If you’re buying a car in Singapore in 2021, whatever the price, it should definitely have these three features or face major FOMO
If you’ve ever gone car shopping, you’ll realise some features are common throughout a segment (size and type, a small SUV for example) and price position (mainstream, luxury), but in 2021 we’ve noticed some trends that have gone beyond the pigeonholes and are almost universal in any new car worth its salt. If a new car you have your eye on is missing one of these features, maybe it’s time to cast your net a little wider.
Why it’s important: Because safety.
In the past, we’d look out for a strong structure made with high-strength steel and at least six airbags. But these days it’s no longer enough to take a beating, because modern cars should be able to stop or mitigate accidents before they happen. The past two years have seen active safety systems proliferate into every major segment and every major brand has its own suite of safety systems.
The arrival of active safety in Toyota’s current Corolla Altis last year highlighted what an industry-standard feature it’s become, and in 2021 it’s continued on Toyota’s super-popular Yaris Cross, the facelifted Honda Odyssey,
Active safety suites, such as Honda’s Sensing, Toyota’s Safety System, and Mazda’s i-Activsense, should include the following, least. It stands to reason that mainstream systems carry these features, so you should expect the same, or more, in active safety systems from luxury brands too.
Forward collision warning/mitigation: Will warn you of an impending collision with another vehicle and/or obstacle. Better systems will detect pedestrians, cyclists and even animals.
Active cruise control: A corollary to the above, it enables the car to follow another car in traffic while keeping distance automatically.
Lane keeping/guidance: Warns the driver audibly or via steering wheel vibration that they are straying from their lane. Better systems will apply steering assist to keep you within the lines.
Cross traffic alert/avoidance: Warns the driver if they are reversing into traffic. Better systems will warn you and brake automatically, and also do the same in forward cross traffic.
Why it’s important: Stay connected safely and legally, and helps you to get around too.
Five years ago syncing up your smartphone with Bluetooth to enable calls and audio streaming was the best you could expect in-car, but now it goes much deeper with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Both smartphone integration systems allow you to ‘use your phone’ through a car’s infotainment screen, which isn’t just less distracting that tapping on a tiny screen, it’s also legal unlike ‘handphone driving’ which carries penalties of disqualification from driving, a fine of up to S$1,000 and/or six months jail. PSA: While talking via handsfree and using in-built touchscreens while driving is legal, it’s still distracting so try to do so only when stationary.
Having the feature also means you can access navigation features (as long as you have internet access) which saves you an extra chunk of change from ‘in-built’ navigation. Lastly, the iOS and Android assistant features are also open to you, meaning you can ask them to call someone, play music, or give you news and weather.
Both systems work via USB cable, but newer car models, like the Kia Stinger, and most new BMWs, can do it wirelessly.
Why it’s important: A VES rebate means you get more car for a smaller price tag
Ok this isn’t so much a conventional feature as a end result. Last year, the Vehicular Emissions Scheme improvements have meant an increase to penalties and rebates for cars that pollute more or less, respectively. Its purpose is to encourage consumers to shift to less polluting, more efficient cars, and we can say it works pretty damn well.
A S$15,000 rebate is significant, especially for a mainstream car, but if you compared a car with a good VES against one with a penalty, the price gulf becomes very wide indeed.
For instance, if a car has a hybrid variant which scores VES A2 (S$15,000 rebate) and a conventional gasoline variant that has a VES C1 rating (S$10,000 penalty), if all other things remain equal there would be a S$25,000 price difference between the two. Assuming a mainstream car which would cost around S$100k and you can see a major 25 percent difference to price. And with increased penalties coming into play from July 2021, the different would increase to S$30,000 later this year.
If a car has a decent price and VES B rating, well no great sin there. But a car with a good VES rating will always have a sticker price advantage over one that’s neutral, or even more so against a car with a VES penalty. That’s how the new Suzuki Swift has remained price-competitive (it has a mild hybrid system), and why Toyota’s Yaris Cross isn’t even sold here in its regular petrol-engined form – it would be pointless, with the price difference made by VES. Even at a more expensive price point, such as the Toyota Harrier midsized SUV, the price difference between the hybrid and the regular gasoline 2.0 is such that the latter makes very little financial sense, given the hybrid model packs many advantages.