Practical, powerful, spacious and attractive: four words that could be used to describe today's estate cars. Whether you're ferrying the kids to and from school, planning epic road trips or towing trailers, this class of vehicle is a versatile and, dare we say, exciting option.
With the right research, it shouldn't be difficult to find the perfect one for you and your family. That said, we know there are hundreds of different makes for you to choose from and narrowing your options down can be tricky. With that in mind, we're sharing our list of the best used estate cars for 2016.
With a reputation for safety and reliability, VW is always a sought-after marque. The Passat is another feather in the German manufacturer's cap, described by What Car? as 'excellent'. The big family car is highly praised for its cavernous cabin and boot, stability and good, quiet engine. It's a classy car, somewhat understated compared with the Audis and BMWs, but it's one you can feel proud driving. As one reviewer says: 'it ticks a lot of boxes'.
Unlike VW, the Vauxhall Astra has endured a varied reputation over the years. However, its fortunes have turned around of late, so much so that it was named European Car of the Year for 2016. It easily competes with rivals including the Ford Mondeo or the Skoda Octavia Estate. There's plenty of room - comfortably seating three children in the back - and its boot easily accommodates buggies, luggage and other large loads. Economical, comfortable and easy to drive, it's a decent choice.
Once the most popular car in the UK, the Mondeo was a favourite among families and remains so today, even if the ubiquitous Focus has usurped its crown. The estate version is good for long journeys, boasting comfortable seats and good suspension, so perfect for those that regularly travel across the country. Though it may be a little slow (0-60 in 10-12 seconds), the Mondeo estate handles well and offers good miles per gallon. It's a worthy rival of the Passat and has a price tag which makes it even more attractive.
Audi is undeniably a prestigious brand and driving one is always going to feel superb, if not something to be a little bit smug about. This feeling has been translated across the estate range - in fact, the A4 Avant has been hailed 'one of the best estates you can buy', again by What Car?, praised for its refined engine, smooth ride and cabin quality. It is luxurious, but with that comes practicality and reliability. The Audi A4 is also a model which holds its value well. The diesels offer the better fuel economy and great performance.
A replacement for the Escort, the Ford Focus is a safe choice. The estate is a sturdy, proficient vehicle and one of the most competitively-priced within its class. You'd be forgiven for thinking it may not be the most exciting car, but for a smaller estate, it compares well in terms of gadgets and extras - particularly the Zetec. We'd recommend the diesel version for those who frequently travel the motorways. Ultimately, it's a solid family estate car which does the job.
Elegance isn't something usually associated with estate cars - but see the BMW 3 Series Touring and you'll think again. It's a sophisticated car which oozes quality, possesses high-performing engines and offers fun handling. The three rear seats fold back independently of each other into endless combinations, giving you masses of useable boot space to accommodate whatever you might need to store in it. Though at the dearer end of the scale, it combines power, practicality and luxury - running costs are lower than you'd think too, providing good value for money.
If those don't get your engine revving, as it were, other estates we like include:
If you're still not quite sure which one to pick, check out our ten rules for picking the best estate car for some great tips. Otherwise, pop in and take one of our estate cars for a test drive.