We chart the progress of our Mazda CX-5 2.2D Sport Nav on its long-term test
Best large family cars to buy
Budget buy - Skoda Superb (estate or saloon) - £17,810-£30,910
Skoda has launched an estate version of the Superb, with prices starting at approximately £1,100 - £1,300 more than the hatch.
We like: huge, refined diesel engines, estate looks striking, sensible pricing
We don't like: feels heavy, might be too big for some people
Read our Skoda Superb review
Long-term test: Skoda Superb Estate
Affordable buy - SEAT Alhambra - £23,535-£32,590
Hot on the heels of the related VW Sharan, SEAT throws the covers off its new Alhambra seven-seat MPV.
We like: VW quality for SEAT price, vast and adaptable interior, clever seat folding system, punchy and refined engines
We don't like: size could be an issue, second row headroom, dull styling, big blind spots
Read our SEAT Alhambra review
Premium buy - BMW 5 Series Touring - £33,470-£49,905
BMW 5 Series Touring is now more practical and more capacious, but the star is the fine four-cylinder diesel. It's the cheapest new 5 Series engine, but also one of the best all-round.
We like: all-round competence, classy rear end, handy practicality, exceptional 520d diesel engine
We don't like: many suspension gadgets are optional, no stop-start on auto yet, Merc beats it for space
Read our BMW 5 Series Touring review
Volvo V70 - the quintessential family car
Ford Mondeo estate - great to drive and with enough space for the family
Mercedes C-Class Estate - a car you would never regret choosing.
Vauxhall Zafira Tourer - comfortable, a smart interior and good looks
0-£4k: Toyota Avensis Estate
The Toyota Avensis estate is a paragon of versatile, reliable motoring, only marred by minor issues. Expect competition for nice ones: don't walk away for the sake of a hundred-quid haggle.
We like: Avensis estate is huge. Two builders' sacks of garden rubbish will fit in the back if you're feeling abusive towards it. £4k buys a lot of car: sensible-mile D4D with all the toys if you look hard enough.
We don't like: woeful holes in sat nav data from new, so don't pay a premium. Update discs pop up on eBay. Some scratchy plastics inside and base trim is none too special.
£4k-£10k: Honda Accord Estate
Honda pulled out all the stops to advertise the 2002 Accord, and the car deserved every penny. The estate was a firm fleet favourite: the frugal CDTi diesel saving mucho Benefit-in-Kind tax for company car drivers.
We like: huge boot, big enough for Berkshire. Perky 2-litre petrol said to make 2.4 redundant, but diesel trounces both. My word, that boot is huge: a flat floor with one click of a button. Did I mention the boot?
We don't like: reports of excessive road noise, and cracked exhaust manifolds gassing occupants. Expensive non-warranty repair prices. Clever electric tailgate motors can fail: a complicated fix. Find a local specialist via owners forums.
£10k+: Mercedes E350 CDi Saloon/Estate
Despite a basic cost new of almost £40k before you add a single option, the '09 Mercedes E-Class 350 CDi saloon has just dropped below £20k used (09/58 with 60k miles). Estate prices are coming down, albeit not as hard as yet. With 50% of cost new already lost in depreciation on 4-doors, watch the 5-doors carefully.
We like: exceptionally quick 3-litre V6 diesel. 0-60 in just over 6 seconds and on to a limited top speed of 155mph, with a max of 47mpg in an ideal world. E350 Estate takes the E-Class back to top form: styling has presence.
We don't like: Smaller diesels look good on paper but some reports of failing injectors. Repairs wipe out the fuel savings. 350's mpg is respectable enough: give yourself some perks.
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