Estate cars have almost been forgotten as sales of fashionable MPVs and crossovers have boomed. But an estate still provides all the space and practicality a family needs for a similar price – and with similar running costs – to a regular family car.
It goes without saying that most estates have longer bodies than the saloons or hatchbacks they’re based on, so if you’re not confident at parking or have limited space on your drive or in your garage, they may not be for you. Lift the tailgate of a modern estate, though, and you’ll see it really makes the most of these dimensions.
The best cars in this class have enormous boots with the rear seats in place, but the seatbacks and seatbases usually fold flat – often with a pull of a single lever and normally with a handy 60:40 or 30:20:30 split – to provide a long, wide space with a practical shape. Neat touches like underfloor cubbyholes, luggage nets and load dividers make these cars perfectly suited to family life.
Yet from the front seats, you wouldn’t know all this was here, as an estate looks and feels like a standard family car, with an identical dashboard. It drives like one, too, with wheelbases often extended slightly to ensure the same secure handling as the saloon or hatch it’s based on. And while there’s usually a bit of an increase in weight, the strong engines in the latest family cars can take this in their stride. There should be no sacrifice in performance.
Buyers will often have to compromise on style, as it’s a challenge for designers to graft on that extra bodywork, although the class-leading estates look as though they were shaped that way from the outset. And the best thing is that you get all this extra practicality in a package that usually carries only a small price premium and won’t cost much more to run. Insurance group ratings, road tax bills, service intervals and fuel consumption will be largely comparable to a regular family saloon or hatch.
With these points in mind, we've rounded up the 10 best estate cars on the market. Click the links on the left to find out which one is right for you.