DESPITE the recent growth in the popularity of the new breed of cars such as crossovers and Sports Utility Vehicles it's perhaps remarkable to still see the good, old fashioned estate car staying in the mix and remaining popular even with a now younger generation of drivers.
Times have changed of course from when car makers simply added an estate version to their saloon cars for those motorists who wanted extra load and luggage space - buyers today are more demanding and while still wanting more space expect to have all the smart and nice trimmings plus the latest on-board high technology too when opting for an estate.
This explains why Volkswagen's Golf hatchback has always been offered with an estate version ever since it was first launched back in the mid Seventies and now this month with the seventh generation Golf arriving in showrooms there's an even bigger range of estate variants on offer.
It totals an incredible 32 variants with a wide choice of petrol and diesel engines under the bonnet ranging from the entry level 1.0-litre 84bhp three-cylinder petrol engine in S trim at £19,330 through to the all-singing, all-dancing 2.0-litre TSI 306bhp R 4Motion at 15 quid short of £35,000.
Golf estate cars take only about 10 per cent of all UK Golf sales every year but clearly VW still see it as an important niche sector where obviously fleet buyers are predominate rather than private, individual retail buyers.
This latest batch of estates are certainly impressive in both styling and the sheer quality of interior finish and a far cry from the first Golf Estate I drove on its launch back in the mid 1970s.
With a pretty frugal interior - no carpets just rubber mats and a basic push-button radio under the dashboard and lots of dull grey basic plastic trim - it had a 1.6-litre four cylinder petrol engine which wasn't the most lively one in town at the time but it did have loads of luggage space in the back and that's what younger families, like myself at the time, wanted in those days.
Step into the latest Golf Estate and it's simply a new world altogether. as one would expect, with a much sleeker and stylish body - reminiscent of the plusher surrounds of its bigger sister today, the Passat - and furnishings and fittings one could have only have dreamed off all those years ago.
Even with the entry-level S trim the amount and quality of standard equipment on board is quite staggering with exceptionally comfortable cloth seats, which give better all-round support than the previous model in my view, eight-inch touch screen with all the driver needs at a touch of a finger along with loads of high tech and added safety features, plus LED daytime running lights, rear screen wash/wipe (you never had such a luxury on that 70s model) and much, much more.
Right across these new estate models luggage space remains the key with a 60/40 rear seat split and once folded down flat gives so much loading space in terms of length and height and with load lashing points (and with a variable boot floor, height adjustable and even removable) and also with so many storage cubby holes throughout the car it beats all other rival sized estate cars everywhere.
Also standard on this entry-level S there are bags of on-board safety features such as anti-lock brakes, airbags all round, automatic post-collision braking system, electronic stability control, engine immobiliser, differential lock for better traction and handling and much more.
For the private, retail buyer the 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine version is the one to go for because it offers a decent enough all round performance with a lovely crisp-feeling five-speed manual gearbox and a car capable of 58.9 mpg on the combined circle and CO2 of 109g/km on standard 15-inch wheels.
Most fleet buyers are expected to go for diesel power as usual with the 1.6-litre 113bhp diesel in SE Nav trim with a five-speed manual gearbox probably the most popular one coming in at £22,975.
It's easy to see why because with obviously more standard equipment than the lower S or SE this comes with a good road-going performance, remarkably quiet too as I encountered on a brief run, with acceleration of 0 to 62mph in 10.7 seconds, claimed top speed of 124mph, CO2 of 106g/km meeting the latest Euro 6 rules and capable of topping 68.pmpg.
As with the earlier petrol car the five-speed gear change is a pleasure to use, making up and down movement so easy, but some fleet buyers may want to opt for the same engine. output and spec but with the seven-speed automatic DSG on board which will cost a bit more at £24,390.
It's easy to see why the SE Sat Nav will appeal to business drivers over the standard SE because it has a much better communications systems on board with its eight-inch touchcreen and a sat nav that gives a choice of three routes, has Car-Net too which gives better updates on traffic, parking spaces, fuel pricing, weather and news feeds all under a three year subscription.
Yes, the Golf Estate has come an awful long way since that first model I drove all those years back and now with to many new, subtle improvements inside and out, underneath and the sheer all round quality it's clear to see over two million Golf hatchbacks and estates have been sold in the UK since its launch.