If a hatchback is no longer practical enough for you, a variety of spacious alternatives is available.

While MPVs and crossovers are worth considering, there are plenty of compact estates that deliver similar running costs and driving dynamics to their hatch cousins, but with the bonus of more space. The past 12 months have seen the arrival of a number of new estates, with the Peugeot 308 SW latest to join the ranks.

It’s based on the stylish hatch, so comes with economical petrol and diesel engines, and has the biggest boot in the class, too. But it faces strong rivals here. SEAT’s Leon ST is our class champ, while Ford’s Focus Estate delivers no-nonsense practicality.

• Peugeot 308 SW review

• SEAT Leon ST review

• Ford Focus estate review

Here we try low-capacity turbo petrol versions of all three, with the 308 SW powered by Peugeot’s new 128bhp 1.2 e-THP three-cylinder. Does it have the power to impress?
And is it practical enough to go to the top of the class?

Read each in-depth review by clicking on the links above, then read on for our verdict.

Head-to-head

Boot space

The Peugeot has a 660-litre boot, thanks in part to its more upright rear end. Levers in the boot fold the seatbacks, and the bases drop at the same time to create a flat floor.

A double boot floor is a useful feature that sets the Leon apart, plus it has seat levers in the boot. Yet as in the Focus, the seatbacks don’t sit flat when folded. The Ford has the lowest load lip, but all three tailgates open to a similar height.

Accessories

You can add plenty of accessories to all three cars, from bike racks and roof boxes to tow bars. The Peugeot has some reasonably priced options, while the SEAT has useful kit such as a folding front seat (£75, below) and a Family Pack (£230), which adds seatback trays and integrated roller blinds.

Emissions

All three models have stop-start, and the 308 emits the least CO2, at 109g/km. That puts it in road tax band B; the SEAT and Ford are in band C. The 308 and Leon are neck-and-neck for company car costs, due to the latter’s lower P11D price.

Verdict

1st place: SEAT Leon ST

The Leon ST doesn’t have the biggest boot, but useful touches such as the double floor and seat levers, plus some great accessories, make up for it. Add an involving yet comfortable driving experience and quality cabin, and it’s a clear winner.

2nd place: Peugeot 308 SW

Outright space is the 308 SW’s main selling point, and there are some practical features, such as the one-touch folding back seats. But while the 1.2 e-THP is a decent performer, it’s let down by the spongy gearbox and soggy chassis.

3rd place: Ford Focus estate

If you want a decent workhorse that’s surprisingly fun to drive, the Focus is a good choice. But the boot is small compared to the class leaders, and it doesn’t have any practical extras. The mid-life facelift can’t come soon enough.

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