Tips and Advice

Top 3 used fast estate cars for £15,000

“Dear Carbuyer, I need an estate for family life, that’s fast and a little under the radar. What does £15,000 buy?”

Despite increasing demand for performance SUVs, the fast estate car remains popular with UK car buyers. Most estates look broadly similar to their saloon and hatchback counterparts, but have the added practicality of a bigger boot to make family life and everyday tasks easier. Adding a powerful engine and sporty handling to this combination makes for an attractive all-rounder.

Almost all estate cars gain some weight due to their increased size. Most, however, are largely unaffected, offering a similar driving experience to their saloon and hatchback counterparts, with near-identical acceleration and performance, fuel economy and CO2 emissions figures.

A fast estate is a somewhat rare find on the used car market, adding a slight premium to the price over the more common saloon and hatchback variants. For this extra cost, you get subtle sporty looks combined with big performance and practicality, making the fast estate something of an understated and unusual choice overall.

So why should you pick a fast estate car over the equivalent SUV? For starters, a fast estate will in most cases offer a more dynamic and sporty driving experience, with far less body roll than a taller SUV. A fast estate will also offer a near-identical or increased load space compared with an SUV, with most models also boasting slightly better fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions due to superior aerodynamics.

For a modest budget of £15,000, you have a varied choice of fast estate cars that can fulfil all of your daily requirements. All are similarly equipped to their SUV counterparts, offering substantial amounts of load space, all-around ability and excellent performance. There are many well known names in this area of the market, from the Ford Focus ST to more upmarket offerings such as the Audi A6 Avant and Jaguar XF Sportbrake.

Below are Carbuyer’s favourite used fast estate cars. Each choice offers something slightly different for a budget of £15,000:

Top 3 used fast estate cars for £15,000

Audi S4 Avant: the obvious choice

For: Serious pace, generous space, upmarket interiorAgainst: Firm ride, high running costs

What could make more sense than an Audi S4 Avant? The firm is known for building fast estates, and while flagship RS models are desirable, the subtle S4 fits the Q-car bill. We found a 2010 B8-generation example with 73,000 miles and a full Audi service history for £14,990.

This S4 uses a supercharged 3.0-litre V6 engine, which develops 328bhp and 440Nm of torque. The model will cover 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds, with a top speed limited to 155mph. Just be aware that the ride is a little firm.

Flat-bottomed steering wheel is one of only a few clues in the cabin that hint at the S4’s level of performance. Some elements of the interior do look their age, such as the small, low-resolution display, although material quality is superb

Sadly, the powerful Audi estate will be expensive to run; we recorded just 19.1mpg on test with one back in 2012. Owners of pre-2011 examples of this generation of S4 have reported suffering from cooling issues and annoying glitches with the satellite navigation as well.

Skoda Octavia vRS: the practical choice:

For: Newest car of the three, and the most practicalAgainst: Hot-hatch levels of performance only

Look beyond the premium brands and £15,000 buys a tidy Skoda Octavia 2.0-litre TSI petrol vRS Estate. A 63-plate example with 24,000 miles on the clock could be yours for £14,300. Practicality is a strength of the Octavia Estate, with a huge 610-litre boot when all the seats are in place.

But with 217bhp, performance is more ‘hot hatch’ than ‘proper performance car’. The Skoda’s 0-62mph time of 6.8 seconds means it’s outgunned here. Also available are 2.0-litre diesel vRS models with 181bhp on tap.

The Octavia vRS’s interior is functional rather than flamboyant, and it avoids too many racy touches. As with the Audi, the steering wheel is the only real clue to the Skoda’s sportier ambitions. Infotainment display is straightforward to use.

Of the three cars we’ve selected, the Skoda will more than likely be the easiest to live with. Not only is it more practical and cheaper to run than the other models here, it’s also the newest of the three cars, with a lower mileage and two fewer cylinders to go wrong.

BMW 330d Touring: the thrilling choice

For: Strong diesel grunt and fuel economyAgainst: Only high-milers available in this budget

IF you’re looking for a fast, fun, diesel-powered estate, the BMW 330d Touring could be a good pick within this budget. A glance in the classifieds revealed a 62-plate example for £14,595 with 95,000 miles recorded and, crucially, a fully stamped BMW service history.

With a 3.0-litre straight-six diesel unit, the 330d is a smooth performer. It has 255bhp, supported by a hefty 560Nm of torque. The sprint from 0-62mph takes 5.6 seconds, while the top speed is limited to 155mph.

BMW’S cabin is beautifully finished and the steering wheel is spot on, but the high-mileage cars you’ll find within this budget may not be the most sparkling examples. The iDrive infotainment system is one of the best around, however.

The 330d is not the best choice if you don’t plan to cover lots of miles. The diesel particulate filter weakens if the car is used for shorter stop-start journeys and is expensive to repair. Nevertheless, the BMW impressed us by achieving 40.4mpg fuel economy when we tested it back in 2012.

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