The Joy of Estate Cars
There are certain criteria that most of us look for when buying a car. Generally, this will include things like good fuel economy, low emissions and steady resale values.
We may also look at things such as performance and, for those of us who love our cars, the beauty of the machine. For some, however, sheer lugging ability is up there with the most important traits a car can have, and as the holiday season gets into full swing, we consider how estate cars are perfect for those summer holiday jaunts to the seaside or further afield.
In recent years, MPVs, SUVs and crossovers have all seen huge increases in sales, but there is still a place for the traditional estate. What is more, they are now a little thinner on the ground, so your humble estate could also see you standing out a little from the crowd. They are also now more polished and practical than ever before, delivering saloon-car road manners and lots of internal space.
An estate car is generally a little longer than the saloon or hatch version of the same model, so finding a decent parking space can perhaps be a little more troublesome. On the other hand, the increase in luggage space and often rear leg room can be a real boon. They are the perfect car for dog owners, as the large flat luggage area easily doubles as a pet carrier, and there are lots of accessories to keep your dog safe and well in the back. A top estate will have huge luggage space in comparison to the saloon model, and this is often versatile and able to be configured in different ways to suit specific needs. For example, with the rear seats folded flat, the estate car becomes a superb load carrier, rivalling even car-derived vans when it comes to capacity. Indeed, with our busy lives of DIY and shopping trips, it could be said that the estate car is the most suitable vehicle on the road. Estate cars will also often have additional storage spaces beneath the boot floor, and load dividers and luggage nets are available to keep everything in the right place when travelling. Those folding rear seats will often split, too, to give more passenger and luggage combinations.
In driving terms, the estate car used to have a bit of a bad name when it came to handling dynamics and driving enjoyment, but modern vehicles have come on a long way. In fact, the estate version will probably feel the same to drive as the saloon or hatch variants, and it will almost certainly have the same choice of engines and interior trim. In other words, by choosing an estate car you can benefit from hugely increased practicality without losing out on performance, comfort or driving manners.
Modern estate cars now look good too. The best examples of estate cars no longer look as if they are simply a saloon car with an extra luggage area bolted on. Instead, they look completely comfortable in their steel skin, as if they have been designed from the very outset to be estate cars. In fact, it could be argued that some of the very best estate cars actually look better than their saloon or hatchback siblings.
Another downside of estates used to be price. They tended to cost more than a saloon or hatchback, probably as a result of all that added metal, but these days that price differential has shrunk. Another worry was the resale value, as the market for used estate cars tended to be smaller than that for standard saloons. This may still be the case, but the smaller number of estate cars being built means that there is now a certain rarity value, and that means that prices for second-hand estate cars are holding up well. Insurance, servicing and running costs are all broadly comparable with saloon cars, so if you need a little extra space and you are fed up with all those huge SUVs and people-carriers, have a good look at the estate car.