16 features all cars should have

couple driving new car

Toby Hagon

Posted September 07, 2021

Modern cars have more features and space than ever before. But every now and again, something pops up that makes you wonder why it wasn't thought of sooner – and why more rivals haven't followed suit.

Here are some of the clever features on new cars: 

1. Roof rails in the roof racks 

Carmakers love putting rails down each side of the roof, particularly on SUVs. It's mostly to make the car look a bit more adventure-ready, but the rails are useless without the racks going across the car to carry things. Subaru, however, has cleverly devised a best-of-both solution. On its Outback, it has rails with built-in racks that pivot 90 degrees to join up with the other rail, in turn creating roof racks. 

2. LED matrix high beam lights 

Auto high beams can be hit-and-miss, often earning a frustrated flash when they don't lower for oncoming traffic. But LED matrix high beams are far more reliable. Dozens of individual LEDs can be individually activated, in turn creating dark spots over other road users, allowing you to keep the high beams blaring at all times.  

3. Umbrellas in the doors 

Chances are you'll get caught out with rain at least once when you're out and about. But not in a Skoda. Just like Rolls-Royce, Skoda pops an umbrella (or two) in the door. Simple, but guaranteed to come in handy at some stage. 

 4. Nets to stop luggage running away 

Carmakers maximise boot space and delivering the headline number as to how many litres it can swallow. But few put thought into containing smaller items. Skoda has some of the more thoughtful boots, cleverly fitting netting to the underside of the parcel shelf for those niggly things that otherwise like to roll around. 

5. Auto braking in reverse

Forward auto-braking – or autonomous emergency braking (AEB) - is now commonplace on new cars, but Mazda was the first to make it work when reversing. It's since been followed by others such as Nissan and Jeep. And while it will occasionally kick in when you don't want it to, the additional safety in carparks and garages is worth it.  

6. Monitoring your car while parked 

Modern cars typically have between one and eight cameras helping with auto-braking or driver-assist systems and giving the driver a view of what's going on around the car. So why not use those cameras to keep an eye on the car while it's parked? Tesla, Audi and BMW do, albeit in limited capacities, partly because it uses a fair bit of electricity. 

man in grey shirt driving new car

Wouldn't it be good if your phone started your car? Image: Getty

7. Built-in bins 

The Australian-made Ford Territory cleverly incorporated a dishwasher-safe removable binnacle in the rear so that kids could stash it full of whatever they didn't quite manage to stuff their faces with. Although Volkswagen has a great oversized coffee-cup-shaped bin in its Multivan people mover, they're rare these days. 

 8. Waterproof keys 

How many times do you end up at the beach or pool having to hide your car keys while you go for a dip? Land Rover and Jaguar have you covered with Fitbit-style wearable keys. Why others don't bother making keys water-resistant is a mystery. 

9. Phone as your key 

Better still, let's get rid of keys altogether. Tesla allows owners to use their phones, only supplying them with something that looks like a credit card in case your phone gives up. It's clever and handy; one less thing to carry, and you never have to press a button. 

10. Easy parking 

BMW was the first to devise a system to monitor which way you drove into a tight street or driveway, then reversing it autonomously for getting out. It's relatively simply tech using existing sensors. 

 11. Front cross-traffic alert or side camera 

Poking your nose out of a driveway or side street can be tricky when a van or truck has parked hard up against the intersection. That's where still-rare front cross-traffic alert systems or side-facing cameras can help in giving early warning to vehicles approaching from either side. ital radio, allowing a quick rewind to relive the excitement. 

car keys

Waterproof keys? It could be the future of driving. Image: Getty

12. Easy-talk systems 

Kia and Hyundai each offers a system on their large SUVs that uses the microphone to make it easier to hear you from the third row by amplifying it through the speakers. It's a great idea, although a shame it doesn't work the other way. 

13. Smart seat heaters 

Hyundai's latest Tucson takes a quick check of the internal and external temperatures to determine if you'll need some seat heating or cooling – all without pressing a button. Simple tech, but much appreciated. 

14. Condition-based servicing 

BMW pioneered condition-based servicing, whereby the car monitors various parameters – how it's being driven, external temperature, etc. – to determine when attention is required. It means a car that has been driven gently may go for thousands of kilometres longer between check-ups compared with a car that's been towing and/or driven with vigour.  

15. Tyre pressure sensors 

Carmakers will tell you flat tyres are rare these days, which may be true in the city, but not in the bush. Tyre pressure sensors are invaluable for giving an early warning of a puncture, potentially making it repairable rather than leading to a ruined tyre. Proper off-roaders such as the Toyota Prado and LandCruiser don't have them, while many European cars do.  

16. Chilled gloveboxes 

Hey, nobody likes hot gloves! And piping some of the air-conditioning through the centre console or glovebox is a terrific way to keep chocolates or drinks cool on a hot day. Better still, feed cool air to the cupholders, too, as Nissan has long done with its X-Trail.