Up until recently I drove a small saloon, a 2006 BMW 3 Series to be precise. I love the car, it’s my own and I had no intention of selling…until my first baby arrived in May. As new parents tend to be I was naïve about just about everything involved: I thought I would be down the pub wetting the baby’s head within a week, the kid would take to the bottle with a smile and a high five, and I was determined endless nights of interrupted sleep wouldn’t turn me into a zombie. I was wrong on all fronts, but perhaps my biggest mistake was the fact I hadn’t considered trading in the 3 Series for something bigger.
It’s a saloon, not a hatchback, surely it’s enough? It isn’t, not even close. By the time the baby seat is fitted and the base of the pram is shoehorned into the boot you’re out of room and are now stacking the top of the pram, the giant sack of baby gubbins (nappies etc) and any luggage you need for yourself around the infant on the back seat like a high-stakes game of Jenga.
I had never subscribed to the UK’s fascination with SUVs until November, when Jaguar sent YesAuto the biggest car in its roster for a long term test, the F-Pace. It was like being liberated from prison: no more danger-Jenga, no more rows with the wife about where the 16th cuddly toy we’re taking on a 20 minute journey should go, no more sitting on the boot lid to get it to shut. I have seen the light. Well, kind of.
The problems I have with SUVs still remain. They don’t corner as well as smaller cars, they’re heavy and therefore usually not economical, and they are often driven by those who really don’t need the extra room at all, i.e people without kids or their own landscaping business. All of these things we will be addressing in later updates, but I must admit I now see why these issues are not enough for parents who want as easy life as possible to buy something smaller and more economical.
It’s not just the room either. Yes, the F-Pace’s 650 litre boot is enough to swallow all we need it to without overspilling into the interior, but with the F-Pace standing nearly 1.7 metres tall loading things in and out - both kid and kid’s kit - requires no bending down. When you’re heaving heavy cargo in and out of a car multiple times a day you really notice the strain on a smaller, lower car. And it’s not just the parents who benefit from easier ingress and egress – before a second wave of COVID banished us all to our houses again we picked up the wife’s 93 year old granddad to get him out of the house. He was over the moon not to see the Beamer parked outside, which with his stiff hips was something of a challenge to climb into and out of.
Other times over the last month I’ve been thankful to be driving a SUV: when picking up the Christmas tree. It required one of the backseats to fold flat but it swallowed a six foot Douglas Fir without blinking. Yes, you can do the same in many small saloons, but not nearly as easily.
Please forgive this initial long-term review for being quite general, the YesAuto team will be picking it apart in finer detail over the coming months. Everything we’ve discussed here applies to most SUVs of the F-Pace’s size, and there’s much more to report about the car itself once we’ve lived with it longer. But as a new parent it’s been an eye-opener and offered a good insight into why SUVs are the popular choice for so many in the UK.
A parting shot: if the extra space is all you require from a family car and things like ride height and advantageous ingress and egress aren’t important, an estate will serve your purposes just as well, and the car will be more engaging to drive and probably more economical.
Why we are running a Jaguar F-Pace: to find out if Jaguar’s large SUV deserves your money over its more popular German rivals.
Model on test: Jaguar F-Pace P250 Chequered Flag
Price as tested: £55,450
Engine: 2-litre turbocharged petrol
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Boot space: 650-litres
Current economy: 27.3 mpg