You get what you pay for, but when it comes to cars, crossovers, and trucks there are some things that don’t cost automakers much that make real-world living with your vehicle a lot easier.
Everyone would love to have a vehicle with high performance, low cost, and all the luxury bits. When that vehicle is made we will be sure to let you know. In the meantime, what we can tell you is that there are many simple things that inexpensive cars often have that more pricey ones don’t. These little things are often overlooked in reviews that focus on power, fuel economy, and the particular type of leather that covers the seats. Here is a quick rundown of simple things that we feel every vehicle at every price point should come with.
Fold Down Rear Headrests
About one-third of the vehicles we test have a feature that is arguably a safety benefit. Simple, mechanical flop-forward headrests. As vehicles continue to morph towards a teardrop for aerodynamic reasons, the rear view window, whether it be a crossover or sedan or even a truck with two rows, is being squeezed smaller and smaller. Call us old-fashioned, but we still like to “check six” once in a while to make sure we are in a safe situation. Looking over a shoulder or in the rear view mirror only to see two or three big headrests negates the view out the back. We have seen flop-forward headrests in cars that have a very low price point, and those with a very high price point. Every vehicle should have these. Volvo’s new S60 has drop-down rear headrests and these folks know a thing or two about common sense safety.
Manual Folding Side Mirrors
If your budget allows for it, mirrors that fold in automagically after you exit the vehicle are nifty. But they are also pricey to include and pricey to fix. When you park on a street the driver’s side mirror is poking out just waiting to be struck by an inattentive driver’s passenger mirror and damaged. A well-built plastic fold-in mirror that snaps in and then snaps back out with a quick tug when you return to the vehicle is cheap insurance against having your mirror damaged. We estimate that about 70% of the vehicles we test have ones that work or work well. It should be 100%.
Waterproof Floor Mats
Every automobile sold in America has carpeted floors. Almost every automaker wants to add $170 more for you to have a second set of carpeted floor mats over your carpets. This makes no sense. What does make sense is a rubber mat that can hold a quart of boot slush until it either evaporates or you opt to empty it. Why any truck company that runs an advertisement showing its burly off-roader blasting through mud gullies does not offer standard rubber mats is a mystery. If you have kids, you know that they periodically are going to turn green in the face, lean forward and present that Happy Meal for inspection on your rear carpets. A rubber floor mat sure helps that clean up go more quickly. For the love of Mike, please stop the double carpet madness and give us rubber mats we can put to good use. Smart car makers make these optional. We say make them standard. Feet are very common parts of drivers and most of us have kids in the car at some point. Dodge makes the beauties shown in our image standard on the Ram 1500 North Edition.
An Oil Filter You Can Reach Out And Grab Hold Of
Less and less of us change our own oil these days. It’s no wonder. The oil filter is often hidden up under the flux capacitor and requires a tool designed by Dr. Seuss to remove the dang thing. Once out, it immediately drips hot oil directly into your eyeball. This is crazy. That filter is going to have to be replaced twenty to fifty times during the vehicle’s lifespan. Can we all agree it should be in a place that you can simply reach out and grab it? Subaru does this right. Why can’t every automaker?
A Hood That holds Itself Up
We’ve tested cars and crossovers in the “economy” trims that have a hood that will hold itself up. Yet, we often get modern test cars that come with the wobble stick. How much could that simple strut that holds the hood up for you cost? Maybe four bucks? In a country that mandates that a high beam switch must have both an on and off position, why do we have hoods that will crush your hand against the radiator cap if you let go of them?
Android Auto And Apple CarPlay
Hear us out. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto may not be your particular cup of tea, but you probably didn’t see the beauty of the World Wide Web the first time you heard about it either. This simple technology allows you to use the phone you already own to provide you with the best in-vehicle navigation in the world at zero cost to you. The base trims of cars are the ideal place for these phone-related systems since they allow you to avoid buying a sub-standard nav system package from your automaker you don’t really need or want. Need another reason to love Android Auto and Apple CarPlay? AAA did a study and found that the 16-year old behind you in traffic is less distracted by these systems than by the car’s built-in controls for nav and music. So maybe he or she will see your brake lights before it’s too late. Volkswagen puts this into the least expensive trims of its most affordable cars. We call on Congress to issue a decree making it mandatory.
Every Effective Safety System
Should only the folks with a few extra bucks be safe in cars? Toyota says “no” to that idea and now equips every one of its mainstream vehicles with the most effective modern active safety systems. These systems have been proven to reduce the most common type of accident by up to 68%. Toyota leads the industry and has now equipped ten million vehicles with automatic emergency braking, a technology some pricey luxury car makers still charge their customers extra for.
One Last Wish – Heated Seats and Steering
If you are older than Netflix you remember a time when air conditioning was a pricey option. We challenge you to find a modern vehicle without it today. Along the lines of “why not give everyone the most popular options standard,” we would like to send up a trial balloon proposing that all vehicles have heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. We won’t pretend this is for safety. We just love them. So there.
If you can think of a vehicle option that makes sense as standard equipment that we have left out please let us know in the comments where you read this story.