Thursday, 20 September 2012

Of small cars and balaclavas


I may have mentioned a few times that we've been away a lot recently at the weekends - a wedding down south and to the Paralympics in London. Last weekend, I took the kids to Coventry to attend a work commitment. These days, we tend to go in husband's car even though it's quite small because my car is getting old and I worry about it breaking down, and husband's car is less than a year old. It feels much bigger on the inside - its nickname is the Tardis - but it does have its limitations.

Skoda recently offered us the chance to test drive their Citigo model as they are the sponsors of the Best Family Fun category at the MAD Blog Awards in which I'm a finalist. We decided to put it through its paces by taking it to London for the Paralympics. After all, we'd not long done the trip down south in our car so we had something to compare it to.

Skoda used to be a figure of fun as a brand, the joke car. In fact, I remember that my former partner's sister and her husband bought one and their teenage son refused to be a passenger in it, unless he was wearing his balaclava so his friends wouldn't see him. That was before Skoda got bought by Volkswagen and these days, they are not quite so socially unacceptable. In fact, Skodas are some of Monkey's favourite cars, in the way that only seven year old boys can.

When the car arrived, I realised it was a 3 door model. Not surprising really, as I'd left it late to arrange, but it was the one thing I could have done without as I was then adjusting the seats all weekend. It had pretty much everything that we have in our car, with the addition of a sat nav that also gave information about the car.

Space wise, it felt a little smaller in the cabin but the boot was bigger and all our stuff fitted in easily (not that you can really tell from this photo!). And by stuff, I mean overnight bags, bags and backpacks for taking into Olympic Park, food, drinks, and the children's school bags. In terms of build, everything felt solidly built as you would expect from Volkswagen. Our car in comparison feels like a dodgem car! The side effect of this was it felt much larger than it really was, which when it's not your car, makes for slightly nervous driving. And total heart failure when someone pulls out of the inside lane of the M6 forcing you to brake suddenly and the car behind you to come bowling up behind you and change lane at the last minute. There was probably a bigger margin for error than I estimated but all the same. Thankfully, the car remained dentless and scratchless all weekend.

The small engine seemed to have enough power to cope with all four passengers and all our "stuff" and mean we were not crawling along, and the ride was solid and smooth. What we did find odd was the sat nav - we are not used to them although I use the Navigation app on my phone a fair bit but it did seem to come up with some strange routes. One of them was a return journey from the one we'd done that morning and it sent us a totally different way, along very dark narrow roads which were obviously rat runs for the local boy racers which made for an entertaining drive and I'm pretty sure that it was no quicker - it was past 10.30pm at night after all. We stopped using it after that.

Possibly a minor detail but one thing we found odd was that there was only one power socket and not two in our car. This allows us to power our DVD player - important on long journeys - as well as charge a phone up if we need to.

One thing that did really well was the fuel economy. We got to Essex, drove around a bit there and back again on 41 litres. We had to top up a little because the tank is quite small but I worked out we averaged nearly 50 miles per gallon, which is not bad considering we were either driving stop start in queues or driving at 70mph.

Did we like it? Yes, we did mostly. Minor details irritated - and it's reinforced my feelings that you need a 4/5 door car if you have a family because you are constantly readjusting your seat and driving position when you get in the car having let your kids in. As a small car, it's probably best for driving around town - I mean, why else would it be called a Citigo? However, we found it coped well on the motorways too and therefore great for a family weekend away. The children hoped we were keeping the car but it had to go back on Monday.

Not a balaclava in sight.
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