Transport for two sets of twins - plus parents and dog
The arrival of a baby frequently means the exit for a sports car, to be replaced by an MPV. Luckily Julie and Stuart Dalgetty have never yearned for a roadster, but even their dream of a cute camper van is on hold since the arrival of two sets of twins: Lily and Daisy in March 2011, Molly and Nell in October 2012.
Julie had just finished plumping her Cath Kidston cushions and putting up the bunting in their classic caravan, Doris, when she found out Lily and Daisy were on the way. She and Stuart were thrilled; Benji the high-maintenance mutt less so.
Doris had to go, along with their Mondeo tow car in exchange for a Vauxhall Zafira. Then Julie found out she was pregnant again.
The Zafira had proved perfect for one set of twins, but finding transport for two adults, four blonde cherubs and a very disgruntled dog proved a challenge.
Stuart says “We looked on the pregnancy forums and TAMBRA (Twins and Multiple Births Association), but there wasn’t much there. There were a lot of people with three or four children, but not many have four under two. It’s easier when the kids are older and some are using booster seats, but Molly and Nell are still in bulky rearward facing infant carriers, and Lily and Daisy are in baby seats, so it’s difficult.”
Load space is also vital because they have to transport all the nappies, bottles and changes of clothes parents carry to look after a baby – times four. Plus, they have the mother of all strollers: a double-decker affair purchased from a family in Bristol, also with two sets of twins, who drove a Chrysler Voyager.
Stuart says: “We discounted quite a few cars even though they had seven seats, because they had so little luggage space when the seats were all being used.”
In between work and shared baby duties, suffering sleep depravation that was destined only to get worse, he spent many hours obsessively studying Autotrader. Naturally the house was also awash with plaster, and builders working on a kitchen facelift running months late.
Their choice was limited not only by their £10k budget, but also the small number of suitable cars on sale within easy reach of their home in Whitley Bay, north of Newcastle. Time was an issue, too, as the arrival of the Nell and Molly approached.
Having checked out all the used seven or more seaters on the market, they whittled the list down to: Renault Grand Espace, Toyota Previa, Voyager or VW Caravelle.
Julie says “I really wanted a Caravelle. It would have been like our Scooby Doo van, very multipurpose. You can do all sorts of things with the seats, but it was too expensive.
“A Voyager would have been good because it had sliding doors and storage in the floor, but the running costs were too high, especially the insurance.”
They eventually found a ’57-plate Renault Grand Espace diesel with 24,000 miles on the clock. It was being sold by a local dealer, so they were able to part-ex the Zafira with minimum fuss.
Julie says: “We didn’t have to try to jazz up our car or deal with people – we just didn’t have the time – or the energy.”
So far they are happy with their choice. Stuart says: “The Renault was affordable, not just the purchase price, but running costs and insurance. It’s versatile: you can take the seats out or move them around. It’s a very easy and smooth car to drive, too. It’s automatic and it has a bit of oomph even though it’s big.”
The family are lucky because Julie’s mum Cynthia and her partner Don, plus Julie’s sister Katie, husband Simon and two willing playmates, Rosie 6, and Ellie 5, are all within walking distance, as is the beach. That means it’s rare for everyone to be in the car at once.
The first big trip was in November when the entire clan stayed for a week in a holiday cottage to celebrate Cynthia’s birthday.
Julie says “Daisy likes to sit in the middle, so she and Lily were in the centre row with Molly on the end, but the older ones like to ‘play’ with the babies, so I had to have Daisy’s seat as far forward as it would go and Molly’s as far back as possible to she couldn’t reach her. Daisy and Lily beat each other up all the time in the car, but they’re more sturdy!”
Nell’s infant carrier had to be strapped on to a single seat in the third row. Julie says: “Sliding doors would have been useful – the only way we could get her in was to climb in from the back!”
The other rear seat came out and the space was stuffed with bags. A storage box on the roof was also packed to the gunwales, but even so Katie and Simon had to take more in the their Mondeo Estate.
On this occasion Benji stayed in doggy hotel. On other trips he gets to snarl at motorbikes from the footwell.
No more big trips are planned at present, but Julie has been avidly watching George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces. “Maybe one day we can have a six-berth caravan.” She says wistfully.
Mumsnet.com has a car reviews section including What Car? write-ups. The forum has an ongoing lively discussion about the merits of members’ cars.
Check out the 2013 7 Passenger Vehicles UK within the international site www.7-passengervehicles.net
www.All7seaterCars.com gives video reviews of a long list of seven-seaters available in Europe
Ford Grand C-Max from £19,795
Good to drive and affordable to run with sliding doors – so much easier for sorting kids in a car park.
Peugeot 5008 from £18,145
Versatile, practical with excellent safety ratings, but with conventional, wide-opening rear doors.
Seat Alhambra £23,770
A more affordable version of the VW Sharan. Roomy, practical, with those desirable sliding doors
SUVs and Crossovers
Land Rover Discovery From £36,785
As comfortable as an executive saloon, good for country-dwellers or those faced with occasional flooded roads.
Hyundai Santa Fe from £22,285
Very equipped and roomy. An affordable price, but no longer a budget product.
Volvo XC90 £35,695
A Mumsnet forum favourite, smart-looking, spacious and practical if pricey.
Ford Tourneo Custom from £18,316
Can seat up to nine, sliding doors and plenty of room for a pooch and buggy, but you’ll need a big parking space.
Nissan NV200 Combi from £17,295
Spacious, with sliding doors. Some parents love it. No side airbags, though, and it’s clearly a van.
VW Maxi Caddy Life from £19,400
Seven seats, sliding doors plus room for dog and buggy. Side airbags are optional.