Hey mamas – thinking about buying a family car but don’t know where to start? Or, like me, do you make your decisions for a new mama-mobile based on colour and cool factor rather than knowing what to really look for? Car enthusiast, blogger and photographer Francis Donohoe from Dubai Drives has searched the UAE for his top family cars. Get ready to hit the road in style and safety!
There’s a huge range of vehicles out there to choose from – from saloons to hatchbacks, people carriers to compact family SUV’s and large 4×4 capable SUV’s. When you are looking for a family car, there a number of factors to consider and questions to ask yourself:
- How much room do you need? Do you have a first born baby only? Or 2 toddlers? Or 2 teens?
- What is your budget?
- Are you buying used/pre-owned or new? (see my online guide for more detail)
- Do you need room for baby seat and pushchair?
- Will you be travelling a lot?Do you have bicycles to transport?
- How important are safety features, such as airbags?
- Do you need a car that is easy to park and manoeuvre?
When you are reviewing cars, do check the different trim levels to be sure of what you are getting. Cars such as the Kia Sportage for example are selling well here and in other countries, however in the UAE are only available with front airbags and no option of side airbags, whereas in Europe they come with 6. Make sure you ask about UAE specs and don’t assume that what’s standard abroad is the same here.
To help you navigate the minefield that is buying a car, I’ve compiled a shortlist of my recommended cars currently on sale in the UAE in three areas Hatchback, Compact SUV/4×4 and Mid to Large SUV/4×4. Note that they all come as automatic with manual AC unless otherwise stated.
Available in saloon, estate and hatchback, with 1.6L and 2.0L engines. They come in a variety of trim levels, with Sport and Titanium having more options and the 2.0L engine. As with most cars sold here, they come in Manual or Automatic with many good standard features such as keyless entry, electric mirrors and front windows, AUX/USB port, manual AC. Higher spec options include larger alloy wheels, keyless start, dual zone AC (which means you can have hot and cold on either side of the car to save arguments) front and rear parking sensors and optional hands free parallel parking (though who parallel parks in the UAE?). Front and side airbags are standard on all models as well as ISOFIX seat mountings. There’s also an option of a low speed safety system that will stop the car automatically if it thinks you are going hit a pedestrian or the car in front in slow-moving traffic.
The Focus has always been a great car to drive, with a good driving position. The rear seats fold down easily with the headrests on, with lots of space in the boot, 363 litres. Pricing can increase with many of the options and tech so be aware!
Pricing from 65,000 – 95,000 AED (excluding the Focus ST)
Volkswagen Golf Mark 7
Slightly more expensive, however you do get more standard kit for your money. The rear loading sill is low, which makes it easier to get the pushchair in, and there are many safety features as well, including a system designed to automatically brake the car to a standstill, immediately after a collision and also if the system detects an impending accident. Other systems include the Driver Alert (which monitors a driver’s inputs to detect any signs of tiredness) Boot size is slightly bigger than the Focus at 380 litres.
Pricing from 80,000 – 107,000 AED (1.2 – 1.4L engine options)
The newly revised X-Trail has only just been launched in the UAE so finding one wasn’t easy! The standard model is front wheel drive, however all other options come as 4 wheel drive. It comes in 5 and 7 seat options, thought the 3rd row seat in the 7 seat is tight (toddlers only). Standard features are keyless entry with starter button. Front and passenger airbags are standard but side airbags are an optional extra as well as sat nav and upgraded stereo etc.
Other optional features include the automatic parking system and lots of safety systems such as blind spot warning, a fatigue detection system and Moving Object Detection, which provides a bird’s eye view of the car for parking and alerts the driver to moving objects via a warning tone. The images are displayed on a seven-inch colour screen. The rear seats slide so can give more space for adults and the doors open very wide. The boot is huge with 550 litres of space with lots of cubby holes for storage. Great value and a good step up from the Focus and Golf for sure.
Pricing from 79,000 – 89,000 AED for the 5 seater and 81,000 – 122,000 AED for the 7 seater
Hyundai Santa Fe
Has been revised recently and also comes in a 5 seat and a 7 seat “Grand” model. It comes in front wheel drive or 4 wheel drive with plenty of space, though the third row seating again is good just for toddlers. This car has lots of safety features and was voted “Safest Large Off-Road 4×4” in the European NCAP Tests in 2012 rated best in class across all categories. Note the base model only has 2 airbags, but the others have 6.
Pricing from 84,000 – 124,000 AED for the 5 seater and 100,000 – 136,000 AED for the 7 seater Grand model
The Volvo is only a 5 seater, and is renowned for its safety record. Very stylish and strong equipment levels with an abundance of safety features. It comes with a 2.0L or 3.0L engine options and is all wheel drive.
Pricing from 140,000 – 190,000 AED
For a larger SUV/ 4×4 with huge amounts of standard kit and options the Explorer has the lot. The interior looks amazing and is very spacious and certainly great for families with the 7 seats. There are 4 trim levels (Base, XLT, Limited and Sport) offering many different options, including remote engine start, parking assist, 3 Zone AC, Cooled front seats, ISOFIX, Powered Lift Boot, Powered seats, DVD Screens for headrests etc. There are two engine options available with a turbocharged 3.5-litre V6 model, as well as the standard 3.5-litre V6, so plenty of power there.
As you would expect there are many standard safety features including dual front airbags, side and curtain airbags, stability control and Roll Stability Control. There are also other optional safety features which include inflatable rear-seatbelt airbags and blind-spot detection in the mirrors, along with a accident/collision warning system.
The Explorer can more than hold it’s own off-road, with various terrain management systems to improve stability with the all wheel drive system.
Pricing from 135,000 – 210,000 AED
Best looking 7 seater? I think so, and family friendly too with the 3rd row seating easy to get in to unlike some models. Good array of options and safety features particularly on the GT version with a Powered tailgate similar to the Explorer. It’s safe too, with front and side airbags as standard.
Pricing from 114,000 – 147,000 AED
A very spacious 7 seater with split 3rd row seats which fold down flat. Loads or room that Dodge claim you can fit a 3 seat sofa into! Wide array of options with 5 trim levels (Base, SXT, Limited, R/T and Citadel) in line with the Ford and Mazda, as well as scoring top in Safety Tests in the US.
Pricing from 130,000 – 195,000 AED
Good luck with choosing a car mamas! And if you need any more inspiration then check out www.dubaidrives.com.
Francis Donohoe, motoring blogger, photographer, HR Manager and marathon runner. Drives a racing green 2013 Mini John Cooper – has worked and lived in Dubai for 3 years. Check out more of his work at www.dubaidrives.com