In the present economic climate with increasing taxes and rising petrol prices running a car is becoming ever more expensive. Hitherto some families were used to having two cars, but many now are cutting back to just the one in order to reduce outgoings. The question is though, what is the best all round car for a family? It is difficult for a car to be all things to all people as there are sometimes conflicting interests or priorities. The major considerations are size, performance, and economy.

Statistics suggest that the majority of cars are used for fairly short journeys in general, like running to the shops or taking the children to school. People who commute to work often do so by train because it is less stressful, and there may be no parking space at or near their workplace. The only occasional long journey for a family together might be the annual holiday, for which it is always possible to hire a suitable vehicle depending on your needs.

This being so there is a strong case for an economical four seater hatchback as the only car you will ever really need to own. A Ford Fiesta might be a bit of a squeeze if you have teenage children, but a Ford Focus can manage perfectly well. Such a car can seat four people comfortably, five at a pinch, has a reasonable size boot for shopping, golf clubs, or the dog, and has a good general performance plus inexpensive servicing costs.

As with many modern cars the lightweight body plus peppy, reliable engines manage to give most people the best of all worlds. The size of engine you choose depends somewhat on your priorities. The economically minded may go for the smallest engine, but a 1.2 litre may be rather lacklustre in this size car, and you find yourself changing down to get up hills and being unable to overtake very often for lack of acceleration.

Many would suggest that the 1.6 litre is the best compromise, giving reasonable levels of performance with fair economy. Diesel engines enjoyed a period of popularity but the increased cost of diesel fuel makes them less so now unless you do a very high annual mileage. Things are slightly complicated now by a newer range of engines being introduced by big names in the motoring industry, including Ford, that are small in size but give the performance of a larger engine thanks to improvements in technology.

Those who put importance on performance in a car will doubtless go for a larger 2.0 litre engine which gives fairly effortless driving but reduced economy. The high performance ST with five cylinder engine is a cracking machine with sports car performance and a hatchback configuration but is more expensive to insure and in terms of general running costs, so probably not the ideal choice as an all round family car.