SUV vs estate

For flexible family motoring, many drivers are often torn between SUVs and estates. We guide you through the pros and cons of both options

Matt Rigby
Sep 21, 2021

SUVs and estates are two of the most practical body styles available for a family car. But although both types of vehicle are generally boxy, spacious and accommodating for both passengers and luggage, there are significant differences between the two.

For example, SUVs tend to be taller, higher-riding vehicles. This can give you excellent visibility and a feeling of security from the driver’s seat that many people find highly appealing. The higher body also means better ground clearance and as some - though by no means all - SUVs also have four-wheel-drive, this can give them some off-road capability.

Estate cars, on the other hand, are generally lower and less rugged-looking than SUVs, as they’re generally based on hatchbacks or saloon models, but with extended rear bodies. This means that boot space is often the key selling point in an estate car. Estates often have flat boot floors with no loading lip and, although this can be true with SUVs, the boot floor is generally higher relative to the ground with SUVs, making them harder to load. As for four-wheel-drive, this can be available with a number of estates, too.

Where an SUV typically has an advantage over an estate car is in the height of the cabin. This means that not only do occupants generally benefit from better headroom than in an estate, you can potentially fit taller objects into the boot too.

Although you can get four-wheel-drive estate cars, these will typically provide you with extra traction on muddy or icy roads rather than any real off-roading capability. Do bear in mind, though, that many four-wheel-drive SUVs are designed to offer off-road style rather than any real off-road ability.

Both estate cars and SUVs are available in many different sizes and at a range of price points. Having said that, the dramatically increased popularity of SUVs in recent years means there’s often more variety and choice with these than with estate cars - which have seen a small decline in popularity over the same period.

What’s more, SUVs tend to carry a small price premium over equivalent-sized estate car models. For example, a Ford Kuga SUV is roughly equivalent in size to a Ford Focus Estate, and yet will cost around £3,000 more from new.

This means that SUVs often major on style and providing a high driving position, while estates major on practicality and comparative value. Read on for more details on the pros and cons of estate cars and SUVs.

What is an SUV?

The term ‘SUV’ is a broad one and in some ways quite hard to define. It can be applied to the most utilitarian off-roaders, gargantuan seven-seaters or small city cars that are essentially just higher-riding small hatchbacks. These smaller more road-focused SUVs are also sometimes called ‘crossovers’.

Originally, the majority of SUVs were four-wheel-drive, and the term was interchangeable with ‘4x4’, but since the early 2010s there has been an increasing trend towards front-wheel-drive SUVs. This is because these two-wheel-drive models are lighter and more fuel-efficient, while still offering the high-riding feel and chunky looks of a ‘proper’ 4x4 that many drivers value.

Pros and cons of an SUV

High driving position can give good visibility and a feeling of security
Popular body style means plenty of choice, including seven-seater options
Four-wheel-drive models provide extra grip, some can be used for off-roading

Bulky, heavy bodywork and four-wheel-drive can mean higher fuel bills
Some SUVs are not as practical as you might expect for their size, especially the boot
SUV format can carry a price premium over ‘regular’ cars such as hatchbacks

What is an estate car?

Taking a saloon or a hatchback and extending the bodywork over the boot area and adding extra windows is what creates an estate car body style - essentially an elongated hatchback. The advantage here is that while this body style greatly increases boot space, much of its other design components can be shared with the hatchback or saloon it’s based on, often making estate cars good value compared with SUVs.

Just as for SUVs, you can buy estate cars in many different sizes and to suit all sorts of budgets, though the variety of models is more limited than with SUVs. Four-wheel-drive is also often available - a key selling point for many SUVs - which can be a bonus if you want extra grip for dealing with slippery surfaces.

Estate cars tend to be lower and lighter than SUVs, however, making for better fuel efficiency and therefore lower running costs. So not only can they be cheaper to purchase, but they should cost less to live with, too.

Pros and cons of an estate car

More boot space than an equivalent SUV
Good fuel economy and performance
Cheaper to buy than an SUV
Wide choice of models

Often considered not as fashionable as SUVs
Lack the high driving position of many SUVs
SUV interiors can feel more airy and spacious
Model choice for newer cars relatively limited

SUVs and estates for £150 per month

Dacia Duster

BuyaCar prices from £6,217
Monthly finance from £219*

Dacia Logan MCV

BuyaCar prices from £7,500
Monthly finance from £154*

Peugeot 2008

BuyaCar prices from £6,350
Monthly finance from £168*

SUVs and estates for £200 per month

Suzuki Vitara

BuyaCar prices from £9,990
Monthly finance from £214*

Kia Stonic

BuyaCar prices from £12,250
Monthly finance from £211*

Peugeot 308 SW

BuyaCar prices from £5,895
Monthly finance from £189*

SUVs and estates for £250 per month

Ford Kuga

BuyaCar prices Limited stock

Hyundai Tucson

BuyaCar prices from £9,790
Monthly finance from £291*

VW Passat Estate

BuyaCar prices from £10,501
Monthly finance from £598*

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.


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