The best estate cars in 2020

  • The best estate cars for 2020
  • Stylish, practical, and fast estates all here
  • Our selection covers all budgets and lifestyles 

The default choice for a family car in 2020 is more likely to be an SUV than anything else – but keen drivers, eco-minded motorists and indeed most of the Parkers team know that for space efficiency and dynamics, nothing beats an estate car as an all-purpose load-lugger.

An estate car is essentially a hatchback or saloon car that’s been stretched and bulked out at the back to give it a capacious and uninterrupted load area. From the rear doors forward, 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.

> Best hatchbacks 2020

The advantages are clear – a bigger load area, with lots of length for transporting longer objects and without the irritating fixed parcel shelf of a saloon car to provide plenty of height.

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

Mercedes-Benz E-Class rear three quarter

What’s perhaps surprising is how few manufacturers are willing to call a spade a spade and label their estate cars as such. Across the market you’ll find them labelled as Sport Wagons, Sports Tourers, Sportbrake… if it has Sport in the name, then confusingly, it’s likely a byword for additional practicality. Other manufacturers are at least consistent – BMW and Audi have labelled their estate models as ‘Touring’ and ‘Avant’ respectively for decades.

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 impossibly slinky and stylish and they’re labelled as ‘Shooting Brake’.

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 smaller and lighter yet often providing greater load area and passenger comfort. An estate car is usually cheaper than the equivalent SUV – as an example, the Ford Focus Estate offers around 100 litres of extra boot space compared to 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.

We’ve driven just about every estate car on sale in the UK here at Parkers and feel confident recommending the cars below as the very best. Click on the links below to jump to the model you’re most interested in or scroll down to read the whole list.

Best estate cars 2020

BMW 3-Series Touring
Toyota Corolla Touring Sports
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate
Skoda Superb Estate
Volvo V60
Ford Focus Estate

BMW 3 Series Touring 

BMW 3 Series Touring

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 well-built and premium and best of all is immensely practical.

The 3 Series’ boot is packed with clever touches – from a tailgate 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 raise to hold them in place when the vehicle’s in motion.

> We lived with a BMW 3 Series Touring for 6 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 like a dream, and all the engines are powerful and efficient. Yet if you opt for the 320d, you’ll see economy approaching 50mpg. Only its premium price tag puts it out of reach.

Price new: From £32,785
Lease this car: From £372 per month
Find a used BMW 3 Series on Parkers here

Toyota Corolla Touring Sports 

Toyota Corolla Touring Sports

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 hybrid powertrain – 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 powertrain. The floor is reversible, with a rubberised surface on its reverse side for easy cleaning if you need to transport mucky gear.

There’s additional rear legroom too, which is useful as the standard Corolla hatchback is fairly tight in the back row.

Price new: From £25,455
Lease this car: From £216 per month
Find a used Toyota Corolla on Parkers here

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate 

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate

Want to combine extreme 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, premium-feeling 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.

Price new: From £40,880
Lease this car: From £379 per month
Find a used Mercedes-Benz E-Class on Parkers here

Skoda Superb Estate 

Skoda Superb Estate

The 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 true 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.

Price new: From £26,135
Lease this car: From £297 per month
Find a used Skoda Superb on Parkers here

Volvo V60 

Volvo V60

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 V70 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.

Price new: From £34,295
Lease this car: From £330 per month
Find a used Volvo V60 for sale on Parkers here

Ford Focus Estate 

Ford Focus Estate

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.

Price new: From £21,715
Lease this car: From £226 per month
Find a used Ford Focus Estate for sale on Parkers here

Further reading:

> Don't need such a big boot? Check out our best hatchbacks here 

> Prefer an SUV? Here are our favourites

> Need more room? These are the best seven-seaters you can buy