When looking for a practical everyday car, the booming SUV market may have you believing a high-up car is the way to go — but there’s an alternative.
Step in the humble estate car. Once the bread and butter of UK roads, the saloon/hatch-turned-workhorse formula has fallen by the wayside in recent years, yet they remain a truly compelling option for those after space above all else. Not only that, they can be properly fun to drive too.
In no particular order, we’ve picked out some of the best options the used estate car market offers at a £20k price point.
When it comes to sheer space, it’s hard to beat Skoda’s (frankly) Superb estate. In its latest guise, it offers a whopping 660 litres of load space — beaten pretty much only by vans.
It’s far from just a load-lugger, though. The Volkswagen Group-designed model is an exceptionally comfortable machine, with a solidly built cabin as well as a reputation for reliability. With our budget, high-spec examples with below 30,000 miles from 2017-18 come into play, though sacrificing on equipment brings early 2019 models into the mix.
Ford Focus ST
Who said estates had to be boring? Certainly not Ford, which has long offered a more practical version of its loveable Focus ST hot hatch.
Powered by a 250hp, 2.0-litre petrol engine, it’s certainly no slouch — capable of 0-60mph in 6.5 seconds — and tops that off by being a complete riot in the corners. All that, while offering 476 litres of boot space. Examples from as recent as 2018 with miles well under 10,000 are available at a £20,000 price point.
BMW 335d Touring
When it comes to cars that cover all bases, there may be none better than the BMW 335d Touring. This practical estate boasts a respectable 495 litres of boot space, comfortable seating for five, a high-quality cabin and a claimed fuel return of 39.2mpg.
It’s pretty quick, too. With 315hp and 630Nm of torque, it can cover 0-60mph in under five seconds before going on to a limited 155mph top speed — perfect for heading on a European road trip with the family via the German autobahn. Our budget brings cars as recent as 2016 into the spotlight, with miles around the 50,000 mark.
Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer
It’s far from the most inspiring vehicle on this list, but there are good reasons why the Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer is one of the UK’s top repmobiles.
Impressive efficiency, good looks and a respectable amount of kit makes it a car that’s easy to live with and one that’s leaning on the side of desirable. With our price point, nearly new examples are available — sporting as little a 4,000 miles.
Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake
Mercedes may be cheating a little bit by using the ‘Shooting Brake’ moniker for its CLS estate — with the term normally referring to boxy two-door models — but we’ll forgive it considering how good the car looks.
Its dramatic bodywork hides a practical machine, too. You have 590 litres of boot space on offer, while our budget allows for an impressively efficient 220d model — which Mercedes says can return 56.5mpg in mixed driving conditions.
Looking for a premium alternative to the usual German suspects? The Volvo V90 may just be the practical machine you’re looking for.
Our budget may only allow for lower-specification Momentum models if you’re looking for recent examples, though this still delivers big on comfort and efficiency — a claimed 50.4mpg if you opt for a D4 engine. It also boasts a remarkable 560 litres of boot space.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX Wagon
Even those wanting a supremely rare Japanese performance car are catered for in the estate market, thanks to the seldom-found Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX Wagon.
There was no compromise on performance when compared with the saloon version for the estate. Its 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder dumps 280hp through an incredibly clever all-wheel-drive system to deliver one of the most exciting and practical cars money can buy. It was never officially sold in the UK though, so all examples are imported from Japan and price fluctuates wildly depending on the condition, age and levels of modification.