The estate car was once the must-have option for UK drivers seeking extra carrying capacity from their new vehicle, but the popularity of SUVs has led to estates becoming a less obvious choice. Yet, with a wide choice still on sale, the best estate cars can prove suitable for almost everyone, whether they prioritise carrying capacity, style, dog-friendliness, towing ability, performance, or a great all-rounder.
The bread and butter of any great estate is a large, usable boot with a wide tailgate that opens high to avoid bumping your head. The best estates will also have a flat load area, with minimal intrusion from the wheelarches and seats which fold flat with ease.
Cars which offer innovative storage solutions along the sides and under the floor of the boot are winners in our book. While ski hatches, load rails and boot dividers go a long way to turning a good estate car into a great one.
While estates may lack the ultimate versatility of an MPV and the high driving position of an SUV, they tend to serve up a more appealing driving experience than either, while matching or bettering them on the load capacity front. It means that, for us, the appeal of the estate car remains strong. Below you’ll find what we believe are the best estate cars on the market today…
Best estate cars to buy
- Skoda Octavia Estate
- 3 Series Touring
- Mercedes C-Class Estate
- Mercedes E-Class Estate
- BMW 5 Series Touring
- Toyota Corolla Touring Sports
- Skoda Superb Estate
- MG 5 EV
- Peugeot 508 SW
- Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo
1. Skoda Octavia Estate
The Skoda Octavia Estate has pushed the boundaries, because it’s bigger and better than its predecessor. Not only is it our reigning Estate Car of the Year, it’s also taken top honours every year since 2019 – you just can’t ignore the Octavia’s brilliant flexibility for families, and for anyone who prioritises space, comfort and reliability.
The Octavia Estate has always been one of the most spacious cars in its class, and the latest model boasts a 630-litre boot capacity, which rises to 1,700 litres with the rear bench folded.
This current Octavia Estate also looks far more sophisticated than its predecessor and is able to hold its head high even among more premium rivals. Its interior is also impressive, with some materials which could easily belong in an Audi.
It doesn’t lack for equipment either, with Bluetooth, DAB radio and stop/start as standard. The Octavia also offers a number of Skoda’s signature ‘simply clever’ features, such as a double-sided boot floor, a rubbish bin and an ice scraper hidden in the fuel filler cap. All this can be yours for around the same money as a VW Golf hatch, too.
2. BMW 3 Series Touring
Following a facelift in 2022, the BMW 3 Series Touring remains one of the most handsome estate cars on sale, but still offers great practicality, with up to 1,510 litres of load space available when the rear seats are folded.
Although some rivals have the Touring beaten on load capacity, none of them can deliver the driving experience that BMW has created from its rear-drive set-up. The xDrive versions also benefit from all-wheel drive, which could be enough to persuade some customers away from buying yet another SUV.
The BMW’s cabin is beautifully built, too, and last year’s update brought the brand’s latest iDrive 8 infotainment software onboard, which centres around a curved pair of display panels on the dashboard. As well as being a touchscreen, the 14.9-inch infotainment screen can be operated by a traditional rotary dial, making it one of the most intuitive systems on the market.
BMW continues to offer petrol and diesel variants of the Touring, but there’s also the option of a plug-in hybrid powertrain. The latest 3 Series is offered with a streamlined line-up, which consists of Sport, M Sport and M models, the latter of which includes the mighty M3 Touring. Whichever you choose, the 3 Series’s dynamic class shines through – it’s one of the most accomplished estate cars on sale.
3. Mercedes C-Class Estate
Mercedes took a significant step forward with the latest C-Class. Its design may be familiar – mundane, even – but thanks to a space-age interior, a wide range of powertrains and slick road manners, the C-Class Estate is among the best of its kind.
Traditionally, the BMW 3 Series has edged out the C-Class for outright driving enjoyment, and this trend continues with the latest generation of each. The BMW is more athletic through a series of bends, but the Mercedes has an appeal of its own with a supple, cosseting ride and a relaxed demeanour.
The C-Class’s cabin feels strikingly modern, too, with an enormous portrait touchscreen that rises up from the centre console and runs the firm’s latest MBUX software. Swathes of ambient lighting and intricate detailing make the Mercedes more than a match for the recently facelifted BMW inside.
With a competitive 490-litre boot, the C-Class combines opulence and practicality like few other estate cars, and there’s a model to suit all tastes, with petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid options, the latter offering an impressive 65-mile pure electric range. A low 8 per cent Benefit-in-Kind tax rate sweetens the deal for company car buyers, too.
4. Mercedes E-Class Estate
The giant of the estate market is the Mercedes E-Class, although the latest model isn’t quite as big as its predecessor. Its capacity is down from 695 litres to 640 litres, while the back seats fold to make 1,820 litres of space. Again, that’s down on the old car, which offered 1,950 litres.
But, boot size isn’t everything, and the rest of the car carries huge appeal. It looks great, for starters, while it also has a huge towing capacity. All models get self-levelling rear suspension and a powered tailgate, too.
The interior offers plenty of room for five, plus there are cubbyholes and cup-holders dotted around the cabin. Seven airbags and ESP ensure the driver and passengers are well protected, while the optional safety kit includes night vision and lane-departure warning.
Of course, all this comes at a price: the E-Class is competitive with rivals like the BMW 5 Series Touring, but options soon increase the cost. To limit their bills, buyers are advised to go for one of the diesels or plug-in hybrid models to keep fuel consumption down.
5. BMW 5 Series Touring
If you want an estate car that will impress in the company car park, go for the BMW 5 Series Touring. It’s available in SE and M Sport trims and with a wide range of strong petrol and diesel engines, as well as a plug-in hybrid.
Lower-spec four-cylinder diesel models bring great fuel economy – the 520d claims 55.4mpg and 134g/km emissions. Not only this, but it also still provides plenty of performance, even when the Touring is fully loaded with people and luggage.
Offering even greater efficiency is BMW’s plug-in hybrid powertrain which, in 530e SE form, delivers up to 35 miles of all-electric running and an average fuel consumption figure of over 180mpg – as long as you keep the battery charged up.
The boot size is no match for that of its arch-rival, the Mercedes E-Class, but it still impresses, with the 560-litre space expanding to 1,700 litres with the back seats folded. And the BMW is set apart by useful features like the separate-opening tailgate glass, load-dividing nets and self-levelling suspension.
Further forward, there’s plenty of space for passengers, although the transmission tunnel can get in the way for those in the middle rear seat. All occupants are likely to complain about the overly firm ride, too, unless you specify the optional adaptive dampers. But the 5 Series Touring is a very safe car, with ESP and a pop-up bonnet to protect pedestrians, plus it has excellent towing capability and comes with good-value fixed-price servicing.
6. Toyota Corolla Touring Sports
The Corolla Touring is a supremely practical family estate, while also offering great handling, good comfort and low running costs.
Every model has a petrol-hybrid system, which works well, providing good fuel economy and low emissions, in turn meaning more affordable company car tax bills. Reliability is also key for a positive ownership experience, and Toyota has always been renowned for producing dependable cars.
The Corolla Touring is pretty good to drive, too, with a smooth ride and an effortless ability to tackle potholes and harsher bumps in the road. However, its CVT gearbox is best suited to a more relaxed driving style, because it can be rather noisy when accelerating hard.
Toyota’s Safety Sense package includes a host of active safety kit and helped the Corolla achieve a full five-star Euro NCAP rating, which should give owners peace of mind when on the road.
7. Skoda Superb Estate
The Skoda Superb Estate is a great choice of car. Gone is the dowdy design of the previous model, replaced with sharp creases and a lower, wider body – yet the car is cheaper than all of its main rivals.
There’s a wide range of engines to choose from, starting with a 1.5-litre TSI petrol, although we’d recommend either the 2.0 TDI diesel engine with 148bhp, or the 1.4-litre iV plug-in hybrid model delivering 215bhp.
As with the last version, the main selling point of the Skoda Superb Estate is its unrivalled practicality. The boot is larger than the previous model’s and now provides a cavernous 660-litre load area, or 1,950 litres with the seats down. That’s on a level with cars like the Mercedes E-Class Estate.
For rear passengers, luxury is the order of the day – the Skoda Superb provides more rear legroom than any car across the VW Group, bar the long-wheelbase Audi A8. It’s wider than the previous car, too, making it a better choice for carrying three abreast.
If there’s any criticism, it’s that the interior design is a bit plain – and of course, the sheer size of the Superb Estate can make it tricky to park.
8. MG5 EV
The MG5 is proof that an affordable electric car can also be a practical one. With prices starting from £30,995, the Ford Focus Estate rival presents great value, with similarly priced EVs being far smaller.
It’s not like you have to make many sacrifices to enjoy the savings, either, because the MG5 comes with the MG Pilot driver-assistance package as standard. This includes Active Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Traffic Jam Assist and Intelligent Speed Limit Assist.
The car should prove easy to live with, too, because revisions to the range resulted in the larger 61.1kWh battery now being the only one available, offering a claimed range of up to 250 miles. There’s even a reasonable amount of boot space, at 578 litres – rising to 1,456 litres with the rear seats folded down.
If it all seems too good to be true, remember that MG has so much faith in its cars that a seven-year/80,000 mile warranty comes as standard.
9. Peugeot 508 SW
The Peugeot 508 SW ticks both the driving and practicality boxes, although still offers plenty of style and flair for all the family.
It isn’t the biggest estate car on the market, but the latest Peugeot 508 SW is still a fantastically usable family model. It’s a safe and predictable car to drive, yet a strong equipment list and low running costs count in this model’s favour. Peugeot has also added a plug-in hybrid option to the range, bringing lower emissions and improved fuel economy.
The 508 isn’t as sharp to drive as a BMW 3 Series Touring, but its predictable, neutral balance means it’s easy and relaxing to pilot. It’s quiet at a cruise, with the fantastic eight-speed auto and entry-level diesel proving an excellent combination on the motorway.
10. Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo
While the MG5 satisfies the budget end of the electric estate market, the Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo sits at the other end of the scale – largely because of its potentially blistering performance and a starting price of over £84,000.
There are four variants of Taycan Cross Turismo: the 4, 4S, Turbo, and Turbo S, all of which offer more practicality than the regular Taycan and the same power outputs as their saloon equivalents. In fact, the Cross Turismo will launch from 0-62mph in a mere 2.9 seconds, thanks to its motors producing 750bhp in ‘Overboost’ mode.
The base Taycan 4 Cross Turismo is no slouch, either, with just shy of 470bhp on tap in ‘Overboost’ mode. It will also achieve a claimed range of up to 283 miles from its 93.4kWh battery.
Estate car buying advice
Here are some of the key questions you should ask yourself when choosing an estate car to help you get the best model for your needs…
How much luggage space do you need?
Don’t assume all estates are born equal. Luggage capacity ranges from the relatively small MINI Clubman with 360 litres, to the colossal Skoda Superb with 660 litres – naturally these change significantly with the seats folded.
How much towing capacity do you need?
Towing capacity can vary greatly from estate to estate as well. The Audi A6 Allroad and Volvo V90 Cross Country are amongst the best performing estates with a maximum braked towing capacity of around 2,500kg. Should you require less grunt, the Mercedes E-Class, BMW 3 Series Touring, and Jaguar XF Sportbrake all offer decent towing capabilities.
How often will you be using the car?
If you are covering a lot of miles you may well want to consider a diesel or even a hybrid – the latter also comes with tax incentives helpful for company car drivers. While a traditional petrol will still prove an excellent option for those who drive less.
How many seats do you need?
If it’s any more than five you are going to need to look elsewhere, as the days of the seven-seat estate are no more.
Will you require off-road capabilities?
What about optional extras?
Due to the fact estate cars appeal to both private and business users, they quite often have extensive options lists. Parking sensors and blind spot monitoring systems are incredibly useful, while cruise control, heated and cooled seats, and automatic tailgates all help make life a little easier.
Looking for something just a little bit bigger? Check out our list of the best small SUVs and crossovers…