Must-have features your next car needs

Fact: Cars cost a bomb in Singapore. Your best way to fight back? Buy one with features that will blow you away


Cars are expensive in Singapore, a fact that’s as plain as the nose on your face.=

Various taxes lift their prices to the stratosphere, and understandably so — to keep the roads from becoming so clogged that they become unusable.

But since there’s nothing to be done about car prices, what you can do about the situation is simple: If cars cost a lot in Singapore, choose something that delivers a lot of car.

That doesn’t mean making sure there is a luxury badge on the grille or stretching to buy the most “prestigious” wheels on the block. Instead, it entails focusing on making sure that your next car comes with important convenience and safety features.

Many of them, such as a panoramic sunroof or multiple airbags, trickled down from luxury cars anyway. So the good news is that a car from a mass-market brand can now be just as well-equipped as yesterday’s luxury car.

In fact, because a luxury nameplate tends to command a premium, very often buying a luxury-branded car in Singapore means you end up with less equipment than if you pay the same amount for one with an everyday badge.

A car brand like Kia amply embodies that principle. Although all of its models are available with generous equipment levels, the Sorento Sport Utility Vehicle is one of the best examples around of just how much you should expect from your next car.

It’s a spacious seven-seater with a powerful, yet fuel-sipping 200 horsepower engine, but that’s only part of its appeal. This list of the most worthwhile features that come with the Kia Sorento is a showcase of the best features that every modern car should come with.

Choosing a car with anything less could mean shortchanging yourself. And if you’re tempted to scoff at the badge, ask yourself this: If a Kia can deliver this many features, what does it say about brands that don’t?

A $10,000 dollar discount (if you act quickly, that is)
If the price is right (i.e. low enough) almost any car can be a hot seller. But given the Sorento’s tremendously long list of capabilities, a $10,000 discount is more than enough to make it irresistible to most.

As explained in another post, if you sign the dotted line for a Kia Sorento SX before July 01, 2018, you’ll pay ten grand less, no ifs or buts or hidden clauses, just a side effect of the new Vehicle Emissions Scheme (VES) laws coming into play.

Smart Parking Assist System (SPAS)
Parking can be a challenge in Singapore’s tight parking spots, and the Kia Sorento’s park assist system is a gift from the engineering gods in some situations.

It uses ultrasonic sensors to search for parking spots, and can then automatically steer the car into place for both vertical and dreaded parallel parking slots.

Any car with such a park assistance system also has electric power steering, a system that is both more fuel efficient and lower maintenance than the hydraulic systems that once prevailed.

Maximum seating flexibility
Five seats is the norm for cars in Singapore, but the versatility of seven seats is something that no longer has to entail driving a boxy Multi Purpose Vehicle (MPV).

The Kia Sorento’s third row seats are ingeniously packaged to disappear when folded and provide useful space for an adult passenger when deployed, for example.

Crossover cars and SUVs are becoming increasingly popular in Singapore, and it’s worthwhile looking for one that has the partial and full folding of rear seat rows to create seating/cargo combinations that can balance passenger comfort with practicality.

Keep an eye out for a car that offers convenient loading of long or odd-shaped cargo, too.

Smart power tailgate with memory function
A powered tailgate is a nice convenience in an SUV or crossover, but even better is a smart one that you can open without having to fiddle with a key.

The Kia Sorento’s smart power tailgate opens when the smart key is detected nearby, for example, so you can approach the car with your arms full of groceries and simply wait for it to open up for you.

Another worthwhile features is a memory function that lets you store your favourite opening angle — a blessing if you usually park somewhere with a low roof, or if it helps to keep the tailgate stay within easy reach instead of opening fully.

Electronic Parking Brake (EPB
EPB engages the parking brake at the touch of a button, taking the muscle work out of pulling up or release a physical handbrake.

It also enables an auto-hold function. This keeps the car stationary even when the brake pedal is released, which is useful in awful traffic jams or even just a lengthy stop at a red light.

EPB was also conceived as a safety system. If the driver suddenly becomes incapacitated for some reason, it’s possible for the passenger to reach over to take hold of the steering wheel with one hand, and engage EPB with the other to bring the car to a safe, controlled stop.

Ventilated seats
Cool air from the vents combat heat, but there’s a way to fight the humidity in Singapore: the ventilated seats in the Sorento and other Kia models have small fans that draw air from the backs of the cars’ front seat occupants.

This has a welcoming coolant effect, but it also helps to dry up perspiration and that uncomfortable feeling of sweat-soaked clothes.

Dual-zone automatic climate control
Automatic climate control is a sophisticated system that makes use of temperature and even sun position sensors to determined the best settings for a car’s air-conditioning system.

But modern cars come with more than one climate zone; in the Kia Sorento, for example, the dual climate control gives the driver and front passenger separate controls for temperature and fan speed.

Just think of how many marriages have been saved by that.

Rear air ventilation
Singapore is hot, and in a large car like the Kia Sorento, having rear air-conditioning vents is practically a must.

The Sorento does one better by offering rear passengers the ability to adjust airflow with vents and controls mounted at the back of the centre console. And in another bonus, it has air vents for the third-row passengers too – that may seem like a minor point, but it keeps everybody onboard happy, and it’s not a feature all seven-seaters have.

Drive Mode Select system
Drivers have different moods, so why shouldn’t a car have different modes to suit? In the Kia Sorento you can choose Normal, Eco or Sport to suit your driving preference, and it’s almost like having more than one car.

In Eco model, for example, the engine and transmission are tamed to improve fuel efficiency. For a more exciting drive, the Sport setting delivers snappier throttle response.

While drive modes are becoming more common, more advanced systems don’t even require the driver to select a setting. The Kia Sorento’s Smart mode monitors the driver’s inputs to automatically determine the right setting.

An automatic transmission with at least eight-speeds
The earlier automatic transmissions offered just two speeds, and up until the end of the 1980s it was still common to see three-speed autos on the market.

But as any bicycle rider knows, the more speeds available, the easier it is to climb hills, gather speed or cruise with little effort.

These days, six speeds are something of a minimum, but an eight-speed transmission like the one in the Kia Sorento would be better for both acceleration and fuel economy.

Vehicle Stability Management (VSM)
Speaking of electric power steering, another function it enables is automatic steering intervention from the car when it’s in danger of losing stability. Together with selective braking on individual wheels, that enables VSM to help drivers keep control of their car.

In the Kia Sorento, monitors how the car is behaving and compares it with the driver’s target trajectory to decide if it’s skidding or losing control, and intervenes instantly.

VSM may sound like an abstract concept, but numerous studies show that its widespread adoption has helped to save lives. In Europe, for example, it’s a mandatory feature. If a car lacks it, you should basically strike it from your list immediately.

Airbags (at least six of them)
Believe it or not, Singapore has safety requirements that are among the lowest in the world. Not even anti-lock brakes, a feature so worthwhile that it has become all but standard in cars today, are required to be fitted to new cars.

That doesn’t mean that safety should be left to chance, however, which is why airbags are also a must-have for your next car. They have been proven to work, especially when used with seatbelts. The least expensive cars sold here may come with just two of them, only for the front passengers, meaning good lucks and positive vibes for the rear seat occupants.

Why six of them? Because no one can predict their next crash.

The six airbags in the Kia Sorento cover the basic bases: front airbags protect you in a frontal collision, side airbags protect the thorax during side impacts, while curtain airbags reduce head injury or even passenger ejection.

Hill-start Assist Control (HAC)
HAC uses the brakes to automatically prevent the vehicle from rolling backwards when at a standstill on a slope by briefly holding it there.

That’s more useful in a car with a manual transmission, but it’s still worthwhile in an automatic when it comes to a halt on a steep hill or parking ramp.

A comprehensive warranty
Quality surveys such as the JD Power Initial Quality Study put Kia at the top among carmakers, which could be one reason the brand is confident enough to offer such a strong warranty: a five- year, unlimited mileage guarantee against defects, with a further five years for engine faults.

Warranties have gradually increased in duration over the years, as car quality has improved in general, but few cars are covered as comprehensively as a Kia.

That’s something worth bearing in mind for your next purchase, because a strong warranty is arguably a better guarantee of quality than a prestigious badge on the bonnet.




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CarBuyer Team
CarBuyer Singapore / brings the most relevant, accurate and useful car news to Singaporeans in both print and online formats.