Best estate cars

Big is beautiful for estate buyers – but big has to be clever, too, in a category where all-round practicality is essential

Size matters – and any estate worth its salt needs to win the space race, first and foremost. Yet not all of our podium finishers are massive in the all-important rear end, so equal points were awarded for the kind of innovative packaging that transforms a standard estate car into a flexible piece of family transport.

1st Gold

Skoda Superb 

Price range: £18,780-£30,755

Last year, the Skoda Superb was crowned Best Estate at Auto Express’s New Car Awards, and was voted overall champion in our Driver Power satisfaction survey. And the car has got 2012 off to a flying start scooping yet another award. Not only is the Superb better looking as an estate, its long wheelbase means there’s acres of legroom and a 633-litre boot – unmatched by any of its rivals here.

Fold the rear seats down, and this increases to a vast 1,865 litres – enough to stow a pair of bikes without taking the wheels off. It’s equally adept at carrying smaller loads, with plenty of cubbies, bag hooks and dividing rails to stop shopping bags and loose items rolling around in the back. Yet the Superb’s talents run much deeper than that.

Also contributing to its success are rock-solid build quality, plenty of equipment and a starting price that puts many of its premium rivals to shame. And the efficient new GreenLine II version addressed our only criticism, which was its relatively disappointing fuel economy. Despite its size, the Skoda handles with remarkable poise. It boasts a cosseting ride, excellent refinement and even the added security of optional four-wheel drive on the most powerful versions. Throw in keen pricing and the brand’s near-faultless customer service, and you’re left with one of the best all-rounders money can buy.

2nd Silver

Audi A6 Avant

Price range: £32,100-£43,480

Our highest-placed premium estate comes fresh from a road test triumph over key rivals from BMW and Mercedes. While the Audi A6 Avant isn’t as roomy as the E-Class, it impresses almost everywhere else. Sit behind the wheel, and you’re treated to one of the best cabins in the business, with a rich mixture of classy materials and hi-tech gadgets that puts the car a cut above the competition. The Avant’s wheelbase is 70mm longer than the saloon’s, which improves legroom behind the driver. And the 1,680-litre boot should more than meet most buyers’ needs.

The A6 is also one of the most polished drivers’ cars in Audi’s line-up, with a broad range of powerful and efficient engines. The highlight is the 3.0-litre V6 diesel, which blends brutal performance with hushed refinement. Plus, CO2 emissions of 136g/km make this 201bhp model a perfect company car.

3rd Bronze

Skoda Octavia

Price range: £14,320-£25,050

If you can’t stretch your budget to afford our gold medallist, its smaller sibling is still a compelling proposition. The Skoda Octavia takes more of a no-frills approach than the Superb. It offers a basic yet sturdy interior and lots of space, plus hassle-free family motoring. Its underpinnings date back to 2004, but the hugely varied choice of VW Group engines means there’s a version to suit all tastes.

The turbocharged 1.2-litre TSI petrol introduced last year is one of our favourites. The 605-litre boot is bigger than almost any of its rivals’ and the rear seatbases fold away to leave a flat, robust load area. However, the ace up the Octavia’s sleeve is its price, which starts at just under £15k. It’s hard to do better for less.

Runner up

Renault Clio Sport Tourer

Price range: £12,005-£16,700

The Renault Clio proves that good estates come in all shapes and sizes, only just missing out on the podium. Despite its supermini origins, the Sport Tourer is nearly 200mm longer than the hatch, and all that additional length has gone into extending the boot to a useful 439 litres with the rear seats in place. It’s also comfortable and frugal, while big discounts are available on the current line-up.

Over-assisted steering and a dated interior design count against it in the final reckoning, but the Clio is still a seriously practical car in a pint-sized package.

Runner up

Mercedes C-Class

Price range: £27,125-£57,745

The recently refreshed C-Class Estate is a classy holdall. With the new BMW 3 Series Touring not due until 2013, it’s our favourite estate from the compact executive class. The 485-litre boot is a match for the Audi A4 Avant – but the Mercedes is more comfortable, as well as more dynamic thanks to its rear-wheel drive. Chassis build and interior quality have also taken a huge leap forward; we think the C-Class Estate 

is better than the saloon.

False start

Peugeot 207 SW

Price range: £11,995-£17,545

The 207 SW remains a very versatile supermini estate, with its 325-litre boot expanding to a healthy 1,258 litres when the rear seats are folded. But it’s soon to be replaced and is really starting to show its age, so you’d be better off spending your money elsewhere. A heavy kerbweight means the Peugeot can’t match the class leaders dynamically or at the pumps.

In this review

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