Parents on PH will be all too aware of this predicament. Having bought what you assumed would be the ideal family car, you soon discover that the family requires more and more stuff. A crazy amount of stuff, in fact - to the extent that people with more than one child and more than one pet soon look like miracle workers, simply for organising it all. This is precisely what has happened with the 335i; where my partner Alice, our son, our dog, and I were just about doing alright, a buggy and seat upgrade for the little man has squished things up somewhat.
He loves travelling in a better chair and the buggy is a huge improvement, but going anywhere with both of them eats into what wasn’t massive space to begin with. It gets a bit snug, especially on longer journeys. The change has been all the excuse Alice has needed to start talking about an SUV, while I cling to the notion that a roof box might be the solution for those big trips home. Somewhere in the middle of that discussion sits a bigger estate. And who do you call if you need a very capacious, cost-effective estate? Skoda, of course.
The Superb, you'll hardly need reminding, is the largest of the Skoda estates, and it really is a massive old thing. And just the car to prove how bijou an old 3 Series Touring is. Where we’ve been muddling along with 500 litres (or 1,500 with the seats down for a tip trip), a Superb struts around with 660 litres. That increases to an enormous 1,950 litres with the reach bench folded. It meant big baby seat and monster buggy were accommodated with ease. You can see why these things are popular with antiques dealers - so much can go in.
There was another reason for this specific Superb to be on loan, too, as it was fitted with Skoda’s dog accessories for our cockerpoo, Nacho. Skoda has conducted research which has found only 51 per cent of Britain’s 9.6m dog owners secure their dog correctly while driving - which can lead to a fine and invalid insurance - so it sent out the Superb with a dog seatbelt and dog harness. Which, of course, Nacho didn’t like as much as just being in the giant boot on his own. Still, we tried. And doggy definitely loved having more space, as well as a better boot lining than is currently in the BMW.
So, what’s the solution? Well, handy though the Skoda undoubtedly is, there’s no escaping the fact they aren’t the last word in dynamic excitement. Not helped by the test car being fitted with the 150hp diesel and DSG, of course, but even the flagship all-wheel drive car with Golf R power isn’t a thriller. Neither is the BMW, really, it should be said, though the engine ensures it’s more engaging. As do the little touches, before you accuse me of merely stating the bleeding obvious. The driver sits lower in the 3 Series, and everything they’re going to need on a journey - steering wheel, gearlever, paddles - is that bit nicer to use, before you get to rear-wheel drive. And I’m not sure the eight-speed auto loses out much to the seven-speed DSG. The Superb undoubtedly has its merits, as a properly huge and really quite handsome family estate, but for the moment I think I’m willing to sacrifice a bit of space for the driving enjoyment. Whether it stays that way, of course, remains to be seen.
While we're back on the 335i, the service indicator suggested a checkup was going to be due in a couple of thousand miles or in January, which I opted to get done early rather than face a bill straight after Christmas. It went to local BMW specialist Foxtail Garage, and alongside an Inspection 2 service, a front anti-roll bar link was replaced. The bill came to £426.43, which obviously could have been brought down a little if I’d provided fluids, filters, plugs and whatever. It didn’t seem unreasonable, and the car feels all the better for it, engine that bit zippier for half a dozen new spark plugs and a freshen-up. Or at least I’m convincing myself it does, and further vindicates the decision to get a straight six. Because they’re great.
Which means, should a roof box not really cut it and the 3 Series goes, the replacement probably has to be a BMW. Both Alice and I have become quite fond of it. A 5 Series Touring would be ideal, of course, but she quite likes an X3. And they both have straight six options. To be continued…
Car: 2014 BMW 335i M Sport Touring (F31)
Run by: Matt
Bought: August 2021
Purchase price: £19,500
Last month at a glance: Small baby needs an even bigger car
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