For much of the last 13 years, I’ve been hauling stuff. Much of it was related to the huge amount of building and renovation work I’ve carried out, completely re-building and re-working a flat and two houses. I like to think I’ve become a connoisseur of what makes a good all-round load carrier.
Any car with a fold-flat front seat is on my list. I remember shifting a load of extremely heavy wooden worktops down the M40 in a long-term loan Volvo V70 thanks to the fold-flat front seat. Ikea’s longest flat pack is about 2.3m long and a tumbling seat is the only way to carry it inside the car.
I also have good memories of the original Citroen C5 hatchback which, while I loaded it with rubble bags filled with broken plaster, self-levelled its suspension even though the engine was off. Best of the lot was probably the original Mercedes A-Class which had the option of removable seats (including the front seat) and a flat floor. Even though it was shorter than a Mini Metro, it could swallow a door whole.
But one of the problems with a conventional estate-style car is the low roof-line. Carrying flatpacks is all very well, but accommodating bulk is a problem. I once bought a leather armchair off eBay and couldn’t get it into the back of the V70 and had to borrow a Freelander from the Autocar car park. But the problem with SUVs is their relative short load bay.
Last summer I hauled a load of my possessions to temporary storage in the north. It took two runs, one in Range Rover and one in a V70. Over Easter I wanted to bring the lot back in one journey, so I managed to get my hands on what I thought could be the definitive hauler.
The key thing about the new Volkswagen Sharan is that all five rear seats can be folded down to form a flat load bay which is also level with the load lip. A high roof and sliding doors make it easy to access the space. Of course, it easily swallowed what it took two pretty capacious vehicles to move in the first place.
But there were other things about the Sharan which were very appealing such as the neat boot well that is exposed when the third row of seats are erected, the very simple folding mechanisms and just the way the whole interior is constructed so tightly and designed so neatly.
But what was most impressive about the Sharan over the seven days that I had it, was it sheer handiness. Despite being able to swallow seven people or carry a huge amount of luggage, the Sharan is very well-sized. Unlike the S-Max (which, OK, is a better driver’s car) the Sharan isn’t excessively wide or long. It still fits into ordinary supermarket parking spaces and was surprisingly fleet in urban situations.
The only thing that would have made the Sharan perfect for my hauling needs, was a folding front seat but, otherwise, it must be close to the perfect only car.
However, I’m about to change financial tack and move into a freshly-built flat in a happening part of the capital, so the days of loft conversions and extensions are over for the moment. But if I ever end up in full-time renovations, the Sharan looks ideal.