If a camel is a horse designed by a committee, where does that leave the family car? Some want space, others want storage, a few want street cred, at least two want it to drive well and a few others want it to keep its contents safe.
Once you own the car you start realising the importance of the ‘care’ details. Those are the design features that nag you because they are missing or don’t work, or they are the conveniences that make life in the front and back seats of a family vehicle easier and more comfortable.
Here are 11 details that will help maintain the peace once you hit the road.
1. INTEGRATED SUNSHADES
It is Australia people; the sun is hot and dangerous. As a minimum, you need to shade the sunroof so that your rear passengers don’t fry. Sleeping is also much easier without the sun’s glare. Use aftermarket stick-on window screens if you must, but the convenience and space-saving of a built-in shade is gold.
2. FISH-EYE MIRROR
The rear-view mirror is useful, but a convex mirror in an adjacent location will give the driver a full view of the rear seat.
3. SEAT-BACK, FOLD-DOWN TABLES
Kids can use them as play surfaces and for eating on the run; adults can use them to work or play games. Any option that makes rear-seat travel less monotonous is a winner, but the fold-down table is the best.
4. COOLER/WARMER IN THE CONSOLE
What better way to cool hot temperatures than with a refreshing drink or a piece of fruit. Many gloveboxes now contain coolers, and if you’re really lucky, you might option one in the centre console. It’s a welcome luxury on a long road trip.
5. REAR AIR
It’s surprising how many Australian cars don’t have rear air-conditioning outlets. While it’s true that a decent A/C will eventually cool the entire car, many travellers require a cool breeze to stave off carsickness. Unless you’re good with the thundering noise of rolled-down windows on a long drive, anyone road tripping with rear passengers will want rear vents.
6. KID-FRIENDLY REVERSING SENSORS/CAMERAS
Some cars are so high off the ground that their sensors will not detect a toddler. Reversing cameras are useful, but are sometimes so visually busy you can still miss a child or a pet. Sensors located low on the rear and sides of your vehicle are a great way to ensure your reversing is as safe as it can be.
7. TAN LEATHER, NOT BLACK
This is one for the ageing car, when non-stop family use starts leaving its mark. Black leather may have looked terrific in the showroom, but brown leather reflects more sunlight (thus doesn’t get as hot) and ages into scratches much better than black. A few years down the track, black leather looks old, while brown leather looks worn-in. It’s the same for interiors. For long-term leather: choose brown.
8. SLIDING MIDDLE SEAT
This can be the difference between a useable third row and lower body amputation. A middle-row slider means you can position a baby seat closer to the driver, make more legroom in the third row, or push the seat back for luxurious second-row legroom.
9. CARGO NETS BETWEEN BOOT SPACE AND REAR SEATS
If your car is full, chances are the boot area is also jam-packed. An SUV or wagon has no division between the piled-high luggage in the back and the people in the front, so a cargo net is a must to stop heavy luggage flying forward in a sudden stop.
10. REAR RUBBISH BIN
A built-in, removable bin will bring you happiness you can’t even imagine.
11. SLIDE-DOWN SAFETY SCREEN
Parents of teenagers know what I mean. Take a tip from limo drivers, or at least install a taxi protection screen, so that you can negotiate safely without fear of attack.