazda CX-8 ($42,060) that gets our runner-up tick. The Mazda CX-8’s 2.5-litre engine isn’t particularly powerful, but sharp pricing cements its place as a large SUV to consider.


Nissan X-Trail

The Nissan X-Trail is a polished performer on the road. Image: Supplied.

Best electric family car: Tesla Model Y

Also consider: BYD Atto 3

Electric Vehicles are infiltrating the family car space, albeit with price tags that play more in the luxury space, despite some states and territories offering EV rebates and incentives.

Priced from about ($69,300) the Tesla Model Y isn’t cheap, but the additional spend is offset with low running costs that’s typical of an EV. Keeping the Tesla Model Y moving costs less than half what it does to achieve the same of a similar medium SUV with fuel. Plus, servicing requirements for the Tesla Model Y are minimal.

With the Tesla Model Y, there’s also a generous boot (and ‘frunk’ up front) as well as excellent head room in all five seats. A broad sunroof and seat heating all around is the start of a generous equipment list. Tesla also leads the market on connectivity and in-cabin tech, right down to computer games that can keep the kids entertained while parked. Access to Tesla’s vast charging network also makes topping up on road trips easier.

If you want many of the EV benefits in a smaller, more affordable package, then the BYD Atto 3 ($48,011) is a tempting circa-$50K option for family duties. The BYD Atto 3’s decent driving manners are matched with an occasionally quirky but spacious interior.

Best family car for towing: Ford Everest

Also consider: Isuzu MU-X

Families that need to tow a boat or caravan often gravitate towards a 4x4 ute such as the Ford Ranger, which brings compromises as part of the load-lugging body.

An SUV such as the Ford Everest ($53,290) makes for a more comfortable option that can still tow up to 3.5 tonnes. While there are four-wheel drive variants of the Ford Everest, you can save money and get a rear-drive model that tows the same amount. The Ford Everest’s V6 engine does a fine job of towing, but the bi-turbo four-cylinder is also up to the task.

It’s not as slick as many other SUVs around town but makes up for it with a ruggedness once you’re out and about.

The Isuzu MU-X ($48,900) is a formidable contender that matches the Ford Everest’s tow credentials. What it lacks in driving maturity it makes up for with more features for the money.


Tesla Model Y

The Tesla Model Y leads the mid-size SUV market on in-cabin tech. Image: Supplied.

Best people mover: Kia Carnival

Also consider: Hyundai Staria

If you’ve got a big family, you need a big vehicle. While the temptation may be to go for a large SUV, nothing matches a dedicated people mover for transporting the whole family and gear.

The Kia Carnival is the best of a slender field of people mover vehicles on sale in Australia. The Kia Carnival provides excellent space across three rows of seats (with capacity to take eight people) and has an uncannily deep boot for taking big suitcases and other bulky goods such as sporting equipment.

The Kia Carnival’s V6 petrol engine can be thirsty and needs to be pushed along, especially if you’ve got a full vehicle. For that reason, the Kia Carnival’s turbo diesel makes more sense, more effortlessly shuffling things along. A generous spread of equipment helps justify the $47,480-and-up price tag for the Kia Carnival, while a seven-year warranty adds peace of mind.

If you need even more space for the family, then the Hyundai Staria ($49,000) trades some packaging cleverness for sheer millimetres, much of it in additional height. The Hyundai Staria uses the same engines as the Kia, but pairs its diesel with an all-wheel drive system, which is handy for those camping and winter adventures.


Note: All prices exclude on-road costs.

The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions, please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit As distributor, RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd AFS Licence No. 230039 receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. Product(s) issued by Insurance Manufacturers of Australia ABN 93 004 208 084 AFS Licence No. 227678.