Investing in a family car is a big decision, and there are a few key things you’ll need to consider carefully like space for car seats and crash test ratings. Buying a safer car for your family is important, so don’t compromise on your family’s health and safety: follow our guide to getting the right family car.
The first thing that sets a family car apart is the need for space- there will be car seats and sufficient legroom for the kids in the back to think of. Nowadays car seats are much sleeker and compact than before, but you will still struggle to fit one in to a sports car! In terms of legroom, most cars have adjustable seats so this should not be too much of an issue. Just be aware when you’re at the front how much space you’re leaving behind for the rest. Your kids will probably give you a little kick if you don’t leave enough…
You will probably also need a larger boot to fit in things like prams and suitcases. If you have a dog, you might also need a boot divider to keep them from running around the car.
Luckily, larger cars are often very safe, and even smaller family cars make the most of their space. It’s amazing what clever car design can accomplish. So don’t worry: you don’t need a huge 4-wheel drive to fit everyone in comfortably, and you can always use car-roof carriers to supplement boot space when you go on holiday.
Let Me Entertain You
Going on long family drives and holidays can be a stressful experience, so many families invest in entertainment systems such as DVD players or high quality car radios. Though these are a great way to keep the little ones occupied, it is important not to get too distracted from driving. Sometimes just a nice game of ‘I Spy’ is all you need to keep everyone happy, and means you won’t have to fuss around sorting the technology out for them.
If there is too much squabbling going on in the back, try not to get physically involved as this will make you take your hands off the wheel: use your voice instead. If nothing else helps, pull over somewhere safe before you break up the fight.
There’s been a lot of press about the potential damage air bags can cause to small children during accidents, and though technology has moved on, they are still likely to cause smaller children considerable injury.
Children under 12 should always ride in the back of the car to avoid injury. They might find this annoying, but it really is for their own safety. Even a small bump may set off the airbags, so try to be consistent with this until they are older enough to ride up front. You can make it into a fun rite of passage, as opposed to a negative privation.
Importantly, you should never use a rear-facing child seat in the front seat of a vehicle, unless the air bag is turned off.
Having a car seat for a child is a safety must, as it means that they are secure and belted in properly. An adult seatbelt and car seat just aren’t suitable for smaller passengers.
Nowadays you can get child car seats that use mounting points built into the seat, rather than using the adult seatbelt to secure them into the car. This makes installing the seat correctly a lot easier than before.
But certain crash tests have shown that these mounted seats are perhaps less safe than belted seats which can absorb more crash energy.
- Forward collision alert - great when the kiddies are distracting you, this will warn you if you are in danger of crashing into anything up front. Some systems will also monitor breaks and steering for you in a dangerous situation.
- Blind spot monitoring - this is a brilliant tool to help you park and drive better when your visibility is impaired by screaming kiddies!
- Rear view camera - another great parking tool, especially good for large cars or cars with a big boot.
- ABS with break assist - nowadays this is becoming standard in all new cars, and this prevents your tyres from locking and skidding off the road.
- Child locks – another popular safety feature which means that you can stop the kids from suddenly opening car doors and windows.
Which Cars Are Safe?
Euro NCAP crash tests are a great benchmark for choosing a safe car, and you can find the latest results published online here. Euro NCAP tests all the major new car models by crashing them, and monitoring key parameters such as passenger and child impact in a variety of collisions.
Car makes such as Volvo are associated with safety, but a lot of other car manufacturers also achieve competitive safety ratings. Cars from 2015 with the best crash child safety ratings (89%) are the Renault Espace and the VW Touran. The other manufacturers near the top for child safety ratings in 2015 and 2014 have been Audi, Ford, Renault, BMW and Subaru.
When analysing the crash test data, look at all the safety barometers, not just the star rating headlines. These will give you the bigger picture.
When you feel you have a few cars you would like to try out, it’s time to get nitty gritty and start taking them out on test drives. Here are some key things to do when making your final purchase:
- Take your kids and their car seats to the showroom to see if they fit into the car. They might actually have some things to say about the car too, besides its colour!
- Don’t be pressured into giving up one of your safety must-haves. If it’s not right, walk away. You can get what you want elsewhere.
- Don’t get bamboozled with their tech speak- ask for clarifications in plain English and ask them to explain anything that is unclear. If you’re not sure, don’t buy.
- If you require specific extra features, make sure you get this in writing before making any payment.