How to modify your car… when you’re a parent
I’ve been modding my new Skoda Superb, but not in the way I’ve done before
Everyone tells you, before you have a kid, that it’ll change your life. And you believe them. Obviously it will. But just how much it changes your life, how much of pretty much every single aspect of what you do has to be altered, is something I don’t think I could have got my head around until it happened.
My daughter is now seven months old. She’s lovely – cute as a button, highly amusing and very messy when she eats – but she’s also rather high maintenance. As it turns out, small children require round-the-clock care to stop them from starving or killing themselves, and they’re not very good at doing anything for themselves. They also don’t fit well into everyday life, which seems to have been designed for adults. Weird.
Blinging 19s as standard on the Sportline model
This is encapsulated by my latest long-term Skoda Superb, which on paper is a great family car. And to be fair, it is in real life. But like, I suspect, pretty much every car on the market, it's not the complete package out of the box, because there are some choice mods I’ve been forced to make. No, not alloys or lowered suspension, or even an upgraded sound system. Actually, being a Sportline model, the Superb already has these. But these are more important.
Number one: darkened windows. Not tints, because A) they’re expensive, B) they’re not dark enough and C) it’s not my car. When the Superb arrived we were having some excellent sunny weather, but that meant the sun was shining through the rear window and dazzling the baby, which stopped her sleeping. Not good.
An elegant solution would be built-in blinds, the kind that unroll from the door and clip up at the top of the window, but they’re not available on the Superb. BOOO. A Google trawl found several other custom-fit solutions, but the nicest-looking ones were rather pricey. I’ve only got the car for six months so didn’t want to spend a fortune.
Oh yes, totally baller
We ended up with what are basically nets that go over the top of the rear doors. Are they pretty? No, not at all. They look terrible. But do they work? You betcha. And the price? £8.99. Sorted.
The next upgrade was required so I could keep an eye on her while driving. Babies start off in a rear-facing child seat, the main problem with which is that they… well, they face backwards. And that means you can’t see if they've barfed everywhere or somehow managed to grab something they shouldn't have.
So the solution has been a wide-angle mirror attached to the headrest with a strap, meaning I can see her in the rear-view mirror. Once again, is it elegant? No, it flaps around, I keep knocking it when putting the seat in, and lining it up correctly is a two-person job. As far as I’m aware, there’s no manufacturer solution to this, but something properly engineered would be very welcome in family-targeted cars.
Now, a few words on the logistics of a baby car seat. The rear space in the Superb is excellent. Even tall adults will have loads of room in there, so there’s plenty of space for a baby. There are also Isofix points on both outer seats. These, in case you don’t know, are a universal standard for baby seats; two mounting points into which you clip the seat. Super easy. In theory.
The problem with the Superb is that the seat cushion – the lower bit – is slanted, so that the back is lower than the cushioned front. Great if you’re an adult and want to feel like you’re slightly reclined and have support under your thighs. But problematic for the little one.
SO MUCH SPACE but at an angle
Our child seat, like many, attaches to a base unit. You clip the base into the Isofix points and keep it there, then the child seat clips onto the base and can easily be lifted in and out. But you need to have the child seat level. There’s a line marked on it to show what angle it should be. And it’s impossible to get that line level, because of the slanted car seats. This would appear to be a fairly common problem.
The net result is that when the baby is asleep, any kind of acceleration more than a crawl results in her head falling down onto her chest. It’s especially bad on hill starts, and isn’t ideal, as it can cause breathing issues. When it’s happened to me, I’ve had to dab the brakes to get her head to fall back into the back of the child seat. It’s a bit distracting and far from ideal if there's someone behind me.
This isn’t just an issue on the Superb – I tried it in an Octavia too and had the same result. Next time I have a non-Skoda in to test, I’ll try it in that too.
All belted up and at the right angle
In the meantime, I’ve had to ditch the seat base and put the seat directly onto the cushion, wedged up at the right angle and secured it with the seatbelt. The seat is designed to be able to do this, but it’s much more of a faff to lean over, plug the belt in and loop it around the back of the seat than just clipping the seat into the base.
Yes, this is definitely what the cubbyhole was designed for
None of this has clouded my appreciation of the Superb, I should hasten to add – it’s generally been very impressive, which I’ll expand upon next time. I've particularly enjoyed the beer cubby in the boot.
I’m just suddenly wishing for a whole new range of optional Dad accessories.