July 2022 is designated ‘National Picnic Month’. Frankly though, any warm sunny day is a good enough excuse to dust off the hamper, roll-up the picnic rug, prep the potato salad and the cucumber sandwiches and head off into the unknown, or more likely the local park.
But first, fire up the car! But which car? That depends on the kind of picnic you’re after. Here’s our top suggestions.
The Big Family Day Out
For this you need an MPV. You can look at the top sellers such as the Ford Galaxy or Volkswagen Group equivalents (VW Sharan and SEAT Alhambra). However, we’d look at another VW offering, the Multivan.
Not only is the highly versatile and configurable people carrier spacious and comfortable, with multiple seating configurations, as well as being available as a plug-in hybrid for efficient and clean motoring, but there are endless accessories and customisation features available. This means anything from installing rotating seats, a coolbox and foldable tables within the Multivan, to going for the full Grand California – the definitive modern campervan. Complete with a kitchenette, bed and even a bath! With this, that picnic might extend into a few days.
If your idea of the perfect picnic is heading off the beaten track, seeking deep nature and going where no picnickers have gone before, you need a vehicle that not only ventures anywhere but brings the right attitude.
That could be a Land Rover Defender, but it’s too obvious, and everyone will think you’re either a farmer or aristocracy, which might not be a bad thing. The cheeky little upstart Suzuki Jimny could fit the bill, it’ll scramble around anywhere and get through the tightest of tree gaps. Find an older third generation convertible and you can bring the outdoors inside.
Which brings us to the ultimate overlander, the Jeep Wrangler. The granddaddy off-roader, the war veteran, the beach bum, the adventurer’s best friend and the fun-in-the-sun special. On most models you can remove not only the roof, but the doors and even drop the windscreen to go completely al fresco. Essentially you could park atop a muddy hill and have an epic picnic without ever getting out of the car!
For some it’s not about the picnic, but the journey to the picnic spot. Particularly if you’re taking in some brilliant driving roads along the way. For that you need a sports car. Sharp steering, with a bit of poke. All you'll need is a pair of seats, because kids will just bore you with their incessant ‘are we there yet?’ inquiries, and families don’t like being thrown about as you corner-carve. They’ll lose their appetitite on the way there and lose their lunch the way back!
Which means the boot needn’t be too big either, just enough to accommodate a tightly packed hamper for two and a cosy little rug, so everything isn’t rattling around. A roadster would be cool, and at this point you’re probably visualising an MGB in the Peak District.
Right place, wrong car, because it’ll probably break down and your day will end with exchanging sausage rolls with a recovery driver. Instead, opt for a Mazda MX-5. A totally dependable and stupendously satisfying drive that will make you want to find the furthest possible spot to break out the Scotch Eggs.
On a Family Budget
If you need something reliable, comfortable and spacious enough to get the family out to the park, along with the picnic basket, frisbees, kite, dog, barbeque, volleyball net and so on. You need an SUV. Opt for any one of the top three world’s best-selling SUVs – the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Nissan X-Trail and you won’t be disappointed – 1 million, 900,000 and 500,000 buyers a year respectively, can’t be wrong.
However, here’s a top tip and a little secret. The first- and second-generation Honda CR-V came with a very special feature that is entirely redundant and seemingly a pointless gimmick 99.9% of the time, but suddenly becomes the best thing since well, literally sliced bread, when it comes to picnic day. The luggage space floor panel can be taken out and underneath you’ll find legs that fold out to create… a picnic table! All you need to do is grab some collapsible chairs too. Go for the Mk2 (2001-06) CR-V, there’s still plenty around in great condition, with the best examples less than £8000.
The Luxury Picnic
There’s a line in the hit 1990 movie, Pretty Woman, when Robert Redford’s character is shopping and tells the salesman he is about spend a lot of money. The vendor than humbly enquires: ‘Just how obscene an amount of cash are we talking about here? Profane or really offensive?’ In the interests of objectivity, we will give you both options.
Let’s start with the brand-new Range Rover, which retains its position as the ultimate luxury off-roader with more opulence and features than ever and of course, most pertinent to our purpose here, the renowned split folding rear tailgate, the bottom part of which has always served to provide a viewing platform to sit on when visiting the races or polo, or just surveying the grounds of your palace.
For the latest generation Rangie the ‘Tailgate Event Seating’ levels up. Flip it open and lift a panel in the luggage compartment floor to pull out the seat cushions, then flip-up the panel to form a back rest. You have cupholders on each side and speakers in the top half of the tailgate which can be controlled by remote. Pump out your favourite tunes or tune them into the match commentary.
But wait, did we say this was the ultimate luxury off-roader? We’re obviously wrong. Because that accolade has to be reserved for the Rolls-Royce Cullinan. You don’t turn up at a Polo match in a Cullinan just to show-up the proles in their tawdry Rangie. You turn up at a Polo match in the Rolls because you OWN the polo match, and the players, and the horses, and the field and even the mallets.
In the back of the Cullinan there is a floor mounted box, open it and slide out a pair of swivel-adjustable leather-upholstered viewing chairs. As for cupholders, don’t be so crass! An actual centre table is provided for your butler (who arrived ahead of you in a Range Rover) to layout your Caviar lunch. Picnics don’t get more decadent.
Enjoy the sun!