Buying a new car these days is not so much about the basic list price of the vehicle in question and the associated monthly PCP figure, but more about how much it’s going to cost you once you’ve got a few choice options on there. Should you go for that massaging driver’s chair function? Are carbon ceramic brakes at €12,000 really a good idea? And will you ever recoup the outlay you expend on having the dashboard fringed in bits of wild, lurid orange trim?
So, here’s our guide to the top five options you should be looking for – additional bonus marks if any of these come as standard on the vehicle you’re thinking of purchasing:
Active Cruise Control
Often know as ACC, as the A can sometimes stand for Adaptive – and it has to be one of the best inventions since Early Man crafted a stone into a round shape and banged a couple of examples onto a wooden axle. ACC reads the gap to the car in front and keeps you at a safe distance, no matter what traffic ahead is up to. This means no fiddling around, cancelling and reapplying boring old standard cruise control as traffic endlessly ebbs and flows. It’s an absolute boon in stop-start driving conditions, it really is.
Yes, we know most people who sit on them will often say they feel like they’ve had an incontinent episode as heated seats begin to work, but there can be nothing nicer than having your backside gently toasted on a sharp winter’s morning, especially if your car has bitterly cold leather upholstery. Instead of sitting there with your teeth chattering in a frenzied fashion as you shiver for the first ten kilometres of a frosty drive, waiting for the car’s heater to warm up sufficiently, instead you can revel in the warm, cosseting hug of a heated seat. Maximum kudos if you get a heated steering wheel, too; the ultimate automotive luxury.
Seems like an odd one, this, especially as sunroofs have been around since the age of Noah and they gradually went out of fashion as air conditioning became all-prevalent, but the panoramic roof is a lovely bit of kit when it’s specified. Without wishing to sound like an interior designer going all gushing and gooey over basic principles of physics, the panoramic roof’s trick is to flood the cabin with light. This brings with it an enormous sense of well-being and can really lift the ambience of cars with dreadfully dark, black-plastic interiors. Some panoramic roofs are fixed panes of glass, but the best ones open, too, giving an almost convertible-like driving experience.
Does what it says on the tin, this one, and it’s more necessary than you might think. This is because, despite them having been around for donkey’s years, parking sensors can be a little… hit (almost literally) and miss with warning you about thin furniture behind you, like streetlamps and low bollards, or they can even be relaxed about the distances to more sizeable objects, like parked cars and walls. Reversing cameras eliminate such worries, but two warnings here: one, try and avoid the fixed, exposed ones, because they get plastered in road grime in winter and are therefore largely useless; and two, also avoid the weird spec-combination of a reversing camera without rear parking sensors.
A Banging Sound System
This option alone seems to have almost entirely put paid to the aftermarket in-car entertainment business. Gone are the days we had to cram a tatty old single-DIN head unit in the dash, with its shiny silver plastics and its gigantic blue LCD display screens, as most manufacturers have now cottoned on to the fact that people in cars really do like to listen to music. On almost every car from superminis upwards, there’ll be an upgraded sound system or two to choose from, and when you start getting to the higher-end vehicles, then said upgraded sound system normally has the sort of power and clarity of noise to deafen bystanders at a distance of 100 metres. Superb.