If every single person who told me that I’ll be looking for a new car soon also gave me a dollar, I could fill the tank of my little hot hatch twice over. The knowing looks as I heave myself stomach-first out of the back of the two-door with a toddler in arms fill me with an odd sense of defiance: yes, we will have two under two in a matter of months; no, I will not be selling my beloved, completely impractical four-seat, four-wheeled first love.
It’s not just a stubborn whimsy, clinging to that pre-child life when the car ran the road on weekdays and racetrack on weekends. Well, there’s an element of that… But every time my back twinges as I extricate my family out of the second row and thoughts stray towards replacing the car with a big sedan or wagon, I remember seeing a family of five in a Starlet, a woman with two child-seated hatchlings in a Porsche 911 Cabrio, and a host of other far more impractical cars with all manner of boosters and capsules shoehorned into them.
It is certainly inconvenient, often uncomfortable, and definitely time consuming to combine a family and a non-family car. Ultimately, it depends on the car as much as the stubborn resolve of the owner as to whether it stays or goes, and we found there are four key areas that one must tick off.
The first is the most obvious – it must fit the appropriate number of car seats. A quick Google search for my car model and keywords like ‘baby seat’ brought up the good old forum discussions, where punters were asking other owners about the feasibility of baby seats in the deep, bolstered suede Recaro seats. The responses were many and varied: what type of seats worked best, which ones would actually fit, and which ones could remain rearward facing for longest. The many responses were indicative of a tribe of families putting up with the discomfort of two-door travel to keep their car.
This sent us on the hunt to find the right seat for us, and it came down to space versus safety. The latter will win out every time, hence the decision to buy one of the safest seats on the market but sacrificing leg room for the driver. There’s that word again – sacrifice. Hey, we can deal with the odd leg cramp, as long as it doesn’t compromise the ability to safely drive the car of course.
Then there was the space needed for everything else. Fortunately, my car is based on a four-door with one of the biggest boots in its class, and the 19-inch rims on the top-shelf edition means there’s no spare in the boot floor either. Not great for a flat – a can of goo and a patch kit is all we have – but it does make for an eon of space that fits a full double pram, nappy bag, and with a bit of Tetris skill, stuff for the adults as well.
The spare car parts and second wardrobe that were once permanent fixtures in the boot are long gone, but it can now feasibly fit enough for an interstate trip, portacot and all. Owners of sporty cars with smaller boots may find themselves shelling out for roof racks or relegated to the caryards, but not us.
Then we needed protection from scrapes on the rear bumper by prams and heavy baby paraphernalia; from spills and spew; from thrown toys and grubby hands and grassy feet.
There are quite a few covers, organisers, bumper protectors and stain removers in the baby stores as well as the car shops, and a hundred or so dollars later, the car is arguably cleaner and more organised than it was before the baby.
Finally, the last reason why we can live with the impractical hatch: there is a second car in our garage. Admittedly, whenever I can, I do ‘borrow’ the husband’s four-door, particularly for the trips where the toddler will be taken in and out more than once. It gives a glimpse of how easy life would be with a more practical car; but then I don’t get the thrill of busting through the gears to merge onto the highway; the light feel of the wheel through roundabouts and the lovely burble of the pipes which still makes me smile whenever the car starts from cold.
We already surrender so much for these little humans, and though it’s totally worth it, one more sacrifice and a little extra insanity can surely be justified.