Best estate cars 2023
Above all, 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...
Estate cars are great for shifting stuff, and can make fine family transport, because they tend to offer more boot space than the saloons and hatchbacks on which they're based.
However, the best examples of the breed are more than just big; the load area has to be a practical shape, allow easy access and make it possible to secure smaller items. Plus, the rear seats must be simple to fold flat.
Estate cars are often used for business as well as family motoring, so they also 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.
Below we've named our top 10 recommendations – and the estate cars to avoid. If anything takes 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.
But first, we'll answer the most frequently asked questions about estate cars.
Your estate car questions answered
What is an estate car?
Estates tend to be based on other types of car, but they feature an extended roof and rear end to provide additional boot space, and a lower loading lip to make it easier to lift in heavy items of luggage.
What is a lifestyle estate car?
While they're still more practical than their saloon or hatchback counterparts, lifestyle estates also sell on style, so swap the boxy rear ends of more traditional estates for swooping rooflines.
How is an estate different to an SUV?
What does Audi call its estate cars?
Instead of estate, Audi uses the word Avant, with this derived from the term avant garde.
What does BMW call its estate cars?
BMW is another brand that doesn't use the word estate; instead, it prefers Touring
What does Mercedes call its estate cars?
Mercedes doesn't have the same aversion to the word estate that its prestige German rivals do, although it uses the term Shooting Brake to describe its lifestyle estates.
Learn more about how we test cars, or see the best and worst estate cars below
The Superb Estate is the best car of its kind, striking the sweet spot between practicality, comfort, low running costs and value more accurately than any rival.
In fact, with masses of load space for flat-pack furniture or suitcases and limo-like leg room for passengers, it's one of the most impressive family holdalls in any class of car.
Finally, unlike an increasing number of rivals, the Superb is still available with both petrol and diesel engines. So, whether you do mostly short journeys or spend half your life on the motorway, there's a version to suit your needs. And mild hybrid technology boosts efficiency.
- 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
Another Skoda takes second spot on this list: the slightly smaller Octavia.
All Octavias give you loads of standard equipment and generous interior space, but the estate version adds a whopping boot for even greater practicality.
We managed to fit nine carry-on suitcases in the boot; that’s two shy of what the larger Skoda Superb Estate can hold, but still enough to ensure that none of your passengers will need to pack light.
- Supple ride most of the time
- Huge boot
- Low tax 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
The latest 5 Series Touring shows BMW at the top of its game. This is a hugely appealing executive estate car because it's comfortable, quiet and enjoyable to drive, with an interior that feels very classy.
Standard self-levelling rear suspension helps it to cope with the heftiest of loads. And in our test, the 5 Series Touring swallowed a very respectable eight carry-on suitcases.
There’s a range of petrol and diesel engines to choose from, plus a frugal plug-in hybrid with an official electric range of up to 35 miles.
- Frugal diesel and PHEV engine options
- 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
There aren’t currently many fully electric estate cars to choose from, but the MG5 EV is the best of the breed. It combines a respectable range (officially up to 250 miles) with a comfortable ride and serenity at speed.
True, most combustion-engined estate car rivals can carry more, but the MG5 EV still has enough space to handle your weekly shop, holiday luggage or a large child’s buggy.
You get a lot of kit for your money with the MG5, too; even entry-level SE models come with 16in alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control and keyless entry and start.
- Relatively good electric range
- Low cash price
- Sprightly performance and comfy
- Infotainment system could be easier to use
- Rivals can charge up a little quicker
- Not much fun to drive
The Citroën 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 its official electric-only range of 39 miles places it in a higher tax band.
Still, the C5 X is impressively comfortable, and it's hard to beat in terms of refinement, with engine noise fading away at motorway speeds and wind and road noise being suppressed better than most rivals can manage.
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.
- Competitively priced
- Plush ride
- Upmarket interior
- Roly-poly handling
- Boot could be larger
- PHEV sits in a higher tax band than some rivals
The regular Seat Leon family hatchback is one of the best cars in its class to drive, and likewise, this Leon Estate handles very tidily indeed.
While FR models feature sports suspension that can feel a little firm, most other versions get a softer set-up that does a good job of rounding off ruts and bumps in the road.
Elsewhere, the Leon offers loads of space for both passengers and luggage, and no matter which engine option you choose, you shouldn’t find it expensive to run.
Add in attractive pricing and running costs and the Leon Estate is 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 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 as its larger sibling, yet it's cheaper to buy and run, as well as being more comfortable and better to drive.
Just bear in mind that Volvo recently announced plans to stop selling estate cars (and saloons) in the UK, so if you want a V60, you'll have to get in quick.
Mercedes has a long history of building large family estate cars, and the latest E-Class Estate is its best yet.
It offers more luggage space than most of its rivals, fitting eight carry-on suitcases in our tests, and there’s plenty of room for your passengers to stretch out.
The interior feels sophisticated and plush, and the E-Class’s infotainment system is responsive and features menus that are well laid out.
Our pick of the E-Class’s engine range is the 191bhp 2.0-litre diesel found in the E220d, but whichever version of the E-Class you go for, make sure you specify air suspension; it’s an expensive option, but it 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 Corolla Touring Sports’ 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 is generous; even entry-level models come with automatic lights, dual-zone climate control and heated front seats.
There’s no need to look beyond the cheapest 1.8-litre version, either, because this offers all the performance you’re likely to need, while returning around 60mpg in real-world conditions. Although that’s not to say the more powerful 2.0-litre option is thirsty; it managed close to 50mpg in our hands.
- Impressively low CO2 emissions on hybrids
- Comfortable ride
- Lots of standard kit
- Relatively small boot by estate car standards
- So-so infotainment system
- 12.3in digital instrument cluster could be easier to use
BMW's latest 3 Series is its best-steering car of recent times, and the 3 Series Touring estate and matches this with stellar body control and plenty of grip, yet still manages to serve up good ride comfort and relaxing refinement.
Add to all that a spacious interior – featuring one of the best infotainment systems you’ll find on any new car – and the tax-efficient plug-in hybrid tech of the 330e model, and there's an awful lot to like.
True, plenty of other estate car rivals have bigger boots, but the 40/20/40 split rear seats and separately opening tailgate window of the 3 Series Touring are nifty practical touches.
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- Agile around corners
- Accurate steering
- Brilliant infotainment system
- Not as well finished inside as the Audi A4 Avant
- Boot isn't the biggest
- Firm ride on M Sport versions
The best estate cars in 2023
Above all, 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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