Best estate cars 2024 – the top choices if you need a big boot

An estate car needs to be practical, but the best models are also comfortable, well equipped and affordable to run. Here we reveal our top 10 buys – and the estates to steer clear of...

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Alasdair Rodden
Published16 May 2024

Estate cars can make fine family transport and are great for shifting stuff, because they tend to offer more boot space than the saloons and hatchbacks on which they're based.

It's not just about size, though – the best examples of the breed also offer a load area that's a practical shape with easy access, and rear seats that fold flat. Meanwhile, low running costs and good driving manners are also important.

Best estate cars

Before deciding on this top 10, then, our test team measured the load capacities of all the contenders (both with a tape measure, and items you might want to transport, such as suitcases, pushchairs and golf clubs). What's more, they drove the cars for hundreds of miles, checked their passenger space and comfort, and compared pricing and efficiency.

After all this, and much deliberation, their verdict was that the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports is currently the best estate car you can buy. 

Read on to find out why it's our pick of the bunch, to see which other estate cars are worth considering, and to find out which estate car we'd avoid. If anything takes your fancy, just click on the relevant link to read more about it or see the latest and best estate car deals.

Our pick: 1.8 Hybrid Icon 5dr CVT

0-62mph: 9.4 sec
MPG/range: 62.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 101g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 596 litres
Insurance group: 17E
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Impressively low CO2 emissions on hybrids
  • Comfortable ride
  • Great reliability record

Weaknesses

  • More wind and road noise than in rivals
  • So-so infotainment system
  • 12.3in digital instrument cluster could be easier to use

As we've said, there's more to being an excellent estate than just the ability to accommodate a family in comfort or the occasional wardrobe, because the best of them are also cosseting, frugal and dependable. And it’s these qualities that propel the Corolla Touring Sports to the top of this category.

Unlike any of its direct rivals at the cheaper end of the estate market, the Touring Sports is a hybrid, so it can run on electric power alone for short distances to help conserve petrol. In our recommended 1.8-litre form, the Corolla averages 62.7mpg, beating a comparable petrol or diesel Ford Focus Estate or Skoda Octavia Estate.

What’s more, ride comfort is impressive, striking a fine balance between suppleness and control. And the Toyota brand has an exemplary reliability record, so buyers can rest assured that they’re unlikely to be let down by their car.

Crucially, the Touring Sports is eminently practical, too, with a large, square load bay that has a low, flat load floor for easy access.

"The Corolla’s new 10.5in touchscreen is a big improvement on the previous model’s setup. As well as being bigger, it now comes with wireless phone mirroring, clearer menus and shortcuts down the left side of the screen to make it easier to hop between menus." – Neil Winn, Deputy Reviews Editor

Read our Toyota Corolla Touring Sports review

Our pick: 1.5 TSI 150 SE L 5dr

0-62mph: 8.6 sec
MPG/range: 51.7mpg
CO2 emissions: 124g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 640 litres
Insurance group: 21P
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Supple ride most of the time
  • Plush interior
  • Well priced next to rivals

Weaknesses

  • Rivals are more fun to drive
  • Body control could be better over big undulations
  • Heating controls are in the touchscreen

While it's not as frugal as the Corolla Touring Sports, the Skoda Octavia Estate still strikes an excellent balance between practicality, comfort and value.

We managed to fit nine carry-on suitcases in its boot, so none of your passengers will need to pack light. And it's not just luggage that's well catered for; there's also loads of leg and head room in both the front and rear of the car.

Our favourite engine is the 1.5 TSI 150 petrol, which offers a welcome performance boost over the entry-level 1.0 TSI 110 petrol. We’d also recommend going for SE Technology trim, which adds several desirable features, including front parking sensors and sat-nav.

"Before long, the Octavia will include ChatGPT artificial intelligence, so you’ll be able to ask your car just about anything you like, from how hot (or not) the weather is at your destination, to a question that will help with your children’s homework." – Darren Moss, Deputy Digital Editor

Read our Skoda Octavia Estate review

Our pick: E300e AMG Line Premium 5dr 9G-Tronic [Pan Roof]

0-62mph: 6.5 sec
MPG/range: 470.8mpg
CO2 emissions: 14g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 460 litres
Insurance group: 50E
Driving
Interior
Practicality
Buying & Owning

Strengths

  • Base car is well equipped
  • E300e makes for a compelling company car

Weaknesses

  • Not cheap

Mercedes has a long history of building large and luxurious estate cars, and the latest E-Class Estate is its best yet, despite the E300e plug-in hybrid having a higher boot floor and smaller luggage capacity than other models in the line-up.

On the other hand, the E300e is by far the cheapest E-Class Estate for company car tax, and its official electric range of 69 miles means you'll be able to complete many journeys without troubling the petrol engine at all.

On top of this, ride comfort is an E-Class Estate strength, no matter which version you choose, and the interior looks fantastic – particularly at night, thanks to the dramatic ambient lighting.

"The steering-wheel-mounted touchpad controls are fiddly to use, so you're better off using the effective voice control system." – Steve Huntingford, Editor

Read our Mercedes E-Class Estate review

Our pick: 115kW SE EV Long Range 61kWh 5dr Auto

0-62mph: 8.3 sec
CO2 emissions: 0g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 479 litres
Insurance group: 30A
Driving
Interior
Practicality
Buying & Owning

Strengths

  • Relatively good electric range
  • Low cash price
  • Sprightly performance and comfy

Weaknesses

  • Infotainment system could be easier to use
  • Rivals can charge up more quickly
  • Not much fun to drive

While there aren't currently many fully electric estate cars to choose from, that doesn't mean the MG5 EV is here by default.

True, quite a few combustion-engined rivals can carry more, but the MG5 still has enough space to handle your holiday luggage or the largest of child buggies.

It's temptingly priced, too, and you get loads of kit for your money; even entry-level SE models come with 16in alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control and keyless entry and start.

"The MG5 is quite softly sprung, which is good for comfort when you're cruising at speed, yet thanks to the considerable weight of its battery being positioned low down, it doesn't lurch about excessively through corners." – Will Nightingale, Reviews Editor

Read our MG5 EV review

Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Surprisingly good fun – especially in FR form
  • Big boot and roomy rear seats
  • Well priced

Weaknesses

  • Not quite as capacious as Skoda Octavia Estate
  • FR models have a fairly firm ride
  • TSI 130 engine could be smoother

The regular Seat Leon is one of the best family cars to drive, and likewise, this Leon Estate handles very tidily indeed. 

There are three petrol engines to choose from, and our recommendation is the 128bhp 1.5-litre (badged 1.5 TSI 130) because it keeps the price down and still offers all the performance you're likely to need.

The only thing that prevents the Leon from finishing higher on this list is the fact that the closely related Skoda Octavia Estate is more practical – although the Leon still offers good space for both passengers and luggage.

"If comfort is a priority, as it will be for many estate buyers, it’s best to avoid FR trim, because this brings, firmed-up sports suspension." – Dan Jones, Reviewer

Read our Seat Leon Estate review

Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Competitively priced
  • Plush ride
  • Upmarket interior

Weaknesses

  • Roly-poly handling
  • Boot could be larger
  • PHEV sits in a higher tax band than some rivals

The C5 X will cost more to run as a company car than some rival estates, even if you choose the fuel-saving plug-in hybrid version, because this model's official electric-only range of 39 miles isn't quite enough for one of the lowest benefit-in-kind tax (BIK) ratings.

On the other hand, the C5 X has the sort of super-supple ride that Citroën used to be famous for, and refinement also impresses; no matter which engine you choose, you'll barely hear it when cruising at motorway speeds, while wind and road noise are also well suppressed.

The boot is smaller than some others here, but if you’re looking for an estate car with a slightly raised, SUV-like driving position, the C5 X has you covered.

"At first I wondered why the boot of the C5 X isn't a little bigger than it is, given how long the car is. But then I climbed into the back seats and realised it's because Citroën has traded some cargo space for limo-like leg room." – Stuart Milne, Digital Editor

Read our Citroën C5 X review

Our pick: C220d AMG Line 5dr 9G-Tronic

0-62mph: 7.6 sec
MPG/range: 60.1mpg
CO2 emissions: 124g/km
Seats: 5
Boot: 490 litres
Insurance group: 35E
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Adaptive suspension has impressive ride
  • Fuel economy and emissions compare well with rivals
  • Plug-in hybrid will have a low BIK tax rate

Weaknesses

  • So-so interior quality
  • Not as much fun to drive as a 3 Series Touring
  • There are more practical estates around

While the C-Class Estate isn't as fun to drive as the BMW 3 Series Touring, it’s still a great choice thanks to its comfy ride and punchy yet efficient engines. 

Speaking of engines, our pick of the bunch for private buyers is the C220d diesel, which can propel the C-Class Estate from 0-62mph in 7.4sec, and officially return more than 60mpg.

The C300e plug-in hybrid, meanwhile, is the best bet for company car drivers; its 69-mile official electric-only range results in low BIK tax bills, while standard rear air suspension keeps the rear of the car level no matter how heavily you load the boot.

"Even if you don't go for the plug-in hybrid, you get adaptive suspension which does a fine job of soaking up the worst effects of bumps and potholes." – Lawrence Cheung, New Cars Editor

Read our Mercedes C-Class Estate review

Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Agile around corners
  • Accurate steering
  • Brilliant infotainment system

Weaknesses

  • Not as well finished inside as the Audi A4 Avant
  • Boot isn't the biggest
  • Firm ride on M Sport versions

The 3 Series has long been one of the best cars in BMW's range, and the latest version continues that tradition, mixing precise steering with stellar body control and strong grip, while still managing to serve up good ride comfort and relaxing refinement. 

Add to all that an upmarket interior featuring one of the best infotainment systems you’ll find in any new car, and there's an awful lot to like. 

True, plenty of other estate cars have significantly bigger boots, but the 40/20/40 split rear seats and separately opening tailgate window of the 3 Series Touring are nifty practical touches.

"The 14.9in central infotainment screen can be controlled by touch, voice commands, or via a handy rotary controller that makes this the easiest system in the class to use on the move. It’s a bit of a shame, though, that the air-con controls are now on the touchscreen." – Steve Huntingford, Editor 

Read our BMW 3 Series Touring review

Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Plush interior
  • Strong engines
  • Lots of tech

Weaknesses

  • Distracting infotainment system
  • Air suspension available only on range-topping Vorsprung
  • A BMW 5 Series Touring is even quieter

The A6 Avant is a comfortable and beautifully built estate car that offers all the space you're likely to need.

The entry-level petrol engine (badged 40 TSI) is the one we’d go for. It's got enough oomph to propel the car along swiftly, even when it's fully loaded, and you can combine it with the cheapest trim (Sport) and still get lots of standard kit.

This A6 does miss out on Audi’s quattro four-wheel drive system, but even on models with this fitted, the handling isn't up to the standard set by the Jaguar XF Sportbrake.

"Every A6 Avant comes with the latest MMI dual-touchscreen infotainment system. Unfortunately, it's a step back from the set-up in older Audis and the 5 Series, which feature simple buttons and switches that are easier to use." – Will Nightingale, Reviews Editor

Read our Audi A6 Avant review

Our pick: 1.0 EcoBoost Hybrid mHEV 155 Titanium 5dr Auto

0-62mph: 8.6 sec
MPG/range: 53.3mpg
CO2 emissions: 119g/km
Seats: 5
Insurance group: 18E
Reliability
Safety
Costs
Quality
Performance

Strengths

  • Sweet handling
  • Loads of space in the back
  • Practical boot with seats up

Weaknesses

  • Cheap-feeling interior
  • Dashboard ease of use
  • Seating could be more versatile

The Focus Estate is obviously based on the Ford Focus hatchback – a car that outshines all rivals for driver enjoyment. Add to this the practicality of an estate rear end and you're onto a winner if you want a load lugger with great handling. 

Our pick of the engine line-up is the 1.0 Ecoboost 155 petrol, which has useful extra oomph over the Ecoboost 125.

The driver's seat in the Focus Estate is excellent, and height and lumbar adjustment are standard across the range. However, interior quality is a bit disappointing.

"A shortage of rear space was once a Focus Estate weakness, but that's no longer the case. The latest version has even more leg room than the voluminous Octavia Estate, so a six-footer can easily fit behind a similar-sized driver."– Neil Winn, Deputy Reviews Editor

Read our Ford Focus Estate review


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FAQs

Do people still buy estate cars?

A lot of people who would have traditionally bought an estate car now choose an SUV instead, preferring the raised driving position that you get with the latter over the sharper drive that the former typically offers.

It’s worth noting, though, that the Volkswagen Passat – which has long been a popular saloon – is now available only as an estate, while Avant and Touring versions of the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series remain familiar sights on the road.

What is the biggest estate car in the UK?

The Skoda Superb Estate and Volkswagen Passat have the largest boots of any estate cars sold in the UK, with a gargantuan 690 litres each. Not only that, but they both have low load lips, which make it easy to slide in heavy objects.

Which is the fastest estate car?

The electric Porsche Taycan Sport Turismo Turbo S is the fastest accelerating estate car money can buy, with a remarkable 0-62mph time of 2.6sec. Almost as impressive is the Audi RS6 Avant, which car cover the same sprint in 3.4sec.