With more than 20 years of house renovations and extensions under my belt, there’s not much I don’t know about carrying stuff. But more than anything it’s the IKEA wardrobe door test that most sticks in my mind.
These are pretty much the longest flatpack available from the store and roughly measure 2.2m long. There aren’t many cars that will accommodate them, thought notably my old 2006 Volvo V70 T6 Autocar long-termer did, thanks to the fold-forward front passenger seat.
I once shipped five immensely heavy solid oak kitchen worktops from the Midlands in the V70 like that. It only protested a little.
I have also managed to commit to memory the estate cars with the longest load bays, because you never know when you’ll be called into action.
Nothing beats the Mk2 Skoda Superb (a massive 2.13m long) aided by front seats that can recline their backs almost level. Then there’s the Mk 3 Superb (2.06m) and the Mercedes S212 E-Class wagon at 2.01m. Extra space can be usually negotiated by pushing the front passenger seat forward.
I currently own an S212 and it also scores heavily for the load bay width. So many modern estate boots are neatly trimmed with squared-off sides, which is fine for lifestyle weekends away but less helpful when there’s tip run on.
Of course the great problem with conventional estate cars is a lack of height. Furniture is usually off-limits. Having built-up furniture shipped is often expensive and inconvenient, as I discovered a couple of years ago during one flat makeover.
Truth is, there’s only one real all-round builder’s car and that’s the Ford S-Max. It has the length (1975mm for the current model) and the internal height. The Mk2 is impressively wide inside as well, easily beating my Mercedes. Best of all, with the rear two rows of seats folded the load bay is snooker-table flat.
I got to have a brief drive last week in the new hybrid version. While it is not as snake-hipped as the original, nor as madly involving to drive, it still steers and rides like no seven-seater has a right to. And it would be a far more civilised way to travel than an LCV.
Just to add cladding on the wheel arches and sills, a slightly raised ride height and some chunky ‘skid-plate’ bumpers? The S-Max is probably the Crossover all families need, but don’t buy. It goes better, drives better and is far more capacious than the average SUV.
But back in the IKEA car park, there’s a really compelling accessory that makes the S-Max the ultimate gentleman builder’s van. Ford sells a steel mesh bulkhead that clips in behind the front seats.
That means I could safely load-up the rear of the car and greatly reduce the likelihood of being decapitated by my magazine collection or a box full of CDs. I can’t think of a better, more civilised and more entertaining way to move a hand-made kitchen unit from Norfolk to the New Forest.