What Car? Car of the Year awards 2010 - Estate car contenders

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Best buy less than £16,000
Skoda Octavia Estate 1.4 TSI SE
List price £15,351
Target Price £13,255

Just because it's based on a small family car, don’t go thinking the Octavia Estate is too weeny to be a useful load-lugger. It’ll handle more junk on a daily basis than your average refuse collector.

That’s not something that many of its competitors at this money can say. The Kia Cee’d SW and Hyundai i30 Estate are both good cars, but neither has the outright capacity of the Skoda. Pull a lever to drop the Skoda’s rear seats and the room you get puts those of many much bigger cars to shame. What’s more, the space is flat and usefully square-sided.

The cabin is just as roomy as the boot – four adults will be able to sit in it comfortably and a fifth can squeeze in when the need arises. The cabin also feels as plush and as solid as we’ve come to expect from Skoda, so you’ll feel like you’re travelling in a car that’s much more expensive than the Octavia.

You don’t pay an upper class fare for all of this space, though. Our favourite version of the Octavia Estate costs just £15,351, yet you still get alloy wheels, air-conditioning, four powered windows and a CD autochanger included in the price.

You also get a perky turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine that’s more than man enough for any load you need to haul. The Octavia is smooth, refined and easy to drive, too, so every journey is relaxed and comfortable.

Skoda Octavia performance
0-62mph 9.8 seconds Top speed 125mph
Running costs
Economy 42.8mpg CO2 148g/km Insurance group 16



What the testers thought...
Don’t buy an Octavia Estate if you like a lazy life. It gives you loads of space, despite being based on a small family hatch, so there’s no excuse to avoid that weekend DIY trip. Ivan.Aistrop@whatcar.com

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Best buy £16,000 – £20,000
Mazda 6 Estate 2.2D 161 TS
List price £19,382
Target Price £17,477

The Mazda 6 has already won the plaudits in our family car category, so it’s no surprise that it makes our short list once again as an estate.

Buy the wagon version and you’ll get all the same attributes as you do in the hatchback. It’s great to drive, has a watertight reliability record and, above all, it’s easily affordable for both private buyers and company
car drivers.

The estate does more besides, though, because you get a double dose of extra practicality. The space it gives you is impressive enough, but it’s the cleverness that really dazzles. The mechanism that folds the rear seats is a masterpiece that can transform the car from a family estate into a sideboard-swallowing removal van with ease.

However, this victory didn’t come easy for the 6 – it had to beat some stiff competition for the prize. The enormous Skoda Superb Estate came close, with its mammoth boot and comfortable ride. The Toyota Avensis Tourer also made a strong case for itself, being quiet and relaxing to drive, and a joy to own.

Neither, though, could match the all-round skills of the marvellous Mazda – and, what’s more, they couldn’t match the value for money it provides. If you want a big family estate for Ford Focus money, then the Mazda 6 is the one for you.

Mazda 6 performance
0-62mph 9.2 seconds Top speed 130mph
Running costs
Economy 50.4mpg CO2 149g/km Insurance group 23



What the testers thought...
I love the Mazda’s trick folding rear seats. One pull of a lever and, hey presto, a big, flat loadbay. If only the seats would flip back up with the same ease. Barnaby.Jones@whatcar.com

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Best buy more than £20,000
Mercedes E350 CDI Estate Avantgarde
List price £39,441
Target Price £37,953

If you want an estate car and you’ve got a few quid to spend, you might as well have the biggest one going, right? That’s why the new E-Class wagon is our pick here.

Forget the Ford Mondeo Estate and Volvo V70, both of which are available at this money. They’re great to drive and big where it counts (the boot, of course). However, the space they provide is positively dwarfed by the big Merc’s loadbay.

Open the E-Class’s standard electric tailgate and you’ll find a square-sided boot that’ll swallow an unmatchable 695 litres of cargo. The rear seats drop perfectly flat at the flip of a switch, and that gives you a space so big you could hold a barn dance in it.

It gets cleverer. The boot floor lifts to reveal detachable load separators and a handy carrying box, and there are lashing points and handy hooks dotted around all over the place. Space and versatility isn’t the only thing the E-Class has to offer, though. After all, it’s a Merc, so a classy image comes as standard. Our chosen version also gets a powerful 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine and a soft, cosseting suspension, so you’ll waft along quickly and comfortably.

Is it pricey? Yes. Is it worth it? Definitely. If you want your load-lugger served with a dash of luxury, the E-Class Estate is the one to go for.

Mercedes Benz E-Class performance
0-62mph 7.2 seconds Top speed 149mph
Running costs
Economy 40.3mpg CO2 185g/km Insurance group tbc



What the testers thought...
Think of the biggest boot you’ve seen, double it, and you’re probably close to the E-Class Estate’s massive cargo bay. It’s all sensibly arranged, practical space, too. Alex.JennerFust@whatcar.com

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What Car? Car of the Year awards 2010 - Estate car winner

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