If you’re in the market for a new car, you’re probably weighing up the pros and cons. One model has a better fuel consumption, but the other is faster and more exciting to drive. One has seven practical seats, but the other has a bigger boot. One comes in a killer red colour, and the other doesn’t! No matter how long your list, eventually, you need to find that one deal-breaker. If you’re looking for a family car, that deal breaker is often safety. Most car features are interchangeable, but safety is something you must never skimp on. With that in mind, what safety features should you look out for?
ABS stands for ‘anti-locking brake system’. It’s fairly standard on most modern cars, but be careful if you’re browsing the secondhand market. Essentially, ABS gives you more control in an emergency situation. In an older car (without ABS), the wheels lock up, meaning you can no longer steer effectively. ABS prevents this, and helps you steer out of harm’s way.
The next generation of cars also come with braking assist in addition to ABS. These are smart brakes that apply tiny amounts of braking to each wheel individually. It’s designed to provide further stability in a crash scenario.
Traction control and stability control
In a market where most cars have the basic features (seat belts, airbags etc), it’s the safety technology that sets them apart. In particular, traction and stability control. Traction control works by automatically adjusting your power output during acceleration. It means you won’t lose control when accelerating quickly. Stability control is a little more sophisticated. It works by correcting the car’s oversteer or understeer, essentially keeping you on the road while cornering.
All wheel drive
Most cars are either front-wheel or rear-wheel drive. In other words, power is only supplied to the front or rear wheels. With all-wheel drive, engine power is distributed to all four wheels. It’s a much more stable and secure option, as power is evenly balanced and distributed.
The quality of your tyres make a huge difference to the safety credentials of your vehicle. Take the Michelin Primacy 3 tyres, for example. They are specifically designed for optimum safety. Good tyres use a particular tread pattern to maintain as much surface area on the road as possible. They are optimized for grip, and purposely designed for shorter braking distance. Make sure the car you have in mind has a brand new set of safety-optimized tyres.
Size and weight
There’s a reason people opt for the bigger SUVs and 4x4s when it comes to safety. Crash tests have shown that larger vehicles outperform smaller vehicles in identical testing. The reason is simple physics. A heavier object can absorb a bigger impact during a crash. It distributes the impact better, and keeps the driver safe.
Put safety at the very top of your list when car shopping. It’s particularly crucial if you’re looking for a family car. If you want a pro tip, the safest car on the planet is the Volvo XC90, so why not start there?