To be considered great, an estate has to be practical. But to compete in the executive class, it also needs to be a top-quality product.

That’s what Mercedes is hoping to achieve with its all-new C-Class Estate. Based on the latest saloon, launched earlier this year, it combines luxury, quality and a decent-sized boot. For this test, we’ve chosen what’s expected to be the best seller, the C220 BlueTEC, in mid-range Sport trim.

Competition is hard-fought in this class, and no contender is tougher than the BMW 3 Series Touring. It matches the Mercedes in most areas and, in 320d guise, delivers a potent blend of performance and economy. Volvos always spring to mind when considering estates, too. The V60 isn’t the roomiest car here, but looks smart and the new D4 diesel mixes efficiency and punch.

So can the new Mercedes make an impact? Or is the executive estate competition now too strong for the newcomer to make an impression?

Head-to-head

Boot space

The BMW scores a narrow victory in terms of space with its well shaped 495-litre boot and separate glass opening. The Mercedes hits back with a slightly larger capacity when the seats are down, plus a standard powered tailgate and handy load securing system.

Taking the wooden spoon here is the Volvo, which is hobbled by a 430-litre load bay and small boot opening. Still, the passenger seat folds flat for long loads.

Company car costs

The Volvo will inflict the least damage on your monthly budget, thanks to its impressively low 99g/km CO2 output – although this rises to 109g/km if you opt for the auto. Mercedes owners can expect the biggest Benefit in Kind bills as the C220 has the highest list price and 115g/km CO2 emissions.

Driver appeal

Estate cars aren’t just spacious; they can raise a smile too. Leading the way for fun is the BMW, which has the same beautifully balanced handling as the saloon. The C-Class is capable and composed, but offers very little feedback and works its front tyres too hard. The V60 has plenty of grip, yet feels stodgy.

Verdict

1st: BMW 3 Series Touring

The 3 Series Touring is one of our favourite compact estates, and nothing here has changed that view. Not only does it have the biggest boot, it’s also fun to drive, surprisingly fast and remarkably frugal. Plus, it’s superbly built and, in Business Edition guise, comes with all the kit you’re likely to need. It’s not as stylish as the Mercedes and Volvo, but that’s not enough to prevent it winning here.

2nd: Mercedes C-Class Estate

There’s no denying the Mercedes has incredible showroom appeal. It looks fantastic, and features one of the most slickly styled and well finished interiors in the business. It’s practical, too, with a roomy boot and very spacious cabin, while you get plenty of standard kit as well. Yet it’s hobbled by its uninspiring handling, gruff engine and higher company car tax bills.

3rd: Volvo V60

If you want a stylish and cost-effective company car with a dash of practicality, the V60 is hard to beat. It also features an incredibly comfortable cabin and lots of equipment. Yet it can’t compete with its rivals in this test in terms of space, versatility and driver appeal, while the new four-cylinder engine lacks the refinement you’d expect from a model with upmarket aspirations.

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