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RAY MASSEY : Family favourite estates get sleeker and more sporty

Chunky Range Rovers, big brash Audis and high-riding Mercedes. Everywhere you look these days it seems SUVs have taken over the world.

But, thankfully, there’s still a healthy market for traditional estate cars, which combine the sophistication of a saloon with the added practicality of an expansive boot. They also offer sleeker styling compared with larger SUVs.

The estate car story started in the U.S. in about 1910, when the first station wagons were built by independent manufacturers producing wooden custom bodies for the Ford Model T chassis.

Space for everyone: Volvo’s bestselling V60 estate (from £34,870) is  a stylish alternative to a  hulking great SUV

As a result of their distinctive wooden-framed rears, they became known as ‘woodies’. They also went by the term ‘depot hacks’ because they worked around train depots as hackney carriages (taxis, essentially).

Today, they go by different names. The Brits may know them as estates. But since the 1930s, the term shooting-brake — from shooting parties needing enough space for their guns — has also been used for sportier, more luxurious models. 

Some purists claim a shooting brake should have only two doors, like the classic Scimitar GTE.

Companies focusing on the sportiest estates include newcomer Genesis, which just launched its G70 Shooting Brake model at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. 

Companies focusing on the sportiest estates include newcomer Genesis, which just launched its G70 Shooting Brake model (pictured)  at the Goodwood Festival of Speed

Companies focusing on the sportiest estates include newcomer Genesis, which just launched its G70 Shooting Brake model (pictured)  at the Goodwood Festival of Speed

Volkswagen, too, has its own five-door Arteon Shooting Brake from £35,545 with a powerful R version that costs £52,585.

And Mercedes-Benz has the CLA Shooting Brake priced from £32,695 up to £60,150 for the Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 S.

The range also includes the CLA 250 e plug-in hybrid from £39,450 which has an all-electric range of up to 44 miles.

In the name game, Germany’s BMW favours Touring, while Audi goes for Avant. The Americans continue to call them station wagons. Some use the term wagon or sportwagon. Jaguar favours Sportbrake. 

Mercedes-Benz has the CLA Shooting Brake priced from £32,695 up to £60,150 for the Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 S

Mercedes-Benz has the CLA Shooting Brake priced from £32,695 up to £60,150 for the Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 S

The Mercedes range also includes the CLA 250 e plug-in hybrid from £39,450 which has an all-electric range of up to 44 miles

The Mercedes range also includes the CLA 250 e plug-in hybrid from £39,450 which has an all-electric range of up to 44 miles

Many of us remember fondly the half-timbered effects of the Morris Minor Traveller, the original Austin Mini Countryman and Morris Mini Traveller of the 1960s with their barn-style double rear doors that have become evocative of an era of classic car manufacturing. 

The ash wood exterior trim was for decoration only and has no structural role, but follows the style of a pre-war shooting brake. 

The modern MINI estate continues under the stewardship of BMW in the form of the MINI Clubman — also with rear barn doors — priced from £21,200 up to £35,915 for the sporty John Cooper Works version.

Seven estates to suit all tastes…

Toyota Corolla: The Toyota Corolla Touring Sports estate is priced from £26,230 for the Icon trim up to £29,620 for Design. There¿s also a 1.8-litre self-charging hybrid version.

Toyota Corolla: The Toyota Corolla Touring Sports estate is priced from £26,230 for the Icon trim up to £29,620 for Design. There’s also a 1.8-litre self-charging hybrid version.

BMW 3-series Touring: BMW¿s 3 Series Touring accounts for a quarter of all ¿3¿ sales. The car is priced from £34,430 for the BMW 318i SE Pro Touring up to £52,400 for the 374 hp 3.0 litre M340i xDrive Touring

BMW 3-series Touring: BMW’s 3 Series Touring accounts for a quarter of all ‘3’ sales. The car is priced from £34,430 for the BMW 318i SE Pro Touring up to £52,400 for the 374 hp 3.0 litre M340i xDrive Touring

Skoda Octavia Estate: Skoda¿s Octavia Estate was crowned Car of the Year by Auto Express and described as affordable and practical. Priced from £22,245 for the SE trim

Skoda Octavia Estate: Skoda’s Octavia Estate was crowned Car of the Year by Auto Express and described as affordable and practical. Priced from £22,245 for the SE trim

Ford Focus Estate: A practical estate variant of the Ford Focus costs from £23,375 for a base level Zetec Edition with a 1-litre 125PS petrol engine. For sizzling performance, try the £34,685 Focus ST Estate.

Ford Focus Estate: A practical estate variant of the Ford Focus costs from £23,375 for a base level Zetec Edition with a 1-litre 125PS petrol engine. For sizzling performance, try the £34,685 Focus ST Estate.

New Mercedes-Benz C-Class: A new Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate is about to go on sale in the UK priced from £39,000, promising improved drive and practicality for the German giant¿s best-seller.

New Mercedes-Benz C-Class: A new Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate is about to go on sale in the UK priced from £39,000, promising improved drive and practicality for the German giant’s best-seller.

Volkswagen Passat: VW¿s Passat is an unflashy estate from £30,030 for a 150 hp 1.5 litre petrol with a six-speed manual gearbox.

Volkswagen Passat: VW’s Passat is an unflashy estate from £30,030 for a 150 hp 1.5 litre petrol with a six-speed manual gearbox.

Audi A4 Avant: Audi has variations on two sporty estates in its line-up, but the A4 Avant is the bestseller from £31,575.

Audi A4 Avant: Audi has variations on two sporty estates in its line-up, but the A4 Avant is the bestseller from £31,575.

Premium German car-makers such as BMW with its 3-series Touring and 5-series, Audi with its A4 and A6 Avant, and Mercedes-Benz with a new C-Class estate have pushed high-performance sporty models that double as family load-luggers.

But the Germans don’t have it all their own way — with the likes of Skoda, Peugeot, Ford, Toyota, Volvo, SEAT, Cupra, Kia and upmarket Korean newcomers Genesis all challenging them.

Steve Fowler, editor-in-chief of Auto Express magazine, says: ‘Despite the growth in popularity of SUVs, estate cars are still fantastic all-rounders. 

‘They offer incredible practicality alongside the talents of a normal hatchback, such as affordable running costs.’ 

Against the seemingly unstoppable onslaught of SUVs, sales of estate cars in the UK fell from 150,231 in 2011 to 128,005 in pre-pandemic 2019, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. 

But they’re still hanging on in there and for good reason, too.

On your marks for the staycation getaway…

The RAC predicts today will be one of the busiest on the roads this year, with an estimated 2.3 million leisure trips being made by drivers as the ‘staycation getaway’ begins.

‘Journey times are likely to be severely affected,’ it warns. ‘As a result, call-outs to breakdown services are likely to ‘rocket’.

A helping hand: Call-outs are expected to increase today with an estimated 2.3 million leisure trips being made

A helping hand: Call-outs are expected to increase today with an estimated 2.3 million leisure trips being made

The RAC points to data from transport analytics experts INRIX, which predicts a 29 per cent increase in delays today compared with typical July travel times.

About 11.5 million people will be on the move this weekend, according to the RAC/INRIX study. The motoring organisation urged drivers to check over their cars to ensure they are ‘road ready’.

RAC Breakdown spokesman Simon Williams says: ‘We have all the elements of a perfect storm on the UK’s roads this summer, with millions of drivers having already planned their staycation trips, plus the very real prospect of huge numbers more booking last minute if their foreign travel plans end in tatters because of Covid travel restrictions.’

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