If you’re looking for a car to transport lots of luggage, then the estate car still offers the best bang for your buck in terms of boot space. However, there are lots of estate cars to choose from – and this is where Mat Watson, carwow’s expert car reviewer, steps in to give you his verdict on which is best – the Skoda Superb Estate, VW Passat Estate or the Audi A4 Avant?
These three cars may seem similar but they differ in price. At the time of writing, the Skoda costs from £21,400, the Volkswagen from £23,210 and the Audi is the most expensive, priced from £28,700. You can save money on your new estate by configuring one using carwow.
There’s a reason the Audi costs more than the other two and that’s mainly due to its more desirable badge. The Audi is also one of the best-looking estate cars you can buy, especially if you go for the sporty S line trim which adds different bumpers and larger wheels.
The A4 looks a lot more interesting than the somewhat plain Passat, but the VW carries its longer and taller body quite well. You can jazz up the exterior of the VW by picking the R-Line trim, which adds sportier bumpers and funkier alloy wheels.
The Skoda Superb Estate focuses on space rather than style. Okay, Skoda’s Sportline trim option does jazz it up a bit, but it still looks a bit bulbous next to the sleek Audi and VW. It’s by no means an eyesore, but it doesn’t quite look as expensive as the other two. The Superb is more function than form on the outside but is it a different story inside?
You might think Skoda is a budget brand, but there’s hardly anything budget about the cabin. It could use some more colour but the build quality is hard to fault. You also get soft-touch plastics on the dashboard and a control layout that’s extremely intuitive. The infotainment system is pretty simple to use, too. Thanks to a combination of a touchscreen and physical buttons it’s quite easy to get your head around setting up the sat-nav, for example. So does the Passat offer anything that the Superb lacks?
In terms of build quality and the choice of materials, there’s very little difference between the Skoda and the VW. What might tempt you towards the Passat is the fact you can get it with VW’s brilliant Active Info Display. This optional 12.3-inch screen replaces the analogue speedo and rev-counter dials and can be customised to show you driving info or sat-nav directions, just like in an Audi. The rest of the infotainment system in the Passat, although easy to use and quick to respond, is pretty much the same as in the Superb bar a different colour theme. So what about the A4? Is it different enough inside to justify its higher price?
Well, compared to the other two, the Audi is simply in a different league when it comes to the interior. Both the design and build quality are head and shoulders ahead of the VW and Skoda and the A4 definitely feels posher inside thanks to lots of polished aluminium inside. The infotainment system is also the best out of the three – not only does it have more colorful graphics but it’s also easier to control on the move thanks to the swivel wheel mounted in the centre console. As if this wasn’t enough, the A4 can be equipped with Audi’s glorious Virtual Cockpit – it’s the same system as VW’s Active Info Display but has more pleasing, posher-looking graphics, and a stunning full-screen Google Earth map mode.
The A4 has the others beaten in the front of the cabin but what if you’re sitting in the back? While there’s still plenty of space, the Audi is actually the least spacious out of the trio. It’s by no means cramped but you can’t quite stretch out on a long journey and carrying three people in the back is hampered by a narrow middle seat and limited room for your feet. The A4 also has the smallest rear doors, so fitting a baby seat isn’t as easy as in the Passat with its massive rear doors. But how does the big VW fare as transport for grown-ups?
Unless you’re a budding basketballer, you couldn’t really ask for more room than you get in the back of the Passat. There is actually very little to fault in the VW because it’s the best car here for carrying three abreast, thanks to a wide middle seat and plenty of room for your feet. There’s not loads of headroom with three in the back but that’s about it in terms of niggles.
So the Passat is best for carrying three in the back but the Skoda Superb beats it if you only plan to have two passengers behind you. The Skoda is best here due to its sheer size – there are limos with less legroom than the Superb. The middle rear seat is slightly narrower than in the Passat but it’s still very usable and in terms of fitting a child seat, the VW and the Skoda are pretty equally matched.
The Superb is not just the best for carrying passengers, it also comes out on top in terms of boot space. The rear seats don’t fold in a three-way split like in the VW and Audi, but you still have a ski hatch for carrying longer items. You also need to reach inside to flip the seats down but that’s pretty easy to do.
The Skoda also has loads of handy features to make your life easier such as an easily-adjustable boot floor, an ice-scraper in the fuel-filler flap, a removable LED torch or the movable velcro-lined boot dividers. There’s very little you can’t fit in the Superb’s massive boot – you can carry enough luggage for a family holiday all under the load cover. Remove it and you can fit boxes, golf clubs, suitcases, soft bags and a multitude of smaller items all at the same time. So how does the Passat fare for luggage space?
The VW’s boot is only slightly smaller than the Superb’s, but it does get some handy features that the Skoda doesn’t. You get three folding seats in the back and you can fold them using levers in the load bay so you don’t have to reach in to push them down like you do in the Skoda. The Passat also has a few more tethering points than the Superb and an equally easy-to-use adjustable boot floor. The VW has a slightly higher load cover so you can fit even more under it than in the Skoda, but in terms of practicality, there’s very little that separates the Passat and the Superb.
The Audi A4, on the other hand, isn’t quite so practical. The Audi’s boot is pretty good in isolation, but trails behind the other two here. It doesn’t have the height or the width of the other two’s load bays with the seats up and, with the seats down, you can fit about one large suitcase less than the other two. It does get premium features over the other two such as an electric boot opening and a load cover that automatically moves out of the way. You also get a reversible boot floor that’s wipe-clean on one side, so the A4 is prepared if you have a dog and the rear seats split three-way like in the Passat.
So the Skoda has the biggest boot but is it the best on the road too? Well, you hardly buy an estate car for thrills – and none of these cars is particularly exciting on a twisty road – but they’re all pretty easy to drive and won’t get on your nerves. There are small differences, though. The Skoda is easy to drive and comfortable over bumps but you do get a bit of wind and tyre noise at motorway speeds. There is a wide range of engines, both petrol and diesel, but it’s best you give the wheezy 1.6-litre diesel a miss and go straight for the punchy, refined and powerful 2.0-litre diesel.
You should follow the same advice for the Passat as well – go for the 2.0-litre diesel because it suits the relaxed character of the VW perfectly. The Passat is also a tad quieter inside and smoother over bumps than the Skoda but not by much. The VW can be even smoother over poor roads if you go for the optional adaptive dampers that let you switch between Comfort or Sport modes.
The Audi also uses a 2.0-litre diesel engine that’s very similar to the ones in the Superb and Passat but after a few miles driving it, the A4 Avant does feel more special than the other two. The A4 also has adaptive dampers but they seem to make it even more comfortable than those in the Passat, especially if you go for the comfort chassis. The Audi is by far the quietest of the three on the move and as a result feels the most premium to drive. You can have the A4 Avant with a V6 petrol engine that can shoot it from 0 to 62mph in less than five seconds. That model comes with standard quattro all-wheel drive that’s more sophisticated and provides a tad more grip than the 4×4 systems you can get in the VW and Skoda. The three cars can also be equipped with quick-shifting DSG automatic gearboxes that make traffic jams that bit easier on the nerves. But where does all that leave us?
An estate car, above all, needs to fit all your luggage and/or transport you to your destination without much fuss. The VW Passat Estate does exactly that but looks a bit plain for its asking price. The Audi A4 Avant looks great but isn’t nearly as practical as the other two. Which leaves us with the Skoda. What was supposed to be the budget estate car in this trio climbs on top thanks to its vast range of abilities. The Skoda Superb Estate is relaxing on the move and extremely practical, making it the winner of this comparison.
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