A modern, safe family car that will best protect your children should have most of these features as standard equipment
So you have a baby on the way and are now shopping for a car to make your life easier? Or getting your first car after more additions to your family and you’ve decided that dragging two or three kids around on public transport is too much like preparing for an expedition everytime you leave the house?
Shopping for a new or used car can be confusing, but with the wealth of safety systems you can find fitted in cars these days, they are safer than ever before. Here are what we think, from experience, are the Top Five safety features that every family car should have.
Cars with this active safety feature have sensors that detect objects moving into the vehicle’s path while the car is reversing. They will sound a warning, and some more advanced systems like those in a Mercedes-Benz can apply emergency brakes at low speeds. This greatly reduces the chances of running over something that is out of your sight, especially when you are distracted by whinging toddlers in the back seat.
It’s such a handy piece of equipment that we wonder why more cars don’t have it. There are different ways of implementing it, from flashing lights on the wing mirrors to automatically enabled cameras like in the Honda Civic and higher end Kia models like the Stinger, to warning buzzers like the one in the Kia Stonic M-Hybrid. Check how they operate though as some of them have warning tones that cannot be lowered in volume without switching the whole system off. And they can be loud and annoying to passengers.
A relatively new innovation that has very quickly trickled down to mainstream cars, this intelligent cruise control uses cameras and radar to keep a safe distance to the car in front. It’s great because it can keep you out of trouble, including avoiding the possibility of rear-ending another slowing car on an expressway. Most current-gen cars from Hyundai, including the Avante and Tucson, include the option.
Similar to rear cross traffic alert but working on the front end of the car, this uses sensors to detect potential collisions at low speeds. It is very effective in car parks and at traffic junctions, where the potential of being distracted by your own children in the car can force you to take your eyes off the road for a second or two. The car can initiate emergency braking to stop from crashing into pedestrians in the blink of an eye. It’s trickled down to so many mainstream cars that you can now also find it fitted in the Kia Cerato.
Once viewed as something only meant for high performance cars, this should now be considered as a safety must-have, along with the nearly-universal anti-lock brakes. Even the little 81 horsepower Suzuki Ignis has it included. It’s typically a suite of sensors at each wheel, together with a main G-force sensor, that constantly checks if the car is going where the steering wheel is pointed. If any wheel is skidding or the car is sliding off course on a slippery surface, the system can apply corrective braking to individual wheels to mitigate the situation. It won’t save you from ham-fisted, clumsy driving, but on uneven, slippery roads it can be the difference between suddenly sliding off the road and a quick recovery.
ISOFIX child seat anchors have been standard fit in almost all new cars since 2006. They are unobtrusive and possibly the most effective way to mount baby and child seats into a car. You will typically find the mounting points at the base of the back seats, often covered by a small plastic cover when they are not in use. ISOFIX compatible child seats typically slide in on rails and can be easily locked onto the mounting anchors.
If you are a new parent, remember that properly anchored baby seats are the safest way to transport fragile infants in a car. Carrying them on a passenger’s lap is illegal and also a very bad idea.
Volkswagen’s family-friendly MPVs have integrated booster seats to keep children four years old and up safely buckled in, but for infants, an infant seat or car-friendly, secure infant carrier is the only way to go.
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