Tuesday 12 November 2019

Going the 'extra' mile: here are my 10 'must haves' if buying a new car


Comfort: The Opel Grandland X Ultimate
Comfort: The Opel Grandland X Ultimate
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

The car I drove for this week was a year or so old, in sharp contrast with what usually occupies this slot. Yet it took me down a different road; got me thinking (again) about how quickly we get used to new technologies and how disappointed we can be when something isn't there.

My test car was the top-spec (Ultimate) version of the Opel Grandland X diesel which showcases a lot of drive assists, comfort and digital technologies.

As you'd expect, there were a few things it didn't have that I'd personally seek (not meant as a criticism at all) if I was parting with my money.*

The Grandland X is a cousin of the Peugeot 3008SUV (which has swept all before it - especially for groundbreaking cabin and i-cockpit).

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Like so many others, the Opel pales by comparison though it was particularly comfortable.

One thing in its favour was the 2-litre diesel which covered more than 750km while sipping around 5.1 litres every 100km - impressive. Such frugality can be a deciding factor - alongside good comfort and safety levels - for many people.

Anyway, suitably prompted, I decided I'd put myself in my own shoes rather than yours for a change and force myself to tick off what, on top of all else, I would, or would not, do without if I was buying a new car.

1 Parking sensors, cameras, radar - the works. As drivers we are not good at parking. Compounding that is the reality that while parking spaces remain the same, cars get bigger. Many people I've spoken to admit they dread parking.

I've sat watching several make a horse's winkers out of trying to get into a slot at a supermarket. Not that I judge; I've done it myself. I feel naked now if a car doesn't have some sort of parking aid. The more assistance I can get, the better.

2 Head-up display. This is when key information such as speed, limits, temperature, etc is projected in such a way that it appears to be suspended outside the windscreen. It means you never have to take your eyes off the road; the information is right in your line of vision.

I'd insist on this. Usually part of a package, but it doesn't cost that much at all. Becoming increasingly more available.

3 Bluetooth is common, as you know, and it lets you use your phone hands-free. Next time you're changing, look for a really good voice control, too (it's called different things but usually its presence is denoted by a little vocal icon on the steering wheel). It's a real boon because you can tell the system to phone someone, for example, without having to take your eyes off the road. I'd insist.

4 A physical spare wheel, be it full-size or spacesaver. I'd rather have to get out (when safe to do so, of course) and jack up the car and replace a flat tyre with a skinny wheel than attempt to pump goo into a tyre in the spills of rain - or whatever other non-wheel option they put on cars these days. This is a deal-breaker. No wheel, no deal.

5 You'll think fifth is too high for my next one but here goes. I'd have wireless induction charging to power my mobile without having to have a spaghetti junction of wiring-exposed cables strewn all over the front of the cabin. And while I'm at it, I'd insist on two USB charging points for rear passengers as well (they can have the cables).

6 Automatic transmission. I love driving a manual but so much travel is in built-up areas or bumper-to-bumper traffic on the rush hour M50 that I'm inclined towards the easier life of letting the transmission do the shifting rather than my inelegant gear-change gyrations. However, I'd reserve the right to change my mind in a good sporty-drive car.

7 I wish every car had automatic dimming headlights. It would stop the blinding effect that full headlights can have when other drivers don't think to dim.

8 You would be surprised at the number of cars that have measly, token or non-existent hooks to hold things in the boot.

It's a no-brainer really, but is the sort of thing you regret not having when you don't have it and wonder why you didn't kick up a bit of a fuss at the time of purchase. So it makes No 8.

9 Really good AGR-approved seats. They are your body's main point of contact and matter so much for the state of your back.

10 A proper, large set of wing mirrors; not the little pointed thumbnails that sometimes come with a car. Deal breaker.

I know my combination of 'must haves' would add a good few euro to most cars and involve special orders. But when I'm buying, I'm buying.

* Opel Grandland X Ultimate 2-litre diesel (177PS, claimed 4.9litres/100km; €270 tax). Price with options: €42,195. Base model from €28,745. Its items on my wish list included: inductive charging, auto high-beam assist, AGR front seats, 360 panoramic camera/front/rear parking sensors, auto gearbox, etc.

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