Not so long ago – before SUVs becoming mainstream – families and drivers in need of extra space and practicality would pick an estate by default. These long vehicles cleverly combine the comfy passenger space of hatchbacks and saloons with a much larger boot, perfect for all that extra luggage, the prams and even your golf kit.

But in recent times rugged and sporty SUVs have risen to great popularity thanks to their looks, high visibility and practicality. Families and adventure-seekers love them so much they’ve taken a chunk of the estate’s market.

If you’re torn and you don’t know what to choose we’re here to help. Read on and we’ll help you understand whether you should pick an estate or an SUV that fulfils all your wants and needs.

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What’s an SUV?

SUV stands for ‘Sport Utility Vehicle” and, to keep it short, it’s a car with a body shape that’s characterised by increased height and big wheels, together with chunky styling that reminds you of a 4X4 car. It’s a fun and rugged body type that tries to merge the comforts of traditional hatchbacks with the adventurous looks of an all-roader.

Despite their looks, most SUVs don’t have four-wheel drive and you won’t be able to take them off the road. But they’re still very versatile cars that can go almost anywhere and can transport passengers and heavy loads with ease and comfort.

However, SUVs are not uniform and come in all shapes and sizes – including crossovers, which are compact SUVs. Some popular models of SUV are the Renault Captur, Kia Stonic, Mazda CX-30, Dacia Duster or the car that pioneered this body style, the Nissan Qashqai.

If you want to read more about SUVs here’s our complete guide to car body styles. It’s packed with lots of extra information.

SUV pros and cons

Time to summarise SUV’s pros and cons before analysing at the end which is best for you: an SUV or an estate?

SUV pros

  • Space – SUVs are incredibly spacious and roomy. That makes them comfortable for passengers without compromising how much you can carry on the boot. On top of that, they are very practical and are often available with seven seats, which makes them ideal for bigger families.
  • Style – SUV’s are the ‘IT’ car of the moment thanks to their rugged and adventurous looks. Even if you’re not going to drive them off-road they’ll give you a sense of thrill when you’re behind the wheel.
  • Elevated driving position – The high driving position of an SUV is a big draw for a lot of car buyers. First of all, it gives you a great view of the road ahead. Second, the fact that you won’t have to stoop down to get into the car makes them ideal for people with restricted mobility or for getting your children into their seats with ease and comfort.
  • Lower running costs than 4WD – Although there are exceptions and some SUVs offer the choice of 4WD, most are front-wheel drive. Whilst you may not be able to do any serious off-roading on them, that also means they are cheaper to run than 4X4s and other four-wheel-drive cars.

SUV cons

  • Not all 4WD – In spite of their rugged looks, most SUVs are front-wheel drive. It’s also true that if you want them in four-wheel-drive you should be able to pay for the option, depending on the model. But the truth is that if you need a car for serious off-roading an SUV won’t probably be for you. But then again, Estate cars don’t come in 4WD by default either.
  • Pricier to buy – In general, SUVs are typically more expensive than an estate the same size. There are exceptions to this but it’s always worth comparing.
  • Small SUVs may not be so practical – Again, not a universal con as medium and bigger SUVs are extremely practical. But the truth is that some of the smaller crossover SUVs can’t compare with other family cars with bigger boots for less money.
  • More expensive to run than equivalent size estates – Take this one with a grain of salt as there are more and more hybrid, plug-in hybrid and even electric SUVs. However, given their increased size, weight and more powerful engine, SUVs tend to be pricier to run than a regular hatchback.

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What is an Estate Car?

Put simply, an estate car is essentially a standard hatchback or saloon model with an extended boot. This makes this type of body style ideal for anyone who likes to travel in style whilst carrying sports bulky equipment, flat-pack furniture and anything your family may need every time you go on an adventure – from prams to all the extra luggage.

In estate cars the boot lid opens up at the rear of the vehicle, exactly like in a hatchback, making them a dream to load luggage on. In almost all cases you can also fold your rear seats, thus creating a van-like space that can be very convenient.

Although they still have the reputation of being boxy, a bit boring and not exciting to drive, estate cars have come a long way and these days they come packed with style and elegance. Plus, being lower to the ground they are much more agile and fun to drive than bulky SUVs.

Just in case you’re interested in an estate car, here are some popular models: Volvo V90, Audi A6 Avant, BMW 3 Series Touring or the Mercedes CLA Shooting Brake. And those who want an estate with raised ride height and bulkier looks should check out the Volvo V60 Cross Country or the Audi A6 Allroad.

Estate pros and cons

In very general terms, here are some of the pros and cons of estate cars. Take good note and decide if they are for you based on them.

Estate car pros

  • Excellent family transport – Estate cars have been firm favourites with families for decades thanks to their combination of comfort and space for a reason. They’re just great at what they do, even if they may look a bit too classic to some.
  • Heaps of extra space – Estate cars are big on space. For passengers and in the boot. The Skoda Superb Estate, for example, has a 660-litre boot where you will be able to fit your weekly shopping, all the luggage you can think of, several prams and a few golf clubs.
  • Easier to load bulky & heavy items – Thanks to its boot being closer to ground
  • 4WD and increased height choice – Whilst they are not the majority, if you enjoy off-roading or want a higher driving position there are some estate cars that pack those, plus extra-rugged features. It’s the case of the Audi A6 Allroad, for example. They won’t match a Range Rover off-road but they’ll have more traction on not-perfect surfaces.
  • Better driving experience – Closer to the ground than an SUV, estate cars offer a much more pleasant driving experience on the road. With their centre of gravity lower, the grip on the road is better and offer a more dynamic feel when you’re behind the wheel.

Estate car cons

  • More expensive than hatchbacks and saloons – While it’s true that estates are typically pricier than the cars they’re based on, they also offer lots of extra space and greater versatility for families.
  • Lack of desirability & don’t hold value well – Estates are not as trendy as SUV and don’t hold value as well once on the market. This may have to do with the fact that some people still associate them with their old boxy selves when that’s not the case anymore.
  • Length can make them tricky to park

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How do SUVs and Estate cars compare?

If you’re still considering which is best for you, an SUV or an estate car, read on below to compare them side by side in several categories so that you can make an informed choice and find the one that ticks all your boxes.

Boot space

Most people in the market for an SUV or estate car will have one thing in common: the need for space. If you’re one of them, then how much a car can carry in its boot will be a deciding factor. However, because SUVs come in so many different sizes it’s difficult to say that an estate car will always have a bigger boot.

Take, for example, the Volvo V90. This classy estate offers 560 litres of load space with the rear seats up. It’s a lot. But then, the Volvo XC90 SUV has a 775-litre trunk. In this case, if price is not an issue, the SUV would be a better option. But that’s not always true. In some cases, an estate will be the one with the bigger boot, especially against small SUVs. In other cases, large SUVs will trump standard estate cars. That’s why you should do some research before committing to a specific body style.

Verdict: Both (depending on model)


If you need to carry up to seven people then a full-size SUV should be the only choice, rather than an estate car. That is because SUVs tend to offer this type of seating and there isn’t a single seven-seater estate in the British market. Just in case you need some help finding one, the Skoda Kodiaq and Kia Sorento are great seven-seat SUVs.

Verdict: SUVs


There’s much more than seats and storage space when we think about practicality. The high position of SUVs makes them ideal for drivers and passengers with mobility problems – as they are easier to get in and out of – and for seating children in their seats. Whilst the lower boot and boxier shape of estate cars make them much easier to load.

So, in this case, it will depend on what you’re going to use the car for, which type of passengers you’ll carry and how much you’ll load the boot. We’d say that if you have small children or have to drive someone with mobility problems then an SUV would be the best choice. But if you need to load your car to the nines regularly, then an estate like the Volkswagen Passat could be better. The choice is yours.

Verdict: Both

Fuel Economy

Although there are exceptions to this, thanks to their lower profile, lighter weight and streamlined lines, estate cars tend to be more economical to drive than bulky SUVs. That is if we don’t take into account the wide variety of hybrid, plug-in hybrids and electric SUVs that are in the market. Of course, there’s also a good selection of hybrids and electric estate cars too. So, if you’re conscious about fuel economy there are plenty of choices out there. Do your research and you’ll find what’s right for you.

Verdict: Estate


Not all SUVs come equipped with four-wheel drive and not all estate cars are two-wheel drive. There are plenty of SUVs that have front traction – such as the Range Rover Evoque – and some estates are available with 4WD – like the Jaguar XF Sportbrake. It’s not all black and white if you’re looking for a car that performs on all terrains.

What’s true is that if you regularly drive through rough ground and need extra height, then a 4X4 SUV like the Land Rover Discovery is what you want. But if you mostly use the car on the road, with an occasional venture to the wild then something like the Jaguar XF Sportbrake could be just the ticket.

Verdict: SUVs

Towing capacity

It may not be your case but some people who buy estate cars or SUVs need them to tow a caravan or trailer. Looking at the raw numbers, SUVs rule supreme.

Simply put, SUV cars can tow way more than similar estate cars. Take for example the VW Tiguan, which has a maximum towing capacity of 2,500kg, whilst the Golf Estate can only do 1,600kg.

So, if you need to tow a caravan very often it may be worth it going for an SUV.

Verdict: SUVs


It’s undeniable that SUV’s chunky looks and high driving have managed to attract a lot of drivers in the last decade and they still prove hugely popular. Just look at the cars driving in your area and you’re likely to see more SUVs than estate cars.

However, estate cars are no longer boxy or a bit dull. Models like the Mercedes-Benz C Class estate are refined and drive like a dream.

This one is very personal. It will depend a lot on your preferences. Are you a fan of rugged styling? Or you’d rather sit behind the wheel of a more streamlined vehicle?

Verdict: both, based on personal preferences.

CO2 Emissions

On average, petrol and diesel SUV’s emit much more CO2 than conventional models like a petrol/diesel estate. For example, on average, a medium petrol estate car emits 154g/km whilst a medium petrol SUV emits 168g/km. It’s a similar situation with large petrol estate cars – 148g/km on average – vs large SUVs – 171g/km. Looking at the numbers, the choice is clear (unless you opt for an electric SUV or Estate).

Verdict: Estate (unless you pick an electric or hybrid SUV)


Price is a tricky one because in some cases an SUV will be more expensive than an estate car and in some, it won’t. Overall, SUVs tend to have a higher price tag than estates but that’s not always the truth. Check everything well and compare, because sometimes you may be surprised.

For example, the average price for a new Seat Ateca (SUV) is £18,600, while the Seat Leon ST (estate) costs on average £18,900. If you look at Skoda, SUV Kodiaq‘s price is £22,600, whereas the Superb‘s price tag is £24,400.

If you look at the average price for a new Ford Focus estate car, then you’d be paying around £18,800. The Ford Kuga (SUV) would be on average £22,600. A situation that’s very similar to the VW Golf estate (£21,000) vs VW Tiguan SUV (£23,200 on average).

Look well, do your maths and pick the one that ticks the most boxes and fits in your budget.

Verdict: Both

How helpful has this guide been? Are you clearer on what you need? Let us know what you think – and whether you’re getting an estate or an SUV next.