Wow, thanks for all the replies! You are all making my decision even harder
There are some brands that you can open the door during the cycle - this is a must for me! I'm always find something to add after the wash has started - pair of socks under the couch , pyjamas left in the bathroom etc, with three girls I'm sure it is only going it get worse!
Another feature a lot seem to have is a quick 30 min wash - this also appeals for a smaller load of lightly soiled clothes - "Mum I need this top tonight - no other top will do!!!" type scenario.
Most of them only connect to the cold water and have their own heating element, seems setting them to 30 degrees is considered the same as a cold wash and I usually only wash in cold water.
I would be getting an 8 kilo machine and I like the idea of being able to wash doonas in the front loaders - our current top loader unbalances if I try to wash a doona or quilt.
Def. not interested in a washer dryer combo - we have a dryer that rarely gets used anyway.
The more I type the more I realise I am probably leaning more towards a front loader. The water and power savings were what initially got my interest and that is still a big plus.
But! I do prefer the ease of access to the top loader. Might have to have a look and see if there are some brands that have the barrel positioned higher off the ground than others!
For those that are also looking at a new washing machine the Choice website is really good and comparers lots of brands.
who would have thought this would be so hard!