Ask the experts: Small estates

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Question: ​​I’m looking at a brand-new, small estate car, either a Renault, SEAT or Volkswagen. What would be the best choice?

Our experts reply: With these manufacturers, we'd happily recommend a suitable vehicle from any of them. Make sure you let each dealer know you’re looking elsewhere, and take your family along too on the test drive to make sure it’ll fit everyone. Here are three to think about...

SEAT Leon ST

With 587 litres of luggage space and riding on the same MQB chassis as the Volkswagen Golf Mk 7, the improved SEAT Leon ST estate offers sharp handling, excellent build quality and solid practicality. Plus, this revised version delivers smarter styling, improved media connectivity, extra safety provision and some fresh new engine options.

As before, the prices being asked represent a substantial saving over those of a comparable, identically-engined Golf Estate. It's hard to grumble at that sort of deal.

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, estate cars were purely for estate people – those with dogs, photocopiers to cart about and weekend leisure equipment. You wouldn't really consider one if you didn't actually need to. But station wagons like this improved Leon ST are rather different. Why wouldn't you choose one of these rather than a standard Leon five-door hatch? After all, the ST variant isn't much more expensive, looks just as good, drives just as well and offers a lot more everyday flexibility.

Like the best of its family hatchback-based competitors, it's also successful in offering nearly all the practicality in a larger estate car with the easy parking and deft manoeuvrability of a much smaller one. Is there really any point in considering a five-seater compact Scenic-shaped people carrier when a car like this SEAT can be so versatile? Your call.

  • Available from Bristol Street Motors SEAT in Carlisle, B&H SEAT in Lillyhall, Cox SEAT in Kendal and remember to check your local used car specialists.


Renault Megane Sport Tourer

MPVs tend to dominate the limelight with their versatile interiors and clever storage solutions, but the estate car will still be a better solution for many families. The latest-generation Renault Megane Sport Tourer is a great example of a compact estate with sleek looks, solid driving dynamics inherited from the Megane hatchback and lots of space in its well-designed boot area.

Renault appears to be in little doubt that the estate car still has something to offer in the modern marketplace. It has a complete range of load-luggers that sit alongside its popular MPV products and it's easy to see how they could be preferable for some buyers. The Megane Sport Tourer looks the part with its sleek, elongated lines and beneath the handsome exterior is more rear passenger space and a very big boot.

It might not have the flexibility of a leading MPV product but the Sport Tourer blends style and practicality in a manner that should appeal to those who aren't convinced by the people carrier's trickery. The estate remains a refreshingly straightforward style of family car and there's still a lot to be said for that.

  • ​Available from Lookers Renault in Carlisle, PV Dobson in Levens and remember to check your local used car specialists.


Volkswagen Golf Estate

Compact estate cars never put much of a dent in the public consciousness and, as neatly finished as this improved seventh-generation Golf Estate is, one suspects it's always going to remain a minority interest item. Still, it's good value in mid-range 'Match Edition' guise and, as you'd expect from Volkswagen, it's very well designed. No hurriedly cobbled-together conversion, this estate is properly practical with up to 1,620 litres of load space available.

The Golf Estate has never been one of the brighter stars in the Volkswagen firmament. It was always too small, too overshadowed by the hatch or too dowdy to really appeal. While this improved Mk7 version isn't about to outshine the hatchback version, it at least addresses these other two issues reasonably well. It's usefully spacious and the styling is agreeably sleek.

The rest of the news is good too. The improvements in equipment and media connectivity are welcome and a number of efficiency measures mean that estate buyers who would have automatically looked to diesel engines should also now consider powerplants like the ingenious 1.5 TSI Evo unit with Active Cylinder Technology. Small estates will never be big sellers but, as Volkswagen has demonstrated, if a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well.

  • Available from Lookers VW in Carlisle, Walkingshaw VW in Lillyhall, Hadwins VW in Lindale and check your local used car specialists.

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