I live in a house called High View. It’s a Victorian semi that’s perched on a smallish hump, hence the name. We have a short, steep drive hemmed in by a low brick wall on one side and a stone bank on the other. It’s a sort of tarmac-lined culvert and getting a car up it requires a fair degree of concentration.
It was also the opening subject of conversation for one of our neighbours. She was a stolid, elderly lady with the countenance of a wasp-chewing bulldog. “You know you can’t get an ambulance up that drive of yours?” she said with venomous glee. We weren’t entirely sad when she moved away.
So far, we haven’t put the ambulance theory to the test, but suspect one would just about squeeze up our driveway, in part because we’ve bought a motor caravan and that does. It’s a mid 1990s Volkswagen T4, powered by a plodding, but oddly musical 2.4-litre five-cylinder diesel engine. Amusingly, the conversion is a Swift Carrera, but the old girl is about as un-Porsche like as you can get.
Despite the van’s bulk, I’ve found getting it up our driveway has been easier than some much smaller press cars. This is partly because the van is squared off, so it’s obvious where its extremities are, even though its interior’s domestic impedimenta creates some blind spots. The driver’s seat is high, another plus, and a big contrast to many modern cars, whose low-slung driving positions make you feel as if your nose is level with their belt lines, like a small child sitting in a bath.
This certainly applied to the Nissan Leaf that recently came my way. Now I like the Leaf and how it goes about its business. Using its reversing camera with the clever 360 degree graphic, getting up our drive was easy, but it would have been a different story on a foggy night, or if the camera lens had been obscured. With its low seating position, bulging flanks and fat C-pillars, old fashioned reversing would have been a real chore.
Mazda’s intriguing, if wilfully eccentric, MX-30 electric sports utility would have been worse still. It has vestigial, RX-8-like backwards hinged rear doors and no B-pillar, but once inside you have the illusion of a very thick B-pillar indeed, and at tight road junctions this becomes a hefty blind spot. Three quarter rear vision is barely helped by the very small rear side windows, which are better at letting light into the cabin than seeing out of the car. Yes, the Mazda has a reversing camera, and parking with it is straightforward, but its driver would suffer if, in a few years, the camera went on the blink.
Many modern cars are similarly blindsided, and there are plenty of good design and legislative reasons why, but when an ageing motorhome is in some ways easier to manoeuvre than a new sports utility, this is surely a blind spot in every sense of the term.