Most good parents are keenly aware of the need for family cars, but what many may not understand is what actually constitutes a family car. Minivans and crossovers are usually spacious enough to be considered family-oriented, like the Honda Odyssey, but size is only half the equation since kids also require safety, care and entertainment. If they get all that, they are more likely to stop bugging you and let you focus on driving.
So, how do you keep your kids happy and protected when driving? Here are 10 features that might help:
10. Integrated Sunshades
The younger the child, the more sleep they require. So, if your kid needs a nap, then they should be able to get it without the sun getting in the way. That's where integrated sunshades come in. And they absolutely have to be integrated, because there are far too many third-party offerings that don't cover the rear windows in their entirety.
9. Programmable Key
Let's assume that your kid is on the other end of the age spectrum -- in their mid or late teens. By this point, they may already drive themselves, but likely not well enough to do it safely (yet). That's when you can exert your power a little bit by utilizing something called a programmable key -- like Ford's MyKey -- to limit your car's top speed, radio volume and other capabilities.
8. Collision-Prevention Systems
There are several safety systems that can prevent an unnecessary collision with another vehicle -- Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW). LDW is essentially an alarm system that goes off every time you unintentionally drift out of your lane. Some LDW systems have the power to nudge your vehicle right back. FCW, on the other hand, is meant to alert you when you are too close to a vehicle in front of you. Most modern FCW systems have automatic braking, which lets them stop the car just in time before a collision. These systems are perfect for situations when your kid distracts you in some way.
7. Built-In Vacuum Cleaner
Kids are messy, which means that you either yell at them to stop being that way or you clean after them. Since the latter is likely to be the case, then you might want to consider getting a car with a built-in vacuum cleaner, like the one in the 2014 Honda Odyssey.
6. Built-In Refrigerator or Cooler
If you are planning to go on a long trip with your kids, you might need to stock up on some snacks. Of course, food is always better when refrigerated, which is why it makes sense to have a refrigerator in the car. While some cars come with mere coolers, others come with proper refrigerators. I recommend a refrigerator, but if you want something cheaper, a cooler would do just fine. Ford Flex, BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class are known examples of vehicles to offer cold storage.
5. Backup Camera
Backup cameras are a no-brainer when it comes to safety since they allow you to see directly behind you. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that between 58 and 69 lives could be saved in the U.S. if every car had a backup camera. In other words, backup cameras are essential no matter who accompanies you on your trips.
4. Sliding Middle Rear Seat
If you have a baby, you might want them to be a little closer to you during trips than a regular rear seat would allow. In this case, it would make sense to have a middle rear seat that slides forward to ensure that you can reach your little one at all times. One of the vehicles to offer such an option is the Volvo XC90.
3. Flat-Folding Third Row
When it comes to increasing cargo space, nothing does quite as well as a flat-folding third seating row. After all, there is nothing worse than a third row that either doesn't fold completely or fails to work at all. Chrysler's Stow 'n Go seats are particularly impressive since they drop down into special compartments in the floor, maximizing your cargo capacity. The best part about them is that they are extremely easy to use.
2. USB Connection
If you have a lot of gadgets on you, like a smartphone or tablet, having a USB connection is a must, especially on longer trips. What if your tablet device runs out of power before you reach your destination? Tears may follow and that's another problem you don't want on your hands.
1. Wi-Fi Connection
Kids love to be entertained and nothing provides as much entertainment to them as the Internet (with certain restrictions, of course). As such, having an in-car Wi-Fi connection is probably even more important than a USB connection, especially if your kids love their gadgets. Systems like Chrysler's Uconnect and General Motors' OnStar allow any device to be connected to the Internet -- as long as the device itself has the capability.
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