If your car trips resemble a journey through all nine circles of hell then it’s time to wake up and smell the rear air-con, my friends! These days’ family cars are designed with actual families in mind, which means loads of boot space, built-in rubbish receptacles, automatic doors and entertainment aplenty.
Here’s how to save your sanity on the road.
Well-designed boot space
Look for cargo nets and hidden compartments so that groceries, prams, and sports paraphernalia don’t turn the floor of your entire car into an after-school wasteland that can fly about whenever you make an abrupt stop. It’s also a good idea to look for seats that you can fold easily with your hands full, especially if you’re looking at a 7-Seat model.
The all-important bin
Because children are physically unable to hold onto anything once they’re officially done with it, it often ends up on the floor. At best, this is a simple wrapper on the carpet. At worst, a half-finished yoghurt pouch that really couldn’t remain in their little hands a moment longer. Having a built in bin is a great way to keep your car clean between trips to the car wash.
Five-star ANCAP rating
Although built in vacuums are a freaking godsend. (Thanks Honda Odyssey!) Safety features are what really counts. Five stars by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) are what to look for. This means that vehicles have performed at the highest level across all crash tests and assessments. Always make sure you check what year the vehicle was tested in, a 5-Star car from 2010 won’t be the same in a crash as a 5 star car from 2017. Visit Ancap to see ratings for most makes and models.
Rear camera and sensors
Kids create a lot of noise, which can be distracting when trying to get in and out of a tight spot. Cameras can help alleviate an already frazzled parking experience. Be sure to look for sensors located low around the rear and sides of your car to detect smaller objects while you reverse.
Sick of handing over your precious phone so the kiddies can suck 87 gigabytes of data out of your already ludicrous plan? Rear entertainment is the answer. Dual DVD options are best (because agreement would be unimaginable) and opt for headphone jacks for each seat to score some sweet quiet time. If you're on a budget look for charging options like USB and 12v sockets, these will allow you to keep iPads and other gadgets powered up on long drives.
Automated driver settings
For those times when shuffling a goddam seat forward or adjusting the mirrors will actually push you over the edge, thank your lucky stars for memory seats. Whether it’s in the form of programmable keys, a driver profile that can be selected on entering or exiting the car, this can make swapping between drivers a whole lot easier, these are the little things that will make a big difference. Once the preserve of luxury brands, these customisable driver profiles and electric memory seats are now starting to be found as options on family cars like the Nissan Pathfinder, Kia Sorento or the Mazda CX-9.