Estate or SUV – Which Bodystyle is Best?

The DriveDen blog provides advice, news and reviews. This feature article looks at the choice between buying an estate or SUV car and which may be best to go for.


Recent years have seen a huge rise in SUV models on the road and every manufacturer is in on the act, from Fiat to Ferrari! However, there has been a bodystyle available for decades that has given a car buyer the opportunity of a lot more luggage space; the Estate. So, is there really a need for so many SUV models? And what does the rise of SUV mean for the traditional estate? In this article we’ll compare and contrast the two bodystyles, looking at a variety of manufactuers, and see if the two can co-exist. It may be that estate and SUV models are different enough and offer benefits that the other doesn’t, so if you’re looking at getting a new car with lots of space and style, we’ll try and get to the bottom of what would be best.


If practicality and space is top of your priorities when buying a new car, chances are you’ve already considered the choice between an estate and a SUV. Estate cars have traditionally been the go-to bodystyle for those requiring lots of space and have been produced by almost all manufacturers for decades. However, this dominance has been challenged in a big way in recent years by the rise of the SUV, or Sports Utility Vehicle.

BMW introduced their ‘X’ range in 1999 with the X5, and almost every other manufacturer has followed suit in the last two decades. We’re now living in a world where Lamborghini and Bentley produce SUVs! Of course the most popular models are at a much lower price range, and it’s a common sight for a car park to be filled with all sorts of large vehicles from brands such as Ford, VW and Audi.

So what does this mean for the traditional estate? Well, there has certainly been a dent in sales overall, with many buyers moving over to the SUV market, but ‘Avant’ and ‘SW’ models are also a common sight on the roads too. This shows the two are currently co-existing and there’s plenty of appetite for both…so what would be best if you were looking at buying one or the other?

The first comparison is the price – of course if a vehicle is way out of your price range, it shouldn’t really come into consideration. And this is the first stumbling block for the SUV, as overall this bodytype tends to be a lot more expensive than the equivalent estate. For example, the Volvo V90 estate starts at £37,700 and that’s a bargain compared to the XC90, the range of which starts at over £50,000! The same can be said when comparing the BMW 3 Series Touring and the X3. The on-the-road price of the estate is £28,800, whereas the X3 starts at almost £40,000.

There are exceptions to the rule, such as Seat’s Ateca SUV and Leon ST estate. Both start in the £18,000 range, meaning customers can have a direct choice between the two without having to worry about one costing significantly more than the other. Ford and VW also offer cars with a more comparative price range, especially if a finance option is available as that should mean the difference in monthly payments is manageable.

But what if price isn’t an issue? There are other considerations to be made too, such as the load capacity in the boot area. Often this is a key issue for those in the market of either an estate or SUV – after all, both are aimed towards large families who may want to transport all sorts of luggage and accessories along with 2.4 children. SUV models will often have the edge in terms of how many people can be carried, as many will offer a 7-seat option. However most are standard 5-seaters, the same as an estate, so the space consideration will be focused on the boot area and how much stuff can be crammed in for a weekend away or a trip into Europe.

Looking at some direct comparisons, the figures are perhaps closer than many would think. For example, the Focus Estate has a boot capacity of 476 litres, which is only a tiny amount more than the Kuga’s 456. The same can be said of the VW Golf estate and Tiguan, which have capacities of 605 and 615 litres respectively. Once again, there are some exceptions with large differences between two models, such as the Volvo V90 estate’s 560 litre capacity, which is a huge amount more than the 451 offered by the XC90 SUV.

However, in our 7 comparisons we found that the estate and SUV models were very evenly matched, often only separated by 20-30 litres, which in the real world won’t make too much difference. This is very likely due to the fact that almost all the cars we compared are based on the same platforms, which is becoming increasingly routine for most manufacturers. Not only does it save money overall, but it means SUV models are capable of handling much like their hatchback or estate siblings, muddying the waters even further when it comes to choosing between the different bodystyles.

There may be another comparison to look at for potential buyers of estate or SUV models…the towing capacity, as these types of cars are by far the most common to be seen with a caravan or trailer. This is where the SUV rules supreme though, as all 7 of our comparisons ended up with the SUV winning, and in some cases by a huge margin. For example, the VW Tiguan can pull up to 2,500kg, which is a huge amount more than the 1,600kg the Golf estate can manage. Some models are a lot more closely matched, but if you are looking at a vehicle capable of pulling a large caravan or transporting another car behind, a SUV will really be the way to go.

So, in terms of pure stats it is very close to choose between estate cars and their SUV equivalents. Estate cars tend to have a cheaper on-the-road price and many do have a larger capacity for luggage and shopping…but if you are looking at towing anything at all, a SUV will be far superior. So, as with most car buying decisions it comes down to what you will be using the car for mostly…and if there’s not too much to choose from between an estate and SUV, it’ll just come down to individual preference. At the moment fashion is definitely on the SUV side, but there is definitely still a place for estate cars too.

Let us know which you prefer between the two bodystyles, and why not check out another article involving a sure-to-be popular SUV – Volvo XC40 Wins 2018 European Car of the Year


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