The best estate cars in 2021

  • Wide variety of capable load luggers compared
  • Stylish, practical and even an electric estate all here
  • Our selection covers all budgets and lifestyles 

Need a new car that drives like a saloon or hatch, but carries all the people and kit you might fit into an SUV or MPV? You need to buy an estate car – and here are our most recommended choices.

It seems like nothing can stand in the way of SUVs' popularity, but keen drivers and eco-minded motorists know that for space efficiency and driving dynamics, nothing beats an estate car as an all-purpose load hauler.

What is an estate car?

An estate is essentially a hatchback or saloon car that’s been bulked-out at the back to give it a capacious and uninterrupted cargo area. From the rear doors forwards, they’re usually near-identical to the cars on which they’re based, which makes them easy to get familiar with and very natural-feeling to drive.

The best estate cars for 2021

1. BMW 3 Series Touring
2. Toyota Corolla Touring Sports
3. Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate
4. Skoda Superb Estate
5. Volvo V60
6. Ford Focus Estate
7. Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake
8. SEAT Leon Estate
9. Audi A4 Avant
10. MG 5

Jump to: Why buy an estate car?


1. BMW 3 Series Touring 

BMW 3 Series Touring

Pros:
✅ Good to drive
✅ Efficient engines

Cons:
Boot isn't as big as some rivals
Low-power diesel unexciting

It’s hard to think of a more complete package than the BMW 3 Series Touring. It’s a compact estate car that ticks every box – it’s great to drive, looks good, feels upmarket and best of all is immensely practical.

The 3 Series’ boot is packed with clever touches – from a rear window that can be operated independently of the main tailgate, to rubberised anti-slip rails that retract to allow items to be slid into the boot and then raised to hold them in place when the vehicle’s in motion.

> We lived with a BMW 3 Series Touring for six months - read our reports here

Even in its most practical Touring form the 3 Series retains BMW’s reputation for producing vehicles that are great to drive. It’s comfortable on a cruise yet handles well, and all the engines are powerful and efficient. Yet if you opt for the 320d, you’ll see economy approaching 50mpg.

New prices: £33,415 - £52,385
Search for used cars
Lease this car: From £382 per month

2. Toyota Corolla Touring Sports 

Toyota Corolla Touring Sports

Pros:
✅ Tax-efficient and cheap to run
✅ Surprisingly good to drive

Cons:
Complex infotainment
Not cheap to finance

Nearly every one of Toyota’s models has a hybrid engine option so it’s no surprise that the Corolla Touring Sports does, too. In this application we’d recommend the 2.0-litre version – it’s responsive, powerful, and efficient – a far cry from the old days when hybrid cars could only hope to be the latter.

The Corolla’s boot is colossal, too, at 581 litres – or 598 if you opt for the lower-powered 1.8-litre model. The floor is reversible, with a rubberised surface on its underside for easy cleaning if you need to transport mucky gear. Very clever. There’s additional rear legroom too, which is useful as the standard Corolla Hatchback is fairly tight in the back.

It's worth mentioning the Suzuki Swace - essentially a version of the Corolla Touring Sports with a different grille and bumper design - is also available in high-spec hybrid form.

New prices: £25,750 - £33,365
Search for used cars
Lease this car: From per month

3. Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate 

Blue 2020 Mercedes-AMG E 53 Estate front three-quarter

Pros:
✅ Massive interior for people and luggage
✅ Nice cabin, comfortable ride

Cons:
Expensive options
Unexciting to drive

Want to combine sumptuous comfort and a colossal load area? The Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate blends the two effortlessly, making it one of our favourite large executive cars.

You can have your E-Class in all kinds of flavours, from a sensible diesel or plug-in hybrid to the firebreathing E 63 AMG, but all have a colossal 640-litre boot capable of swallowing a medium-sized country – or at least half of Ikea.

Add in a superb, upmarket interior packed with tech and of course the allure of that three-pointed star, and there’s little to touch the E-Class as a classy all-rounder.

New prices: £42,205 - £101,495
Search for used cars
Lease this car: From £547 per month

4. Skoda Superb Estate 

Skoda Superb Estate (2021) front view

Pros:
✅ Limousine-like rear legroom
✅ Large range of engines and models

Cons:
Now the same price as a Volkswagen Passat
Handling isn't sharp

Skoda's Superb Estate is, to put it simply, the most capacious car of its type on the roads today. If you want a bigger boot than the 660 litres on offer here, your sole option is to opt for a van – and that’s a massive point in the Skoda’s favour, as it offers refinement and driving pleasure far superior to any van we’ve tested 

The Superb offers a range of efficient engines, acres of rear legroom and more family-friendly features than you can shake a stick at. At the same time, it’s smart-looking and good value – a truly consummate all-rounder.

In fact, the Superb’s so good that we named it our Large Family Car of the Year for 2020 – quite the accolade.

New prices: £26,385 - £42,780
Search for used cars
Lease this car: From £316 per month

5. Volvo V60 

Volvo V60

Pros:
✅ Fabulous looking inside and out
✅ All the safety equipment you need

Cons:
High-power model only has four cylinders
Expensive to buy in cash terms

Volvo's just about the best-known name in the business when it comes to estate cars, and its boxy, practical wagons such as the 240, 740 and 850 have become icons in their own right. The V60 remains very practical but it's so much more than just a big boot - it's a stylish techfest that's good to drive and great to live with.

So great, in fact, that we ran one as a family car for six months - finding it more than capable of gobbling up motorway miles effortlessly. Our car was equipped with the powerful T5 petrol engine, too, so it was rather quicker than you might expect from a brand traditionally associated with antiques dealers...

A beautifully-crafted interior, bags of safety tech and those gorgeous looks make the V60 one of the most appealing estate cars on the market.

New prices: £34,420 - £51,530
Search for used cars
Lease this car: From £377 per month

6. Ford Focus Estate 

Ford Focus Estate

Pros:
✅ A brilliant all-rounder
✅ Pin-sharp to drive

Cons:
Plasticky interior
Odd styling divides opinions

Proving categorically that extra practicality doesn't have to harm driving dynamics, the Ford Focus Estate is both incredibly capacious and brilliant to drive.

With a huge, 575-litre boot contained within its deceptively slinky bodywork the Focus is big enough for family life, but it's the driver who'll really enjoy themself - just like the hatchback, the Focus Estate handles keenly, grips well in corners and communicates the road through the steering wheel better than any mainstream competitor.

The interior quality is a slight step down from cars such as the VW Golf, but in most other respects the Focus Estate is a great choice.

New prices: £23,370 - £36,110
Search for used cars
Lease this car: From £339 per month

7. Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake

Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake (2021) front view

Pros:
✅ Good looking, excellent to drive
✅ Efficient diesel and petrol engines

Cons:
Big inside, but Passat bigger
Interior not as stylish as exterior

In a rational world, this would be a Volkswagen Passat Estate, but sometimes you want to buy a car with your heart as much as your head. And this is where the costlier Arteon wins over its oh-so sensible sister car – because it's almost as practical, but infinitely more desirable. You can put that down to being better to drive, with sportier handling, and fabulous looks, which really do help this car stand out from the crowd.

With the rear seats in place, luggage capacity is 565 litres, putting it roughly on par with the BMW 5 Series Touring, Audi A6 Avant and Volvo V90. It’s only two litres more volume than the Arteon fastback, but the difference comes if you fold the seats down – the Arteon Shooting Brake offers 1,632 litres which is a little down on the Passat's 1,780. But unless you're regularly running it loaded to the roof, you'll rarely notice the difference.

New prices: £32,765 - £43,110
Search for used cars
Lease this car: From £391 per month

8. SEAT Leon Estate

SEAT Leon Estate (2021) rear view

Pros:
✅ Good value
✅ Plug-in, petrol, and diesels on offer

Cons:
 Minimalist interior won't be for everyone
 Not the most exciting looking estate

Headline figures for the Leon Estate read like this. A 617-litre boot, PCP prices from around £300 per month, and pretty much all the gadgets you could need.

Inside it feels much like the VW Golf. This means it's a minimalist affair with very few buttons. It looks clean, but it might annoy people who like to have climate controls on buttons.

It also comes with engines borrowed from the Golf. There's 1.0-litre and 1.5-litre petrol, plug-in hybrids, and a 2.0-litre diesel.

New prices: £21,555 - £29,220
Search for used cars
Lease this car

9. Audi A4 Avant

Audi A4 Avant rear view

Pros:
✅ Swish interior
✅ Strong engines

Cons:
 Cash price comparatively high
 Boot smaller than rivals

The A4 is a lovely thing. The only reason it doesn't sit higher on this list is that it's beginning to feel its age in comparison to other estates.

For instance, it's not available with a plug-in version. It does at least come with several petrol and diesels, as well as a hot (diesel) S4 pumping out 341hp and a fireball (petrol) RS4 with 450hp.

The rear will seat two adults comfortably, or three at a pinch or for a short journey. Boot space isn't all that and a bag of chips at 495 litres, plus the rear seats don't fold completely flat.

Adaptive suspension is optional and is a treat if you can afford it. It makes the car ride with remarkable poise, especially at motorway speeds.

New prices: £33,185 - £66,010
Search for used cars
Lease this car: From £446 per month

10. MG 5

MG 5 EV estate side view

Pros:
✅ Cheap
✅ The only electric estate on sale

Cons:
 Cheap feeling
 Relatively small boot

An electric estate car with an official range of 214 miles, a decent boot, and a price starting from just a smidge over £25,000. Car enthusiasts might brand the MG5 as offensively dull - but do normal people care?

Probably not. After all, the cabin isn't as bad as that cheap price tag would make out, and it's all super-easy to use.

Boot size is 464 litres, a bit behind plug-in hybrid estates like the Kia Ceed Sportswagon (437 litres) and the SEAT Leon Estate (470 litres) but still big enough for most small families looking to cut down their carbon footprint.

New prices: £25,095 - £27,595
Search for used cars
Lease this car: From £218 per month


Why buy an estate car at all?

Estate car advantages are clear: a bigger load area, with sufficient length for transporting longer objects, all without the irritating fixed parcel shelf of a saloon to provide plenty of height for taller objects.

Very often an estate car will also provide more space for rear passengers, too – whether the additional length has allowed the rear seat to move back allowing greater legroom, or simply a taller, elongated roofline improving headroom.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate rear

What’s perhaps surprising is how many manufacturers attempt to make their estates sound even more alluring by giving those bodystyles specific names. While Audi and BMW have labelled theirs respectively as Avant and Touring for years, elsewhere you will find Sportbrakes, Sports Tourers and Sport Wagons. If it has 'sport' in the name these days, it’s likely a byword for additional practicality not extra performance

Not all estates are created equal, and some use their bodywork for purposes of form over function. These are pretty easy to spot, as their rear ends are often rakishly slinky and stylish, frequently referred to as Shooting Brakes.

Why shouldn’t I just buy an SUV?

Good question, and one that many buyers identify with – shown in the way SUV sales are skyrocketing while estate sales dwindle.

An SUV does have a few advantages over an estate car – namely, that raised suspension providing a higher driving position. SUVs are easy to get into and out of, deal well with larger bumps on the road and often make a driver feel more comfortable in amongst traffic thanks to that commanding view out.

Estate cars hit back, being lower and lighter - improving performance and fuel efficiency - yet often providing greater load area and passenger comfort. Estates are usually cheaper than their SUV equivalents – as an example, the Ford Focus Estate offers around 100 litres of extra boot space compared with the Kuga, yet prices start around £4,000 less.

Keen drivers should also note that we’ve yet to find an SUV we like driving more than its estate car equivalent – lower, leaner cars are simply more composed in the bends and more fun on a twisty road.

Further reading:

>> Don't need such a big boot? Check out our best hatchbacks here
>> Still prefer an SUV? Here are our favourites
>> Need more room? These are the best seven-seaters you can buy