WHAT do Ford’s original C-MAX, Volkswagen’s Nineties rebirth of the Beetle, and Citroen’s Xsara Picasso have in common?
If you’ve sussed it than you’re either a) a bit weird, or b) someone’s who’s spent time they’d have happily spent watching The Crown frustratingly foraging through online forums aimed at flustered mums. They’re all cars that, even though they were flogged at the time as being family-friendly, have been called out for having rear seatbelts that aren’t long enough.
Not long enough for accommodating baby seats, that is.
That’s the conundrum I came up against when, having had a baby seat bought for me by a kindly relative in the run-up to becoming a dad for the first time, it turned out that the 22-year-old Toyota Avensis on the driveway didn’t have sufficient seatbelts either.
To be honest, rear belt length wasn’t exactly top of the shopping list when I snapped up the secondhand repmobile to do all the boring jobs I didn’t want to entrust the other cars with, but as it’s got back seats and a Mazda MX-5 doesn’t, it’s the Toyota that’s been called up for baby-ferrying duties.
A couple of mates reckoned I should chuck it in and get another car with ISOFIX mounting points - meaning that said baby seat would click straight into the car’s safety structure – but it seems a tad wasteful swapping an entire car for the sake of one seatbelt.
There are also, if you shop around online, people who will sell you a seatbelt extender for £4.99, but I’d avoid these in the same way you’d avoid walking alone down a dark alleyway while carrying an unopened box clearly marked ‘PS5’ in your arm. Would you, in the event of an accident, entrust your firstborn’s life to an untested seatbelt extender you snapped for £4.99 off some bloke on eBay? Exactly.
Happily, there is another way – there’s a company down in Bedford who, if you take the offending seatbelt out and post it off to them, will strip it down, do it properly and replace it with one that is long enough, and then send it straight back to you. It cost £60, plus a tenner or so for recorded delivery – well, you wouldn’t want to lose a seatbelt for a 22-year-old car in the post – but the end result was a properly-fitting seatbelt, a cute baby who could travel around in safety and comfort, and a dad who didn’t have to go out and buy another car.
So there you have it; if you’re expecting a little bundle of joy and don’t fancy spending a bundle, go and google Safety Belt Services.
That’s a whole load of money saved up for the MX-5’s respray, then. Sorry, saved up for another cot and pushchair…
David Simister is the editor of Classic Car Weekly