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Home > used car buying guide > People Carriers vs 4x4s vs Estates

People Carriers vs 4x4s vs Estates

"Making its way to the ring...weighing in at 3,600lbs...hailing from Martorell, Spain...rated by many as the best pound for pound people carrier available in 2014...introducing...the SEAT Alhambra MPV!"

"AAAAAAND now, introducing the challenger...weighing in at 4,700lbs...from Coventry...rated by many to be the greatest 4x4 of all time...introducing...the Range Rover SUV!"

"AAAAAAAAAAAAND now, introducing the third competitor...weighing in at 3,400lbs...coming all the way from Munich, Germany...considered one of the brightest stars in the world of estate cars...introducing...the BMW 3 Series Touring!"

People carriers vs 4x4s vs estates - it's a triple threat match for the ages. But what wins when you're looking to buy a more spacious new car? All styles have their benefits, so it really depends on what exactly you're looking for. Let's break it down.

Luxury


While some people carriers (like the aforementioned SEAT Alhambra) can appear rather boxy, others, like the Fiat 500L MPW, pull out all the stylish stops. With MPVs it's assumed that a spacious interior is high on the agenda, but there are also quality elements in the built-in sat-navs, glass panoramic roofs and dual zone digital climate control functions that are present in most people carriers in 2014. Although perfect in other areas, you may want to take another step or two up the luxury ladder.

4X4s can combine the luxuriousness of limousines with brute force and the best off-road capabilities of any road car. The Range Rover is the most obvious - with its studio quality sound, spacious compartments and surround camera systems - but there are others, like the BMW X5 and X3, that are comfort and style personified (or carnified, if you will). We mustn't forget about estate cars, though.

Take the Jaguar XF Sportbrake; its muscular exterior is complimented by a powerful engine allowing it to get above 60mph in a little over seven seconds - not bad for an estate car weighing two tonnes. Can estate cars pip 4x4s in the luxury stakes though ? Not quite, in our opinion.

Winner: 4x4

Practicality


All cars must be practical in one way or another (for example smart cars, while useless for space, are great for parking). If it's the ability to comfortably transport more people at once that you're after, then you've got to go for a people carrier. The Renault Grand Scenic has seven seats if required, but when you remove the third row of seats you'll open up a whopping 2,063 litres of boot space.

However, the Skoda Superb Estate is more than just a clever name - it lives up to the hype. The boot is incredibly huge while leg room seems to last forever. If hassle-free storage space and tall passengers are on your list of pain points, then the Estate wins hands down.

That's not to rule out 4x4s, which can be pretty roomy too - many even have seven-seat options, although they should often only be used when extra capacity is absolutely essential, as they can be rather cramped and are only really suitable for small children. But throw in the opulent Range Rover Sport's off-road abilities and the Mazda CX-5's impressiveness on tarmac and the 4x4 is very practical indeed. For the average driver, however, we think that interior space would be the biggest practical issue, and so we've got to give this round to the people carrier.

Winner: people carrier

Image


There are certain images that come with owning different car types, and not all of them will be what you're looking for. Many 4x4s have luxurious interiors and are beautiful to look at from the outside, but if you're not really the rough-and-ready type, will a Land Rover Discovery 4 suit you? Likewise, just because a people carrier is arguably the more practical, does it have enough prestige for your liking?

We'd have to go give this round to estate cars like the Volvo V60, the Mercedes-Benz C-class and the Audi A6 Avant, which combine the cool factor with practicality and performance to create a great all-round image.

Winner: estate cars

Performance


In terms of engine performance, the Audi A6 Avant estate has a 2.0-litre diesel that lets you reach quick speed effortlessly, and it's easy to drive - secure and well-gripped on tight bends. While many 4x4s are more expensive to run than estates, the Dacia Duster is the exception. Despite low running costs and a relatively low price tag the Romanian 4x4 can still perform on tough terrain and reach good speeds. Many people carriers are great to drive as well, particularly the SEAT Alhambra. With its fantastic handling and strong economy figures, it performs incredibly for a big car.

Our judges can't make up their minds for this one which means that, after four rounds, it's a tie. You didn't really think we were going to say that one model is better than another, did you? We're fans of all car types.

It's up to you to come up with a deciding round!