Too much space

My late father’s favourite car was the Citroen CX Safari (the estate version of Citroen’s 70’s and 80’s flagship, pictured above). It was perfect for him because it could lug around a huge volume of the textile-based merchandise he had to carry around to different parts of London during the week (a function it performed as well as any van), and when emptied and the back seats propped upright, it was great family car. There was so much space in the back, me and my sister could brawl as if we were in an arena, and could avoid our dad’s outstretched hand when he wanted to smack us because we had driven him to the brink of sanity with our brawling. There was also its usage for our holidays to Portugal, when we’d brim-fill the boot with our stuff and drive 1,300 miles from Ilford to Porto. The CX was a perfect all-rounder for a man with my father’s needs, and he had four different CX Safaris, and I loved them, but the young autophile in me wished he had a saloon version instead.

In my young, superhero comic book-reading mind, all that empty space behind me when I travelled in the back seat was a perfect place for a children-eating ghoul to materialise and chomp bits of me off. It felt like I was in a long windowed corridor, with a lot of ominous empty space to my rear. I preferred the snugness of my dad’s various saloon CX’s, with the feeling that nothing could get behind me.

I still feel more or less like that today. When I bought my Volvo S60, I could have bought a cheaper, larger V70 with the same trim and same engine for around €1000 less than I did. From a purely logical standpoint I should’ve done, since it was more car for less lolly, and on top of that, more practical and multi-purpose. So on the face of it, I did a silly thing, yet I haven’t regretted my decision for a single minute in the three years I’ve had my car. Now to be perfectly blunt and shallow, I don’t appreciate driving a brick-like version of a fantastically good-looking car. Yes, looks mean a lot to me (I’ve never said otherwise) and if you walk away from your car without looking back as if it were to check out your hot girlfriend, something’s wrong. Either your car’s ugly or you don’t care. I couldn’t stand having to look at a four-wheeled box instead of the swooping, looking-fast-while-standing-still silhouette of my S60.

Let’s get to the practical side of the argument. If I had bought the estate version of my car, I’d have spent most of the time lugging around a lot of empty space by myself, and I’d have felt pretty stupid for doing so. When I see lone drivers in big estates and people carriers it seems like an awful waste with all those unoccupied seats and headroom. Let’s face it, how many times a year do you really need that extra cargo area? Twice? Probably, unless you carry a lot of stuff around like my dad or own big dogs. An argument can be made that those with children need that extra boot volume, but this summer I transported my daughter and nephew all over the place and I didn’t miss having some more room to put their crap in the back of the car. And why do estates have that horrid square grid behind the rear passengers? Is it mandatory? Doesn’t it impair vision? How does it feel driving and feeling like you’re in a cage every time you look in the rear view mirror?

To back up my view, there’s a small fact that speaks volumes. When new, most (if not all) estates are more expensive than their saloon counterparts, yet on the second-hand market, they’re considerably cheaper. It’s the simple market rule of supply and demand in action. Lot’s of people want to get rid of their estates because they realise it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Advertising shows hip young families loading up their station wagons with dogs and surfboards with huge smiles on their faces before embarking on a sun-drenched road trip. But when it dawns on estate owners that those adventure weekends don’t materialise and that they’re only good for the first and last day of the holidays, and they’ve spent a wad of extra cash on a car that’s main feature is useless for 363 days of the year, it’s time to downsize and get rid of the thing.

If I need additional stowing area for my saloon, I’ll get a roof rack and one of those torpedo-like cargo cases. I can take it off if when I don’t need it so I won’t feel like a wally.


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