Estate vehicles can be identified by their large boots, convertibles by their folding roofs and supercars by their abundance of raw power. Though when it comes to pinpointing the quintessential family car, things get a little tricky.
Family cars need to be affordable, reliable, not to mention spacious enough to fit the kids. People often consider the people-carrier to be a prime example of what a family car should look like, but it's hard to draw the line between a six or seven-seater vehicle and an SUV that wouldn't look out of place with a professional footballer behind the wheel.
The truth is that family cars come in all different shapes and sizes, so it's up to you - the buyer - to decide which vehicle would best suit you and your brood. Fortunately the 'family' market is one of the auto industry's most competitive sectors, meaning there's no shortage of models to select from.
If your search for the perfect vehicle has began at a fairly slow pace, here are some of the best on the market...
Skoda Yeti SUV
Every bit the critics' choice, Skoda's 2012 Yeti model has proven to be a big hit with reviewers and owners alike. It continues to top customer satisfaction surveys from the likes of Auto Express and Car Buyer and is considered the most-well-received Skoda to date. Its case is aided by smooth handling, a fuel economy of 61.4mpg and a massive cabin with five seats.
The alarm with interior monitoring, immobiliser and remote central locking also make the Yeti a well-secured choice - although the same can't be said for every family vehicle. Security should represent a priority for any family choosing a new car, and if the vehicle does not possess the desired features, additional technology like tracking systems should be the first port of call.
Ford Grand C-Max
The five-seater Grand C-Max might not be the most powerful choice on the market, nor the most adventurous, but with a spacious cabin and Active Park Assist (you barely assist the technology), this silky smooth ride is by far the most convenient arrangement. The advice is simple - sit back and let one of the most experienced manufacturers take care of the rest.
Ford B-Max mini MPV
Feel the C-Max might be a tad hefty for your garage to bear? Why not take the step down to the B-Max with its economy of 70.6mpg and supreme driveability. The front-end is shaped like a hatchback but the rear is extended to allow a decent amount of boot space. A DAB digital radio provides entertainment, while the unique side door layout makes access to the rear seats a while lot easier.
Nissan has years of experience in delivering quality family vehicles and the Qashqai is no exception. The 2007 model was regarded an "extreme" example of two vehicle types merging to create a 'crossover' of sorts, and while this market has since matured beyond belief, the first-generation Qashqai still manages to hold its own in present day.
Newer versions of the car seat seven, while the 2007 manages five with plenty of space in the front. The 148bhp behind Nissan's turbodiesel version is impressive for its category, but reliability is where the Qashqai really earns its stripes. Figures from Warranty Direct show that just 16 per cent of drivers report a breakdown in over the course of a year, making the Qashqai a pretty safe bet.
Mazda 3 (hatchback)
Families with just one or two children can probably afford to branch out of people-carrier territory and look at something a little sportier. The Mazda 3 has all the power and the styling of a chief executive's dream ride, but its rock-bottom breakdown rate and outstanding fuel consumption (68.9mpg) also endear the vehicle to parents who like to look the part.
A little chunkier than the Mazda 3 but with the same five-seat layout, the Ford Mondeo from 2007 onwards strikes the perfect balance between style and substance.
While the 2.0-litre EcoBoost engine fitted to some of the most recent models provides strong performance, the 19" alloy wheels ensure the Mondeo is seen as well as heard. The car has five seats and offers plenty of boot space for a car of its ilk. Again, by no means a choice for the family that just keeps expanding, but a strong choice for smaller households.
Superb by name, Superb by nature - Skoda's part hatchback and part saloon has an imposing quality about its exterior. Things also look stylish on the inside, and the high-quality trim should be a draw for any family with a decent amount of cash to spend. A 1.6-litre engine is only cable of producing 104bhp, but - like many productions from Skoda - the pricing is highly competitive.
Citroen C4 Picasso MPV
With a boot that expands from 530 litres to 1,709 litres, the Citroen C4 is great for parents that don't always have their kids in the back. Though when they do, the five seats and spacious cabin make for a comfortable ride. The C4 also sports impressive economy and emissions, making it every bit the economical choice.
Seven seats: tick. Plus 1,000 litres of boot space: tick. Twin sliding rear doors: double tick. The Seat Alhambra won Best MPV at the Auto Express New Car Awards for three consecutive years, and it's not hard to see why. Seat's flagship people-carrier boasts a first-rate interior, rock-bottom CO2 emissions and an impressive design all round. Just make sure you go for the diesel model to gain a fuel economy below 50mpg.
Subaru has been making crossovers since the mid-90s, and the XV model proves its persistence in this particular market has not gone to waste. With four-wheel drive and some serious ground clearance, the XV wouldn't look too out of place in a trek through the wilderness. Though aside from its extra-rugged features, the interior is big enough for a five-member family and reliable to boot. A competitor to the Qashqai? Most certainly.