Compact family estate buyers have never had it so good. Most small hatches are now also offered in estate form, so there’s a wide variety of practical models available. The latest arrivals have also injected some desirability into this increasingly competitive market.
The newest kid on the block is the Honda Civic Tourer. It has the biggest boot in the class, at 624 litres, while its rear seats feature some clever folding tricks. Plus, the Civic’s 1.6-litre i-DTEC diesel engine should strike an ideal balance between performance and efficiency.
Another newcomer is the SEAT Leon ST. It’s the first time this model has been offered as an estate, and a large boot only adds to the stylish desirability of the hatchback, which was crowned Auto Express Car of the Year 2013.
We’ll put these new cars against our class benchmark: the Skoda Octavia Estate. We try 1.6-litre diesel versions of each, and we’ll pay extra attention to their luggage areas to see which model has the practical advantage.
The Honda has the biggest boot, at 624 litres, and features a 12V socket, underfloor storage, lashing eyes and a roll-back load cover. You also get underfloor storage in the SEAT, plus a 12V socket and two bag hooks, while the Skoda has four hooks and a power socket, but no hidden compartment. The Leon and Octavia both have seatback releases in the boot, and their load covers are easier to use.
Narrower back doors and angled door pillars mean the Honda’s rear seats are harder to access. Once you’re in, there’s less legroom than in either rival, and it feels more cramped, too. The Skoda and SEAT are more spacious, while their back seat passengers benefit from standard air-con vents.
All three models have stop-start, and the systems were happy to cut the engine’s power with the car at a standstill for more than 30 seconds. The Octavia was most economical, just edging the Civic, with the Leon a bit further behind.
A WIN first time out for the Leon ST. It doesn’t boast the biggest boot here, but it does have thoughtful touches and enough space for most people. Add decent comfort, a very entertaining driving experience and good value, and it’s hard to beat.
The Octavia is still a sound choice if you want a no-frills estate car that will take everything you throw at it. But it’s only slighter larger than the SEAT, isn’t as stylish or affordable, and lacks some of the Leon’s versatile touches in the boot.
If you just want a big boot, then choose the Civic Tourer. But it has smaller back seats and not as many useful touches as its rivals, plus it’s pricier and not quite as well equipped. While the engine is great, the rest of the driving experience isn’t.
|SEAT Leon ST 1.6 TDI 105 SE||Skoda Octavia Estate 1.6 TDI 105 SE||Honda Civic Tourer 1.6 i-DTEC S|
|On-the-road price/total as tested||£19,495/£23,365||£20,365/£23,110||£21,375/£23,845|
|Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)||£8,773/45%||£9,103/44.7%||N/A|
|Annual tax liability std/higher rate||£544/£1,089||£569/£1,137||£597/£1,194|
|Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)||£1,794/£2,989||£1,655/£2,758||£1,692/£2,820|
|Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost||15/£356/A/£0||13/£378/A/£0||15/£366/A/£0|
|Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service||£169/£199/£169||£529 (3yrs/30k)||£995 (5yrs/62,500)|
|Engine||4cyl in-line/1,598cc||4cyl in-line/1,598cc||4cyl in-line/1,597cc|
|Peak power||104/3,000 bhp/rpm||104/3,000 bhp/rpm||118/4,000 bhp/rpm|
|Peak torque||250/1,500 Nm/rpm||250/1,500 Nm/rpm||300/2,000 Nm/rpm|
|Transmission||5-spd man/fwd||5-spd man/fwd||6-spd manual/fwd|
|Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel||50 litres/£95||50 litres/£75||50 litres/repair kit|
|Boot capacity (seats up/down)||587/1,470 litres||610/1,740 litres||624/1,668 litres|
|Turning circle/drag coefficient||10.2 metres/N/A||10.4 metres/0.30Cd||11.2 metres/N/A|
|Basic warranty (miles)/recovery||3yrs (60,000)/2yrs||3yrs (60,000)/3yrs||3yrs (90,000)/1yr|
|Service intervals/UK dealers||10k miles (1yr)/128||Variable/135||Variable/223|
|Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.||27th/31st||2nd/7th||6th/4th|
|Euro NCAP: Adult/child/ped./stars||94/92/70/5||93/86/66/5||94/83/69/5|
|0-60/30-70mph||11.8/12.2 secs (wet)||10.8/10.8 secs||11.5/11.7 secs (wet)|
|30-50mph in 3rd/4th||4.9/9.1 secs||5.2/9.3 secs||4.8/7.6 secs|
|50-70mph in 5th/6th||12.8 secs/N/A||10.7 secs/N/A||10.3/14.3 secs|
|Top speed/rpm at 70mph||119mph/2,100rpm||119mph/2,100rpm||121mph/2,000rpm|
|Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph||59.6/43.8/11.0m (wet)||48.1/35.2/8.8m||56.3/40.7/10.6m (wet)|
|Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph||70/47/63/66dB||70/46/64/69dB||70/49/63/71dB|
|Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range||41.7/9.2/459 miles||45.2/9.9/497 miles||44.2/9.8/486 miles|
|Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket||182/99g/km/14%||167/99g/km/14%||171/99g/km/14%|
|Airbags/Isofix/rear park sensors/cam||Seven/yes/£265/no||Seven/yes/yes/no||Six/yes/£535/£695|
|Automatic box/stability/cruise control||£1,250/yes/yes||£1,250/yes/£180||No/yes/no|
|Climate control/leather/heated seats||£350/£1,370/£350||Yes/no/£200||Yes/no/no|
|Met paint/xenons/fold front pass seat||£495/£995^/£75||£525/£1,190/£110||£500/no/no|