Seven seats means more places to stash the mouldy snacks
Just over a year ago, friends bought a spangly car to replace their rusty estate. It’s a sexy beast of a thing with doors that thunk, toys galore and seats that warm your arse as if you’ve wet yourself. They love it, their boys love it, I love it. It’s lovely.
Around the same time my brother, who also owned a much-welded old banger, bought a replacement from an elderly friend-of-a-friend. This Honda has been round the block a bit. The faux-leather seats were peeling, and he was fresh out of TDK C90s for the in-car entertainment. But it’s robust, it gets around the M25 in exactly the same time (if not style), and it cost an astonishing 58 times less than the beast.
Given sufficient supply, my brother could have had a new car every week since then, and still had cash left over for a Limahl cassette single. However, his arse is undoubtedly chillier, and it surely can’t be too long before he reacquaints himself with his arc-welding garage chums. So who made the smartest purchase?
Essentially, when it comes to cars, everyone has a view, even if it’s to profess how much they don’t care. Car-buying parents, however, tend to care rather more, and the more kids you have, the more there is to care about.
Just got the one child? Whatever you had before, that’s likely good enough unless you’re firmly attached to your two-seater (or your motorcycle sidecar). Two in tow? Unless hernias are your thing, 5 doors becomes the minimum, and you’ll want a boot that’s measured in Maclarens, not 9-irons. And if your family is the one-in-seven with 3 or more children then…you need a people carrier. A bus with the corners sanded off, basically.
It may be a bus, but it’s your bus
You can dress it up however you like, and if you have the cash you can certainly buy a car that does its damnedest to disguise its Routemaster aspirations. A new Ford Galaxy, for instance, isn’t eye-gougingly ugly, and has nearly enough toys to distract you from the fact that you can’t hear your music above the shrieking in the back. As well it might, for 30 grand.
But most probably your wishlist is rather more, umm, pedestrian. Parking sensors (these things aint small). A reliable, efficient-ish engine that befits the 3 tonnes of kit you’ll be carting around. Car park-friendly sliding doors, if you can afford sliding doors. (Top tip: you can afford sliding doors, it’s just that they’re found on the cheap-yet-crushingly-dull Seat Alhambra). And if there’s any money left in the budget, maybe a few driver luxuries (2nd top tip: there won’t be.You’ve got 3 kids, remember).
So get on with it, accept the paltry part-ex price on your old car (or commit to house-calls from people who’ll insult you with derisory cash offers), and buy the seven-seater. It’s the only way that granny’s going to get a lift.
Here are a few pointers:
Motormum – this site does a great job of rounding up all the seven seat options. It’s a little shy to put the boot into poor MPVs, but follow the links to other site reviews and you’ll soon get the low-down on car such as the Nissan Qashqai+2: “only gymnasts, those with trapped wind and members of the world’s oldest profession will feel truly at home in the third row of seats”). Which? has a decent seven-seater primer, too.
Safety – it’s a valid concern. Those seats squashed in the boot are awfully close to the rear bumper. And as someone who’s first car was written off by a rear shunt, at relatively low speed but with a child in the back, it definitely worried me. Not least because cars aren’t tested for rear end collisions, but see this thread for another view on the relative safety of the third row. As partial compensation, you might look to a newer car where airbags stretch the full length of the interior, such as the Toyota Verso.
Test-drives and dealerships – just like garden centres and massage parlours, these are not good places for kids. Any of ‘em might have a soft-play area and suspiciously friendly ladies on hand, but that’s just a clue that you’re paying too much. Kids care about the colour, and sliding doors. And talking over the conversation you’re having up front about whether you can stretch another 500 quid. As always, there’s one exception to the rule, which for us came during a family test drive. “I’ll just test the emergency stop,” said my safety-conscious wife. It stopped as required, we continued. “Daddy, there’s water coming out of the lights in the ceiling!” exclaimed Jeremina Clarkson from the back seat. And sure enough there was…buckets of it.
Accessories – you couldn’t afford the Big Daddy trim, so spend £50 on some bits and pieces instead.
A [amazon text=decent holder for your iPad&asin=B004SMESIQ] or [amazon text=other tablet&asin=B00E3QA9UI]. A [amazon text=mirror&asin=B004JQP448] so you can see a baby in a rear-facing car seat. And [amazon text=another&asin=B00A14GIXI] to stick to your windscreen to keep an eye on your older kids (unironic product description: “Keep an eye on your backside”). An [amazon text=inverter&asin=B009E46ENU] so you can recharge laptops, cameras etc on the move. And one of those groovy [amazon text=Spiderpodium&asin=B00BN5JP1G] smartphone holders, just like they had on The Apprentice. Now you’ve really made it.
If you own a seven-seater, what else was on your list of non-negotiables? In your next life, will you choose differently? Or have you sold up and bought the family railcard instead?