Gareth Butterfield thinks he’s found the perfect car for those with large broods
I READ a story once about a woman who lived in a shoe. She was something of a prolific procreator and the size of her brood caused may problems in the family.
In fact, the story quickly turned into an ugly tale of child abuse and neglect and I would imagine she has since been the subject of more than one investigation by the social services.
Her problem, as far as I can see it, was a poor choice of accommodation for such a large family. Why pick a shoe when there are probably thousands of discarded Wellington boots to move into? I’d imagine her problems were exacerbated by a poor choice of transport.
Getting all these kids from A to B in something with proportions relative to her living accommodation would clearly have been a mistake. For example, if I had a huge batch of offspring, I wouldn’t choose to ferry them around in a Kia Picanto.
But I would have a bit of a problem. Perhaps the shoe lady did, too. You see, a decade or so ago it was a doddle to buy a car with seven seats, or even more. Everyone was at it. The Renault Espace was launched and introduced the people-carrier concept – seven seats crammed into a layout akin to a small van, but with all the luxuries mum and dad usually found in the saloon car they drove before they bred.
The trouble is, nowadays, it’s much harder to find a vehicle of the same ilk. People carriers still exist, sort of, but they’ve usually shed a few seats in pursuit of bigger boots and safety compliance or even squeezing in sporty exhausts.
Seven-seaters are still available, but the concept is now often the reserve of the SUVs which have space to accommodate them. Very few manufacturers make cars with seven seats, even fewer with eight or nine. Very few, that is, except Toyota, Peugeot and Citroen.
The three afore-mentioned brands have obviously put their heads together at some point, presumably heard of the plight of the ill-fated mother-of-umpteen and her shoe, and have gone about converting one of their commercial panel vans into a surprisingly sumptuous nine-seater.
Toyota’s Proace got the treatment, and it’s called the Verso; Peugeot converted its Expert into the Traveller and Citroen used its Dispatch to create the Space Tourer.
All three offer broadly the same thing and it’s the Citroen Space Tourer that I’ve spent a week with. As I mentioned, I don’t live in a shoe and I don’t have any offspring, but if I did, this is probably the car I’d pick.
There’s three to choose from, offering anything from seven to nine seats and all the seats from the middle row backwards split-fold, slide back and forth, or can come out completely.
This, of course, makes for a ridiculously versatile “car”, but is it any good to drive?
Let’s make no bones about it, this is still a van. But it does feel much better do drive than you might expect. It hides its size well, the steering is good, with a relatively tight turning circle, the ride is excellent and, while the gear-change is a tad primitive, it’s not something that will bother most people.
In fact, I was genuinely surprised at how easy it was to pilot the Space Tourer. Visibility is excellent, the ride is good and it feels very “car-like” inside, thanks to a reasonably conventional dash and a sensible driving position.
The diesel engine is very punchy, it rolls far less than you’d expect in the bends and an excellent reversing camera makes for easy parking.
My test model came with a roof-mounted air-conditioning system for rear passengers, a three-pin plug under the driver’s seat for use in the middle row and incredibly useful powered sliding doors on both sides – which can be operated from the key or from the cabin.
In fact, for a fit-for-purpose car, it’s hard to pull the Space Tourer up on anything. It’s comfortable for all passengers, obviously massive inside, good to drive, comes loaded with kit and even gives impressive fuel economy.
It is, that said, a tad noisy inside, the middle windows do not wind down, and it can get a trifle expensive once you’ve ticked a few boxes. The other minor gripe is that the middle and rear seats feel heavier than a double garage, so removal of especially the double-seats is very much a two-person job.
Thankfully for Mrs Shoe Lady there are alternatives, but I think she’d be hard-pushed to find a better one. It’s such a nice car to spend time in that she might even want to rethink her accommodation and move into the Citroen.
Surely a large, comfortable and well-equipped car would be nicer to live in than a shoe, after all.