Modern motoring essentials

By David Linklater

Ten inventions every new car should have

All cars should have an iphone/ipod dock.
All cars should have an iphone/ipod dock.

Modern cars have plenty of great features. But when you've tried them, there are a few that you really feel you just can't do without. So here are 10 that we reckon absolutely every new car should have.

ADAPTIVE CRUISE CONTROL

Adaptive cruise control is essential.
Adaptive cruise control is essential.

Cruise control is nothing new: it's always been a great feature for easing the driving load on long journeys and keeping speeding tickets to a minimum.

But it's only in the past few years that really good adaptive cruise control systems have appeared: these not only maintain your chosen speed, they also use radar and/or camera to keep you the correct distance from the car in front.

Try a really smooth one, like Mercedes-Benz Distronic Plus or Subaru's EyeSight, and you'll wonder how you ever drove without it.

CROSS-TRAFFIC ALERT

When you're reversing out of a parking space, you are pretty much blind until your car is clear of the vehicles beside you.

Cross-traffic alert, available on many vehicles including the Mazda3 and Holden Commodore, uses a radar signal to detect approaching traffic from either side as you reverse and warn the driver. Once you've used it, you really come to rely on it.

REVERSING CAMERA

A reversing camera is essential in cars.
A reversing camera is essential in cars.

Reversing cameras are becoming commonplace on new vehicles. They are not a substitute for having a decent look out the back and using your mirrors, but a glance at the wide-angle view of a reversing camera gives you a 100 per cent guarantee that there's nothing - or especially nobody - behind you.

GLOVEBOX

Cars used to have large compartments in the dashboard.

But have you noticed that as carmakers attempt to cram more and more safety and convenience equipment into car interiors, the humble glovebox has been shrinking? Many aren't even large enough to accommodate the handbook.

Cupholders abound in modern cars, but decent storage for personal items is sadly lacking. So kudos to those carmakers who still see the value in a decent-sized glovebox.

CARGO NET

Still on the storage theme: a cargo net is pretty low-tech in terms of the equipment you can get in modern cars, which is perhaps why this essential piece of kit is overlooked by so many manufacturers.

Sports gear stored securely in a cargo net .
Sports gear stored securely in a cargo net .


There are few things more infuriating than the noise of a heavy item thumping from side to side in the boot as you drive. Or dangerous, depending on the item in question.

Call it sanity or call it safety, but cargo nets should be compulsory in all new cars. Then the supermarket run could always be sweet.

TYRE PRESSURE MONITOR

Tyres are often a neglected item, yet they're the only point of contact between car and road. Keeping the correct pressure is a good start towards safe driving and maximising the life of that expensive rubber.

Tyre pressure monitors are now a common feature. The simplest (and most common) simply measure wheel rotation and give you a warning when one wheel is spinning faster than it should - which is what happens when a tyre loses pressure.

But the most sophisticated systems actually have pressure sensors in the rims, so they can tell you what the pressure is in each tyre at any time and give you early warning when that starts to change.

As an aside, Nissan has launched a system in the United States called Easy Fill: when you inflate a tyre, the car's horn sounds to let you know it's at the correct pressure. Inflate further and it honks more aggressively to indicate you're overdoing it.

VACUUM CLEANER

Still more lessons from the United States: Honda has launched an in-car vacuum cleaner on top-line Odyssey models called VAC. The system is built into the car - just like many modern houses - and comes with a long hose and suitably tiny head to clean the car's carpets and seat fabric.

Having a vacuum cleaner built into your car sounds ridiculous at first. But if you have pets, children or a penchant for eating in your vehicle, then it's a simply brilliant concept.

KEYLESS ENTRY

Keyless entry is another feature you use and take for granted - until you drive another car without it and feel you've stepped back into the Stone Age.

"Keyless entry" is a bit of a misnomer, actually. Rather, it's a system that allows you to unlock the door without pressing your remote control - it senses when the key fob is within range and allows you to open the door.

Some cars have a button on the door handle that you have to press, while others are a bit more swish and have sensors on the underside of the handle to activate when you put your hand around it.

INDUCTIVE CHARGING

In this age of Bluetooth and music streaming, who needs wires? Except that when you're in the car, it's pretty hard to get through a road trip without having to charge your phone or music player.

The answer is wireless charging, which is rapidly becoming standard on new-generation smartphones.

A charging system called Qi is near-universal, so what's needed now is in-car wireless charging: you don't need special fittings for different phones, just a pad to put your device on.

Fiat Chrysler is also offering wireless charging in some models in the United States. We think it's time to go global.

HANDBAG HOLDER

The Nissan Micra is an undistinguished little car but it does have one feature that represents a stroke of brilliance: a so-called handbag holder, which is just a small compartment in the front passenger seat that flips up to provide stable stowage for small items.

The Nissan Micra has a handbag holder in the front passenger seat.
The Nissan Micra has a handbag holder in the front passenger seat.


Now, men: be put off by the Micra by all means, but embrace this concept. The hand/manbag holder is also ideal for phones, wallets, keys - anything solid that you can't put on plastic anywhere else in the car because it slides around, makes a racket and gets scratched.

- NZ Herald

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