Best estate cars 2021
The best estate cars are spacious, great to drive and packed with tech. Here are the models we recommend – and the ones to steer clear of...
The best estate cars offer more than just a big boot; the load area has to be a practical shape and allow easy access, and the rear seats must be simple to fold flat.
These cars are often used for business as well as family motoring, so they need to combine a spacious, comfortable and well-equipped interior with low running costs and an enjoyable drive. And they need to do all that for an affordable price.
Here we count down our top 10 choices and reveal the models to avoid. If any take your fancy, simply click on the relevant links to find out more or see how much of a discount you could get by using our free New Car Buying service.
The Skoda Fabia hatchback is a former What Car? Car of the Year, so it's no surprise that the estate version also impresses. It's superbly practical for such a small car and is very affordable to buy and run, while the driving experience is also good. Just bear in mind that a new Fabia is on the way.
- Spacious and practical
- Decent kit levels
- Sensibly priced
- Good to drive
- Lacks supportive seats
- No air-con on entry-level models
- Costs a lot more than the hatch
BMW's latest 3 Series is its best-steering car of recent times and matches this with stellar body control and plenty of grip, yet it still manages to serve up good ride comfort and relaxing refinement. Add to all that a spacious interior and the tax-efficient plug-in hybrid tech of the 330e model, and there's an awful lot to like. True, plenty of other estates have bigger boots, but the 40/20/40 split rear seats and separately opening tailgate window are nifty practical touches.
- Agile around corners
- Accurate steering
- Brilliant infotainment system
- Not as well finished inside as the Audi A4
- Boot isn't the biggest
- Firm ride on M Sport versions
Next to some of the other cars on this list, the Passat Estate looks like a bit of a bargain. It gives you a spacious interior, an economical range of engines and a huge boot – and all for a tempting price. Just bear in mind that the closely related Skoda Superb Estate is bigger and cheaper still.
- Broad engine choice
- Spacious interior and boot
- Stable and easygoing dynamics
- More expensive than some rivals
- Rivals have cheaper running costs
- Slightly unsettled ride in town
The Corolla's rear seats are cramped for six-footers, but this hybrid estate offers super-low fuel consumption and CO2 emissions that make it an excellent choice for both private and company car drivers. In addition, the Corolla's ride is cosseting and its standard spec generous, while even the cheaper, 1.8-litre version offers all the performance you need.
- Impressively low CO2 emissions on hybrids
- Comfortable ride
- Lots of standard kit
- 1.8-litre engine can be a little noisy
- Below-par infotainment system
- Relatively small boot by traditional class standards
Mercedes has a long history of building large family wagons, and the latest E-Class Estate is its best yet. It offers more luggage space than all its rivals, while passengers also get plenty of room to stretch out, and the interior is both sophisticated and plush. Just make sure you specify air suspension; it’s an expensive option, but delivers a dramatic improvement in ride comfort.
- Massive boot
- Well equipped
- E300de plug-in hybrid fuel economy
- Not as fun to drive as some rivals
- Expensive to buy
- Unsettled low-speed ride
The Volvo V90 may be the biggest estate in the Swedish brand's modern range, but it's the V60 that's the company's best. It's still a very roomy choice and feels every bit as classy, yet it's cheaper to buy and run and both more comfortable and more enjoyable to drive.
- Well-struck ride and handling balance
- Smart and airy interior
- Excellent passenger and boot space for its size
- Distracting infotainment system
- Not as fun as a BMW 3 Series Touring
- Hesitant automatic gearbox
Based on our reigning Family Car of the Year, the Leon Estate handles tidily, offers loads of space for both passengers and luggage, and is well equipped too. Add in attractive pricing and running costs, and it's an excellent choice that only just misses out on a podium place.
- Surprisingly good fun – especially in FR form
- Big boot and roomy rear seats
- Well priced
- Not quite as capacious as Skoda Octavia Estate
- FR models have a fairly firm ride
- TSI 130 engine could be smoother
The latest 5 Series Touring shows BMW at the top of its game. This is a hugely appealing luxury estate car because it's comfortable, quiet and enjoyable to drive, with an interior that's as classy as it is practical. It even has standard self-levelling rear suspension to help it cope with the heftiest of loads.
- Frugal 520d and company-car-tax-beating 530e plug-in hybrid
- Excellent infotainment system
- Beautifully made, high-quality interior
- Volvo V90 has more rear-seat space
- Mercedes E-Class Estate has an even bigger boot
- Unsettled ride with M Sport suspension and bigger alloy wheels
All Octavias give you loads of standard equipment and masses of interior space, but the estate version adds a boot in which you could build a barn. We're particularly keen on the plug-in hybrid iV model, which has an official electric range of 41 miles.
- Supple ride most of the time
- Huge boot
- Low BIK rates for plug-in 1.4 TSI iV 204
- Rivals are more fun to drive
- A bit floaty over big undulations
- Heating controls are in the touchscreen
As good as the Octavia is, it has to settle for second place on this list, because the even bigger Skoda Superb Estate strikes the sweet spot of practicality, comfort, low running costs and value. In fact, with masses of load space for flat-pack furniture or suitcases and palatial comfort for passengers it's one of the most impressive family holdalls in any class of car.
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- Great value and well equipped
- Limo-like passenger space
- Huge boot with lots of additional practical touches
- Other rivals are more fun to drive
- Some premium rivals have better resale values
- The driving position isn't perfect
Best used estate cars for less than £25,000 (and the ones to avoid)
Looking for an antidote to a large SUV? Then try any one of these premium used estate cars for less than £25,000
Volvo V90 plug-in hybrid long-term test review
In theory, a plug-in hybrid estate like the V90 T6 should be ideal for someone living on the edge of a big city. Our editorial director is finding out if it also makes sense in reality