RAY MASSEY: The family’s favorite estates get sleeker and sportier

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

Fortunately, there is still a healthy market for traditional estate cars, which combine the sophistication of a sedan with the added functionality of a spacious trunk. They also offer sleeker styling compared to larger SUVs.

The station wagon story began in the US around 1910, when the first station wagons were built by independent manufacturers who produced wooden bodies for the Ford Model T chassis.

Room for everyone: Volvo’s best-selling V60 estate (from £34,870) is a stylish alternative to a colossal great SUV

Due to their distinctive wooden frame, they became known as ‘woodies’. They also used the term “depot hacks” because they worked around train depots as hackney carriages (essentially taxis).

Today they have different names. The British may know them as estates. But since the 1930s, the term shooting-brake—from shootings that require enough space for their guns—has been used to refer to sportier, more luxurious models.

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

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

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

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

Volkswagen also has its own five-door Arteon Shooting Brake starting at £35,545 with a high-performance R version costing £52,585.

And Mercedes-Benz has priced the CLA Shooting Brake from £32,695 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 70 kilometres.

In the naming game, BMW from Germany prefers Touring, while Audi goes for Avant. The Americans continue to call them station wagons. Some use the term wagon or sports wagon. Jaguar is in favor of Sportbrake.

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

Mercedes-Benz has priced the CLA Shooting Brake from £32,695 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 fondly remember the half-timbered effects of the Morris Minor Traveller, the original 1960s Austin Mini Countryman and Morris Mini Traveler with their barn-style double rear doors reminiscent of an era of classic car production.

The ash wood exterior cladding 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 BMW’s leadership in the form of the MINI Clubman – also with rear doors – priced from £21,200 to £35,915 for the sporty John Cooper Works version.

Seven estates for everyone…

Toyota Corolla: The Toyota Corolla Touring Sports Estate costs £26,230 for the Icon trim to £29,620 for Design.  There is also a 1.8-litre self-charging hybrid version.

Toyota Corolla: The Toyota Corolla Touring Sports Estate costs £26,230 for the Icon trim to £29,620 for Design. There is 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 costs £34,430 for the BMW 318i SE Pro Touring to £52,400 for the 374hp 3.0 liter M340i xDrive Touring

BMW 3 Series Touring: BMW’s 3 Series Touring accounts for a quarter of all ‘3’ sales. The car costs £34,430 for the BMW 318i SE Pro Touring to £52,400 for the 374hp 3.0 liter M340i xDrive Touring

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

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

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

Ford Focus Estate: A practical station wagon variant of the Ford Focus costs from £23,375 for a base level Zetec Edition with a 1-litre 125 hp petrol engine. For blistering 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 for £39,000, promising an improved ride and usability for the German giant's bestseller .

New Mercedes-Benz C-Class: A new Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate is about to go on sale in the UK for £39,000, promising improved powertrain and usability for the German giant’s bestseller .

Volkswagen Passat: VW's Passat is a low-profile station wagon at £30,030 for a 150hp 1.5 liter petrol with a six-speed manual transmission.

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

Audi A4 Avant: Audi has variations on two sporty estates in its lineup, but the A4 Avant is the bestseller starting at £31,575.

Audi A4 Avant: Audi has variations on two sporty estates in its lineup, but the A4 Avant is the bestseller starting at £31,575.

German premium carmakers 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 trucks. -luggers.

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

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

“They offer incredible functionality in addition to the talents of a normal hatchback, such as affordable running costs.”

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

But they still hold out there and for good reason.

On your tracks 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 time drives by drivers at the start of the ‘staycation outing’.

“Travel times are likely to be heavily impacted,” it warns. ‘As a result, the calls to the breakdown service will probably ‘hit’.

A helping hand: Calls today are expected to increase by an estimated 2.3 million leisure trips

A helping hand: Calls today are expected to increase by an estimated 2.3 million leisure trips

The RAC cites data from transportation analytics experts INRIX, which predicts a 29 percent increase in delays today compared to typical travel times in July.

According to the RAC/INRIX study, approximately 11.5 million people will be on the move this weekend. The motorists’ organization urged drivers to check their cars to make sure they are ‘ready to go’.

RAC Breakdown spokesman Simon Williams says: ‘We have all the elements of a perfect storm on UK roads this summer, with millions of drivers already planning their staycation trips, plus the very real prospect of huge numbers of more last minute bookings when their overseas travel plans are shattered by Covid travel restrictions.”

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