What is an estate car?

Load up your luggage in style: discover the big-booted estate car

Simon Ostler
Mar 20, 2020

Where we now have a sea of SUVs dominating the UK car market, car buyers once relied upon the estate car to cater for their practicality needs. Whether it was for dog owners, golfers, or enthusiastic furniture shoppers, estate cars were the utilitarian car of choice.

Sadly, their popularity has dwindled substantially in recent years, as the introduction of crossovers and SUVs brought drivers a new type of car that offered even more practicality. So you might ask why estate cars are still available? Well they still offer a very specific set of characteristics that no other car could ever hope to replicate.

The definitive aspects of an estate car

Skoda Superb Estate rear

Estate cars are essentially standard hatchback or saloon models with an extended rear end, providing more boot space for flat-pack furniture enthusiasts, sports players with bulky equipment, or anyone who needs to transport their family and associated clutter.

The boot lid opens up the rear of the car - just as it does in a hatchback, so there's a large square-shaped opening that makes it easier to load bulky luggage. Folding rear seats are typically standard as well, giving you the opportunity to create a van-like space behind the front seats.

For years, estate cars had a reputation for being boxy, boring and dull to drive. But their purpose has changed as manufacturers seek to find new ways to make them appeal to buyers.

Modern estate cars blend their large boots with a bit more style; the boxy shape has evolved into something much smoother and more elegant. They are lower to the ground, too, which makes them much more agile and exciting to drive than taller and rather cumbersome SUVs.

Estate cars: pros and cons

Pros

Practical space, with a large boot opening and square-shaped luggage area
Stylish design means they aren’t a frumpy choice
Not much more expensive to run than a hatchback

Cons

Not as spacious as many SUVs and crossovers
Length can make them difficult to park
Fill the boot up and you can’t see out of the back window

Used estate cars

Aside from being hugely practical, modern estate cars shaken off the boxy visage of generations past to become painfully stylish and elegant modes of transport. While overall sales continue to drop in the face of the SUV onslaught, the estate car market maintains loyal base of drivers who continue to appreciate their unique mix of usability and irresistible looks. 

But its not all about style, there are also several estate models out there with some pretty substantial off-road credentials - in many cases proving much more proficient than crossover and SUV rivals. These more rugged variants tend to feature raised ride heights, bulkier bodywork and four-wheel drive.

What to look for in an estate car

  • Split-folding rear seats are best, as you can fold one or two, leaving one for a passenger.
  • Flat-folding seats. If the back seats don’t fold right down, leaving the boot floor completely flat, then you’re wasting space
  • Low boot lip: if the bottom of the boot is level with the top of the rear bumper, it's easier to slide loads in
  • Attachments: hooks, rails and loops in the boot will help you secure luggage so it doesn’t move about
  • A powered boot lid that you can open by waving your foot underneath the bumper is useful when your hands are full
  • Rear power sockets are handy - for an air compressor to pump up beach inflatables, for example.

 

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