Top 10 best estate cars 2023

Open gallery Close News by James Disdale 10 mins read 30 March 2023 Share

In a rational world free of automotive prejudice and immune to the magic of marketing, the estate car would be king. Deliver all of the versatility (and often more) of an SUV, but with the dynamic sharpness and greater efficiency of a saloon, load luggers really are ‘all the car you’ll ever need’.

What’s more, despite the inexorable rise of off-road-themed alternatives, which has come at the cost of other genres of machine, the estate car class retains a healthy diversity. Not only are there plenty of options when it comes to size, the elastic definition of these machines means our kitchen sink carrying cohort includes everything from sleek shooting brakes through to more square-rigged options that value maximum volume above all else.

There’s also a wide choice when it comes to how you want your load delivered. Whether you want cosseting comfort, fuel-sipping efficiency or supercar-chasing performance and handling, there should be an estate car to suit every taste and budget. Some even manage to make a fine fist of combining all these traits.

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As has often been said across the Atlantic, there ain’t no substitute for cubic inches. So with that in mind, here’s our pick of great estates.

Best estate cars on sale in 2023

1. BMW 5 Series Touring

It’s not the biggest estate car money can buy, but as a machine that covers all bases the BMW 5 Series Touring is hard to beat. Elegantly styled, engaging to drive, just about large enough for most needs and packed with enough neat features to suggest the brand has thought hard about how it will be used, the multi-talented German wins this space race.

At 560-litres, boot capacity is about average (it shrinks to 430-litres in the plug-in hybrid), but the load area is well-shaped and the brand’s trademark opening rear glass makes it easier to load smaller items in a tight spot. Fold the handy 40/20/40 split rear bench and there’s up to 1700-litres to play with. What’s more, air-suspension is standard for the rear axle, helping deliver both self-levelling for heavy loads and, combined with optional adaptive dampers, enhanced comfort.

Yet BMW’s ‘ultimate driving machine’ schtick doesn’t come unstuck in the estate transformation, the 5 Series hiding its bulk and mass well with meaty steering, impressive agility and the option of expressive handling if you’re in the mood. The engine line-up has been pared back in recent years, with just four-cylinder diesel and petrol options, plus the lusty six-cylinder 540i. There’s also a 530e plug-in hybrid for business users looking for a tax break. And while there’s no M5 option, official tuning arm Alpina does offer its subtle yet superheated conversions, provided you’ve enough cash to fill a 5 Series Touring’s boot.


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2. Skoda Superb Estate

Read our full road test of the Skoda Superb and you’ll learn that this is a car on its way to becoming one of the very best family cars in the world’. It’s not difficult to see why, either. In estate form, Skoda’s chiselled flagship model boasts a cavernous 1950 litres of carrying capacity with the rear seats folded flat – more than even a Mercedes E-Class Estate.

There’s also now a petrol-electric version – the Superb iV Estate – that pairs the 1.4-litre TSI engine with an electric motor. If you can make the electric range of around 25 miles work in your routine, the fuel (and tax) saving is just another reason to consider the big Skoda.

Meanwhile, finding noteworthy fault in the cabin ergonomics, materials quality or rolling refinement is also a fool’s errand when you consider the range starts at so much less than you’ll pay for the usual premium contenders. For extra versatility, Skoda offers a folding front passenger seat with its own Isofix child seat anchorages, as well as a variable-height boot floor and the usual nets and trays if you want them. Its only missed trick is forgetting to put a 40:20:40-split back seat on the equipment list.

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3. BMW 3 Series Touring

The smaller brother of the 5 Series, the 3 Series Touring packs many of its larger stablemate’s strengths into a more compact package. Moreover, its status as one of the greatest all-rounders ever has recently been gilded by the arrival of the long-awaited M3 version.

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