THIS month I set myself the Small Car Challenge.
Rules were simple. Driving only our little Peugeot 208 Active compact hatch I'd make a note of every time I cursed the car for not being a larger and supposedly more practical sedan, wagon or SUV.
I'd also mark the little Pug down if I felt my journey or planned car usage was prevented by driving such a tiddler. Why, you ask? Well, as a parent to two young children I have seen numerous other mums and dads stretching themselves to buy very big cars.
Nothing's too much for the babies it seems, including dropping $50,000 on a mid-size or even large SUV, or, to my increasing despair, on double cab utes.
All of the above are desirable, increasingly full of safety kit and practical in many ways. And yes, some of you can afford such luxuries.
But really, people. Why buy a seven-seater when you're pregnant with your first child? And that double cab ute? Lifestyle you say? Trust me, all those happy family camping trips are a long way away. A night under the stars with a 2 year-old and 4-month old is as much fun as the bill for a gearbox rebuild.
So instead of just preaching I put my opinions to the test. Over the course of four weeks (and around 2000km) I noted down my small car frustrations.
Okay, so there was one time I needed an extra rear seat for an adult passenger. With two child seats across the 208's back there's no room for an extra bum in the middle, but so huge are child seats these days I've had the same problem even in mid-size cars.
And guess what, that was it. As a family of four we could travel short or long distances with a child's bike, scooter and baby pram in the boot (a squeeze, but it was possible), and I had no dramas removing one of those child seats to split-fold the rear seat back for my push bike to fit in with its front wheel removed.
Would a giant SUV or double cab ute have made life easier? Of course. But importantly, having a Peugeot 208 rather than a Mazda CX-9 or Ford Ranger never actually prevented me, with two kids, making any specific journeys.
I don't need to go off-road and I don't need to haul kayaks while fitting four of my kids' mates inside. Having the option to do so would be nice, but the at least $10k leap from Peugeot 208-sized cars to the cheapest mid-size SUVs is a lot of coin for the practicality benefit.
Then there are the small car wins. Easier to park, frugal fuel use (I'm still returning under 6-litres/100km in the 208) and the little Peugeot is a sweet handling little thing around the corners. The same can't be said for any double-cab ute I've tested.
My Small Car Challenge got me thinking about how things have changed on the car front in a generation.
When I was my son's age my dad was cruising around in a 1981 Ford Cortina TF 2.0 Ghia, which was a mid-to large sedan in its day. It was about 45cm longer than a 2016 Peugeot 208, but had about the same boot capacity (334-litres v 311-litres) and judging by period Cortina photos, the rear leg room wasn't much more generous than the little Peugeot's. The classy Cortina's rear seat backs do look a lot more sculpted and cosseting, mind.
My dad's Cortina had no rear seat belts, nor were child seats terribly in vogue in the early Eighties, so there were no worries for my three brothers and I to fit across that back seat. And whatever didn't fit in the boot went across our laps. SUVs? Weren't even invented back then and we somehow managed.
Just for fun, said Cortina had 64kW and 140Nm, returned about 12-litres/100km and took about 15 seconds to hit 100kmh. The three-cylinder turbo Peugeot? 81kw and 205Nm, a quoted 4.5-litres/100km fuel use and it'll crack 100kmh in under 11 seconds. We've come a long way.
My final point to make this month is if you're buying a fun and stylish little hatchback, choose your colour carefully. Black and silver are safe of course, but I spotted a 208 dressed in metallic Orange Power paint last week. It looked stunning, really showing off the Peugeot's attractive lines. The black finish on our test car rather sadly hides them.
Model: Peugeot 208 Active.
Details: Five-door front-wheel-drive compact hatchback.
Engine: 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol generating maximum power of 81kW @ 5500rpm and peak torque of 205Nm @ 1500rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Performance 0-100kmh: 10.9-seconds.
Bottom line: $21,990 before on-roads (as tested this car adds $1250 sat nav, $990 metallic paint and $300 rear camera).
Kilometres this month: 2400km.
Fuel economy this month: 5.8-litres/100km.
The good: Lovely exterior design, innovative dash setup, funky Matte and Satin Premium finish colour choices (though sadly not for our test car), fun three-cylinder engine.
The not so good: Not as value-packed in terms of spec-for-your-dollar as some key rivals, a manual gearbox in this Active model would be appreciated, too many interior hard plastics, takes some urging to get up to speed.
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