The Top Family Cars of Each Decade

What a family car was in 1950 to what it is today!

10w ago

It has been 75 years since the end of World War Two in Europe. It has been 30 years since Germany became 1 whole piece. There have been several huge milestones in motoring, from the Electric Starter, to a Bugatti hitting 300 miles an hour.

We honour and talk about the huge milestones all the time, but we should take a moment to honour the simple family car. The honest, simple, family car, that does its job without fail.

A good family car must be reliable and practical.

With that said - Here are the best family cars of each decade, since the 1950s

The 1950's

Morris Minor , 1948-71

The Minor was designed on the quiet during World War 2 by Sir Alec Issigonis (who later created the Mini). At the last minute he decided to widen the Minor by four inches, hence the crease in the middle of the bonnet.

It came of age in the 1950s, and its flatulent exhaust note was part of the soundtrack of British post-War life. This little car had immense character, handled brilliantly, and it was spacious and tough – although front wheels would fall off if the suspension wasn’t greased regularly. Still it was one of the decade’s most-loved cars and in 1959 became the first British car to sell a million.

Living in an ex-British Colony, I have a love for most Morris'. The Morris Oxford was exported here as the Hindustan Ambassador. It was a solid car.

Meanwhile in the USA

Like American proportions , American family cars were huge. It came as a shock to me that this particular car was just 4.9 meters in length. This was the 1955 Chevrolet, just called the Chevrolet. Back in the 1940s , a Chevrolet was driven by grandmoms. In the '50s this changed.

In 1955 the General Motors division launched an all new car — the costliest model was dubbed the Bel Air — that was a revelation. Not only did it offer the now legendary small block V8 engine — effectively still in production —its styling, particularly on its Ferrari-like grill, was so wonderful that it was copied for years.

The 1960's

In Great Britain

Something that quintessentially British. Something as British as Fish and Chips , the Big Ben , those Red Buses, or even the curse 'Bloody Bastard'. This is the BMC Mini. Launched in 1959, and sold until 2000. It was the first successful true minicar to be built in Britain in the postwar era.

It was designed by Sir Alec Issigonis, the man behind the Morris Minor. Its space-saving transverse engine and front-wheel drive layout – allowing 80% of the area of the car's floorpan to be used for passengers and luggage – influenced a generation of car makers. It could hold 5 people , and some Sandwiches and Tea for the Picnic.

Despite being quintessentially British, Mini retired to a more efficient life in Germany.

Meanwhile at Ford UK

As the 1960s dawned, BMC were revelling in the success of their new Mini – the first successful true minicar to be built in Britain in the postwar era.

Management at Ford of Britain in Dagenham felt that they could not develop a similar small car to the same scale as the production cost would be too high, so instead they set about creating a larger family car which they could sell in large numbers. The result was the Cortina, a distinctively styled car aimed at buyers of the Morris Oxford and Vauxhall Victor, that was launched on 20 September 1962.

Despite its eye catching modern styling, the car was from the start designed to be easy and inexpensive to produce: in Britain the front-wheel drive configuration used by Ford of Germany for their new similarly sized model was rejected in favour of the tried and tested rear-wheel drive layout. The car was branded as the Consul Cortina until a modest facelift in 1964, after which it was sold simply as the Cortina. The car confirmed Ford's reputation for offering a lot of car for the money: the estate version, in particular, provided class-leading load capacity.

There was also the iconic Lotus Cortina, the performance variant.

In the Land of The Free!

The 1960s made American cars their reputation. This decade was the year of the Muscle Cars, and large flamboyant cruisers.

The best family car in 1960 was the Chevy Corvair. It was technologically advanced. It had an aluminun air-cooled engine, transaxle and independent suspension. The Chevy Corvair handled like a pendulum, and its reputation was tarnished my Ralph Nader, citing safety concerns about its handling, in his book called 'Unsafe at Any Speed'.

Chevy managed to fix its reputation after the Corvair incident by 1965. The Chevrolet Impala was the hottest car from 1965. It was cheap, spacious and good looking. It was also popular among the Lowrider / Gangsta-rap scene.

Cruisin down the street in my '64

'64 is for the 1964 Impala

The 1970's

The UK

Fast forward 10 years and Margaret Thatcher became the Conservative Party’s first female leader, the first episode of Fawlty Towers hit televisions and David Bowie topped the music charts with Space Oddity.

The British car market suffered from the recession that was engulfing the country: sales were down 24 per cent in 1974 and another six in 1975 to 1.194 million.

Since 1972 when the Ford Cortina took the lead of the UK ranking, a Ford has been the number one car in the country every single year. The Cortina managed to stay on top in 1975 despite the progress of the more recent Ford Escort.

The Morris Marina and the Austin Allegro sold well . Imports shot up to a respectable third of the market share with the Datsun Sunny making it to the top 10.

Some-thousand Kilometers across the Atlantic

The Oldsmobile Cutlass ruled the expressways of the USA. This was introduced as a compact car, but had a wagon variant and slowly edged its way into family-car territory. By 1968, certain models were packing a V8 engine and the Cutlass Cruiser wagon was starting to take on its iconic grocery-getter look. However, it was the long Cutlasses of the 1970s and the shorter, more utilitarian Cutlass family of Cieras, Supremes, and Calais that would make the Cutlass a fixture in family driveways.

The 1980's

In The UK

This was a very significant decade for the world. Gorbachev let McDonalds sell in the USSR. Germany was back in one piece, and the Indian GDP and Economy fell because of being too dependent on the USSR.

It was very significant in a motoring aspect. European cars from the 80's were considered to be the best and the coolest they had ever made.

The practical, fun to drive and good looking Ford Escort was one of the best family cars of this decade. Ford reigned supreme this decade, with Vauxhall trailing behind.

Now off to the country who just fought another war

This decade was a complex decade for American cars. 1980's American Cars were absolute garbage.

The best family car in the 1980's was something quintessentially American, the Ford F-Series Truck. Something almost every Southern family drove.

On the other sides of the country, the Chevy Cavalier reigned supreme.

But this decade marked the end of Communism and also the end to the Reign of the American Car Makers. In 1989, the Reign of the Japanese had begun, with the Honda Accord being the best family car of the decade in the United States.

The Honda Accord's reign would last much longer because it was practical, good looking and incredibly reliable.

The 1990s

In the UK

In 1990 Margaret Thatcher resigned and the familiar picture of a Woman Prime Minister , sobbing in the back of a car was cast on television.

Also, the Ford Escort's reign was threatened by its successor, the Ford Mondeo. It was all what the Escort was, but had a cool sports version too!

But another power was rising, that would overthrow the race of the Mondeo and Escort in the following decades. These were the rebel troops back then, the SUV.

The Land Rover Discovery was quite popular back then, and rightfully so. It was a Land Rover. And perched up there, your sense of ego would be a little more inflated. You could look down upon lesser mortals in their Saloons and Estates. It could fit everything, it could go anywhere and it could break anytime.

But the reign of the SUV was put on hold in the late 90's as a few excellent Ford family cars joined the troupe. The Fiesta lead and the Focus was the runner-up. The reign of the Minivan ended quite quickly when people realised that they were vans. The Vauxhall Zafira didn't do as well because it was a Vauxhall.

Peace in the USA , their sole enemy was dead

The excellent Honda Accord reigned supreme for a few years , until Ford took over. The Ford Taurus was a space age looking , practical sedan. It also had a performance version, called the SHO.

Soon , the legendary Toyota Camry took over. For decades to come, the Toyota Camry was known to be the best family car.

The 2000's

It's time for a new millenium!

Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, MySpace, Windows XP , iPods and Bonzi Buddy. These are the most stereotypical perceptions of the 2000's. I was born in the early 2000's and a lot of my readers grew up in the 2000's , like me.

The UK

No one here has been able to dethrone the Ford Focus. But Vauxhall trailed behind, like always, with the Corsa.

The Land of the Free

Most American companies were in terrible shape back then. This time was the decade of the Hummer and rather bland cars from American car manufacturers. Many iconic brands were axed in this decade , when GM and Chrysler needed to survive. Pontiac , Hummer and Oldsmobile were put on the death row. This decade produced some monstrosities like the PT Cruiser and the SSR.

The Japanese flourished. With the Camry being the most popular. But the SUV revolution just got real. The Honda Pilot, Toyota 4Runner and the Toyota Rav4 were slowly pushing their ageing grandparents, the Camry and the Accord aside, and were advancing towards the throne.

During this decade, Korean cars got a little bit more relevant.

The 2010's

The Land of the Crisps

The SUV trend had just kicked in , and it was kickstarted by the NIssan Qashqai. SUV's gave the driver an inflated sense of self. The crossover was no better than the estate car, except it came with the power to look over hatchbacks and saloons.

"Har har har, look at me I'm 2 foot above you"


The SUV trend was real hot here. And the Honda CR-V was miles above the rest. It was an SUV and it was a Honda. There was another contender there too, it was the Kia Sportage.

Korean cars had just started being good and Hyundai and Kia overthrew the Japanese from the throne by the late 2010's.

It was an interesting journey eh!

Thanks For scrolling to the bottom! I hope you enjoyed !

Join In

Comments (22)