Can modern cars improve Santa’s sleigh?

Last year, Vauxhall brought us its take on the next generation of Santa’s sleigh. This does away with the traditional reindeer and replaces them with Vauxhall’s extended-range electric technology, which is set to appear in the new Vauxhall Ampera from 2012.

But we thought we could go one better and help Santa out this year with a host of new technology taken from normal road cars to help him on his way.

Vauxhall seems to have the engines worked out – although perhaps the turbocharged jet engines featured on the Jaguar C-X75 concept (and set to appear in very limited versions of a production version in future) would probably give the sleigh a bit more speed to get around billions of homes in just one night.

However, these might help Saint Nick get to those good boys and girls in time.

1) Satellite navigation

This is a fairly obvious one. We know Santa has been finding his own way for centuries but with the increase in air traffic, it is important to avoid any accidents (see number five).

Santa could follow the example of Renault, which has recently added a top-spec TomTom satellite navigation to its higher trim levels for popular cars such as the Renault Megane and Renault Clio.

2) Ford SYNC

I imagine Ford did not envisage Santa using its innovative Ford SYNC system, which is available on the new Ford Focus.

However, the clever system could be useful. If Santa were to forget a present, he could use the communication technology package to speak to the elves at the North Pole and put in any last minute orders.

Plus, he can do all this without taking his eyes off the skies because Ford’s SYNC system comes with voice activation control.

The Ford Focus can inspire other aspects of the sleigh as well, so technology-packed is Ford’s new 2011 hatchback.

Things such as automatic parking, which means the car can park itself, would be useful on those trickier rooftops, while blind spot information systems will help Santa avoid any collisions with birds, aeroplanes and other airborne hazards.

3) Start/Stop

This is a no-brainer for any self-respecting faster-than-the-speed-of-light gift-giver. With the reindeer taking Christmas off, the lower methane emissions from the sleigh will be a huge environmental boost.

However, the introduction of Vauxhall’s petrol engine setup will cost plenty in fuel for what is essentially a worldwide road trip.

Start/Stop is designed in cars to turn the engine off when the car is stationary in traffic lights. This helps to save fuel and reduce CO2 emissions in cars. In recent times everything from the Seat Ecomotive range to Citroen’s Airdream+ eco models use the technology to boost their green credentials.

Santa’s route means plenty of starting and stopping and the technology could help him save a fortune in fuel costs while he drops down those chimneys.

4) Flex7

Vauxhall’s Flex7 seating system has been introduced to the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer, the brand’s largest MPV, this year.

The system allows all of the seats to be manipulated in several different ways and each can be folded or moved individual to give added practicality to the large people carrier.

In a sleigh, this could be invaluable. While the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer offers up to 1860 litres of space with all of the seats flat, we’re sure the extra space afforded to Santa could stretch a little further to get all of those presents in.

Plus, with the seats up there is space for Mrs Santa, a few elves and even the traditional ‘child who saves Christmas’ to travel in comfort in the sleigh on Christmas Eve.

5) Five-star safety

With a faster, more technology-packed sleigh it’s important Santa gets all the safety benefits of somebody in a new car.

To that end, we’d like to see Santa follow Land Rover’s lead when it comes to safety equipment. This means front, passenger and side airbags in the event of a collision, seatbelts with pretensioners and even Electronic Stability Control (ESC).

The latter is standard on all models of the Range Rover Evoque, the stand-out new car in 2011. ESC helps a car keep its balance around corners and helps to prevent rollover and improve grip and traction.

It is now essential to gain a five-star rating in EuroNCAP and most new cars fit it as standard. We think it’s about time Santa’s sleigh followed suit and installed the technology to prevent rollovers.

ESC was designed to combat the ‘Elk Test’ – a test designed to gauge a car’s reaction when confronted with an elk in the road.

This will help Santa avoid any flying reindeer in the sky. After all, they’ve been given the night off and may be out for a stroll…