Given the popularity of crossovers and SUVs, you’d be forgiven for thinking the humble estate car has had its day. But we’re hear to fly the flag for the traditional load-lugger, which is why we’ve assembled a list of great estate cars you can buy for £5,000. All you need is a labrador to go with the car.
Definitive: Volvo 240
When aliens land on Planet Earth and demand to see an example of the definitive estate car, this is what they’ll be shown. The Volvo 240 is the archetypal wagon – big on space, big on practicality, big on safety. You won’t even need to spend the entire £5k budget, because prices start from a few hundred notes. Our pick: the 240 GLT.
Style: Alfa Romeo 159 Sportwagon
Estate cars have no right to look this good. The Alfa Romeo 159 Sportwagon is the antithesis of the Volvo 240 – achingly beautiful to look at and just as great to drive. On the flip side, it’s not the most spacious estate car in the world, so your dog and rear seat passengers may prefer the big Swede to the pert Italian.
Rural life: Subaru Outback
Some folk will tell you, with some justification, that the Subaru Outback is hamstrung by a naff interior and high running costs. But don’t let that put you off, because when it comes to off-roading and withstanding a lifetime of abuse, these things are peerless. Quite simply, if you live in the country, the Subaru Outback has to be on your shortlist.
Space: Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate
The W211 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate is not without its problems, so you’re advised to do your homework before parting with £5,000. But if you’re after a cavernous load area, sumptuous interior and rock-solid image, this makes a great deal of sense. Also available as a seven-seater.
Compact: Skoda Fabia Estate
Not everybody needs to carry a grandfather clock or ferry half a dozen labradors, which is why cars like the Skoda Fabia Estate are so appealing. What it gives up in terms of load capacity, it makes up for in terms of convenience, value for money and low running costs. It’s like a Volkswagen Polo wagon and you’ll be able to afford anything up to a 2010 model. Also available as the rugged-looking Scout.
No frills: Dacia Logan MCV
If you fancy something nearly-new, your best bet is the Dacia Logan MCV. Buy new and you can drive away in a base-spec Logan for £6,995, but we’d suggest opting for a used example with a few bells and whistles. It’s hardly plush, but the Logan MCV offers a huge 573 litres of boot space, extending to 1,518 with the seats folded flat. Quick confession: the cheapest we can find are just over the £5,000 mark. Time to start haggling…
Lifestyle: Lexus IS300 SportCross
Once upon a time, we all knew where we stood. A spade was a spade and an estate car was an estate car. But then the carmakers started being all fancy dan with their Sport Wagons, Sport Tourers and Tourings. Lexus got in on the act with its IS300 SportCross, which added a touch more practicality over the saloon. It might have a mere 340 litres of luggage space below the parcel shelf, but with the seats folded it can carry up to 2.6m in length. The IS300 SportCross looks superb and drives as well as the saloon.
Performance: Volvo 850 T-5R
The Volvo 850 T-5R sticks two fingers up at convention. Who says you can’t have a boot the size of Watford yet still have the potential to keep up with a sports car? Volvo turned to Porsche to show a new racier side, with the Stuttgart wizards assisting with the engine tuning, transmission and interior. Top speed was limited to 155mph and 60mph was polished off in under six seconds. A modern classic? We think so.
Rallying: Subaru Impreza WRX Estate
Perhaps it’s us, but we always found the wagon version of the Subaru Impreza WRX a little less baseball cap and branded rally jacket than the saloon. It presents a more grown-up, sensible personality and yet still retains the same outstanding cross-country pace. It won’t be cheap to run, but it should prove to be reliable.
Classic: Mercedes-Benz W123 T
It says something about the enduring appeal of the Mercedes-Benz W123 T that you might struggle to find a good one for less than £5,000. They do exist and your search will be rewarded with a cavernous boot, potential for seven seats and what is one of the best-engineered cars of the 20th century. Alternatively, it’s worth considering its successor – the W124.
Budget: Citroen ZX Estate
On a strict budget? Not keen to spend the entire £5,000 on a car? You need something utterly unfashionable, cheap to run and highly practical. The Citroen ZX Estate should fit the bill, especially in super-frugal diesel guise. Spend a few hundred notes buying one and if it dies, simply buy another one. Simple.
Wildcard: Chrysler 300C Touring
You know us, we love to throw a couple of wildcards into the mix and the Chrysler 300C Touring is about as wild as you can get for this money. A Mercedes-sourced 3.0-litre V6 diesel should provide some reassurance and acceptable fuel economy, while the 630 litres of boot space means it’s surprisingly practical. You’ll also find the 300C to be well-equipped.
Weirdly, the Volvo V70 isn’t as spacious as its German rivals, so if space is your final frontier, you’d be better off with the A6 Avant, E-Class Estate or 5 Series Touring. But nobody does estate cars quite like Volvo and the V70 is one of the most comfortable cars in its class. For a dash of performance, the V70R is worth hunting down. That’s if you can keep up.
Veyron wagon: Volkswagen Passat W8
Could this be the world’s greatest Q-car? Underneath that Colin-from-accounts exterior lies the beating heart of a W8 engine, which makes this a Bugatti Veyron for the family (of sorts). With a mere 275hp on tap and a heavy four-wheel drive system, the performance is best described as brisk, but we can’t help but adore the W8. We just haven’t got the guts to take the plunge. Have you?
If it’s good enough for the Queen: Jaguar X-Type Estate
If it’s good enough for Her Majesty, it’s good enough for you. For some reason, the X-Type Estate has a far better image than that of the saloon version and we happen to think it is ageing rather well. Opt for the all-wheel drive version and you’ll be equipped for all weathers.
Golf GTI estate: Skoda Octavia vRS
Fancy a Volkswagen Golf GTI estate? Sadly, this budget won’t stretch to a Golf R Estate, which means the Skoda Octavia vRS is the next best thing. Opt for the Mk1 Octavia vRS with its 1.8-litre turbocharged engine and your budget will ensure you have the pick of the crop. The Mk2 is arguably a better all-rounder, whilst benefiting from the option of a diesel version.
All-rounder: Ford Mondeo
The Ford Mondeo is so good, it’s a wonder why people consider buying anything else. Cliche alert: this thing ticks all of the boxes. The boot is huge, the cabin is spacious, it’s dynamically sorted and it’s also, depending on spec, very well-equipped. A candidate for all the estate car you could ever need? Sorry, that’s two cliches in quick succession.
Reliability: Honda Accord
But we do accept that not everybody wants to drive a Ford Mondeo, which is why cars like the Honda Accord exist. Why should you be interested? Well, for a start, the Accord is regarded as being one of the most reliable cars in the world. Secondly, it’s packed full of gadgets. Thirdly, the not-so-small matter of 626 litres of boot space.
Not a crossover: Audi Allroad
The Audi Allroad wasn’t the first off-road estate car, but it helped to define the sector. Today, the A4 and A6 Allroad are welcome antidotes to the march of the crossover. Along with the Volvo V70 XC, this is where the whole premium off-road estate car thing began. Good ones aren’t cheap, but the image is rock-solid.
Still not a crossover: Skoda Octavia Scout
Here’s another car that retains its value surprisingly well. Or is it a surprise, given the Octavia Scout’s reputation for reliability, practicality and off-road capability? Owners love these things.
Not German: Citroen C5 Tourer
Remember the television ads for the Citroen C5? ‘Unmistakably German, made in France’, or words to that effect. We’re not quite sure what Citroen was hoping to achieve with this approach, but the C5 Tourer remains one of the best looking estate cars you can buy. What’s more, the diesel engines are excellent, contributing to what is a terrific long-distance cruiser. They also depreciate like a stone, which is good news if you’re buying used.
Club door: MINI Clubman
The all-new MINI Clubman might be a better car than its predecessor, but we’ll always have a soft spot for the original. There’s something rather British about the styling, although that ‘club door’ is a nuisance over here. If you’re looking for something more distinctive than the regular MINI and aren’t too fussed about a massive load area, the Clubman holds strong appeal.
Swede dreams: Saab 9-5
Saab’s unfortunate demise has led to plummeting secondhand values, which is good news if you’re looking to buy a 9-5 Estate. There’s a network of Saab specialists to call upon, while original parts are in plentiful supply. The 9-5 is spacious, comfortable, well-equipped and, in Aero guise, properly quick.
Space and image: Audi A6 Avant
We conclude with three estate cars that will probably account for the majority of shortlists up and down the land. Take the Audi A6 Avant, which benefits from a massive load area, an extremely good interior and the kind of image many rivals can only dream of.
The home banker: BMW 3 Series Touring
If, on the other hand, you’re not prepared to sacrifice driving dynamics in favour of practicality, the BMW 3 Series Touring is hard to beat, especially in 330d guise.
Home banker, but larger: BMW 5 Series Touring
Or, if you’re after a little more space, the BMW 5 Series Touring is great to drive, well screwed together and, if equipped with EfficientDynamics gubbins, super-frugal.