Fat Bottom Girls

Much like the average waistline across the UK, the size of most vehicles on the roads continues to grow with each subsequent generation. Models like the Volkswagen Golf have swelled to many cm wider, longer and taller than heir forebears, so much so that they are now often the size of the next model (or two) up the pecking order. Sticking with Volkswagen, the previous generation city car (the Fox) is over 3.8m long, whereas the original Golf was a mere 3.7m! That sort of bloating is maybe a little extreme but there is no doubt that the size of the average car has increased significantly.

Bootylicious…the current Golf GTI compared to the original

However it’s been well documented that one thing which certainly has not changed since way back when is the size of the average parking space! Now the last time the guidelines about the size of parking spaces was changed was way back in 1994, when it was decided that the minimum width of a parking space should be a mere 1.8m wide and 4.5m long; To put that into perspective it means that even the contemporary Vauxhall Astra is too big for it! With more people buying larger cars it means that parking dings and scrapes are becoming all too common in car parks, even with the advent of parking sensors and cameras doing the rounds.


My car barely fits in this space at the side of the road…

Now of course my car is a lot bigger than something like an Astra, but at 4.66m long and 1.87m wide it is not too far off something like the new Nissan Qashqai (in terms of width at least) and can be in some ways dwarfed by current iterations of luxury SUV’s. Although I don’t find parking per se difficult, it can be a pain squeezing out of the car in crowded multistorey car parks or when wedged next to somebody who has parked right on the edge of their space. Therefore I was horrified when my eyes came to rest on a BMW X6 parked in front of me on the side of the road earlier last week…whereas my car barely fit in the lines, the newer Beemer was basically parked in the road despite being as close to the kerb as possible.

Whereas the X6 just didn't plain fit at all...I'd have been worried if this was my car

Whereas the X6 just didn’t plain fit at all…I’d have been worried if this was my car

Therefore I decided to look at a few cars which continue to catch my eye to see how much they might scare me in everyday use. You all know what these cars look like so there is no real point in me finding generic images of them parked across spaces, but please feel free to use Google if you want those visuals 😉

one such google…

Audi Q5:

The Q5 is one of the smallest cars here and is in fact in a smaller category of SUV’s than my X5, but that still doesn’t stop it from being very close in size to the older shape BMW at 4.63m long and 1.88m wide (!). However it still comes across as a smaller car thanks to being shorter at 1.65m vs 1.76m in my car. Realistically the Q5 is going to be a little easier to park than my car but that’s about it.

Audi Q7:

Audi more or less bookends the vehicles here, with the US-sized Q7 being one of the largest vehicles here by some way. At nearly 5.1m long it hangs out the back of most parking spaces by quite some way, and at over 2m wide when including it’s mahoosive mirrors it is also going to be a struggle to fit in any parking bay. In standard suspension mode the Q7 is only 1.73m tall but with different settings this can be lowered or raised by a fair amount…not going to help with parking but still worth considering.


So with the second generation X3 BMW really decided to make their smaller SUV more competitive. Part of this involved increasing it’s size within spitting distance of the first (my) generation of X5 – at 4.65m long and 1.88m wide it is near enough the same, although the 1.71m height is noticeably shorter and decreases the bulk of the X3 by quite a large amount.


At 4.85m long the second generation X5 saw a significant amount of extra space to the model both inside and out, but more significant to me is the larger 1.95m width. Height is more or less the same as my car but it’s that width that really worries me (even though it’s still not as wide as the Q7!).


The X6 is actually minutely longer than it’s sibling at 4.87m, but that’s due to body work more than anything else. Width-wise it is equally minutely wider but as you might expect as a coupe it is significantly lower at a mere 1.67m tall (same as the Q5 admittedly). The X6 will probably be the most difficult vehicle to park not least because of it’s size but also the abysmal blind spots.

Jeep Grand Cherokee:

Being an American SUV you might expect the Jeep to be a supersize model, but in fact it is pretty modestly sized when compared to rivals here. OK so 4.82m long and 1.93m wide may not be a small car by any means but it comes across as pretty good value when you take into consideration it is significantly cheaper than even smaller rivals.Oh and the 1.76m height is pretty average too.

Land Rover Discovery:

The Disco is seen as one of the largest vehicles on UK roads, but 4.83m long it is actually shorter than the BMW X5 and some other models too. Width is a different story though and at 2.02m wide I am not surprised that my next door neighbour managed to damage hers in he first week of ownership! Also at 1.84m tall it is a struggle to fit in some car parks with height restrictions, but air suspension can help that considerably.

Land Rover Range Rover Sport:

Being based on the Discovery, the Sport is very similarly dimension-ed to it’s cheaper brother. It’s a fair bit shorter at around 4.78m in facelifted models, and a slightly narrower 1.93m wide, but it still takes up a lot of space in parking bays and is a tall 1.81m in height despite height adjustable suspension.

Land Rover Range Rover:

The godfather of SUV’s is not surprisingly pretty damn big, but what is slightly surprising is that it is quite so big despite having been launched near the start of the millenium! At 4.97m long and 2.03m wide, the full fat Rangie vies with the Audi Q7 for title of biggest car, and probably pips the German to the post thanks to it’s 1.87m height when in standard suspension mode. That’s tall enough for me to worry a lot about multistorey car parks, although as with other JLR products here it also has air suspension to help in that department.

Mercedes ML:

Although I am not particularly enamoured with Mercedes’ current ML (soon to be rebranded GLE), I still think it’s worth exploring how it would fit in a parking space…you know, just in case. Being that Mercedes offer the much larger GL as their flagship SUV, the smaller ML is a little smaller than rivals which like to cram in 7 seats and measures 4.8m in length, although it is still pretty porky width wise being 1.92m thick. Passing one the other day I felt the ML looked taller than it’s 1.79m, but I think that was the result of a higher window line when compared to my X5.

Volkswagen Touareg:

Much like the Grand Cherokee and ML, the Touareg sits in an unusual place in the market in that it is a large premium SUV which only offers 5 seats. Of course the fact that the 2 extra seats of some rivals are often utterly useless means very little, but that and the lack of a premium badge (yet premium pricing) mean that it is not a common occurence to see a Touareg bulging out of a parking space. At 4.79m long and 1.94m wide it is pretty chubby, but it’s short(ish) 1.71m height and relatively sleek styling mean that it can appear quite a bit smaller than it actually is…not that it will be any easier to park mind.

Volvo XC60:

Despite some misgivings about it’s image, the XC60 is still a car I find myself checking out in car parks and in traffic thanks to sleek styling and great value second-hand prices. As Volvo’s baby SUV it is actually one of the smallest models here, at just 4.62m long and 1.89m wide it may be one of the few cars here which could be classed as normal to park, even without the optional city parking systems. Volvo likes to describe the XC60 as coupe ‘inspired’ which to me is a bit of a stretch, but the 1.71m height does at least look a little sleeker than the more practical XC90.

I know it’s totally stupid and irrational to stress about parking a vehicle that I have yet to seriously think about, but I guess I wanted to nerd out a bit and you know, verbal vomit over my blog. I also realise (and get jealous/frustrated by) the fact that a lot of these vehicles will end up being parked badly or filling up the dearth of ‘mother and baby’ parking spaces which seem to have sprung up all over the country, complete with wider bays and larger gaps between so doors can be opened widely and without hitting nearby cars. Still I think it may be a while before I get to use them, morally anyway!


4 responses to “Fat Bottom Girls

  1. Don’t worry I’m just the same as you!

    I hate parking dents and I really detest parents that let their young kids open their own doors as they normally do not understand how distressing it can be to have a ding appear in your car panels and the kids often do not have the strength to keep hold of the door in windy weather either. I have witnessed a child opening the door of a BMW X5 into the door of a car parked next to it leaving a huge dent. The mother drove off but I took a note of the regno and reported it to both the owner of the car and to the police.

    Only last week we took the kids to a local stately home. I parked our brand new small Corsa in an end space AND parked right to the far edge of the end space so that the nearest car in the only adjacent space would be miles away if they parked in the centre of the space. However I got back to the car a couple of hours later to have a cigarette to find a Volvo XC parked literally a foot away from my passenger side!!! Worse still was the mother turned up with her kids and was about to let them climb into the car on their own. I made a point of getting my phone out to video the side of my car and she got all red faced and had to get them in herself on the other side. I am pretty sure that had I not been there my new car would have had a big dent in it! I moved the car onto the overflow field and parked in a corner so it was impossible for anybody to get close…..

    These big SUV’s are just too damn big to be parking in small parking spaces, especially with kids to get in and out. It is bad enough in the 3 door Corsa with its huge long doors.

    You may also be interested to read another wordpress blog post from Andy Strangeway about some councils deliberately narrowing parking spaces so they can then fine the drivers for not parking within the confines of the boxes!!


    • Haha I promise that’s not a true representation of all X5 drivers (although I am sure a fair few park very selfishly!). I think it’s been a mistake on the manufacturer’s behalf to stop offering standard rubbing strips (for want of a better term) down the sides of a lot of new car designs. Sure they are not the prettiest of things but I am sure they would prevent a good chunk of door dings in supermarket car parks.

      My car’s running boards do help to some extent, but unless more manufacturers follow Citroen’s lead and put those ‘airbump’ things like on the Cactus things are just going to get worse. Out of curiousity did you buy that dent removal cover when you bought your Corsa? I know a few people who have done so but only bother to make use of it when selling the car/the cover is about to expire!

      • No, I didn’t take out the bodywork warranty. Far too costly for what it covers. I’ve had it in the past and they didn’t rectify problems using various excuses. Not worth the paper it is written on IMHO.

        I hate the rubber strips on the side of cars, they are pug ugly :-(. There should be no need anyway as people should have more respect for other peoples property. It would also help if stupidly wide SUV’s were banned from car parks OR the spaces made wider. I’ve driven large jap pickups and Land Rovers all my life and none of them are any wider than my Corsa so there is no need for a car to be any wider on UK roads, especially as supermarket car parking spaces are so small.

        To be fair though, it is not just supermarket spaces. Only yesterday I went out to my car in the works car park to have a fag just as my boss was parking his VW Toureg and he’d parked about 12″ off my drivers door so it was impossible for me to get into my car. He didn’t have much more space to get out on his side either. I told him to move his car which he duly had to do and he had to park 500 yards away as there was no space wide enough to allow him to park and for him to be able to get out. What idiot designs a car that is wider than any UK parking space or garage?! (Allowing for enough room to actually open the door properly when parked)

  2. Pingback: A Year in Bavaria | readingandwrighting·

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