The car market in Singapore is somewhat specific and not just in terms of COE and the prices. With most of our driving being in the city, our most desired features in a new car are not blazing performance, off-road ability or cabin heating (imagine driving with heated seats).
However, clever marketing by the manufacturers and dealers can get us craving for things like that. I mean, in theory, who would not like to have their car pre-heated in the morning, or able to overtake pretty much anything else on the road, or climb up to a place that no car should ever reach.
Sure, those things may sound tempting, but they also make cars far more expensive even in countries where buying a car is not as expensive as it is in Singapore.
Well, we are here to keep you in check. Here you can find a list of features that are actually important if you are buying a new car in Singapore and especially so if you have a family.
1. Lots of Airbags
Airbags are one of the most common safety features in cars nowadays. The most common ones are the ones for the driver and the front passenger. However, in the past few years, it has become normal to have side and/or curtain airbags, as well as one for the driver’s knee. You never know where a hit may come from, so even though people mostly think about head-on collisions, side impacts are more common than we would like them to be.
2. Advanced Safety Features
It has been increasingly difficult for manufacturers to obtain the 5-star safety rating, what with the ever-increasing level of demands. This is why vehicles with high or top ratings will have the latest passive and active safety features. Good results on crash tests are essential, as are things like cross-traffic alert, emergency braking, blind-spot monitors and various similar warning and pre-collision assist systems.
These become even more important when you remember that children in your car can easily occupy your attention and a second can make the world of difference in avoiding a collision or minimising its results.
3. Good visibility
Family cars are usually boxy which makes them not the prettiest creations out there. On the other hand, that also makes them a lot easier to manoeuvre and place their angles. Large glass surfaces also help immensely, especially when combined with the mentioned boxy body shape like the Toyota Noah Hybrid.
4. Cabin Storage and Space
So, you suddenly need to take prams, backpacks, buggies, food (maybe even a small car fridge), baby bottles which need to be upright, sports equipment, something for the dirty stuff (and, believe me, there will be dirty stuff). You also need regular things like car equipment, first aid kit or space for your bag or phone. And if you have a pet that goes around with you…
You need very versatile storage spaces and lots of them. For example, having a spacious boot is very useful like the Honda Shuttle with its foldable seats.
But it is not of much help when you need to put your phone or house keys somewhere where they will not slide away in a curve, or bottles with water that just roll under a car seat.
You need cup and bottle holders, door pockets, seatback pockets, trays or bins along the central column and similar. All of these suddenly become far more important than a stylish but useless central console layout.
5. Big and Well-Shaped Boot
This one is connected to the previous point. While storage space for small items that you need to keep at hand is very important, you also need a lot of space in the boot. Bear in mind that a lot of litres in the specs sheet does not necessarily translate to a useful boot. It also needs an easily accessible loading floor, not too high from the ground and the inside area needs to be with as few peculiarities as possible.
Wheel wells also need to be as non-intrusive as can be. A lot of litres of boot space becomes useless if you can’t fit the pram because those wheel wells make the space too narrow.
6. Versatile Seating
Folding rear seats are a must for a family. They are a way to easily increase your boot space and versatility without buying a massive, heavy, expensive and fuel-guzzling vehicle. You can also go further with more helpful features such as 60/40 or even 40/20/40 or 35/30/35 split rear seats that allow you to combine increased boot capacity with carrying more than just the front passengers. Similarly, some front passenger seats fold flat as well for a very long load space in seemingly small cars.
Lastly, Honda maybe went the furthest with their Magic Seat feature that brings incredible versatility since the seats can fold be folded flat, or their seating cushions can be lifted up allowing you to carry very tall items.
7. Easy Approach
If you have ever installed a child seat you know how important easy approach is. If your family car does not have rear doors, you have made the wrong choice. And if you think that you will only install the seat once and it will be easy after that, wait until you try to put your baby in it while holding at least one other thing in your hands. You NEED back doors.
It also helps immensely if the opening is wide and high and that the rear wheel arch is not eating into the opening, limiting the space. Some cars have rear doors that open at a narrow-angle, so make sure you check this. It is easy to forget to check that and it is an everyday peril.
Power sliding rear doors are a special perk, especially in tight parking spaces. They provide access that cannot be matched by any conventional doors.
8. Infotainment and Connectivity
It may seem like this is not very important for relatively short city runs, but if a certain song or a cartoon can keep your toddler occupied while you’re driving, easy connectivity is essential. You will hate having to use a bunch of cables or fiddly systems to get your phone connected every time you drive your child.
9. Second (or third) Row Amenities
Just like in the front, you need chargers for the kids’ smartphones and cup and/or bottle holders. Rear air vents are also very useful, especially on larger vehicles. Sun shades are a very welcome addition as well, especially if you have small children.
10. Interior That Is Easy To Clean
Plush materials are important for you until you have children. After that, you will see all the downsides of the soft, lavish alcantara seats. You need durable materials that do not soak in fluids; you need flat and easy accessible surfaces and you need materials that dry out quickly. Thank us later.
These are our top picks for the most important features in a family city car in Singapore. If your experience includes something that we haven’t mentioned, make sure you share your thoughts with the rest of the parenting community.