Ask the experts: Small family cars

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Question: I’m looking at a brand-new, small family car, either a Hyundai, SEAT or Kia. What would be the best choice?

Our experts reply: We'd happily recommend a suitable vehicle from any of these manufacturers. Make sure that you let each dealer know you’re looking elsewhere, and take your family along too on the test drive to make sure it’ll fit everyone. Here are three to think about.

Hyundai i30

Hyundai’s much-improved third-generation i30 with its more efficient engines, smarter look and the option of an impressive dual-clutch seven-speed auto gearbox, is a competitive proposition in this marketplace. It’s spacious for a family, and has a good range of sensible specifications that makes it that little bit more enjoyable to drive.

When it comes to engines, there are three petrol and one diesel to choose from, and ask about the dual-clutch transmission on offer with some, which gives a 'sport' mode. There's a choice of three i30 body styles, a five-door hatch, a 'Tourer' estate and a sleeker five-door 'Fastback' model and the completely reworked chassis should certainly make the car feel more responsive. The floating screen of the optional eight-inch navigation touch screen on the dashboard integrates all navigation, media and connectivity features which just sets off the much smarter and classier inside. An effective package that delivers well for the money.

  • Available from Border Motor Group in Carlisle, J Edgar & Sons in Dunmail, DSG in Morecomber and remember to check your local used car specialists


SEAT Leon

SEATs always tend to feel a bit sportier than the Volkswagens they're based on, and the Leon is no exception. It has smarter styling, improved media connectivity, extra safety provision and some fresh new engine options from before. Leon buyers can choose from either a five-door hatch, an ST estate model or an SC three-door coupe.

Inside, the ambient lighting LEDs' intensity can be regulated as the driver wishes, useful for those sleepy- heads in the back. This, amongst many other things, is controlled from a newly redesigned eight-inch central infotainment screen. The passenger space is very class-competitive and there's a decently sized 380-litre boot in the hatch model.

This Leon remains a strong but often overlooked contender in the family hatchback segment and it's been usefully improved in this facelifted guise. Overall, on a pure value-versus-quality basis, this is a very good car indeed.

  • Available from Bristol Street Motors Seat in Carlisle, B & H Seat in Lillyhall, Cox Seat in Kendal and remember to check your local used car specialists.


Kia Rio

The Mark 4 Kia Rio supermini is a little on the smaller size that you’d expect in the family hatchback segment, but it’s as big as a turn-of-the-century Astra or Focus. This fourth-generation Rio has certainly grown. It has a 10mm longer wheelbase to be 15mm longer than its predecessor which means there's more space to spread out inside – and more boot space too, 325 litres of luggage room now on offer.

Inside, the restyled cabin feels more upmarket. At the centre of the fascia is a high-resolution touchscreen. Below, the driver-oriented centre console features fewer buttons, with more ergonomic, concave switches and rotator dials to control the heating and ventilation. Here's a car that targets nothing less than the top of the segment in terms of styling, running costs and everyday practicality. Prices are keen and the seven-year warranty speaks for itself. If it is just that little too small, then take a look at its big sister, the Cee’d.

  • Available from Border Cars in Carlisle, Walkingshaw in Lillyhall, Rayrigg Motors in Windermere and remember to check your local used car specialists

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