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Does Golf estate offer ride and handling to match hatch – and beat rivals here?

In estate car needs to possess certain characteristics. The suspension must be able to handle heavy loads, as well as an empty cabin – whether trundling through town, cruising the motorway or even attacking a favourite back road.

Likewise, the engine should be smooth and frugal to keep the family and wallet happy, while having enough grunt to take on any task asked of it. Strong refinement is the first thing that you notice in the Golf. Even when it’s cold, the common-rail diesel engine is quiet. On the move, it delivers decent urge. However, the powerplant suffers from poor low-speed response, making the car feel a little lethargic around town.

Turn into a corner and the VW displays the same composure as the hatchback version. Our Sportline model features stiffer sports suspension, which did a good job of controlling the body through bends, but was occasionally unsettled by poor road surfaces. There are no such problems with the supple ride of the Mégane. The French car coped well with potholes and was particularly composed on motorways. This comfort doesn’t come at the expense of agility, with the Renault feeling extremely nimble over twisting back roads. Only the excessively light steering and fragile gearshift mark down the driving experience.

At the track, the Sport Tourer was the slowest in the 0-60mph sprint, taking 10.6 seconds. But the 1.9-litre diesel unit’s flexible power delivery means it has decent real-world pace.

In Laurin & Klement trim, the Octavia is designed to be luxurious rather than sporty, yet it recorded some of the fastest acceleration times here. From 30-70mph, it was more than a second quicker than its competitors, with a time of
9.6 seconds. That makes it the punchiest carrier in the test. However, the turbodiesel unit isn’t as refined, while its sudden power delivery takes a little getting used to.

On the move, the Skoda’s soft suspension set-up results in a comfortable ride. Through corners, body control could be better, although grip is strong.

The Peugeot feels more agile than the Octavia. While its steering is a little too light, the 308 turns in sharply and displays decent grip. The Skoda and VW are more refined, but over bumpy tarmac, the French model retains its composure.

Our test car was fitted with the 136bhp 2.0-litre HDi engine. From this month, it gets a software update that boosts power by 2bhp and tweaks emissions to meet Euro V regulations. Yet no matter which unit is in the Peugeot, the slack gearshift action spoils the experience. So although it’s a good showing by the 308 in this category, it can’t match the Golf’s five-star performance.

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Golf 5/5
Composed handling and strong refinement mean the estate drives just like VW’s latest hatch. And while the stiffer suspension on this Sportline model can feel harsh, the upside is strong body control. The engine is smooth, but tall gearing blunts in-gear acceleration.
Megane 4/5
The Renault doesn’t feel
as well planted as the Golf, and its steering could do with more weight, too. It’s surprisingly agile, though, and the balance of ride and handling impresses. The smooth and torquey engine gives good mid-range pace.
Octavia 4/5
Punchy 2.0-litre diesel means the Skoda is the best performer in a straight line. Supple ride makes it a fine long-distance companion, too. But the engine is gruff, and the chassis isn’t as sharp as those of rivals.
308 SW 3/5
The Peugeot demonstrates real flair in corners, with sharp turn-in and good balance. It’s let down by over-light steering and a fragile-feeling gearshift. At least the 2.0-litre HDi diesel is smooth and responsive.

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