I've always hated people carriers. Big, thirsty and screaming at you: "Look at us - we're fertile and doing our bit for society by arresting the decline in the birth rate."
But needs must. We had two adults, three kids and Indy the dog to get from London via Norfolk to Northumberland, picking up granny in the Tyne Valley. So those nice people from Citroën, makers of the best-selling people-carrier in Britain (the Picasso), lent us one of their big brutes - a C8, 2.2HDi. It was blood- red, with a 2.2-litre diesel engine, up to eight seats and automatic sliding doors. The kids thought it was excellent. A 10-year-old and a four-year-old will never tire of pretending they are on an aeroplane and screaming "doors to manual" every time you stop.
So much for the kids. What's it like for me? To drive, it was a surprise. It's great, really smooth. I'd only driven automatics for the last four years so I was a bit fearful of the gearbox, but it was a delight. It feels really light for its size, and acceleration is fast and effortless - I found myself doing 90mph on the motorway a few times without realising.
The first thing I had to do was park this beast, and I had visions of mounting our neighbour's MX5, but with parking sensors it just glided in. It is difficult to get a complete view in the rear mirror - it feels like there's a chunk missing - but the wing mirrors are excellent.
However, many gadgets on the dash - and the wipers and headlights - seem really complicated. Luckily, they appeared to be set to an automatic default, meaning they came on magically if the light levels dropped or it started raining.
If you press the indicator lever slightly too much the wrong way it sets off a warning system for God-knows-what and growls at you in a Stephen Hawking voice until it realises you're not talking back.
Nearly as irritating is the entertainment system. This needs a PhD in electronics to fathom and is awkward to operate. After nearly being brought to tears by a failure to tune into The Archers, I was forced to read the instruction manual. As for the satellite navigation system, I'll leave that to the Russell Crowe character in A Beautiful Mind. The other thing it could do with is a rubbish bin. Even a hook to hang a rubbish bag on would do.
But does it do what it says on the tin? Can this people-carrier carry the people (and the dog)? Well, I'd say it can take lots of people or lots of luggage, but not both. The rear - or should I call them the middle seats - are easy to remove, as we discovered when the 10-year-old dropped the key "somewhere". However, rear back seats needed the Crowe character in Gladiator to fold - and without them folded there is very little boot space.
Folded, it took all of our luggage and paraphernalia. Had we not needed to transport my mother once we reached our destination we could have taken out those seats altogether and had even more space.
It's very difficult to get into the rear-rear seats. You have to fold down the backs of one or two of the rear-middle seats and clamber over. This is fine for a 10-year-old boy and his dog - not so good for granny.
Was I converted? Well, I didn't hate it. And if I was transporting three kids and luggage regularly, I'd be tempted. But if there are more than five of you going on holiday, let's face it: granny's on the roof-rack.Reuse content