Five Features Every New Car Should Have...Though Many Don't

February 22, 2010

As well as driving a lot of cars, we spend a lot of time reading here at And a recent drive report of the 2010 Suzuki Kizashi by Detroit News columnist Scott Burgess sparked a lot of office chat.

It wasn't his review--we liked it, he liked it--but his list of features he thought every car ought to have. We surveyed our own editors, debated our lists of five, and finally settled on a more-or-less consensus.

In order of importance, here are the five items every new 2010 car ought to have (though most of them usually don't):

Rear Seats - 2007 Hyundai Elantra 4-door Sedan Auto SE w/XM

Rear Seats - 2007 Hyundai Elantra 4-door Sedan Auto SE w/XM

USB input in 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander

USB input in 2010 Mitsubishi Outlander

2001 Porsche Boxster S gauges

2001 Porsche Boxster S gauges

(1) Auto-up-and-down windows. Our Number One peeve when it's not there, a feature automakers usually roll into pricey options packages that ought to be standard on every car. Auto-down costs almost nothing; auto-up requires a little more equipment. Should be mandatory.

(2) Fold-down rear-seat head restraints. Visibility is bad and getting worse on new cars (see our 2010 Chevrolet Equinox drive report), and fixed rear-seat head restraints get a lot of the blame. Mercedes-Benz rear head rests fold or slide; we think all of them should. The floors of our test cars are littered with the ones we've removed so we could see out the rear-view mirror.

(3) USB port. C'mon, folks! It's 2010, fer crissakes. Hundreds of millions of drivers globally own MP3 players, and we want to hear our own music. Not hate-laced talk radio, or those same 100 songs on the oldies station, or "light contemporary" musical mush. Sheesh. Give us jacks!

(4) Tilt-AND-telescope steering. Not all of us are 50th-percentile humans. One of us is 6'6", and one of us has a mum who's now 4'10". For them, a steering wheel that adjusts not only for height but distance is a necessity for safe driving. More and more cars offer tilting; why not add telescoping too?

(5) Sturdy cupholders, and NOT over the MP3 player. Even professional auto journalists are known to sip sodas while driving. Cupholders have gotten better, but some makers (you know who you are) still don't make 'em sturdy enough to withstand the occasional heavy object impact. And ... for the life of us ... do NOT put them above where we store our iPod! That's just tempting the devil.

(BONUS PERFORMANCE FEATURES) Oil pressure gauge; Off switch for traction control. Our more enthusiastic drivers insisted on a pair of of items that may be less relevant to everyday drivers, but make performance driving far more rewarding.

An oil-pressure gauge is the alert driver's first indicator of serious engine problems, but most cars now offer only warning lights. And the ability to turn off traction control gives skilled drivers more control in everything from racing to breaking loose a car stuck on ice.

As for Burgess, for the record, he listed his five as: (1) Three-blink indicators. (2) Auto-up-and-down windows. (3) USB & Bluetooth connectivity. (4) Key fob & pushbutton start. (5) Auto headlights.

We don't necessarily agree with his choices, but we thank him anyway for inspiring us.

[Detroit News]

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