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Car packing tips for a small car


So you need to fit a family-sized load of gear into your small car? Citroën's small car packing tips will help you efficiently fit in everything you need for your next road trip! Small cars can be compact on the road but big on space, with today’s ingenious vehicle designers knowing how to utilise every inch of space – so you can too. 

Whether you’re heading off for an epic holiday, or just moving a big load from one place to the next, it pays to apply a bit of planning and logic to the job of packing a small car. Plus a little pre-planning can save you a lot of hassle. A well-packed car will be more comfortable for all passengers, prevent the risk of damage your vehicle and it will also reduce the chance of driver distractions, to keep everyone safer.

Here are some handy tips for optimising space when you have a small car, but a big trip planned.

1. Start with a clean slate

Make way for your gear by removing all non-essential items from your vehicle, while cleaning and decluttering those vital storage spaces. If your boot has gathered the detritus of life over the past 6 months, now is the time to empty and reassess your cargo space. Naturally keep the essentials at hand, including items such as car jacks, tools, your car manual and first aid kit.

Take out excess shopping bags, spare shoes, old dirty towels, rubbish, empty drink bottles, past their use-by date sunscreens, beach umbrellas (unless you are going to the beach, of course!), and other ‘just in case’ type of items.

2. Get smart with storage

If you’re packing a small car like the Citroën C3, take advantage of clever storage solutions that organise and minimise your gear. Packing cubes aren’t just for luggage and plane trips, they are a great solution to help you separate and quickly identify each person’s gear and you can even pack clothing into different cubes for each day of the trip. Look for sturdy, good-sized cubes with good zips (some have a handy compression features too!) and you can even choose waterproof ones for added protection.

Vacuum bags are also a great way to stash and store clothing or bulky items like pillows and sleeping bags. Look for good quality travel bags that expel excess air by simply rolling them up, rather than requiring a vacuum cleaner to suck out the air. They come is a wide range of sizes and have the additional advantage that they will keep gear clean and safe from water or leaks. 

Then you can make the most of the available space in your small car by tucking the cubes or bags into nooks and crannies – leaving more space for rigid suitcases or other bulky items.

3. Devise a strategic packing plan

Before you start packing the car, first gather together everything you need to fit in. This will also help to ensure nothing is forgotten – and it will prevent you trying to squeeze something awkward in later! When you have it in the one place, you can assess and categorize the items into light, heavy, durable and fragile piles. Also, if you have a number of smaller items, it may be better to pack them all into one larger soft bag to reduce the number of things with the potential to move around the car.

Now you are ready to start packing in a logical order. Also remember that small cars like the Citroën C3 have a 40/60 split fold rear seat, which can almost triple boot space if you don’t have any rear passengers. Pack any items you will need along the way last, so you can grab them quickly. You can also put things you are going to need along the way in the door pockets or other car storage compartments.

Consider packing an easy to grab day bag with snacks, drinks, medication, maps, swimmers, hats, sunscreen, reading glasses, your wallet and anything you may need to access along the way. That way you will not need to unpack the entire boot to get to that pair of shoes you need! Everything else can be packed away securely and remain undisturbed until your final destination.

If it’s heavy, pack it first.

The heaviest and most sturdy items should be the first to be packed in the bottom of the car boot against the rear of the back seats, or if necessary, on the back seat. This includes large or rigid suitcases, eskies and perhaps

camping gear. Also take care to spread the weight of the heavy items evenly across the width of the cargo space, so as not to affect the vehicle’s centre of gravity. Fill any leftover gaps and spaces with smaller items, such as shoes.

If it’s light, leave it until last.

Lighter items can then be packed on top without fear of being squashed by a heavy load. Try to wedge towels, pillows or soft bags around the larger items to prevent them sliding and moving around during the trip. Wrap delicate items in a towel and pack them under the front seats, where they can’t be squashed and are protected.

4. Safe and secure

Taking time to secure your gear will protect it, you and your passengers from items moving around, especially should you need to brake suddenly. There are a range of ways to do this using straps, bungee cords and luggage cargo nets to anchor everything down safety. The back seat seatbelts can also be used to securely fasten any items on the rear seat. You can also use towels to stop items rubbing together, bouncing around or rattling – and it can be a good idea to do a test run around the block to check for cargo movement, so you can make any adjustments before you set out on your trip. Also make sure your boot packing does not obscure the driver’s rear view thorough the back window.

Take particular care to secure any items that would become a potential missile (such as fishing rods), if you have to pull up suddenly. The weight of even a small item can become 20 times its usual weight, due to the force of gravity, when a car decelerates suddenly as you brake.

5. Need more space? Accessorise

Accessories for small SUVs don’t just look good, they are practical and ingenious too. Choose genuine accessories made by the car manufacturer specifically for your vehicle – they will be tailor made for that vehicle, tested and they should fit seamlessly. Cheaper ones might be tempting, but they may fit poorly and rattle or move around when you are travelling at 100km on the highway – leaving you feeling less that confident in their performance!

A great option is to start with roof bars, which you can attach a range of accessories to help free up space inside your car. Roof mounted accessories include roof boxes, bike carriers, ski holders, kayak carriers and more. Or you could opt for a tow bar to secure a bike carrier to. So if that ‘must have’ item is going to take up too much space in in your cargo area, the chances are that there is an accessory for that!

Tip: After a trip if you’re not using your roof top box, it’s a good idea to remove it until needed again. This will make your vehicle more aerodynamic and reduce fuel consumption for day-to-day driving.

So get packing and let the adventures begin!

Packing a small SUV requires a bit of forethought, so don’t underestimate the importance of taking an organised approach. Getting it right eliminates stress and ensures that you get to your destination happy, safely and relaxed.