Sat. Jan 28th, 2023

I LOVE estate cars, but it’s fair to say
that the average UK family car buyer
doesn’t. If sales figures and the proliferation
of different model types across the market
are any indication, most people would
much rather have an SUV.
And who can really blame them?
Whereas the good-old estate was once the
practical family car of choice, it was first
usurped by the origami seating systems
of MPVs, and then blown out of the water
as SUVs transitioned from specialist
rough-terrain tools to cars for all occasions.
The traditional estate lacked versatility
and seemed dull by comparison.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers
and Traders (SMMT) classes SUVs as Dual
Purpose Vehicles and tells us that 156,000
of them were sold in 2010. By 2019, before
the pandemic hit, it was 562,000 – quite
a jump. In 2022, Ford sold around 22,000
Kuga SUVs. It only shifted 800 examples of
the similarly sized Focus Estate like our
long-term test car. You get the picture.
The customer, of course, is nearly always
right, but are they giving estates a fair
hearing before deciding against the
‘middle-aged antiques dealer’ look and
buying an SUV instead?
We decided to give our trusty Focus a
shot at the champ by comparing it with not
just any old SUV but one that, as an electric
coupé-SUV, could be seen as a car teetering
on the cutting edge of current market
trends: the Skoda Enyaq Coupé.
These are very different cars – it’s a £35k
Focus against a £55k Skoda in this vRS spec
– but bear with me. They’re similar in size
(the Ford 14mm longer, the Skoda 50mm
wider) and as examples of the SUV vs estate
car contest, they work well.
As I see it, the first advantage that the
SUV has is a taller shape, which in turn
yields a higher driving position and easier
access. People like being higher up, with a
better view of the road when driving, and
anyone who has to fit child seats or fasten
seatbelts for young children really will
appreciate the rear-seat bases being
more elevated in an SUV than they
are in an estate car.
Height is a key SUV advantage,
too; you get a lot more headroom in
the Enyaq, and it’s slightly easier to
get in and out, but the difference
isn’t huge. The quest for greater
aerodynamic efficiency and the
switch in usage patterns away from
off-road driving has seen mainstream
SUV models get lower to the ground.
In electric SUVs such as the Enyaq,
the extra height is more a product of the
passenger compartment sitting above
the battery located in the floor space than
any desire for extra ground clearance.
Our Focus Estate in Active spec sports
its own 30mm of extra ride height, plus
various low-grip driving modes. That means
the Ford wagon is probably just as effective
on a gravel driveway as most mid-size SUVs

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