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Desirable, essential and AWFUL features in cars for 3dcs? What might we forget to look for?

(46 Posts)
Gentleness Fri 05-Oct-12 19:32:25

Sorry if this is a repeat topic - I've seen lots of discussions about larger cars but not one that focuses on this! I just know that with so many child-related purchases, there were things I'd never even thought about until other mums told me about them! If I've missed a great thread and you can redirect me, I'd appreciate it!

So we have 2 dc, both small for their ages, one just turned 3, one is 17mo. Dc3 is due on Christmas day. I've always wanted 4dc, but it's not a given and wouldn't be for another 2 yrs minimum. We do want to be able to give lifts though that is in the desirable, not essential column for now. I'm a bit anxious about 7 seaters and the rear crumple zone having seen a couple of nasty accidents on motorways over the summer, but we are considering anything and everything!

So - what did you find great and terrible when dealing with 3 kids and cars?

lljkk Fri 05-Oct-12 19:37:52

We have a Kia Sedona & it is TOO.BLOODY.WIDE. I hate passing other vehicles on country lanes. The turning radius is awful, even with sliding doors it's a squeeze to get in & out of standard parking spaces. Unreliable & especially expensive to repair. I suppose back seats not truly in crumple zone, but boot space is still not much to brag about.

All 7 seaters get lousy fuel economy, in my mind, though, you're stuck with that.

If you could put one child in front you'd rarely need to use the back row, you wouldn't have the whole family in the same car hardly ever, ime, so a smaller 7 seater might seem safe enough after all.

I'd look for tinted back windows, reduces car sickness a lot.

Arithmeticulous Fri 05-Oct-12 19:49:13

Second tinted back windows. Must be able to access rear row of seats without having to move middle row (useless if they have fixed car seats on!) Sufficient heating/cooling vents in back especially boot. Ditto stereo speakers.

The "hidden' storage/cubby hole things are next to useless. I either forget stuff is in there or can't access with the seats e.g there's one under the boot floor but you can only access when both of the boot seats are up.

Sliding doors are brilliant. The removable rear seats not so - ones that fold into the floor are better.

Assume you will have 4 children so get proper MPV not mini one!

lljkk Fri 05-Oct-12 20:51:47

The removable seats is one feature we like, we get a lot of other stuff in there when we need.

Whatever you do, get the AA check on any 2nd hand car you buy, and don't be afraid to rigorously pursue your consumer rights if there are major problems with the car soon after you buy it. We didn't do that & got burned. sad

Gentleness Sat 06-Oct-12 10:43:08

Thanks everyone.

See - I would never have thought about tinted windows! Never had them or had any problem with the kids napping or being car sick, but the oldest is still only 3. Having had brothers who got Car Sick, I would rather avoid it.

Checking rear vents and speakers is a great idea too.

Any more?

throckenholt Sat 06-Oct-12 15:37:01

Sliding rear doors are really useful and make it easier to park in smaller spaces. It think the most important things 3 full seats with proper seat belts (not lap belts). When we had a smaller car we had to have one in the front - caused lots of arguements (they wanted to be in the front), and I didn't want one in the front at all. Also you need to be able to turn of the passenger airbag if you have a child in the front.

We have tinted rear windows and it makes absolutely no difference to DS who is very travel sick (although oddly only on long journeys). Being able to have air blowing in his face helps though - so rear air conditioning or vents are good.

We have a VW touran which is a great car, with fold down seats in the back. We rarely use them, and never on motorways, only for local transporting of extra kids. Fuel economy is ok 45-50 mpg (diesel). I have to say the turning circle is dire on it though - the only thing I really dislike about it. No rear sliding doors though. The fold down seats mean there is no spare wheel, just a kit for patching up a puncture (which I don't like). You can remove the middle row of seats (not too heavy) but then you get an awkward change of floor levels.

We also have a newer model kia sedona - agree it is too wide for narrow country lanes (and narrow town roads). Turning circle is much better than the touran (so maybe the improved that on the newer model). Fuel economy is about 33-35 mpg (but it is a much bigger car). The Sedona has removable seats (but they are heavy) - which gives flexibility and a huge boot (handy for putting 8x4 sheets of wood in - maybe something your DH might be more interested in !).

The hidden storage cubby holes are useless - we never use them - I think they are annoying extra areas to collect dust and grit and fluff in.

I guess you have to decide what suits you. When we look we found the renaults and the citreons had too little space in the back, and lots of gimics.
If you are looking for an older car - we used to have a mazda premacy - they stopped making them about 5 years ago I think - and that was a great 5 (full size seats) seater with big boot.

irishbird Sat 06-Oct-12 15:42:45

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

throckenholt Sat 06-Oct-12 16:16:17

I second that about trying out seats. We have 3 high back boosters - they barely fit across the back of the touran (difficult to fit the seat belt clips). No problem with two high backs and a normal booster though.

With the sedona they fit easily and no issues at all with seatbelt clips.

Gentleness Mon 08-Oct-12 17:54:52


Throckenholt, what boosters do you have? We've got a Kiddy seat and are about to buy ds2's new seat, wanting to go for another Kiddy (Group 1, 2, 3), but maybe we need to think that through too. Gah! Fed up with all this thinking!

throckenholt Tue 09-Oct-12 07:30:57

I guess we have the equivalent to the maxi cosi rodi (they don't sell our model now !). It is baffling the choice of both car seats and cars to put them in. Too many things to consider ! Suffice to say if you want three high back seats across the back of a car at the same time then it needs to be wider than the standard car. If you are going to use booster cushions alone then it can be narrower.

Some cars come with built in booster seats - no idea what your budget it - but you might want to consider that.

twooter Tue 09-Oct-12 07:41:16

The smax is wide enough for three in the middle,easily, with 2fold up in the boot. Much prefer this to the removable seats, especially when the children are older and doing more play dates/ lift shares etc. can't switch off airbag, so front seat not an option.

megandraper Tue 09-Oct-12 08:02:23

Citroen Picasso here for my 5yo, 3yo and 16mo. It's great. Ours is 5 years old, so don't think they make the exact same one any more (ours cost £10k and the current model seems to be a lot more).

Ours has enough space for 3 proper car seats side by side, with space between them (essential). The two window seats are ISOFIX (desirable) - ours have one rear facer and one high-back booster in those and the middle one fits a high-back booster held in by seat belt (fine for my almost-4yo when he moved into it). That middle seat belt is a proper one (shoulder and lap) not just a lap belt (essential).

It also has a big amount of boot space - easily fit a Phil & Ted double buggy and lots more luggage into it (essential).

It has child locks (essential - I imagine all new cars have that now?)

I would prefer electric windows operated from the front (DS2 always winding his down a bit which is annoying) - but that's a nice-to-have.

However, the Picasso seems the same size as a 'normal' car (though it must be slightly wider to the back, but doesn't seem it - good design). Easy to park in a town, and good for drivers who don't like bigger cars (like my DH).

Oh, and Picasso has those hidden storage spaces in the rear footwell which we'd never used till this summer holiday when we suddenly noticed them and they were great for putting tins and things in. Don't usually bother with them though as the boot carries a lot.

Can't give lifts though if we've got all kids with us (unless use front seat - can switch off airbag I think) but not a problem for us at the moment.

Congrats on your lovely Xmas present!

Gentleness Sat 13-Oct-12 11:04:40

Thanks bedhopper, too easy to get mired in the preparations and forget how lovely it is!

I'm thinking more about the Picasso or grand Picasso now. I've been a bit anti because of worries about reliability but hear lots of good reviews too. Have you had many problems with yours?

megandraper Mon 15-Oct-12 09:26:19

Gentleness - we haven't had reliability problems with ours (though like you I've seen reviews saying that they are less reliable than non-French other makes.

Had our (Xsara) Picasso 5 years now. Since it ran out of warranty there's always something that needs doing at MOT time, but nothing major so far. Think that would be true whatever car we had.

Part of me wants a 7-seater just to be able to give lifts now and then, but DH really doesn't want to drive a larger car, and he's the driver so fair enough.

Lancelottie Mon 15-Oct-12 09:35:30

I'd say remember that kids grow. The car that neatly fitted our three when smaller had no room for 10-yr-old legs behind DH in either of the front seats.

But then we do tend to keep cars till the wheels practically drop off; you may be sizing up again a bit more often.

Poledra Mon 15-Oct-12 09:42:26

I have a Ford Galaxy, and unfortunately, I love it. I say unfortunately because I wanted to hate it - I was driving a Saab Sportwagon estate before, and adored it, it was fabulous car to drive. However, it wouldn't take 3 seats across the back so went when DD3 was due.

The Galaxy has a huge boot with the back seats down, and is not too bad when they're up (could fit my tandem double buggy in there even when grandparents were in there). And I've fitted a chest freezer in it with aboth back rows of seats down. Yes, there is limited space between the back row seats and the boot in the event of a crash, but not less than you'll see in a lot of small cars. Adults can fit comfortably in the back row, which is not the case in some of the smaller 7-seaters and is the reason I went for a Galaxy and not an SMax. Love being able to offer lifts to other children, as it makes up for the times the SAHMs help me out with afterschool clubs for my children. I like having the fold-down seats rather than removable ones as it means when we go on holiday with friends/family, I can have the setas folded to get to our destination but pull them back up when we get there to have extra space.

Downsides: drives like it's going through custard at times. Doesn't have a spare wheel, just one of those puncture kits, which I would not like to trust! Does have run-flat tyres, but these are horrendously expensive and I am going through tyres like you would not believe! I did ask the garage last time what i was doing wrong, but the mechanic just shrugged and said 'It's a big heavy car with front-wheel drive, it's going to chew up tyres faster than a Fiesta.'

Oh oh, look for parking sensors! They are a godsend on my car - I cannot actually see the front of the bonnet, it falls away so sharply, so the sensors (front and back) are great. I can park it no problem, including getting it into my garage, which has a very tight turn in front of it to get in.

Poledra Mon 15-Oct-12 09:42:48

Jeez, that was an essay - sorry blush

Gentleness Mon 15-Oct-12 22:21:26

I love reading essays Poledra, especially well- paragraphed ones! Thanks! I've been discounting the Galaxy because we need to fit a rear-facing Group 0+ and 2 Group 1 seats across the middle row. I've been told that isn't possible but it sounds like maybe you manage? Tell me more!

We're really undecided about how long to expect to keep this next car for Lancelottie. Dh would rather get the Picasso (C4 or Xsara) 5 seater and then upsize again if we have a 4th dc (that would be a minimum of 2 yrs) or find it isn't big enough. I'm more inclined to think it will be a saving in the long run to buy something that fit our current family plus an extra dc or friends and expect to run it for 6+ years (given we could afford say a 4yr old VW Sharan or 3yo Touran or Grand Picasso). We have yet to compare running costs properly and depreciation, but I have a suspicion it will kind of even out!

Bedhopper - thanks for that. Glad to hear some positive reviews! The storage wells in the floor are worrying me a bit. You can't position an Isofix base with a leg on top of one according to what I've read, and our Group 0+ is a Britax, with a leg. The safety ratings for it are so much higher using Isofix above using the seatbelt...

Poledra Mon 15-Oct-12 23:04:16

Ah. Had not read the OP properly realised that you needed 2 Group 1s. I had a Group 2/3, Group 1 and infant carrier, and that fitted comfortably but I have no idea about 2 group 1s. You're going to have to go trying them out (and I have to say, there was not one single garage who objected to me doing this with our carseats - everyone from Audi to VW was quite happy with it). DD1 was 4.5 before DD3 was born, and my children are all heffalumps tall for their age. Sorry blush

twooter Mon 15-Oct-12 23:06:01

The smax is a lot wider than a grand Picasso and Touran if I remember correctly.

ProphetOfDoom Mon 15-Oct-12 23:16:35

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

megandraper Tue 16-Oct-12 08:43:17

I am watching this thread with interest!

Gentleness, in answer to your question, you can apparently use the ISOFIX with a leg on top of the in-floor cubbys if you fill the cubbys with polystyrene (cut sheets to size and fill gaps with polystyrene beads) or if you put something solid and hard over the top of the cubby and put the leg on top of that. That's what the guy at the Swedish car seat safety centre told me.

Schmaltzing - how big is the Grand Scenic to drive. Is it easy to park?

ProphetOfDoom Tue 16-Oct-12 14:51:25

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

megandraper Tue 16-Oct-12 16:04:12

Sorry to keep asking questions, schmaltzing that's very helpful, thank you - can you get 3 car seats across the middle row of the Scenic?

ProphetOfDoom Tue 16-Oct-12 22:17:41

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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