Estates used to be the default choice if you needed practical transport for you and your family.
These days, however, you’re more likely to find a family being ferried around in the back of a small SUV than in an estate. This is a shame because estates typically have better on-road manners than SUVs and, being lighter, are generally more efficient.
When judging the estate crop we were looking for a car that best mixes the practicality of an estate body style with the competent driving dynamics of a normal car. Below are our three shortlisted entrants.
SEAT Leon ST
ST in SEAT-speak means Sport Tourer, and the Leon ST certainly looks sportier than the Golf on which it’s based. We love its mixture of Spanish styling flair and well-respected Volkswagen-group powertrains and equipment. It’s not the most cavernous estate in the class but, with an additional 207 litres of load space over the standard Leon hatchback, it’s still very practical and will take all the luggage you can throw at it.
What really impresses reviewers, though, is the Leon ST’s balance of ride and handling, which is exceptionally well-judged. The all-turbocharged engine line-up has received praise, with everything from fuel-sipping diesels to potent petrols, and the option of a DSG auto.
Ford Focus Estate
The third-generation Ford Focus Estate has been extensively revised for 2014, the most obvious change being the fitment of a new Aston-Martin-style front grille to replace the overly-fussy look of the older car. The dashboard, too, has been revised and simplified with fewer buttons and an updated infotainment system – a big complaint on the older car. Reviewers were surprised by the handling – some criticised it for not being as fun as previous generations, but most acknowledging that it’s a much more refined and mature vehicle, which will suit the families that will buy it.
Skoda Octavia Estate
Skoda has gone from strength to strength with their recent models. The Octavia Estate sits on the Volkswagen Golf platform but with even more passenger room and load space. Under the bonnet you’ll find the usual range of Volkswagen-group turbocharged petrol and diesel engines to suit all tastes.
It’s more comfortable than previous Octavias, is relaxing and easy to drive, and has a simply vast amount of space to fill with dogs, suitcases, flatpack furniture, pushchairs or any of the paraphernalia modern families carry around. Those worried by dodgy winter weather can rest assured because the Octavia is available with four-wheel drive to help traction when conditions get slippery.