When her husband bought a new car that was perfect for a family of four, Mishal Husain found to her horror that it wouldn’t take three child seats in the back. Luckily she’s discovered a gadget that’s solved the problem
A s far as cars are concerned, our household lives up to the starkest ¬gender stereo¬types: while my husband, Meekal, has taught our three sons to spot a Porsche at 100 paces, I walk past a Ferrari without so much as a sideways glance. It was against that background that I made the decision late last year to leave the choice of a new family car entirely to him. Once we agreed on the budget, this was (blissfully) one item of household admin with which I did not need to be involved.
And so it was that I opened the front door on New Year’s Eve to find him emerging from a vehicle more thorough¬bred than workhorse – the kind he had probably dreamed of every time he got into its predecessor, our trusted but admittedly unfashionable Fiat Multipla. It was an Audi estate, lovely even to my unappreciative eye. Half listening to assurances that it was “a very good deal” and “buying it before the end of the year got us two free services”, my eyes flickered over its ¬dimensions. “It looks a bit narrow for the car seats. Will we all fit in?”
Unfortunately for Meekal, we didn’t. He’d been banking on the fact that with our three-year-old twins about to graduate from their armchair-sized seats into slimmer boosters like our five-year old’s, all three boys would fit safely (and legally) into the back.
But no amount of shopping around for the narrowest of seats and squeezing them in as tightly as possible did the trick. We appeared to be saddled with a car perfect for a family of four.
We called the dealers. They laughed. “We’ve never heard one like this,” they said, helpfully. How much would they give us for the car, a mere 48 hours post-purchase? “We’ll call you back.” They didn’t.
A trawl online quickly revealed that legions of parents grapple with the same issue. Estate or saloon cars that happily accommodate five adults rarely seem to cope with two adults and three ¬under-12s in their seats, which means families of our size are increasingly nudged towards sport utility vehicles and people ¬carriers.
Having spent much of my adult life ranting at the evils of the Chelsea tractor, an SUV was not a prospect I relished. And people carriers seemed to send the message that we were ¬either going for more children (perish the thought) or planning to cart sports teams around on outings (no again).
More research revealed we had been unfortunate in our choice of a German car. Apparently, French and ¬Scandinavian women are more likely to want three children, so cars from these countries are usually geared to ¬accommodate their wishes (this ¬explained why we had once managed to squeeze into a Volvo hire car on holiday).
I thought fondly of our old MPV, now probably well on the way to ¬being sold for scrap. The multi-purpose ¬vehicle was the solution that served us well from the moment we discovered in late 2005 that our second child was actually going to be our second and third – only 20 months younger than their sibling.
But further – by now fairly ¬desperate – online trawling eventually yielded a glimmer of hope. Multimac (multimac.co.uk) is a bench-like removable ¬system of either three or four child seats, bolted into the car, with five-point harnesses and all the requisite safety approval.
It didn’t come cheap, but nor did selling the car back to the dealers. And unlike the dealers, Kevin Macliver of Multimac didn’t laugh when I said: ‘My husband’s come home with a car our children don’t fit into.” Clearly, he had heard it all before.
His invention was inspired by a ¬desire to get his own brood of four into a normal-sized vehicle. It took 13 years of prototypes, patents and costly testing before he was finally able to put Multimac on the market in 2008. With one of these, you could fit three children into the back of something as tiny as a Fiat 500, and – remarkably – four into a Ford Fiesta. There’s a rear-facing attachment for a newborn, which means a family with a third or fourth child on the way could save themselves an expensive change of car.
Kevin drove to our house to demonstrate the system. The neighbours watched with interest, having followed the new-car saga from the start. One emerged to slap Kevin on the back and say: “Well done mate, you’re saving their marriage.”
He may have done more than just that. For a little extra, we went for the four-seater Multimac rather than the three seats we actually needed. A ¬little investment for the future, perhaps. -After all, never say never again?…