Used Car of the Year Awards: Estate cars
With living costs on the rise, getting a good deal on your next car is more important than ever. That's where our Used Car Awards come in. These are our favourite estate cars...
Volkswagen Passat Estate
Price from £11,000 Our pick GTE
WD40 is the second most useful thing to have at home. It makes squeaks go away, it lifts Biro ink from leather sofas and it gets rusty locks to open; short of helping in a medical emergency, it’s indispensable. Only one thing is more useful: a Volkswagen Passat Estate. Part of the reason is that its boot is colossal, dwarfing that of the BMW 3 Series Touring, for instance; the long load bay created when the rear seats are folded flat means you need never pay for an Ikea delivery again. A low floor makes for easy loading and unloading of cargo and comfortable access for the family hound.
Naturally, there’s plenty of room inside for a pair of adults and 2.4 children. Tall grown-ups will be perfectly comfy in the front or outer rear seats, although a wide floor hump and protruding centre console mean the middle rear perch is best suited to the ‘point four’ child.
There’s a Passat Estate to suit any weekly routine. If yours involves trips from Exeter to Edinburgh, the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel goes the distance while keeping fuel bills sensible.
If your journeys are short and infrequent, the 1.5-litre petrol engine of the same power is your best bet, and it’s a little cheaper as a used buy.
Our favourite, though, is the plug-in hybrid GTE. With a 154bhp turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine allied to a 113bhp electric motor, it’s very nippy when you want it to be; the 0-62mph dash takes 7.6sec. Or, if your commute or school run is short, it’ll tackle it using electric power alone; the GTE’s 9.9kWh battery provides an official range of up to 37 miles. If you can charge it regularly overnight, visits to the petrol station could be rare.
Meanwhile, the GTE is very well equipped, with LED headlights, adaptive suspension and ambient lighting, which shows the Passat’s high-quality interior off to good effect. No Passat is meanly equipped, though; even entry-level SE has climate control, keyless start, comfy seats with lumbar support adjustment, and a touchscreen infotainment system.
Reliable to boot, the Passat Estate is an asset to any family’s tool kit. And unlike WD40, it’s helpful in medical emergencies. Just empty the boot and you can use it as an ambulance.
Best budget buy
Ford Focus Estate (2018 to present)
Price from £11,000 Our pick 1.0 Ecoboost 125 Titanium
It’s not too much of a stretch to think of the Focus Estate as a budget BMW 5 Series Touring. In fact, the Focus’s 575-litre boot is slightly larger, yet it shares that much bigger, more expensive car’s fantastic blend of handling agility and ride comfort.
That’s especially true of our favourite version, in Titanium trim. It eschews the bigger wheels of the sportier-looking ST-Line, so the tyres have more give over bumps and the Focus’s supple suspension is allowed to shine. Yet despite cosseting on the motorway, the Focus is poised in corners and can generate a smile on a keen driver’s face, with more than enough power for back-road blasts or motorway cruises alike.
The rival Skoda Octavia Estate is roomier inside, but the Focus is hardly cramped and packs plenty of kit. It isn’t as classy inside as our overall category winner, though, and can’t match that car’s efficiency.
Best for driving pleasure
BMW 3 Series Touring (2019 to 2022)
Price from £21,000 Our pick 330e Sport
If you’ve ever pretended you were doing laps of a race track when mowing the lawn, the BMW 3 Series Touring is for you. As the consummate sporty estate car, it proves that you can enjoy yourself even while you’re doing chores.
Its saloon sibling won the executive car category in part because it’s better to drive than its rivals, and the Touring is almost as rewarding. In fact, for a practical car that can carry bulky items you’d have to leave behind if you had the saloon, it’s sharper and more responsive than it has any right to be.
Our favourite version, the 330e M Sport, has a turn of speed to match (0-62mph takes just 5.9sec), while having enough electric range to keep your petrol bills low if you charge up regularly. Yes, you’ll be sacrificing some practicality compared with the VW Passat Estate, but you’ll be having far more fun.
Best for luxury
BMW 5 Series Touring (2017 to present)
Prices from £18,000 Our pick 520d SE
You’ve done well for yourself and you have a place in the Dordogne that you escape to every now and then. You’ll want a relaxing, economical, nippy car for the journey, and the BMW 5 Series Touring couldn’t be better suited.
True, it won’t be as cheap to run (or as reliable) as our overall category winner, but its boot
is easily large enough to carry all the luggage you’ll need for a lengthy stay away, and our preferred 520d’s 2.0-litre diesel engine is muscular, hauling this large estate from 0-62mph in just 7.5sec while topping 50mpg on a long run. SE spec brings the smoothest ride, and every 5 Series has a beautifully built interior with plush seats, loads of space and a top-notch infotainment system.
The 520d SE is the cheapest version to buy used, and there’s no need to spend more to get a truly luxurious estate.