/ Motoring

Let’s call an estate car an estate car

A blue estate car

I’ve diagnosed myself with a new car-based clinical condition and I fear there is no cure. I’ve termed it ‘estateism’, and it sends me into a rage every time I hear about another terribly named estate car.

Let me explain the origins of the problem. We can all remember a simpler time when the addition of the word ‘estate’ to a car model name implied it was an elongated version of the original, offering more luggage space and potentially more rear legroom.

Up until recently, we’ve only had to deal with this term and a handful of others when it comes to estate cars. For instance, we’ve heard the words Clubman, Avant, Touring and Station Wagon (if you’re from the US) used to describe them.

An estate by any other name…

But it appears the word ‘estate’ has lost some of its appeal to carmakers, as many of them are opting to use any alternative they can conjure up instead. For those of you who aren’t aware of the differing variations, here’s a quick list I’ve pulled together: Tourer, Sport Tourer, Touring Sports, Shooting Brake, Sportbrake, Sport Turismo and Sportswagon.

And now there’s a new addition to the list, as Skoda has recently announced the new Rapid Spaceback. While it’s not a conventional estate car, it’s yet another example of irrelevant naming. I think it’s a ploy to suggest the model offers something different to its rivals, when in reality it does nothing of the sort.

I’m fully aware that the car market is competitive, but surely some of these names are causing a bit of confusion? For instance, the new Toyota Auris Touring Sports suggests it has some degree of performance edge. A top power output of 136bhp (from the Hybrid version no less) is proof alone that this isn’t the case.

And Mercedes’ use of the name ‘Shooting Brake’ for the CLS is actually the incorrect use of the term itself, which refers to a two-door coupe with an estate back – not a normal five-door estate car.

Help car buyers find what they want

What’s wrong with the word ‘estate’ anyway? Most buyers are actively looking for a car of this type for the practical benefits they offer, so I can’t see many being swayed by a flashy yet irrelevant name.

Until carmakers revert back to using the traditional term, I don’t think I’m going to find a remedy for my estateism. Have you been equally annoyed or confused by these car names?


Marketting is about creating expectations – many of which are illusory, but might satisfy the fashion-conscious. Sports cars are rarely for sport, many of us are not “Gran Turismos” so GT might just mean leather upholstery. Shooting Brake was originally a horse-drawn vehicle with lengthwise seats for a number of people and accommodation for guns, ammunition and game and evolved into a motor car of a similar type; this became degraded over the years. All companies use emotive names to attract your attention – your job is to see through the glitz and buy what you need. Careful with a Dacia Duster – not what it seems.

I think BMW were the first to do this. They’ve been using “Touring” for estates for decades in English, German and many other languages.

Radio Wales says:
1 August 2013

BMW don’t stoop to making Estate cars. It’s as simple as that.

I think a shooting brake or station wagon are forms of estate car and should have vertical rear doors. Only genuine if driven by a servant.

I believe that the appropriate term for an estate car is a ‘repmobile’.

Who cares what silly names manufacturers use? They should focus on important practical issues like providing full-size spare wheels and making it easy to change a bulb at the roadside.

wavechange – this would be better called a traveller (as in travelling salesman – rep is such a derogatory term). Morris addressed this market a long time ago with the Morris Minor Traveller – a very sought-after vehicle with ash construction.

Absolutely. Sometimes I make provocative comments to encourage others to join in. 🙂

Cunning 😉

I would never have guessed! Quite a few do this – it is a good way to liven up the debate. You have to see through some comments to determine whether they are mischievously provocative or deadly serious before you frame a response (if so minded). Hatch Back and People Carrier seem more sensible descriptions than Saloon (where’s that from?) and Touring.

As long as it doesn’t turn into trolling: “Avoid purposely provoking members of the community into a desired emotional response” 😉 https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/

Patrick, very few issues are black and white, are they. Presenting an opinion from one side of an argument can draw out contrary opinions on the other side. The same with information. I, and I presume wavechange (correct me if I am wrong), use provocative in its “stimulate” sense.
Emotional statements are made in these discussions from time to time – some more unpleasant than others. Presumably the moderators can deal with the worst of these – although I presume most appear as emails before they are censored for the site?

Don’t worry, I was being a little facetious. There’s nothing wrong with either yours or Wavechange’s comments 🙂

Thanks to Malcolm and to Patrick. I feel reprieved. Meanwhile, back on topic …. 🙂

I really cannot be bothered what cars are called, though a silly name could put me off buying one.

I am not sure that the term “estate car” is quite as definitive of type or as traditional as one might imagine. One understands from one’s chauffeur that the term was first employed during the 1930’s to describe a vehicle that had been converted for use around one’s estate and primarily used for off-road duties including, but not limited to, transporting one’s guests to the location of the day’s shoot.

Parker went on to inform me that, in those days, the chassis and the bodywork were entirely independent. The old family touring car, perhaps when replaced by the latest model, or after being involved in a crash, would have the bodywork removed and replaced with a more utilitarian construction. This had the twin advantages of being more practical for its new duties, and also classifying it as a commercial vehicle with lower taxation, but also having a lower legal speed limit on the public highway.

Perhaps BMW are wise to avoid the term after all.

In Brain of Britain years ago Robert Robertson asked what “GT” meant in a car name. The contestant answered “nothing at all”. Robertson thought for a second, agreed and gave him the point.

It really doesn’t matter what you call them, it’s all daft marketing nonsense. The only people who take this stuff seriously are those directly involved.

I agree with you that marketing is all creating expectation.I always like to know about cars.Nice information that you have shared.and you offer a great number of good points here. Keep up doing that and more and more guys will pay attention to your blog.

Steve says:
1 August 2013

The term estate cars only became popular in the early 1970’s, prior to that they were all called Shooting Brakes!

Mark says:
1 August 2013

They’ve been around earlier than the 70s. I once owned a 1967 Ford Cortina Estate. The name was already well established in the 60s.

Jannermike says:
2 August 2013

Peugeot have used the letters SW after the model name to designate their 5 door vehicles. I assumed that SW stood for Station Wagon or Shooting Wagon due to its opening boot hatch window allowing the loading of Hunting weapons. Also, this Wagon has less legroom for passengers than the saloon version.

SW = Sport Wagon – whatever that means!

I visualise a sleek timber body with wooden wheels pulled by six thoroughbred horses. Perhaps I’m living in the past.
SUV seems just as silly.

I like the idea of wooden wheels, as long as they have proper seasoned ash spokes. None of these terribly ordinary alloy wheels, thank you. Maybe Lucas ‘King of the Road’ daytime running lights to comply with current legislation. 🙂

chris says:
4 August 2013

It wasn’t until I moved to England 3 years ago that even the term ‘estate’ found common use. In Australia they’ve been ‘station wagons’ for decades, ‘sports wagons’ really only since the millennium.

MichaelP says:
5 August 2013

well i seem to remember in my childhood 60+ years ago they were definitely ‘station wagons’ – the first one my parents actually owned, in the mid 60’s was an Austin A60 ‘Countryman’ followed by an Austin Mini Countryman or two, maybe even three…. OK ‘estate’ is probably the term i’d use today but I certainly wouldnt get hung up about it!

matt says:
5 August 2013

hmmm i wouldn’t get too worked up about it. Anybody with a shred of common sense can figure out that space or wagon or touring all point to something to do with having more storage space. The car market is morphing with cross overs. So they aren’t true estate cars. Anyway ‘estate’ was not the original name for this kind of vehicle anyway. Relax bro!

Gino says:
5 August 2013

I was horrified when BMW started making front wheel drive cars adopting the name of the long obsolete MINI