Top 10 best fast family cars 2024
Having a family shouldn't limit you to a boring hatchback or people carrier - here's our top 10 fast family cars
If circumstances dictate that you need to have a family car, you might think that the dreams of owning something fast and fun to drive are over and you’ll have to settle for driving a mundane MPV or hatchback for the foreseeable future. However, there are plenty of cars that offer both family car practicality and performance car thrills; the question is, which are the best fast family cars currently on the market?
For growing families, boot space and child seats take precedence over pace, driving dynamics and excitement. Thankfully, the best practical performance cars can easily complete the school run or weekly shop, while being able to put some of our favourite sports cars to shame on a winding British B-road.
This list of the top 10 best fast family cars brings together cars from all sectors of the market and covers most budgets. At the lower end of the price bracket, you'll find hot hatches like the brilliant Volkswagen Golf R, offering up four-wheel drive security, a practical five-door body and a punchy engine to carve up your B-road of choice.
If a hatchback isn’t versatile enough, then the market is littered with fast estate cars which offer even more performance and space. The BMW M3 Touring is designed to go head to head with the wagon rivals from Audi and Mercedes. There are numerous contenders in the EV space, too, with the Tesla Model 3 and Porsche Taycan Sport Turismo providing an effortless turn of speed and space.
Best fast family cars to buy now
Our expert road testers have had the pleasure of driving every fast family car that you can buy in the UK, so which are the best at combining fast thrills with family life? Our top 10 reveals all…
10. Mercedes AMG GLB 35
The Mercedes AMG GLB 35 is the performance version of Mercedes’ GLB SUV. It slots in between the GLA and GLC models, and is a fairly small SUV that’s also a seven-seater. The AMG variant takes this recipe and adds a 2.0-litre 302bhp turbocharged engine, a seven-speed automatic gearbox and four-wheel-drive.
It’ll do 0-62mph in 5.3 seconds, which is fast by anyone’s standards. The gearbox is responsive in manual mode, with the high-quality metal gear shift paddles a pleasure to use, too. It handles surprisingly well, too. The steering is light, but naturally weighted, and feels accurate, allowing you to make use of all the grip on offer.
As the range-topping model of the GLB, the Mercedes AMG GLB 35 is quite pricey, but does come with keyless operation, LED lights, a panoramic roof, parking sensors and a reversing camera, heated leather sports seats, and a good level of safety tech for a family SUV. The interior offers a good level of refinement and Mercedes’ slick MBUX infotainment system.
The car can be let down slightly in terms of practicality when all seven seats are in use which can restrict boot space to a measly 130 litres, and with a claimed fuel economy of 31 mpg, it won’t be the cheapest car to run, but if you’re looking for a family car with performance credentials, the Mercedes AMG GLB 35 is an attractive choice.
9. Volkswagen Golf R
One of the most famous hot hatches you can buy is better than ever in its latest guise. The 2.0-litre turbo has 316bhp and the Golf R takes all the standard Golf GTI attributes, and magnifies them with almost a third more power and four-wheel-drive. The result is ballistic performance that’s knocking on the door of supercar territory, and if you’re after the ultimate in family practicality there’s even an estate version of the Golf R too. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes just 4.7 seconds, but it’s a shame the latest infotainment system isn’t quite as convincing as the Golf’s acceleration. However, the refreshed Mk 8.5 Golf R is set to benefit from tweaked styling, an overhaul in tech and an improved infotainment system.
8. Skoda Octavia vRS
The Skoda Octavia vRS is a hugely versatile car which should slot into family life perfectly. Available in saloon or estate guise and with petrol, diesel or plug-in hybrid powertrains – there really is an Octavia vRS to suit most people. The 197bhp 2.0 TDI engine is best suited for family duties, offering a decent blend of performance and economy.
Firmer suspension and some subtle styling updates ensure the vRS looks and handles like a performance car. The hugely practical cabin makes it a genuinely usable family vehicle, too. Beware though, we didn’t find the plug-in hybrid variant quite as sporting to drive.
7. Tesla Model 3
Although many manufacturers have now released their own fast electric family cars, Tesla continues to fight its corner with one of its cheapest cars, the Model 3. It’s still one of the best EVs around thanks to its practicality and high levels of tech, and a recent facelift has improved the overall package further.
Performance versions come with a dual-motor four-wheel-drive set-up which offers around a staggering 449bhp, allowing it to accelerate from 0-60 in 3.1 seconds. For outright performance, there’s not much that will beat a Model 3, although you’ll get an arguably more rewarding drive with rivals like the Ford Mustang Mach-E.
The performance offered in the Model 3 doesn’t come at the expense of practicality, either. Thanks to the lack of a traditional engine up front, it boasts a total of 425 litres of boot space from both the front and rear luggage areas, making it a very practical family car choice.
The Model 3’s interior is very minimalist and feels well-built with use of decent quality materials. Most major functions are controlled by a 15-inch central touchscreen on the dash which feels advanced and responsive, and Tesla’s frequent over-the-air updates are constantly adding new features.
6. Audi RS 6 Avant
While Mercedes AMGs have always been popular as estate versions, it’s the hot Audi Avants that arguably offer a smidge more practicality – if nothing else thanks to their all-wheel-drive quattro drivetrains that are a little less challenging to drive fast.
They’ve always been admired for their style too, and the handsome Audi RS 6 is a case in point. It’s broad-chested muscular demeanour looking polished and threatening all at once. The latest hot version of Audi’s big A6 estate car may have a downsized V8, but as you’d expect performance is undiminished. 0-62mph arrives in a shockingly quick 3.6 seconds.
5. Porsche Taycan Sport Turismo
The Porsche Taycan was built from the ground up as a high-performance electric car, so the prospect of a versatile estate version is tantalising to say the least. Few - if any - EVs tackle B-roads with the finesse of Porsche’s first electric car, which manages to exude 911 traits in a larger, zero-emissions package.
The Sport Turismo estate is arguably even more handsome than the space-age saloon, and brings more headroom and a 446-litre boot to become a genuine family car contender, albeit without quite as much room as an M3 Touring inside.
Still, the most powerful versions can easily outgun the BMW in a straight line, with the Turbo S dishing out an astonishing 752bhp. The £149,300 starting price is equally jaw-dropping, though, so we’d opt for the £91,700 4S Sport Turismo instead, which still hits 62mph in 4.0 seconds and can achieve up to 274 miles on a single charge.
4. Cupra Formentor
The Cupra Formentor arrived as Cupra’s first ever standalone model exclusive to the brand, as opposed to being a performance version of an existing SEAT. It’s also handsome to look at, with aggressive styling that helps it stand out among the SUV crowd. There’s enough practicality for a family and a wide range of engine options available, including the range-topping 306bhp 2.0-litre engine, which delivers on the performance front.
Only the entry-level 1.5-litre 147bhp model is available with a manual gearbox, and all other models come with a DSG automatic. While it may not be the most engaging system, the auto box is pretty good – it’s smooth at slower speeds, and gear changes are slick when you put your foot down. Two plug-in hybrid options are also available with 202bhp and 242bhp if you want a balance of performance and lower running costs – you’ll get a quoted range of up to around 34 miles on a single charge.
Despite not being a class leader, the Cupra has a decent amount of space to cope with family life. The Formentor offers reasonable headroom and space for passengers in the back. Boot space depends on the model. The two-wheel-drive models offer a generous 450-litres of boot space, whereas this drops to 420-litres in the four-wheel-drive models. Opt for either of the plug-in hybrid models and boot capacity is reduced even further to 345-litres, sub-par for a car this size. While not a perfect car, The Formentor is a desirable and premium feeling car.
3. Alpina D3 S
Fast and fun cars don’t just have to run on petrol or electricity. The Alpina D3 S is one of the world’s fastest diesel powered production cars, thanks to a twin-turbo 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine producing 350bhp and 730Nm of torque. Its headline figures read 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds and top speed of 170mph, but drive it cautiously and you should be able to return up to 42.2mpg, thanks to the mild-hybrid setup to help save fuel when you aren’t on a Sunday blast.The Alpina is also an amazingly accomplished piece of kit, merging blistering acceleration with composure and refinement on the move.
2. Porsche Macan GTS
If you think that a small SUV can’t be a fast, fun car, then think again. The Porsche Macan has to be experienced to be believed, because it combines the everyday usability of a five-door SUV with the handling and performance we’ve come to expect from Porsche’s sports cars.
While it may share its basic layout with the Audi Q5, Porsche has developed the Macan from the ground up, so it gets bodywork inspired by Porsche’s sports cars, while everything under the skin is designed with performance in mind. The flagship Macan GTS gets a 434bhp twin-turbo V6, and variable valve timing and direct injection mean there’s plenty of power across the rev range.
It’s mated to a seven-speed PDK automatic gearbox, which delivers smooth, rapid shifts even at full throttle, while the four-wheel-drive system, standard adaptive dampers and clever Porsche Traction Management electronics mean the Macan GTS is able to put a smile on your face on roads where normal SUVs would be a real handful.
As with other Porsche models, there are some performance enhancing options for the Macan GTS. Torque vectoring takes handling to another level, while the Sport Chrono package adds launch control, which makes the most of the SUV’s explosive performance off the line.
1. BMW M3 Touring
Since it was first unveiled in 1985, the BMW M3 has cemented itself as a usable performance icon with stunning pace and minimal compromises over a standard 3 Series in terms of practicality. It’s a surprise that BMW has waited so long to produce a more practical estate version, but having driven the G81-generation M3 Touring, it has been well worth the wait.
The turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six engine delivers thunderous performance but it’s slightly lacking in terms of the sound it generates. This can be forgiven in an estate car which has a cavernous 500-litre boot and some of the best in-car tech currently available on the market.
Thanks to its 503bhp output and standard-fit four wheel drive system, the M3 Touring hurls itself from 0-62mph in just 3.6 seconds, but it doesn't top this list due to the quantity of performance on offer. Rather, it's the approachable, hugely capable chassis that defines the car - it bleeds with genuine sports car DNA, and the crisp dynamics give no hint of the Touring's sensible body style.
It's well made too, and if the mood takes you, the M3 Touring can pull-off spectacular powerslides slides thanks to its 2WD mode, which is wonderfully incongruous with its practical brief.
Best fast family cars to buy now
- BMW M3 Touring
- Porsche Macan GTS
- Alpina D3 S
- Cupra Formentor
- Porsche Taycan Sport Turismo
- Audi RS6 Avant
- Tesla Model 3
- Skoda Octavia vRS
- Volkswagen Golf R
- Mercedes-AMG GLB 35
Is space more important to you than speed? Check out the list of the best family cars...