Best estate cars for 2020
By Daljinder Nagra
Article 10 of 16
The best estate cars will give you load-lugging versatility, reliability, great handling and efficient engines. This guide will help you find your next estate car.
Estate cars aren't the default choice for large families these days, thanks to the increased popularity and availability of SUVs and MPVs. But, with a lower profile, they're often more efficient and rewarding to drive.
Estate cars are also immensely practical, with almost all models offering capacious boots. These are capable of swallowing everything from holiday luggage and kids' bikes, to pets and purchases from the local garden centre.
Nearly all the big brands offer at least one estate car in their line-up. Popular models include the Ford Mondeo Estate, BMW 3 Series Touring, Audi A4 Avant and the huge Mercedes-Benz E-class estate.
Estate cars need more than a big boot to be a Best Buy – our tests look at reliability, comfort, fuel-efficiency and safety. If a model doesn't stack up in those key areas, we won't recommend it.
You'll find our top recommendations for the best new and used estate cars in the tables below. Plus we reveal some models that aren't worth your money.
Alternatively, you can jump straight to our in-depth estate car buying tips:
- Estate car load space vs lifestyle
- Estate car, 4x4 or MPV?
- Manageable medium-sized estate car
- Best small estate cars
- Consider an off-road 4x4 estate car
Only Which? members can view our expert impartial reviews in the tables below.
The best new medium estate cars
Our rigorous lab tests leave no stone unturned, so you can be confident the cars in the table below are some of the very best on the market.
Best new medium estate cars
Family estate cars have no right to be this much fun to drive. But with each successive generation of this model, its manufacturer nails its handling - meaning it has great driver appeal. This estate model has a large, practical boot that’s significantly larger than the hatchback’s, too.
The best new large estate cars
Find the top-performing large estates in the table below, with plenty of room for passengers and luggage.
Best new large estates
This off-road biased estate car is hugely impressive. Not only does it offer the great practicality you’d expect from the brand, it’s very spacious and easy to drive, and has a modicum of ability on rough tracks. Only middling fuel consumption and a limited engine range let it down.
This brand’s most luxurious car looks especially good value when you consider how much passenger space it offers. The boot is very large, too, and it takes the sting out of long journeys. Just don’t expect cabin material quality to compete with a true luxury model.
This large estate car differentiates itself from the competition with avant-garde styling inside and out. It’s also fun to drive and comfy to sit in. That extravagant design does mean an awkwardly low roofline, though, and causes issues with visibility to the rear.
The best new luxury medium estates
Those looking for added comfort will find here the top scorers from our comprehensive lab tests.
Best used medium estate cars
This medium-sized estate should be considered as a family car, particularly if you’re not sold on a fashionable compact SUV. It’s spacious, practical and safe, and is unlikely to go wrong, thanks to the brand’s enviable rock-solid reliability rating from our survey of owners. It’s just a shame it’s so dull to look at and drive.
A regular medium estate car that’s been given a mild off-road makeover in the form of raised ride height and four-wheel-drive. It won’t win any boot space top-trumps, but is usefully practical, has impressive levels of grip and is very satisfying to drive.
This medium-sized estate offers a cavernous boot and a huge amount of passenger space, front and back. It’s also very nice to drive with keen handling. Elements of the cabin feel cheap and it’s not as refined as some rivals, but it’s a fantastic all-round family car.
The best new luxury large estates
Those looking for exceptionally well-made large estates will find the most exceptional choices below, selected by our experts.
Best new luxury large estates
This is a unique alternative to the ubiquitous marques that dominate the luxury car classes. It’s got the safety, technology and lavish interior to compete with the best. Although bear in mind it isn’t the most wieldy to drive, particularly around town.
The best used medium estates
Buying used can be a great way to get a dependable car on a budget. And there are fantastic options available, as selected by our experts.
Best used large estates
This estate has premium aspirations, which it comes close to achieving with a comfortable, high-quality interior. Both diesel engines are sufficiently powerful, and the car doesn’t feel sluggish when overtaking. The boot isn’t the biggest we’ve seen on an estate car, but it’s not small by any means and the capacity almost doubles when you fold the rear seats.
It might not get the blood flowing with its styling or performance, but the appeal of this large estate is more subtle than that. It’s superbly easy to drive and live with, feels safe and secure and offers decent practicality. One to consider with your sensible hat on.
This large off-road estate is a compelling alternative to a mid-size SUV. It retains the strengths of the regular estate model, namely its practicality and superb build quality, and adds to it with a raised ride-height, and protective body cladding. It’s also four-wheel-drive as standard, though petrol models can be thirsty as a result.
The best used large estate cars
Get a great deal on an exceptionally practical car with one of our superb selections below.
Best used luxury large estates
The practical cabin and boot of an estate with the swoopy styling of a svelte coupe – this model is unique in the luxury car class. Its talents run more than skin deep, too, as it’s supremely comfortable and loaded with tech. That sloping rear roofline does affect rear headroom somewhat, though.
Before the crossover became the must-have car type, this model was quietly flying the flag for off-road biased estate cars. It’s superbly comfy for long distance driving, has a huge boot and is safe in a crash. We’d avoid the most powerful engines if fuel economy is a priority.
Not found the car for you? Browse all our estate car reviews
And here are three estate cars to avoid
The formula of what makes a great estate car is simple - there should be plenty of interior space, it needs to be comfortable and it should have a massive boot. That seems straightforward enough, but there are models that still miss the mark.
For example, just because a boot's big, that doesn’t mean it will be well designed. We don’t just test the capacity of a boot; we look at how easy it is to fill. A boot could be as deep as the Mariana Trench, but it’s useless if you can’t get your heavy items over a high load lip.
The success of small and large SUVs has eaten into the sales of estate cars, but being lighter with a lower centre of gravity means they can be more efficient and handle better. One estate we tested proves it by achieving a staggering 74.3 miles to the gallon – the highest of any petrol or diesel car we’ve tested. On the other hand, a similarly sized estate managed just 31.7mpg.
The huge gulf in the efficiency of estate cars highlights the importance of our fuel-economy testing. It’s easy to assume that all estates are the same - big, spacious and sturdy. But our in-depth testing finds the important differences, such as efficiency, that separate a good estate from a bad one.
Below we've rounded up the estate cars you should avoid at all cost.
Estate cars to avoid
How to buy the best estate car
From boot dimensions and loadspace capacity to visual appeal, we look at the things you need to consider before buying an estate car.
Find out the advantages and disadvantages of small, medium or large estate cars, so you can pick a model that will suit your needs.
Already know what you're looking for? Head straight to all of our expert, independent estate car reviews.
Where once estate cars were all about sheer load capacity, they’ve been re-invented somewhat in recent years. Manufacturers have renamed them ‘sports wagons’, ‘sports tourers’ and other such dynamic names, and have put greater emphasis on the styling of what is traditionally a worthy but dull class of car.
Sometimes the desire for eye-catching design comes at the expense of practicality. In our tests we’ve discovered some estates that actually offer less usable load space than their saloon counterparts. Each of our car reviews has an accurate load measurement in litres, with the seats both up and down, so you can compare models in detail.
Of course, the advantage of estate cars is a larger boot opening, being able to load all the way to the ceiling and folding the rear seats down more effectively. Although, as a general rule, the more style or performance-oriented the less emphasis it will put on practicality.
Estate cars used to be the default choice for families and for anyone needing to carry a lot of luggage, but MPVs and 4x4s have captured the attention of many buyers.
The best MPVs (people carriers) usually offer much greater seating flexibility, along with more headroom and – in some cases – the option of seven seats.
However, they're normally more prosaic to drive and less visually appealing than a sleekly styled, lower-slung estate. If you're after something with seven seats, have a look at our guide to the best seven-seater cars.
High-riding large SUVs and 4x4s, as well as small SUVs and crossovers, offer much of the practicality of estate cars, as well as a more commanding driving position. Some - depending on model - will also have improved off-road ability.
Full-sized four-wheel-drive cars tend to be more expensive to buy and run.
Estate cars score on the style front and they normally drive every bit as well as their saloon car counterparts. This is in contrast to larger 4x4s and MPVs, which can often feel unwieldy.
You don’t have to put up with a large unwieldy car just because you need extra load space. The majority of medium hatchbacks currently on sale are also available in estate guise. This usually adds a little extra length, but otherwise keeps their easy-to-manage dimensions.
Strong contenders in this category include:
- Ford Focus estate (great to drive)
- Peugeot 308 SW (spacious and stylish)
- Volkswagen Golf estate (well-built but pricey).
Should you wish to scale down even further, compact estate cars do exist, although they have really been squeezed out by small MPVs in recent times.
Another small niche in the estate car market are off-road biased estates. Kicked off by the ‘Allroad’ series of Audis, such models add increased ride height, four-wheel drive and a smattering of body protection, to improve their ability on rough tracks and slippery terrain.
Other estate models, such as the Subaru Levorg, come with four-wheel-drive as standard. Quattro versions of the Audi A4 Avant and A6 Avant also have four-wheel drive, as do some versions of the BMW 3 Series Touring. This is only for increased road-holding and grip, though, rather than any additional off-road ability.
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Every car we review is subjected to more than 100 individual tests in a lab, on a test track, and on real roads – and we really clock up the miles, driving around 500 miles in every car we test.
Testing in controlled lab conditions means the results we collect are directly comparable between different cars, helping us determine exactly which models are better, and why, and helping you find the perfect car for your needs
And so you know which cars are likely to prove reliable for years to come, we also gather feedback from thousands of UK car owners through the Which? Car Survey, using it to generate detailed reliability ratings for the cars we test.
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