What we were looking for: There's so much talent out there, only those estate cars with enough space, pace, comfort and driving panache will make our shortlist
Best buy under 15,000
Skoda Octavia 1.4 TSI S
List price 13,390
Target Price 11,730
Best web price na
Best buy 15,000 - 25,000
Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi Zetec
List price 20,651
Target Price 17,886
Best web price 15,248 (www.drivethedeal.com)
Best buy over 25,000
Volvo V70 2.0 D SE
List price 25,299
Target Price 22,517
Best web price 21,691 (www.autobytel.co.uk)
Ford's largest estate is still on top of its game, with its cavernous cabin and supple ride
Buy a Mondeo Estate at your peril. You see, you'll have no excuse for failing to clear out the garage, no way to avoid taking your teenage protg back to university, and no excuse for side-stepping the role when the in-laws need help moving a sofa.
The Mondeo has enough space to hold a five-a-side kick-about in the boot and enough muscle to pull up the goalposts, so its ability as an estate is exceptional.
Of course, it's far more than a glorified delivery van. That swish exterior design does a great job of disguising those monumental measurements, and the interior is special enough for anyone to feel almost like royalty.
You'll be happy to invite a group of friends along for the ride, too. There's vast elbow room, so three of them will be able to sit in the back in comfort, and there's loads of legroom, which means they won't be scuffing knees against the backs of the front seats.
The 138bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine has a pretty deep well of torque to call upon. The Mondeo's potent mid-range pulling power will put many a hot hatch hooligan in their place, and the car's agility is truly remarkable. Given its sheer bulk, it's quite amazing how easily the Mondeo deals with corners, yet the ride is as smooth as a chocolate fountain.
Refinement is first-rate, too, with road noise, wind rush and mechanical chatter all kept to a mere murmur. Equally, the attention to detail is excellent, because all of the controls are beautifully weighted and operate with great precision.
Back in the business world, the diesel Mondeo's leasing costs may not make you flavour of the month with your employer's accountant, but then it's not going to break the company either. It sips juice at about 50mpg on a run and its CO2 emissions place it in the 22% band for company car tax.
Yes, we know it's not the cheapest, but its superior talents more than compensate for the few quid extra it will cost over its cheaper, but ultimately inferior, rivals.
Safety is a priority for buyers of family-friendly estate cars and the Mondeo delivers on that count, too, with lots of airbags and stability control as standard, even on entry-level models. Plump for our favourite Zetec trim and you'll get alloy wheels, climate control, cruise control, front and rear electric windows and electric height adjustment for the driver's seat.
It's a truly remarkable car.