A practical buyers guide for the practically minded buyer.
So you're looking for a new car. You want practicality, economy and even style. its a tough choice we agree but luckily for you there's a huge amount of variety on the used market right now. From the classic estate car to the modern crossover today we're going to take a look at your options and the pros and cons of each type of car. read on for our complete practical buyers guide.
Lets start with the estate car (We sold this Skoda VRS last year). Estate cars are, more often than not, based on similar saloon models and used to be the car of choice for the family. The benefits of an estate car practicality wise are what have kept them in production for so long. The most obvious benefit is the boot space with estate cars having some of the largest boot spaces on the market, out performing most SUVs, crossovers and even small vans when the seats are folded. if you need a space for longer objects (think skiing or fishing) then the estate is likely the car for you although cabin height can be limiting.
Another advantage of the estate is the fact that they're based on a car platform as we mentioned earlier. This means that although the car is physically longer than its counterparts, its often the same width and so not as difficult to get through tighter gaps as the big and bulky options. The whole setup is very similar to driving a saloon or hatch meaning its a familar feel to those cars inside. There's also the benefit of ride height. The low ride height in an estate means that heavy loads are much easier to get on board and also makes them feel sharper in the corners compared to the taller vehicles.
Of course these advantages do come with a flip side, the lower ride height won't be ideal if you suffer from mobility issues for example and the more sporty road setup will see the estate struggle in serious off road situations (though some do come with higher ride heights and all wheel drive like the Audi All road variants).
Pros: big boot space, lower ride height, sportier feel & based on standard cars.
cons: Lower cabin height, Lower ride height not suitable for everyone.
If you do suffer from mobility issues or just want a little more off road capability then the SUV may well be the car for you. SUVs are often very spacious in the cabin and packed with luxuries. They come with much softer suspension than the more sporty estates in most cases and the higher driving position allows for greater visibility on the roads. Its also arguable that the SUV is a much safer car due to its size and thicker 'armour' than the other vehicles on this list.
Off road capability is where SUVs really shine (shameless ad, we can make yours shine). The high ground clearance, big chunky tyres and four wheel drive systems can make light work of the more treacherous terrain. If you're likely to do a lot of driving on rural roads or live in Scotland - An SUV could be a very useful tool to have, especially in the winter.
With SUVs being as big as they are, you'd think they would have a large amount of boot space but that isn't always the case. While the cabins are often spacious and full of luxury, the boot somewhat suffers especially when compared to the estate car.
The other BIG factor when buying an SUV is fuel consumption, with such a vast amount of weight to lug around the fuel economy in an SUV can be horrendous. If you're doing a lot of driving around the town, an SUV probably isn't for you and if you can't park a hatchback have fun trying to park one of these.
Pros: Medium boot and cabin space, Higher ride height, THE choice for rough terrain, four wheel drive, excellent towing ability.
Cons: More tax & Bad fuel economy.
The crossover has soared in popularity in recent years thanks to its hatchback feel with the ride height closer to an SUV. The crossover certainly has its benefits with slightly more room in the cabin than most hatchbacks and a higher ride height too. They're also fairly easy to manoeuvre compared to the bulky SUVs.
Whereas an SUV is a body on frame setup, a crossover uses a unibody which means it handles a bit better and feels less likely to topple over going into a corner. On road then, the Crossover is much easier to drive and manoeuvre with better fuel economy thanks to its lighter weight.
Most crossovers are front wheel drive with a small turbocharged engine as their powerplant which is great for city driving but not so good in rougher terrain where four wheel drive and a more rugged set up is a must. Although a light gravel track won't be a problem, a crossover simply cannot compete with a proper SUV in terms of sheer off road ability.
The question you have to ask yourself when deciding between an SUV and crossover is simple. Do you need the utility advantage an SUV offers or do you just want to cruise around town a little higher than everyone else?
Pros: Easier to drive, high ride height, Car based, smaller turbo engines, lower tax band than an SUV.
Cons: Smaller cabin & boot space, not as good as an SUV off road.
In an effort to present the best practical buyers guide we can, we have to look outside the box. This choice is a bit of a Wild card but hear us out. While the crossover market is giving MPV sales a bit of a kicking right now, there's still plenty of use for them on the road and the modern MPV looks much better than the boxy old tin cans they used to be.
The MPV is an excellent choice of vehicle if space is your only concern. They're tall all the way to the back thanks to their raised roofs offering plenty of head space, they also have ample leg room even in 7 seater form. When it comes to cabin space, the MPV is the undisputed king of practicality and should be thought of as a small minibus rather than a car.
How about boot space? well if its boot space you're after then the MPV is exactly what you need. Most MPVs come with flat folding and even removable seats meaning that they can double as a small van when necessary - get one with sliding doors and you're onto a real winner.
Handling wise the full sized MPVs can be a little cumbersome but generally hold the road well. If you're after a smaller, sportier MPV we suggest going for a compact MPV like the Ford C-Max which is based on the Ford Focus platform.
So what are the drawbacks? The main drawback with an MPV is it's versatility. A van wouldn't be ideal for tackling the rougher roads and for the same reasons the MPV should be your last pick on this list if that's what you're after.
Pros: Massive cabin and boot space, can double as a van, sliding doors, 7 seats.
cons: Unsuitable off road, fuel economy won't match lighter cars.
What should YOU choose?
After reading this short practical buyers guide, we hope you have a better understanding of the pros and cons of each type of vehicle in the family sized sector. As for what you should choose, the decision is yours. If you're still struggling here's what we suggest.
choose the estate if you like the feeling of a more traditional car but want a little extra room.
choose the SUV if you need off road capability and towing power or live in a rural environment.
choose the MPV if you want maximum space and live in an urban environment.
choose the crossover if you want a hatchback feel with a higher ride height.