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When choosing a family car, ‘USB ports are the new cup holders’

Child safety, entertainment systems and practicality are among key considerations

‘The newer a car is, the more likely it is to have the very latest active and passive safety equipment.’ Photograph: iStock

‘The newer a car is, the more likely it is to have the very latest active and passive safety equipment.’ Photograph: iStock

 

It used to be said that one of the deciding factors when choosing a family car was the number of cup holders it had. Not any more. Though they’re still important, for holding everything from sippy cups for toddlers to industrial strength caffeine for weary parents, they have been superseded by technology.

“USB ports are the new cup holders,” says Jeremy Warnock, product, supply and distribution manager at Renault Ireland. “You’ll need at least two in the front and two in the back and, arguably, the two in the back are the most important.”

Management at Renault knows exactly what it takes to keep families motoring in comfort, and how important the decision-making process for parents.

“The purchase of a car is always a significant expense, and it’s not one undertaken lightly by any customer,” he says. “However, when we look at the families that buy Renault Group cars, these are probably the customers who have the trickiest balancing act to perform – not just in terms of what they buy, but also in terms of how they buy it.”

Its deep insights into purchasing habits come from seeing generations of happy customers drive off the forecourt, from specially commissioned research and from the lending data generated by Renault Bank.

“Our research indicates that of all the customers surveyed, those with kids in the household are more likely than average to be buying a new car. Based on age and relationship profile, our lending data suggest that family car buyers are more likely to favour an SUV – 60 per cent opting for either a Dacia Duster or a Renault Captur or Kadjar, ” he says.

When your cargo is that precious, safety is paramount.

“From a family point of view, the newer a car is, the more likely it is to have the very latest active and passive safety equipment. Of course, new cars also bring the peace of mind of a full warranty – five years in the case of a new Renault. A family SUV also offers space, interior flexibility and a high seating position front and rear so everyone gets a great view - and it’s easier to install child seats,” says Warnock.

Purchase methods

When it comes to purchase methods, its research shows family customers to be less likely to fund their new car through savings, more likely to finance and with a stronger focus than other groups on the monthly payment.

“In fact, our Renault Bank lending data goes a step further, showing that PCP finance takes a higher-than-average share of lending to the age and relationship profiles most likely to have children,” he says. “For customers likely to be juggling childcare costs, mortgages and a hectic work-life balance, dependability and low, predictable monthly costs are vital.

“PCP finance keeps the monthly cost at a minimum, while Renault’s five-year warranty gives peace of mind, and monthly service plans ensure there are no surprises in terms of maintenance bills. And the predictable three-year cycle of a PCP means customers can plan their next car purchase easily to ensure it meets the needs of their family as it grows.”

When considering a family car, there are a number of safety factors to consider. “Parents might consider everything from safety technology to design to child-seat integration when choosing a car,” says Alan Cowley, commercial operations director at Volvo Car Ireland.

“Volvo has a unique approach to child safety, as tests are carried out based on real-life traffic situations, enabling us to carefully monitor how each child seat reacts in a real-life car environment, and then tailor our designs accordingly.”

Volvo has been a leader in the field of car safety for decades, he says. “In addition to occupant protection features such as airbags and crumple zones, our cars have intelligent systems that can detect and help avoid collisions with other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. These systems also support drivers with manoeuvring or parking.”

Entertainment

Motoring technology has successfully cracked one of the traditionally worst aspects of family vehicles – the endless cries of “Are we there yet?”

“Infotainment systems and smartphone integration are becoming more important than ever to customers. Our new XC60 now comes with Google built in, so has hands-free voice control enabled by Google Assistant. The car itself is like a smartphone – but bigger,” says Cowley, who says that choosing a car that holds its residual value is important too.

“Most of our customers change their car every two to three years, and this is only possible when residual values remain relatively stable over long periods,” he says.

If your family has outgrown its car, now might be a good time to consider changing it.

“In recent months one of the fallouts of Brexit has been a decrease in used imports into the Irish market,” says Cowley.

“This in turn has led to a relative shortage of used cars meaning that our retailers are very anxious to source used cars by actively seeking trade-ins. That means now is a really great time to change your car, whether that be a two-year-old car on PCP or a six-year-old car that was originally bought as a UK import.”