New Car Awards 2014: best estate car

The SEAT Leon ST is the 2014 Auto Express Estate of the Year, with the BMW 5 Series and Skoda Octavia Estate commended

If you thought all estate cars were spacious, but just a little bit too sensible, think again. The SEAT Leon ST combines the style, sparkling driving experience and hi-tech kit of the hatchback with an extra dose of family-friendly practicality.

While the boot’s 587-litre carrying capacity isn’t the largest in its class, it’s more than big enough for most needs. Better still, the luggage area is well shaped, features a low loading lip and, with the rear bench folded flat, will accommodate a van-like 1,470 litres.

Best estate cars

Yet it’s the attention to detail that really lifts the Leon above its rivals. Neat release handles in the boot allow you to fold the rear seats in one move, while a false floor creates hidden storage and a totally flat load bay, even with the back seats down.

There are a number of handy hooks, a 12V power supply and an easy-to-use, retractable load cover, too. There’s also the option to add a folding front passenger seat, which helps take the strain out of carrying extra-long items. When you’ve finished doing an impression of a removal van, the ST turns into a sleek and sharp-handling family car.

SEAT Leon ST estate 2014 interior

SEAT’s designers have done a good job of integrating the longer estate car tail into the head-turning Leon’s lines, while the driving experience remains unchanged. That means you get the same line-up of eager petrol and diesel powerplants, composed and confidence-inspiring handling and an interior that’s smartly designed and solidly finished.

That’s not all, either, because the ST undercuts its rivals on price, is packed with standard kit and is backed by seriously strong residuals. It’s so good, you’ll never want to pack light again.

Our choice:

Leon ST 1.2 TSI SE (£18,230)

As with the hatchback, the refined 1.2-litre TSI petrol engine delivers the best blend of performance and economy in the ST line-up, while mid-range SE trim gives you all the essentials as standard.

Commended estates

BMW 5 Series Touring

BMW 5 Series Touring

What the 5 Series Touring lacks in carrying capacity, it makes up for with thoughtful design, sparkling dynamics and surprisingly low costs. Neat details include the separate glass tailgate, while on the move the strong diesels and balanced rear-wheel-drive handling prove that estate cars needn’t be dull.

Skoda Octavia Estate

Skoda Octavia Estate

Last year’s winner still boasts a huge boot and robust image. The Octavia Estate is also well priced and has one of the best dealer networks around. Frugal diesels are the ultimate workhorses, but the small petrol turbos are smooth and effortless. Not the most glamorous choice, but the spacious Skoda will swallow all that’s thrown at it.

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