Today’s cars come packed with plenty of features that have turned them into four-wheeled technological hubs. These go from must-have safety features to nice-to-have ones that will make driving an absolute breeze. There are so many of them it’s hard to keep track of what to look out for when you’re buying a car.

We’ve put together this expert guide to all the car features you should think about.

Must-have safety features

These days seatbelts airbags, anti-braking systems (ABS), crumple zones, shatter-resistant glass, head restraints and even electronic stability control (ESC) are standard safety features. Most modern cars have them by default.

We already covered all car safety features in another guide, so here we’ll cover some of the best safety features that you may want to consider, even if they only come as added extras.

1. Automatic emergency braking (AEB)

It’s a system that applies the brakes on its own to prevent a car crash when it senses another vehicle in the way of the one you’re driving. When it cannot prevent a collision, then it reduces the force of the impact to protect you and the rest of the passengers. If you’re thinking about getting a car with AEB, the ones that include pedestrian detection are some of the most beneficial.

2. Forward collision warning

Sounds like a simple thing but it can save lives. It’s basically a safety feature that gives the driver a visual and/or audible warning that a collision may be imminent.

3. Blind-spot monitoring

Similar to the previous one, this car safety feature gives the driver a visual and/or audible notification that a vehicle is next to you in a blind spot.

4. Evasive steering

Evasive steering assist technology is a car safety feature that can help you manoeuvre around unexpected vehicles or objects on the road. That way, it avoids a collision in a safe and controlled way.

5. Pre-safe nudging

You may not have heard about it but luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz developed and introduced a Pre-Safe Impulse Side system. This safety feature is an extra step in protecting the driver and occupants from side collisions. When it detects an imminent side collection, the Pre-Safe Impulse Side system moves the occupant as far away as possible from the danger zone – the door – before impact.

6. Lane-keeping assist

Lane-keeping assist is one of the most impactful safety features in modern cars. There are two types: lane departure warnings – which will warn you if you’re too close to the lane markings, and lane-keep assist, which can proactively steer a car back into the lane if it’s approaching a lane marking.

7. Automatic high beams

This car feature automatically turns the high beams on when there is no oncoming traffic or vehicles ahead. And switches them back to low beams as soon as traffic appears. The end goal is to prevent blinding other drivers while making driving safer thanks to better use of high beams.

8. Rear cross-traffic warning

This feature notifies the driver when the sensors detect that a vehicle or an object is approaching out of the rear camera range and could be moving into the car’s path. It’s only activated when you’re reversing.

Photo by Kalle Kortelainen on Unsplash

Popular car features

Now that we’ve covered some useful car safety features it’s time to tell you everything about some popular and cool car features you may want to think about when shopping for your next car. They’re in no specific order but we aim to give you a flavour of why these should be interesting for your driving needs.

1. 360-degree camera system

Rearview cameras are quite commonplace these days. They’ve proved very helpful when parking a car or pulling out of a parking lot. However, some car manufacturers have gone further by introducing 360-degree camera systems.

360-degree camera systems are located around the car – in the grille, below the side mirrors and the rearview one – and are a very useful car feature. They give you as a driver a bird’s eye view of the vehicle as if you were looking at it from above and outside. And they help you check for children and objects around the car at all times.

2. Sunroof

A sunroof is a movable panel in a car’s roof that opens to uncover a window. They’re not the most sophisticated of car features – and they’ve been around for decades – but are quite popular because of the extra light and/or fresh air that they allow in the vehicle. What’s not to love about being able to watch the sky above your head while cruising through Britain’s roads?

3. Leather Seats

Although they can be cold in winter and boiling in summer, leather seats add a touch of luxury to any driving experience. Many manufacturers these days use man-made substitutes like Tesla, which takes pride in their vegan-friendly upholstery. You’ll usually find leather (or vegan leather) seats in higher trims and premium vehicles.

4. Heated Seats

Heated seats are an absolute lifesaver when you’re battling Britain’s cold and wet winters and autumns. There’s nothing like warming up and feeling cosy on a cold morning or after a long hike in the rain. Heated seats are also great for drivers and passengers with lumber issues, so look for them if you think you’ll love them.

5. Lumbar support

When you’re spending many hours behind the wheel of your car you’ll want to be comfortable, especially in your back and lumbars. In that case, it’s worth investing in a car with adjustable lumbar support – as it’s still quite rare as a standard feature.

6. Heated steering wheel

Up there with heated seats, a heated steering wheel is a great extra for British drivers, given the less-than-ideal weather. As its name suggests, a heated steering wheel will keep your fingers warm in winter, just when you need it the most.

7. Parking Cameras

Plenty of modern cars already come fitted with parking cameras, which come in handy when you need to see out the back in a parking situation. These make parking and reversing much easier and safer for the driver and everybody else.

8. Remote Start

Remote start is quite a common car feature in colder countries and it’s getting popular everywhere else. Not all cars have it but the possibility of pre-heating the interior or demisting windows before getting in is quite appealing.

9. Navigation systems

Gone are the days of navigating the roads using only road maps and street signs. Now most new and modern cars come with sat navigation features – as an option or as standard – or at least the possibility of connecting to your smartphone’s Google Maps via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

Some of the newest sat nav systems can adapt to traffic conditions or even show you real images from Google Map so that you can identify a location with more ease.

10. Apple CarPlay / Android Auto

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are two very sought after car features these days. Both allow apps from your smartphone to be used directly through the multimedia system of a car. This means you can stream music, read text messages, take phone calls or navigate using Google Maps without having to touch your smartphone.

11. Head-up display

Although not standard or common in most cars, head-up displays allow you to see vital information like the fuel level, speed or navigation in the windshield, directly in front of the driver’s eyes. Like that, you won’t have to look down and will be able to keep your eyes and focus up, increasing safety on the road.

12. Keyless entry

These days, a lot of car models (new and used) come with keyless entry. That means that you can open your car’s door and even the boot with just a push of a button in your keys. It’s practical, convenient and easy.

13. Fast USB charging outlets

USB charging outlets have become a very precious commodity and car feature at a time where almost everybody hits the road with a smartphone in hand, plus other gadgets if you’re travelling with your family or friends. Imagine being able to plug them all in at once so that you can use them when you reach your destination.

Unfortunately, not all USB outlets are fast charging. On average, a typical USB outlet in a car charges at 0.5 amperage, which is quite slow for charging a phone, especially if it’s using an app while being plugged in. So, if you know you’re going to satisfy the needs of driver and passengers alike, look out for cars that offer fast-charging USB outlets.

14. WiFi Hotspot

Did you know that some of today’s cars come with WiFi hotspots? In case you’re wondering why you’d need such a thing, this car feature provides WiFi in the vehicle and allows passengers to use mobile devices without using up their data plans. The downside is that if you want a WiFi hotspot in your car you may have to pay a monthly fee. So it’s only really worth it if you’re going to be using it a lot.

15. Rear entertainment systems

Anyone travelling with children will welcome rear entertainment systems. These are a helpful and practical solution that will keep the kids engaged and entertained while ensuring a more peaceful road trip for the driver.

Rear entertainment systems are usually optional and offered with premium vehicles and trims of most models. If you want them, look for them. Alternatively, if your car has fast-charging USB outlets a cheaper tablet can also do the trick and keep the children busy.

16. Auto-dimming mirrors

Auto-dimming mirrors are great at reducing the glare in the rearview mirror coming from the headlights of the car behind you. Anyone who’s driven at night will know how blinding these can be. Thankfully, some new car models have started to introduce auto-dimming rearview mirrors that reduce that glare and help you maintain good visibility when it’s dark on the road.

17. Multizone climate system

Think beyond air conditioning and dual climate systems. Car manufacturers these days have started to introduce multizone climate systems. This means that everyone inside the vehicle gets their own climate controls so that they all are as comfortable as possible when travelling.

18. Bluetooth

Bluetooth has been around for quite some time now but is still a useful car feature if you need to take calls while on the move – or you just want to stream your tunes or favourite podcasts. Luckily you won’t have to search hard to find a car with Bluetooth, as it’s now a standard feature in practically every modern car. On top of that, adding it to any older cars is quite affordable and painless.

Whether it’s AEB, blind-spot monitoring, evasive steering, lane-keeping assist or the comforts of a sunroof, heated seats and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, pick the right car features to make driving a safer and more enjoyable experience. We know our favourites, which are yours?