The decline of the family saloon

How ‘Fiesta Dad’ and ‘MPV Mum’ have changed Britain’s driveways since the 1980s.
The demise of the family saloon, once the bastion of Britain’s family cars, has been driven by the rise of small-car dad and MPV mum, according to research released today by the UK’s largest insurer Aviva.

In the 1980s the stereotypical two-car family had a large saloon, like a Ford Cortina or Vauxhall Cavalier, and a small ‘runaround’ second car such as a Fiesta or a Datsun Cherry on the driveway1. The women in the family almost always drove the smaller car.

Fast-forward to today and the shape and size of the cars on our driveways and who is driving them have changed significantly.

Aviva asked 2,500 UK adults about their family car history stretching back 30 years and found that, while more families than ever own a second car2, there has been a significant shift towards a more equal size and value split between the cars driven by mum and dad in Britain’s multi-car households.

The death of the saloon
High spec smaller family cars, such as the Volkswagen Golf, the Mini and the Peugeot 207, driven equally by men and women, now dominate the top 10 most popular cars, replacing traditional family saloons like the Vauxhall Vectra, Volkswagen Passat and Ford Mondeo. The traditional family saloon no longer features anywhere in the top 10 list of most popular car models with UK drivers.
The rise of ‘Fiesta dad’ and ‘MPV mum’
As the size and shape of Britain’s family cars have changed so have the people driving them. In the 1980s, large saloons like the Ford Cortina and the Vauxhall Cavalier were popular with men but driven by very few women, who drove mainly small cars such as Fiestas, Minis, and the Sunny and Cherry made by Datsun/Nissan.

Since 2010 the big car/small car gender divide had changed completely. Two thirds of Fiesta drivers are now men. Women are increasingly opting for large, modern alternatives, and are more likely than men to drive big SUV and 4×4 hybrids such as the Citroen Picasso and the Toyota RAV4.

The evolution of the family car
In the 1980s Britain’s family cars looked very similar, with just four big and small car combinations dominating our driveways. Vauxhall and Ford were the most popular saloons of choice. The four pairings most commonly seen in streets across Britain were: the Vauxhall Cavalier/Mini Rover; the Vauxhall Cavalier/Ford Fiesta; the Ford Cortina/Mini Rover and the Ford Escort/Vauxhall Nova4.

In 2011 the picture is more complicated because of the huge rise in the number of different models available. Our driveways may have become more diverse but the type of car parked on them tells a common story. As motoring costs increase and with greater demand for fuel efficiency, families are increasingly opting for two small cars or a small car and an MPV hybrid. The most common car type combinations in 2011 were Small Family Cars (VW Golf, Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra) with Mini/Compact cars (Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio, Vauxhall Corsa) and SUVs/4x4s/MPV (Nissan Qashqai, Citreon Picasso, Ford Galaxy) with Mini/Compact cars (Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio, Vauxhall Corsa)5.

Commenting on the research, Heather Smith, director of car insurance at Aviva, said: “Thirty years ago the big saloon and the small ‘runaround’ sitting side by side outside Britain’s family homes was a ubiquitous sight. Now you’re more likely to see two VW Golfs or newer SUV/4×4 hybrids like the Nissan Qashqai and the Suzuki Grand Vitara sharing driveway space.

“As families’ lives become more busy and complex, with two working parents and children to be dropped off at school, it appears multi-tasking mums need a vehicle fit for both work and family life while cost and fuel efficiency are increasingly important to dad”.