Estate cars lack the glamour of an SUV or saloon, but they are usually the most logical choice for families. Here are some of the best estate cars in 2017 to help you make the right choice.
It used to be that estate cars had all the handling ability of a canal barge, appeal of lung disease and style of Rab C. Nesbitt. But these days modern technologies and advancements have helped make them considerably more appealing – not to mention less confused than a crossover.
The SUV is still the cooler kid on the block, but those who want to maximise practicality without breaking the bank are typically better off with an estate. Even if after April 2017 most estate cars will cost the same amount to tax.
There are plenty of estates to choose from and all do a largely similar job. But which estate cars stand tall in 2017 and why? Is there a 'best family car' out there? Here is the official Recombu Cars pick, in no particular order.
1) Volvo V90 estate
The V90 is a comfortable cruiser with excellent refinement, a class-leading interior and a graceful design that makes it a viable alternative to the Germans, if only because you will see fewer of them on the road.
The D4 is the smaller output of the 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesels available and is the most frugal, with CO2 emissions at 119g/km and fuel economy of up to 62.8mpg. Boot space is 560 litres with the rear seats up rising to 1,526 with them down.
A plug-in hybrid version is on the way, with 404bhp, but it will justify a CO2 level of 47g/km with a big asking price, bigger than the D5 anyway.
Volvos are now cool and the interior is excellent.
That Swedish quality and practicality comes at a premium price.
From £35,865, Volvo UK
2) Ford Mondeo estate
The Ford Mondeo has never been trendy, but then the latest version is as close as it gets. In estate form, it offers a solid combination of refinement, practicality and comfort at an affordable price.
You can choose from many engines, but the 2.0 TDCi with 178bhp is speedy enough without sacrificing cost-effectiveness. Ford claims this engine can manage up to 62.8mpg and 117g/km of CO2, which is competitive.
As for boot space, expect 525 litres (12 litres fewer than its predecessor) rising to 1,630 litres with the rear seats down. The loading area is nice and wide and the rear seats fold flat for added practicality.
Practical, cheap and usually dependable.
The Mondeo badge is hardly the last word in desirability.
From £22,895, Ford UK
3) BMW 5 Series Touring estate
Though you will have to wait until June for deliveries, the 5 Series Touring estate will be a winner if the 5 Series saloon is anything to go by. The 570-litre boot is competitive – rising to 1,700 litres with the seats tumbled – but it is the rest of the package that shines.
Besides the prestige of a BMW badge, the 5 Series Touring has an impressive interior, ultra-smooth eight-speed gearbox, navigation as standard and the option of xDrive all-wheel drive if you crave extra traction.
Of the engines available, the 187bhp 520d is the most frugal, at 65.6mpg and 114g/km, not to mention the cheapest, but the 261bhp 530d is a better choice if you crave a more exciting and pacey drive.
As excellent as the brilliant 5 Series, only more practical.
You will have to dig deeper to own one.
From £38,225, BMW UK
4) Peugeot 308 SW estate
Dismiss the Peugeot 308 SW at your peril. The French alternative has all the storage space and can do frugal motoring if you can look past the lack of badge appeal – although Peugeot has improved in recent times.
The cheapest motor to run should be the 1.6-litre BlueHDi 120 diesel, which manages 85g/km and up to 88.3mpg. For a less gruff engine note, the 1.2-litre PureTech e-THP 110 manages 99g/km of CO2 and up to 67.3mpg.
When it comes to the boot, expect a whopping 660 litres with the rear seats in place, extending to 1,775 litres if you pull the lever to drop them completely flat. That is a lot of compact estate for not a lot of money.
Excellent value for money, solid engines and a huge boot.
Peugeots get a bad rep, but the 3008 SUV is helping the recovery process.
From £18,775, Peugeot UK
5) Mercedes E-Class estate
The new Mercedes E-Class really does try to justify its big price tag with superb refinement, excellent fuel economy, a boot measured in acres and an interior you won't forget in a hurry.
A 640 litres boot can accommodate even the biggest big shop. Fold the seats flat and you get 1,820 litres. Fuel economy is said to be up to 67.3mpg and 109g/km of CO2 if you opt for the 2.0-litre diesel, which comes mated to a nine-speed automatic.
The E-Class has rather uninvolving drive, but then a family car can get away without setting your trousers on fire, especially when the bog-standard SE model comes with various luxuries such as heated seats, ambient lighting and an electric tailgate.
Your neighbours will think you just had a pay rise.
The BMW 5 Series is nicer to drive.
From £37,160, Mercedes-Benz UK
6) Skoda Octavia estate
The Octavia is a great family motor and cheaper than the Superb. It is roomy, cheap to buy and is more refined than its price would suggest. Meanwhile the boot is a sizable 610 litres expandable to 1,740 litres.
Of the six engines on offer, the cleanest is the 1.6 TDI 110 SE, thanks to CO2 and fuel economy of 74.3mpg (combined) and 99g/km, respectively. The vRS offers a 0-62mph time of 6.8 seconds if you crave speed, while the 1.0-litre TSI is the cheapest to buy and could be okay for city-based owners.
There is even the option of an all-wheel drive crossover thing called the Octavia Scout, which is still more affordable than its Germanic rivals even if you go for the top spec.
Excellent value for money, basically a VW Passat at heart.
Bit of a soulless drive.
From £18,255, Skoda UK
7) Seat Leon ST estate
The Seat Leon ST shares a lot of the components used in the VW Golf Estate and Skoda Octavia Estate, but tries to make the end result more enticing to younger, trendier folk. You can decide whether that is the case.
The best mix of performance and fuel economy comes in the form of the 1.6-litre diesel, which boasts up to 68.9mpg. There is also a 1.0-litre with 113bhp that can manage 64.2mpg but will need to be pushed harder to keep up with traffic.
Boot space is 587 litres (expanding to 1,470 litres), putting it in the mid-range for an estate (blame the stylish sloping roof), while the interior space is good for up to five adults. The rear seats fail to fold flat, sadly, but the mechanism to make them do so is a doddle to use.
Solid mix of styling, practicality and frugality.
Could be a bit trendy for older folk.
From £19,255, Seat UK
8) Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer estate
The Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer estate offers a surprisingly fun drive, manages to look the part and keep your motoring costs down if you pick the right engine. A potentially small price will be depreciation.
The 109bhp 1.6-litre diesel is hard to fault, given that it boasts a claimed 83.1mpg and CO2 of 89g/km, while the 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol offers up to 62.8mpg and 103g/km of CO2. For more oomph without taking too big a hit on frugality, the 134bhp diesel makes the most sense.
Most rivals are, admittedly, better in the space department, but the 540-litre boot is hardly small and the expandable load area is only 110 litres fewer than what you get in the Octavia, at 1,630 litres. Plus it can be had on the cheap.
It will eat up the miles for years and is a vast improvement on the old car.
Lack of desirability, depreciation will be worse than most of its rivals.
From £17,665, Vauxhall UK
9) Audi A4 Avant estate
The A4 Avant is the A4 saloon with a bigger boot. That means it has the same badge appeal but greater practicality in addition to the build quality people expect from the German manufacturer.
It is expensive and the 505-litre boot is smaller than its cheaper rivals (as is the expanded 1,510-litre cargo bay), but it can be cheap to run, particularly with the 148bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder Ultra diesel capable of up to 70.6mpg.
The load bay could be completely flat and the drive is less interesting than the new 5 Series, but there is a reassuring, competent edge to the A4 that makes it worth a look. Depreciation will be more bearable, too.
Strong looks and comfortable inside.
Less accomplished than the 5 Series and E-Class.
From £28,480, Audi UK
10) Skoda Superb estate
The Skoda Superb offers all of the benefits of the VW Passat Estate, but in a cheaper package that is just as comfortable. It is, therefore, a very sensible choice for mums and dads. Or people who shop too much.
We like how it looks, but it is the 660-litre boot – expandable to a gigantic 1,950 litres – that helps it stand out. Compared with the Octavia, it is easy to notice this is a more substantial offering, which is reflected in its bigger price tag.
There are a few engine options worth considering, including the most green 118bhp 1.6-litre TDI Greenline (76.4mpg and 97g/km of CO2), but we would likely go with the 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI. Fuel economy and CO2 is 68.9mpg and 109g/km, respectively.
One of the most frugal options and hugely practical.
Like the Octavia Estate, it lacks any sort of involvement.
From £21,065, Skoda UK
11) Hyundai i30 Tourer
One of the most recent estate cars to hit the market is the Hyundai i30 Tourer. Though last in our list, it is by no means the worst performer. In fact, it handles rather well and has more personality than a Golf estate.
The 1.4-litre T-GDi provides enjoyable levels of forward motion, while the chassis is capable of being smooth and solid in the corners. We also appreciate the smart aesthetic and big-old boot, which really only loses out to the Superb Estate and 308 SW.
CO2 for the petrol comes in at 129g/km and fuel economy is a combined 51.4mpg, making it fairly cheap to run. It also comes with a generous level of equipment at the base level, has a five-year, 100,000-mile warranty and even five years of roadside assistance.
The diesels, meanwhile, are quiet and offer more than ample torque. CO2 is also lower, at 109g/km, and fuel economy is up to 74.13bhp if you get the 108bhp 1.6-litre.
One of the cheapest estate cars and by no means the worst.
People will think you are 30 going on 80.
From £17,495, Hyundai UK