SUV vs estate? We take a closer look
SUV vs estate? We take a closer look

In this article we are going to take a closer look at SUVs vs estate cars to answer the big question: SUV or estate?

In recent years, sales of SUVs have exploded in Ireland, Europe and the world. More and more of us are turning our backs on hatchbacks and saloons in favour of SUVs. Estate cars were typically the type of car families bought when they needed more space. But now SUVs appear to be even more attractive than estate cars.

In Ireland in 2020 SUVs make up about 22% of the new car market, while estate cars account for about 6.5% of new car sales.

What is an SUV?

SUV stands for sport utility vehicle. These cars are inspired by traditional off roaders and four wheel drive vehicles. Yet many on sale today are front wheel drive, though four wheel drive is often an option for the larger ones, or standard. Buyers love the road presence and higher driving position, though this varies between models. SUVs can be suitable for towing so check the towing weight allowed in the brochure or with the salesperson. Styling tends to be chunky and rugged. SUVs are undoubtedly distinctive and fashionable vehicles right now. The higher centre of gravity means that SUVs often don’t feel as sporty to drive as a hatchback, but comfort tends to be a higher priority in this market.

What is an estate?

Estate cars are based on regular hatchbacks and saloons. They are characterised by larger boots that extend out over the rear wheels. They typically offer more boot volume than the hatchbacks and saloons they are based on. However, the big advantage is that they are specifically designed for carrying loads. So they have wide openings, low loading sills and a practical shape ideal for carrying your things or bringing the dog to the beach for a walk!

In times gone by they weren’t always that good looking or even good to drive. But nowadays carmakers invest heavily in designing beautiful estate cars with specific tuning to ensure that they are just as good to drive as the hatchbacks and saloons they are based on. In fact, design has become a key influencer as estate cars evolve and become the alternative lifestyle vehicle. In that vein many manufacturers don’t even call them estate cars any more. They are ‘Sporttourers’, ‘Shooting Brakes’ and ‘Sportwagons’. Some estate cars are available with four wheel drive and some are suitable for towing also. Check the brochure or with the salesperson for the maximum towing weight of the model you are interested in. The lower centre of gravity means that they behave well on the road, with a more hunkered down, sporty feel than your average SUV.

Beautiful estate cars like the new Kia Proceed
Beautiful estate cars like the new Kia Proceed

SUV vs estate: What’s the difference?

SUVs are unmistakably popular right now. Buyers love the chunky looks and imposing road presence bestowed upon an SUV. The raised seating position is a key advantage for the SUV driver. Many SUVs are full of character and make hatchback, saloon and estate cars look quite boring and demure. Some SUVs are also available with more seats. In recent years seven seat SUVs have become very popular.

In styling terms, estate cars and SUVs are two very different types of vehicle. However, estate cars offer more elegant proportions and often a very sporty stance. Brands like Peugeot, Kia, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz have invested heavily in ensuring their estate cars are beautiful pieces of car design that sell themselves based on their stunning good looks and slick lifestyle image.

SUV vs estate: Which is more practical?

SUVs look big and spacious from the outside. Generally they offer more generous headroom and that gives a good feeling of space inside the car. In some cases the boot also packs more than a similarly sized hatchback with the benefit of a large opening and practical square shape.

However estate cars really are the professional load luggers in this company. They are cars that are specifically designed for carrying things, it’s the reason why they were invented! A low loading sill that is close to the ground makes it super easy to load and unload. The boot lid opens to reveal a large square space that is perfect for carrying big loads. If you are looking for the most practical car, you really need to check out an estate car.

Estate cars are designed for carrying lots of stuff!
Estate cars are designed for carrying lots of stuff!

Our favourite SUVs

At Changing Lanes we’ve driven a lot of vehicles. We’ve driven entire ranges from manufacturers. We’ve driven hatchbacks, saloons, SUVs and then estate cars. Sometimes we prefer SUVs. For example, the Mercedes-Benz GLC is one of our favourite SUVs and has great presence. The Volkswagen Group makes some excellent SUVs right now for all budgets. We love the SEAT Arona and SKODA Kamiq. The Volkswagen Tiguan is one of Ireland’s bestselling SUVs right now, while the larger SEAT Tarraco is an excellent large family SUV. We recently drove the Mazda CX-30 and we loved it for its style and raised seating position. It’s also really fun to drive. The Land Rover Discovery and the Range Rover Evoque impressed us with their off-road capability.

Read more SUV reviews on Changing Lanes.

Our favourite estates

We love the stylish image of estate cars, space, practicality and comfort. We really like Kia’s estate cars, including compact estates like the good value Kia Ceed SW and the stunning Kia Proceed. The Kia Optima SW is a great looking large estate car. Over in the Volkwagen camp, the Volkswagen Passat estate is a fantastic all rounder with a beautiful quality cabin. The Skoda Superb estate is brilliant for outright space. The BMW 3 Series Touring and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class estate are two popular compact premium estate cars. And we can’t write an article about estate cars without mentioning the excellent Volvo V60!

Anything else?

When checking out an estate car or an SUV, do the usual checks. Take a test drive, look at the space available in the vehicle and the boot. Carefully check things like running costs, fuel consumption, motor tax for the SUV vs estate car. You could be surprised with what you find.

The SEAT Tarraco is an SUV that will seat seven people
The SEAT Tarraco is an SUV that will seat seven people