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The 272bhp twin-turbo 3.0-litre diesel, mated to a six-speed auto ’box, makes it rapid, too. Models in M Sport spec have an overly firm ride, although the pay-off is that they look better than other trims.
Few major reliability issues have been reported. For £14,995, you can get a 2008 535d Touring M Sport with 45,000 miles on the clock.
3 - Mercedes-Benz C 350 CDI Estate (2008-2014)
The previous-generation C-Class strikes a great balance between sportiness and comfort. Dynamically, it matches most of what a BMW 3 Series has to offer, but with a smoother, more cosseting ride.
The 3.0-litre diesel C 350 CDI is refined, with a V6 growl, and promises 0-60mph in 6.3sec, while the seven-speed auto ’box delivers slick shifts. Inside, there’s room for five occupants and, with the rear seats down, 1354 litres of space, accessed by a powered tailgate.
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The dashboard is a little bland, but the optional folding sat-nav adds a touch of pizzazz. This C-Class should prove to be reliable, too. A 2010 Sport with 53,000 miles on the clock can be yours for £13,000.
4 - Ford Mondeo 2.5 Titanium X Sport (2007-2014)
To many, the estate version of Ford’s excellent Mondeo is a better-looking car than the saloon or hatch. The rear seats split 60/40, folding flat to create a huge load bay with a 1733-litre capacity.
The Mondeo Estate handles well, with plenty of front-end grip and little body roll, yet it remains composed and comfortable. The five-cylinder Focus ST-sourced engine adds a dose of fun to the package, with its 216bhp output translating into a 0-60 time of 7.6sec.
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To date, the Mondeo has proved pretty reliable, and being a Ford, it shouldn’t be too costly to fix if something does go wrong. We found a 2009 Titanium Sport with 72,000 miles on the clock for sale at £7995.
5 - Volvo V70 T5 (2000-2007)
If ever there was an estate version of a grand tourer, the V70 T5 is it. So forget about hairpins, sink back into those comfortable leather seats and let this big-booted barge smooth away the worries of the world.
With 1641 litres of load space with the rear seats folded, the Volvo will swallow up all the family and their kit, or do airport runs with a baggage allowance-challenging number of suitcases. But when you need it, there’s a 256bhp, turbocharged 2.4-litre fivecylinder engine under the bonnet, ready to get you out of those sticky situations.
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The Swede is also rugged and well made and is proving a reliable workhorse, although the T5 has an appetite for front tyres. Just £4450 could get you a 2006 model with 100,000 miles showing.