In the second article of this series, One Woman Owner gives you insight into the most popular car technology features on offer when buying a new or used car. Missed the first feature? You can read part one right here.
It used to be – back in the day – that electric windows were the height of technology for cars. These days, there’s a jungle of acronyms to get your head around and understand before you can even begin to make sense of the different gadgets and features. We’ve simplified it for you here, so you can figure out what’s essential for your next car and what’s just a nice-to-have.
Car Technology Feature: Heated and cooled seats
Synonyms: None known
What it does: Heated seats were once only a feature in more luxury cars like BMW and Mercedes Benz. As some manufacturers clamber to offer more premium cabin features, there’s a lot more choice if you’re looking for heated seats and steering wheels, and it is a feature worth having if you’re north of the Watford Gap, where balmy winters are mere fantasy. It’s a much quicker way of heating the driver up, than relying on the climate control. What’s more, in the stickier summer days, we’ve recently become obsessed with air-cooled or ventilated seats.
What we think: Heated seats and steering wheel, a nice-to-have. Air-cooled seats, a must-have. (Fortunately, with these higher-spec trim options, the heated ones are included as standard).
Which brands and models to look out for: For those of you whose savings don’t stretch to a Bentley or Rolls-Royce, Hyundai’s IONIQ Electric, as well as sedan models in both Ford and Kia line-ups, offered ventilated seats.
Car Technology Feature: Keyless Entry
Synonyms: Keyfree Entry
What it does: Keyless Entry uses the car key to transmit a frequency that tells the car to enable unlock and disable the immobiliser, which is useful, particularly in bad weather, when your keys are buried at the bottom of your bag. There’s a soft push button on the door handle that allows the car to unlock. The successor to Keyless Entry is the Smart Key, where the vehicle can identify which driver is climbing into the vehicle, and makes the necessary adjustments based on that driver’s seat and radio preferences.
What we think: Keyless Entry doesn’t work for everyone. If you’re used to habitually throwing the key anywhere and having to revert back to putting a key into a lock, the latter can seem jarring, but it’s purely personal preference.
Which brands and models to look out for: Keyfree Access is offer by many now, though not all Fiat models have moved onto Keyless Entry yet. This could be due to the security risks that come with Keyless Entry—criminals have learned how to mimic the frequencies to gain access to cars to steal them. Harder to do with a physical metal key.
Car-Technology Feature: Handsfree Tailgate
Synonyms: Kick-activated tailgate, hands-free liftgate
What it does: This tech tries to make life easier for busy parents with their hands full of kids and groceries. By swinging your foot under the sensor at the rear of the car, the boot opens and lifts electronically. Most close with the push of a button so you can be strapping little one in, while it’s completing this task. Of course it uses Keyless Entry technology to detect that you and only you should have access to the boot.
What we think: A must-have for patient people. Has the potential to provoke drivers who are more into the pull, slam and go approach for boot closure.
Which brands and models to look out for: Ford was one of the pioneers in bringing this technology to the masses in 2012. Since then, Kia, Nissan, VW and Skoda have joined the more premium brands of BMW, Audi and Mercedes Benz to offer this feature.
Car Technology Feature: Blind Spot Detection (BSD)
Synonyms: Blind-spot Monitoring, Blind Spot Warning
What it does: Using small ultrasonic radars on each side of the car, the vehicle detects whether there is something in your blind spot. A, usually orange, warning light will flash on the outside of the wing mirror, inside of the B-pillar or on the mirror itself—the lack of a standard location is our biggest criticism of this important safety feature. Whether it’s another vehicle, while you’re trying to change lanes on the motorway, or a cyclist or biker on the inside in the city, Blind Spot Detection is proving itself invaluable to such extent drivers are learning to rely on it, for better or worse.
What we think: It’s a must-have, though drivers must remember is it an assistance feature, not a substitute for the usual checks.
Which brands and models to look out for: Most manufacturers have models that feature BSD though it’s a technology that features more heavily in newer vehicles, rather than those in the used marketplace.
Car Technology Feature: Auto High Beam
Synonyms: Automatic Headlights, Intelligent High Beam, High Beam Assist
What it does: The number of times we’ve dazzled, or been dazzled by, other drivers is testament to why this technology is so crucial on today’s roads. Using radar technology, manufacturers are able to detect obstacles on the road ahead and dip the lights without the driver needing to manage that too. On the one hand, this is arguably super lazy and the technology can sometimes be a bit laggy to respond—thus still dazzling drivers and doing the thing it was invented to avoid—but on the other, when there’s a plethora of distractions in the car, we’ll take any opportunity to remove any of the pressure.
What we think: A must-have
Which brands and models to look out for: Nissan, Lexus, Land Rover and BMW are big advocates for the high beam tech. Vauxhall offers intelligent high-beam, which differs in that it also detects pedestrians on the side of the road and will shut down those particular LEDs so as not to dazzle them, without changing the light pattern for the empty road ahead of you. It’s pretty nifty but it’s a bit sluggish in its response times.