What standard equipment is right for me?

‘All cars come with central locking, electric front windows and CDRadio’.

Here at Perrys, we’re tired of reading through equipment lists from manufacturers which include ‘features’ that should by all rights be standard on all new cars released now.

Buying a new or used car can be a minefield for any number of reasons, many of which you can read about in our guides section, but equipment levels shouldn’t be one.

So, as always we’re here to help with our top five areas you should look out for when buying a new car. Of course, not all new cars will feature all of the equipment featured here, so it’s up to you to decide which is more important.

However, we believe all new cars should have this technology by now, and if some of it crops up on an older model, even better!

Safety

ESP, ESC, ASC, PCS, SCS, STC, VSC… the list is endless. However, they all mean the same thing. All stand for some variation of ‘Stability Control’ or ‘Stability Program’. In English, it is simply an electronic system designed to make the car more stable.

The ‘Elk Test’ is designed to test a vehicle through a sharp chicane to see if it rolls over. For larger cars some sort of stability control is essential, but more often it is appearing in all kinds of cars to improve handling and control.

Always look for stability control when buying a people carrier or larger car, but really it should be more and more available with all cars.

Other safety equipment to look out for is driver and passenger airbags (generally all new cars have these), side curtain airbags and seat belt pretensioners to improve the safety on a car in the event of a collision.

Gadgets

Everybody loves a car kitted out with all the latest gadgets and gizmos. These fall into two distinct categories.

Accessories: The key accessory for many is a sound system. Most modern cars have radios and CD players, but we would suggest splashing out on higher trim levels to get an MP3iPod compatible system if you’re into in-car music.

Better systems will include a hard drive and USB connectivity so you can customise and store songs in your car’s system.

Other accessories we like to see on most new cars include DAB digitial radio, touch screen technology (but not while you’re driving), and a good quality climate control system for those cold (or warm) morning drives.

Assistance: Chief amongst the assistance technology available on cars now are parking aids. Even smaller cars should feature rear parking sensors on all but the entry-level models. These are vital when finding a parking space in ever-busier city areas.

More advanced systems include rear parking cameras – something Ford has even fitted into the rear view mirror in some models such as the new Focus.

Other things to look out for include Satellite Navigation, blind spot information systems and to a lesser extent, lane departure warning technology.

Cosmetic

Many people want to customise their car to make it individual. After all, many people name their cars and almost feel it is a part of the family.

Cars like the Fiat 500 and Citroen DS3 are leading the way with a range of colour choices and customisation options and we’d like to see more cars offering a range of exterior touches to add an air of individuality to a car. Always beware of extra charges for things like metallic paint though.

Another thing to consider if you’re the style-conscious type of driver is alloy wheels. While the likes of Land Rover and Jaguar are rarely seen without them, a surprising number of smaller cars are getting in on the act.

However, try not to get alloys that are too big for the car and will negatively affect the ride comfort.

Interior

The interior upholstery and storage options depend on both the manufacturer and the type of car you’re buying. For example, Land Rover cars are generally luxurious and will offer sumptuous leather interiors, while large budget people carriers are more likely to be practical and hard-wearing.

What we would like to see on larger cars such as people carriers is the ability to fold seats into the floor without sacrificing space in the rear. Anyone with a family will attest to every litre of space counting.

It also eliminates the time consuming and difficult practise of having to remove the seats completely. See the new Vauxhall Meriva for a hugely flexible seating configuration.

Performance

Not essential, but fuel-saving startstop technology – or a variation of the name – will save you fuel and therefore money on many diesel models.

At the moment startstop technology is the preserve of more luxury models, but it is becoming more popular in smaller cars as well, in particular eco-badged models such as the Seat Ibiza Ecomotive.

The technology turns off the engine when the car is sat at lights, but instantly turns it on again once the driver wants to move again, saving small amounts of fuel each time.