Van! (by )

Well, last weekend we picked up our van from Sarah's parents, who have been looking after it, and I drove it home.

I like my van.

For a start, all three of us can sit in the front, with Jean in her baby car seat in the middle, Sarah on the left, and me in the driving seat. This makes it easier to entertain her and supply her with milk than when she's alone in the back of a car.

Also, the van has manual transmission, which I'm more accustomed to and generally find easier than the automatic transmission of the car. I'm not quite sure why, but I find it really hard to maintain a speed with automatic cars... the speed seems to creep up or down unless I'm watching it all the time. With a manual, I get it into the correct gear, then just listen to the tone of the engine to regulate the pressure on the accelerator, and it stays at the same speed.

The van is more fun than a car, since you're sitting very high up and can see far ahead. The road seems to be moving much slower beneath you since it's further away; everything seems to happen in slow motion compared to being down by the ground in a car; you can plan further ahead and think about things more carefully.

There's a big comfortable soft steering wheel, hooked up to a power assisted steering system with an impressively tight turning circle for such a large vehicle. You can almost drive it sideways; I can stop the van with the nose about one or two metres away from a wall in front, put it in full lock, drive on, and end up parallel to the wall without needing to reverse. You can tell the van was designed for delivery drivers in London!

I've yet to do a complete test, but it seems more fuel efficient than the car, which is a surprise considering that it's a large cuboid of a vehicle with a 2.5 litre engine compared to a small streamlined thing with a 1.3 litre engine.. The car uses about 16 pence worth of fuel to drive a mile. It was nearly empty when I put about £45 worth of fuel into it, and it's driven about 240 miles since - but the fuel gauge is showing about three eighths full. When I next fill it up and reset the odometer I'll know for sure, but it's looking something like 10 pence per mile.

And, needless to say, being a van, it has a 'boot' ('trunk' to you Americans) about the size of my bathroom, into which one can chuck things without having to go to great lengths packing them down.

The only main downside is that there's only room for two passengers, not the four that can squeeze into a car...

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