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More Than 2.5 Children?

Those with large families – and even those with average families with the standard 2.5 children – often go in for big MPVs with six or seven seats so everyone can sit in the car comfortably without squishing poor little Two Point Five who has to sit in the middle seat that’s been designed for 0.5 of a person in the average sedan (although I’m pleased to note that in larger sedans such as the Ford Fairlane  sitting in my garage, there’s room for three kids over the age of ten plus the dog in the back seat, and nobody’s got knees in the driver’s kidneys).

Anyway, the MPV is the car of choice for a lot of families, especially if they do have larger than average families. The MPV is certainly a lot more stylish for getting about in than the standard thing you saw large families driving back in the 1990s: the van. In some circles, you occasionally heard about the “white van brigade” as a term to refer to families that (a) had more than three kids, (b) were usually somewhat religious in their outlook on life and/or quasi-hippy types and (c) homeschooled their many children. They all had white vans, such as the good old Mitsubishi Express  or its earlier incarnations, the Mazda Bongo, etc, and you’d see a right row of these lined up in the car parks of some churches on Sunday mornings. They were good vehicles but they tended to be a bit bland and boring, even though they were practical. The MPV has changed all that, adding style and colour as options for big families.


However, if you are a parent of one of those larger families, don’t just rush out and buy the first MPV you see in the car yard or read about on our car reviews page. Always test drive the car first – and don’t just test-drive the engine. See how the car goes with the various family members in it, booster seats, car seats and all.

This is where I need to mention the cautionary tale that happened to a woman I know – let’s call her Catherine (not her real name). Baby number three had just arrived and, of course, the baby had to go in a proper rear-facing car seat in the back. Catherine’s MPV was of the type that had a sliding panel type of back door, with a seat that folded up to allow access to the back row. Child number one could go in a booster seat in the front without any problems, but Number Two had a problem. There wasn’t any room for the booster seat and the baby seat in the middle row, unless you had ultra-thin hands to reach down and operate the seat belt plugs. So Number Two had to go in the very back seat. However, the only place that the baby seat could go and still be reached was that fold-down seat, as Catherine’s arms weren’t long enough to reach the other side of the car – the sliding panel was the only way in to the back bit, apart from the hatch into the cargo area. Just as well the hatch into the boot was there, as this was how number two had to get into the car. I have no idea what Catherine is going to do if Number Two throws a hissy fit and refuses to get in the car.

If a lot of your children are quite large, then hop into the very rear seat to check out the legroom. One teenager of my acquaintance was recently riding in the rear row of a Volvo XC90  (which contained a horde of other teenagers) reported that the rear seat hasn’t got a lot of room for long legs, and this tall young man and his friend had to be pretty flexible to fit in. This wasn’t the latest sort of Volvo XC90, and later versions may have corrected this issue – but do check out what the space is like in the very back and ask yourself how you’d like to go on a long distance trip inside it.

As always, the test drive is a must – and take the whole family with you, no matter how much they moan.