You might think the estate car is becoming a thing of the past, as increasingly fashionable MPVs, SUVs and crossovers steal sales from the traditional family or company workhorse.
If you’re a fan of the estate car format though, there’s still plenty of choice around. From small and highly economical hatchback-based estate models, through to large estate cars based on big family saloons - and even high-performance luxury and premium models with extreme power outputs - there’s a perfect estate car for everyone.
As you can see from our top 10 list - which we've selected on the basis of our in-depth road test reviews of all the models on sale - it's Volkswagen Group companies that are making the best of the sector currently. Impressively two Skodas, a SEAT and a VW take five of the top slots. BMW and Mercedes make the list too, but Mazda is the only Japanese contender. Vauxhall sneaks in with the Insignia Sport Tourer, narrowly eclipsing the Ford Mondeo Estate, but there are plenty of other worthwhile estate models outside the top 10 list - cars like the Honda Civic Tourer, Hyundai i40 Estate, Jaguar XF Sportbrake and Peugeot 508 SW all have their supporters too.
If you’re used to driving a hatch or saloon, the extra length can make estate cars a bit trickier to park, but nowadays that problem is often solved with parking sensors or reversing cameras. The benefit of all that extra interior space and ease of access remain, and of course they're perfect for dog owners - not just for the large flat boot space, but also because they’re typically lower to the ground than SUVs and crossovers.
The best cars in the estate class have enormous boot spaces that can be configured in a range of useful ways - often with under-floor cubbyholes, luggage nets and load dividers. In addition to this, the rear seats will fold to offer a super long load space and most new models now feature systems to split fold the rear seats for extra versatility. Most have three seats in the back, but if you’re looking for an estate car with a 3rd row of seats there’s nowadays much more choice in the SUV/crossover sector.
Usually estate cars feel virtually identical to the saloon or hatchback versions to drive, and with all the same engines and components present they often have matching performance and economy figures, too.
Buyers no longer have to compromise on style with an estate car either. The class-leaders often look as though they were designed to be an estate from the start, as opposed to a standard hatch or saloon with extra bodywork grafted onto the back.
In terms of running costs, estates normally carry only a small price premium and won't cost much more to run - insurance groups, tax bills, servicing and fuel consumption are all largely comparable to the saloon or hatch counterparts.
We've rounded up our favourite estate cars currently on the market. Click the links above and to the left to find out which is the right choice for you.