Have you noticed that your car's fuel economy doesn't quite match what you were promised in the brochure?
What Car?’s expert team of True MPG testers work tirelessly to bring you a more realistic picture of what to expect. Our efforts are focused on giving you the most up-to-date news on which models are truly the most economical.
These are the most economical estates, and many get a What Car? rating of four or five stars out of five. That means they impress in most – or all – of the key areas, so they should be on the shortlist of anyone looking for a practical family car that won’t cost a fortune to fuel.
1. Honda Civic Tourer 1.6 i-DTEC EX Plus – official 74.3mpg; True MPG 61.8mpg
If practicality is your number one priority for a family car, it doesn’t get much better than the Civic Tourer. The huge boot has a large underfloor storage area for a couple of carry-on bags, and the clever rear seats let you flip up the bases or fold the backrests completely flat. Refinement and rear visibility leave a lot to be desired, though, and the cabin is cluttered with poorly labelled buttons. The 61.8mpg it managed is very impressive figure for such a practical car.
The Seat Leon is a great all-rounder, and the 1.6-litre diesel engine only adds to the package. It uses the same chassis as the Audi A3 and VW Golf, which means you get a great-handling car with a decent ride, but for less money. There’s also a huge boot with a variable-height floor, although this is tricky to adjust. Inside the cabin feels well built, despite some hard plastics in places.
3. Skoda Octavia Estate 1.6 TDi 110 Greenline lll SE– official 88.3mpg; True MPG 59.4mpg
The Octavia Estate has a classy cabin and a cavernous boot. All models are predicted to hold their value well, but the 1.6 TDI is the one to go for if low buying and owning costs are your priority. Reliability is also a Skoda strong point, with the Octavia placing seventh out of 109 models tested in the 2014 JD Power survey.
4. Kia Ceed Sportswagon 1.6 CRDi 3 – official 64.2mpg; True MPG 58.9mpg
The Ceed Sportswagon is our favourite estate car for less than £18,000. As with other Kias, it's good value for money, with lots of space and kit for a very competitive price, plus the Ceed avoids feeling like a budget car inside. It has the Kia seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty to give peace of mind, too. A 1.4 CRDi is also available, which is almost as efficient and even cheaper to buy.
5. Toyota Auris Touring Sports 1.8 VVT-I CVT - official 76.3mpg; True MPG 58.7mpg
Historically, we've not rated the estate version of the Toyota Auris very highly. It's spacious and practical, but a lack of refinement means it's often noisy inside. In our economy tests, the Auris was some 23% behind its official quoted MPG, but still managed to beat far more expensive rivals.
6. Peugeot 308 SW 2.0 BlueHDi 150 Allure – official 70.6mpg; True MPG 58.0mpg
The Peugeot 308 is a stylish looking estate that is decent to drive, comfortable, plus, importantly in this grouping, cheap to run with a practical boot. The cabin looks modern and features Peugeot’s i-Cockpit design, which places the instruments above a small steering wheel for better clarity. Rear-seat leg room is not as generous as some rivals and, although it’s priced competitively and well equipped, the 308 suffers from poor resale values.
7. Volkswagen Golf Estate 1.6 TDI SE 105 – official 72.4mpg; True MPG 56.2mpg
The Golf Estate’s load space is on par with that of the Skoda Octavia Estate, but the VW is classier inside and better to drive. Clever features, such as a height-adjustable boot floor and handles in the boot to drop the rear seats, have helped to make it our 2014 Estate Car of the Year.
8. BMW 320d Touring Efficient Dynamics – official 58.0mpg; True MPG 56.1mpg
The 320d Touring is the best-handling car on this list – as long as you add the optional adaptive suspension. There's a large, flat load bay and the cabin feels luxurious. It is expensive to buy, but does make up for this with lots of equipment and good resale values. A 320d GT is worth considering as an alternative.
9. Skoda Superb Estate 1.6 TDI SE - official 76.3mpg; True MPG 56.1mpg
The Skoda Superb Estate is no ordinary car. It's very well regarded by What Car?, earning a full five-star rating and being named as our favourite estate car of 2016. We love its vast cabin and boot, and its low runnig costs.
10. Dacia Logan MCV 1.5dCi – official 74.3mpg; True MPG 54.2mpg
The Dacia Logan is the cheapest car to buy on this list, as even the top-of-the-range model costs less than £11,000. It claims an official 99g/km of CO2 and 74.3mpg, so should be relatively cheap to run as well. It's not quite as efficient as that in the real world, but our testers still got 54.2mpg out of the Logan. It's a very practical, affordable car as well, with a decent 573-litre boot that extends to 1518 litres with the seats folded. A very affordable way to carry a lot of stuff.