Best used estate cars
Estate cars are a great alternative to SUVs; they offer lots of boot space without compromising the running costs of a hatchback. Here are the best used estate cars you should buy.
SUVs might be becoming more popular, but estate cars are still a firm fixture with British motorists. Based on a family-size hatchback or saloon, estates provide all the comfort and equipment of these cars with a much larger amount of load space. The boot sizes on some models are comparable to a small van, but you don’t have to put up with swathes of hard plastic, unsophisticated suspension or a spartan interior.
Estates tend to have a bigger and more accessible boot than SUVs or MPVs. As the load space is often quite long and wide, which makes it versatile and capable of carrying a huge array of things - whether you’re a windswept surfer or a regular at a Swedish furniture and meatball store.
If you need to make the most of an estate’s carrying capacity, most allow you to fold the back seats down with a flick of a lever. MPVs and SUVs, meanwhile, often prioritise passenger space over boot space, and in seven-seat cars, there’s usually very little boot space when all seats are in place. You’ll either need to fold more seats down or remove some completely to get the same amount of space.
With estate cars sitting lower than SUVs, the boot is more accessible, and it’s easier to haul heavy items into it. At the same time, it’s easier for kids and dogs to climb into an estate than a large SUV or people-carrier. You don’t need to worry about safety, either, because all of these cars perform as well as their hatchback and saloon counterparts - with many receiving a maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.
Sitting lower to the ground also makes an estate car better to drive than many SUVs. They’re similar to drive to the hatchbacks and saloons they’re based on and tend to be more fuel-efficient than bigger SUVs. A welcome side-effect is other low running costs, and consumables like tyres will cost less on certain models.
Buying a used estate car means you can get all of these benefits without splashing out on a brand-new car. If you need even more luggage space, check out our guide to the cars with the biggest boots on sale, or continue reading our rundown of the best used estate cars to buy now.
A lot of people scoffed at the ‘Superb’ name when Skoda’s largest car started production in the early 2000s, but now the car does live up to its name. It’s truly massive inside, with enough space for adults to stretch out in the back seats and 660 litres of boot space behind the seats. With the seats down, there’s more space than the Mercedes E-Class Estate, and you can even fold the front passenger seat down for long loads. We’ve not awarded the Superb Estate top marks for its huge boot alone; it has plenty of equipment even in the lower trim levels, and the interior is well built. The latest Superb is a handsome machine, but it also impresses with tried-and-tested engines that offer both low fuel bills and excellent performance. There’s even a Sportline version with a petrol engine from VW’s hot hatchbacks, should you wish to surprise some sports car owners. Plenty are available used but, if you can afford it, we’d recommend going for the 2.0-litre diesel over the 1.6-litre - as fuel economy is similar, but the larger engine is far more powerful.
We tend to think of the Skoda Superb Estate and the BMW 5 Series Touring as being a similarly sized, but the difference in boot space is surprising. There are 570 litres to fill (90 litres fewer than the Superb), which is still a massive space. For those times when you need to carry longer items or more things, the rear seats fold down increasing available space to 1,700 litres. The 5 Series is also very good at hauling people, with ample room for three adults in the rear seats. BMW says you could even get three child seats side-by-side, so it’s a little strange that only the outer seats have ISOFIX points. We love how it drives - it’s among the best-driving estates on sale - and, whether you fancy reasonable running costs, breathtaking performance or a bit of both, the 5 Series’ engine range delivers. The 520d is most common, and plenty for most people’s needs, but the 540i xDrive is incredibly quick (and thirsty). The interior feels incredibly premium and both SE and M Sport trim levels are well-equipped, although useful functionality like Apple CarPlay was an additional-cost option when new.
Many of the qualities of the Superb apply to the Skoda Octavia estate as well in a slightly smaller and lower priced package. The boot space is enormous for the size of the car; at 610 litres, it’s one of the biggest in its class offering a generous amount of legroom too. Drop the rear seats and the boot space increases to 1,740 litres, more than the Ford Mondeo Estate, Mazda6 Tourer and the BMW 5 Series Touring. Being part of the Volkswagen Group guarantees a well-built interior (even if it’s not the last word in exuberant design), and no version is poorly equipped. Air conditioning, an eight-inch touchscreen with DAB radio and alloy wheels are all fitted as standard and stepping up to the higher trim levels with more kit doesn’t cost the earth. The Octavia Estate gets broadly the same choice of engines as the Superb, although it’s also available as a quick vRS model, with either a petrol or diesel engine. These hold their value better than the standard model, which is also the case with top-spec Laurin & Klement (L&K) and rugged all-wheel-drive Scout models.
Subjectively, we think estates are often better looking than SUVs, and the Volvo V60 is one of the reasons why. It channels the boxiness of Volvo estates of old, but brings it up-to-date with an ultra-modern design. The headlights and tail-lights are a particular success. It’s a car that prioritises comfort over sportiness, so a BMW 3 Series Touring is a better option if you’re a keen driver, but it does comfort very well. You’ll enjoy its refinement and elegance on long motorway journeys and post-work commutes which is comparable to the Mercedes C-Class Estate. All V60’s have a premium interior quality, with a cabin that is almost identical to more expensive cars like the XC90 SUV. Dominating the centre console is a large portrait touchscreen that’s fitted as standard, while the impressive kit list also includes LED headlights, sat nav, parking sensors and a powered tailgate. With 529 litres of boot space, it’s practical too - that’s more than its immediate rivals we’ve just mentioned, and there’s even a pop-up divider than keeps your shopping upright on the drive home from the supermarket.
The Mazda6 Tourer isn’t the obvious choice for a family estate, but it definitely deserves a place on your shortlist. It’s very handsome and will stand out in a car park full of Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat estates. While it may have been on sale for a few years now, Mazda has given it a few upgrades to keep it fresh, and the interior is on par with the more premium manufacturers. Aside from the steering wheel controls, the remainder of the dashboard is uncluttered, with only the dual-zone climate controls and the eight-inch touchscreen. The latter is controlled by a rotary wheel, similar to BMW’s iDrive system, and includes sat nav and online connectivity. There are three petrol engines, which all return around 40mpg, and two diesel engines, and even the most powerful 181bhp engine returns 53mpg. In terms of practicality, the 6 performs well - adults will be perfectly comfortable in the back seats, and the boot offers 522 litres of space increasing to 1,644 litres with the rear seats folded down.
All Kia models get an extensive seven-year/100,000-mile warranty from new, which is fully transferable to the next owner. This makes the Ceed Sportswagon appealing second-hand, as you’ll have a much longer warranty than any of the other cars on this list, which all come with three years of coverage. The Ceed Sportswagon gets its place on this list for more than its strong warranty, because it’s very practical and spacious. At 600 litres, the boot is just shy of the Skoda Octavia Estate’s available luggage space, and the lip you’ll need to haul heavy items over is now much lower. On top of that, there’s more shoulder room in the rear seats than the previous Ceed Sportswagon, and the interior is equal in quality to the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf. Even the entry-level ‘2’ grade features cruise control, air-conditioning, smartphone mirroring, alloy wheels and windscreen wipers with a de-icing function.
Take the sharp looks of the SEAT Leon hatchback, add extra space and you have the SEAT Leon ST estate. It’s as good to drive as the hatchback, and the interior is built to the same high quality. While the interior could have a little more design sparkle, all models get a touchscreen, DAB radio, cruise control and air conditioning, with the higher-spec FR trim level models adding equipment sometimes reserved only for more expensive models. There’s class-leading headroom in the front and lots of space in the rear, and the estate is usefully practical with its maximum boot space of 1,620 litres. Storage space inside the cabin is good too. Using some of the same engines as the Skoda Octavia Estate, no Leon is sluggish or expensive to run - not even the fast Cupra model with its 296bhp. Leons are usually well-priced on the used market, and you may be able to find some great deals considering a new version is due in 2020.
Like a few other cars on this list, the more practical version of the Renault Megane is known as the Sport Tourer. It has stylish looks, with eye-catching C-shaped LED daytime running lights and the nearly full-width tail-lights. The interior is just as smartly designed, with a large portrait touchscreen on top-spec GT Line models, but you can choose the mid-spec version if you want sat nav, auto lights and wipers and parking sensors. While it’s not quite as good to drive as other cars on this list, the Megane Sport Tourer focuses more on comfort than sportiness - and the ride comfort over rougher surfaces is very good. The estate isn’t too much bigger than the hatchback but offers useful extra space; there are 521 litres to fill with the seats up and 1,504 with the seats down, and there’s only a small lip to haul items over. There’s a compartment below the boot floor and handy storage bits, plus the 2.77m load length is among the biggest in the class.
As the Volkswagen Golf is the default family hatchback, the estate version should be on your list if you want a compact car with plenty of space. It uses the same underpinnings as the SEAT Leon and Skoda Octavia, and the same economical engine range, but adds a more premium feel for its higher price tag. A Golf Estate is therefore a shrewd used buy, especially as it’ll hold its value better than many of its rivals too. We’d recommend picking SE or above over the entry-level S spec, as you’ll get adaptive cruise control, two sets of parking sensors and automatic headlights - as well as the Bluetooth and DAB radio offered on the S. Picking the estate gets you 225 litres more boot space than the hatchback, bringing the total to an Octavia-rivalling 605 litres. All but the S model get handy storage drawers under the front seats, and there are a number of useful cubbies and massive door pockets. If you want practicality and performance, hunt down a GTD diesel or a powerful R version.
The Audi A4 Avant was facelifted in late 2019, but that shouldn’t put you off looking at pre-facelift versions as they’re pretty similar. It’s an estate that prioritises your family over your luggage, as the front and rear seats are very spacious - not to mention comfortable - although, like its rivals, the middle rear seat is a little tight. The boot can carry 495 litres of things, or up to 1,495 litres if you fold the seats down. You’ll feel like you’ve gone up in the world if you upgrade from a normal family car, as the interior is beautifully made and stylish. In this class of car, there are very few alternatives that offer such a compelling interior, and it sets itself apart with features like the Virtual Cockpit screen. The A4 Avant is slightly less efficient than the saloon due to its heavier body, but the smaller diesel engines still offer great fuel economy.
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