But sleeker designs and some deft detail touches are allowing the trusty estate car to stage a remarkable comeback in the showrooms.
Better looking and a lot more luxurious than in the past, the traditional hold-all model is still finding favour with fleet drivers who prefer their load-luggers to appear less lofty than MPVs and look more like the cars on which they are based.
Yet while they continue to be styled as long, low and wide, most new estate models only manage to provide a greater amount of interior space because they are taller. One of the best examples of this is the Peugeot 307, the latest addition to our long-term fleet.
Stretching 75mm longer than the popular 306 it replaces, this estate is also 77mm wider – but it is the 127mm gain in height that allows it to be a winner in the race for more space. Checking specification details reveals the 306 offered 'bootspace' of 442 litres behind the rear seats and with the parcel shelf in place, rising to a maximum load volume of 1,512 litres – not bad for the class when it was launched seven years ago.
Yet the result of sizing up the C-sector means its successor boasts a load range potential stretching from 562 litres to a capacious 1,805 litres.
With numerous extra storage bins added for good measure, plus a couple of useful security boxes neatly hidden away under the floor behind the rear seat, this promises to be handy transport indeed for business and family use.
With the 110bhp HDi unit and 'superclean' particle filter system under its bonnet, our car is the S version and the most expensive in the range. For its price, you'd expect it to be well equipped and it is.
Safety features include anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution and emergency brake assist, six airbags, including curtain airbags for the front and rear, heated door mirrors and one-touch power windows at the front with an anti-pinch facility. Air conditioning, steering wheel mounted in-car entertainment controls and a 60-40 split-fold rear seat are convenience items and a handsome set of 15-inch alloy wheels ensure the S looks the part in the company car park.
Company car tax bill 2004/05 (22% tax-payer): £50 per month