There aren't the same range of engines as in the Golf hatchback or Golf Plus ranges, but the Estate still has a decent choice, especially if you're after economy. The entry-level model is the 1.6-litre petrol with a modest 102bhp. It's smooth and quiet enough for driving around town, but with a heavy load on board it can feel a little strained. It's the only petrol choice but still manages to be useful economical with an average of 38mpg.
The diesels include the well used 1.9 TDI with 105bhp. This isn't an especially refined or quiet engine, but it offers decent in-gear pace and economy is an impressive 54mpg making it ideal for long distance drivers. This engine is also used in the low emissions Bluemotion model, which - thanks to aerodynamic and engine tweaks - emits 122g/km of CO2 and averages 61mpg.
Despite this it's still as quick as the standard 1.9 TDI with a 0-62mph time of 11.9 seconds. The top engine is the 2.0 TDI with 140bhp, but be aware that there are two different version of this. Both offer good punchy performance and strong economy, but the earlier version is known as a PD engine and is pretty noisy. In 2008 these were replaced by a common rail version (known as CR) which is far quieter with a smoother power delivery.
The 2.0 TDI comes with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard while all other models get a five-speed gearbox. A semi-automatic DSG gearbox is available as an optional extra on both TDI engines
With a large-capacity rear-end and a limited, modestly powered engine line-up, the Estate version isn't expected to deliver driving thrills, but it drives pleasantly enough in a safe and predictable manner. Light steering and gearchange help make it easy to pilot and there's a feeling of security and solidity about its behaviour on the road. Overall it feels little different from the Golf hatchback with a smooth ride and quiet cabin.
Driver's of all shapes and sizes should have no difficulty getting a good driving position thanks to fully adjustable driver's seat that includes height adjustment, and a height and reach adjustable steering wheel. The interior design is attractive with a quality that reinforces the Golf's position as the best quality small car. As well as being attractive, the dashboard is functional with large, easy-to-use buttons and - where fitted - a simple sat nav system.
All the controls are close to the driver for on-the-move adjustments and the screen is close enough so you don't have to squint. The system is a bit slow however, but cars from March 2008 come with a much faster and slicker system. The sat nav directions - as well as average fuel consumption, radio station, time and range are displayed in a panel in the instrument cluster, so you only have to momentarily take your eyes off the road.
The cabin provides plenty of room for those in the front, and there's enough room for two adults or three kids in the back. If you need more passenger space, then the Golf Plus or Touran offer more flexible rear seating arrangements. The interior has a suitably high quality feel to the fit and finish, and equipment levels provide all the essentials.
The ride is reasonably smooth and wind and tyre noise levels are acceptable at normal speeds.