South Africans enjoy travelling, and for good reason – we have the most beautiful country in the world. Places like the Garden Route and its splendid scenery of fauna is a great destination, and our country offers some of the best game ranges in the world. How you conquer all these places is ultimately up to you. You could travel alone or as a group of friends, and by any means, but arguably one of the most memorable family holidays, is a well planned road trip. You’ll need a car of course, and these are my picks of what makes a great family car.
Our country is large, and we have one of the longest road networks in the world. We are lucky at least in that we don’t have to make a continent wide ride from East to West like in the United States for example. Having a fuel efficient car will enable you to save money on the actual driving – money that could be better spent on enjoying yourselves at your destination. There’s usually a trade-off between economy (or saving on fuel) and your car’s size. In other words, driving a smaller, fuel efficient vehicle will cost you less than driving your more thirsty SUV, but you may not be as comfortable. The 10 most fuel efficient cars in South Africa, as presented by research done by usedcarsforsale.co.za last year, consume on average 4.1 to 3.1 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres, which are very low figures. This excludes electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and new BMW i8, which I’m not sure yet can carry you on a long road trip. These cars were also not loaded to the hilt and probably travelled around 90kmh, but in our opinion, anything under 7L/100km is great for a loaded family car travelling around 110kmh.
After reading many car reviews on usedcarsforsale.co.za, I’ve seen a growing and much needed emphasis on comfort in lower priced vehicles, that was previously reserved for more upscale ranges. What makes a car comfortable? One of the most important is climate control. The evenings in South Africa’s interior get bitterly cold, and the afternoons scorching hot. Being able to keep warm at night while driving and keeping cool during the day is cardinal, thus a great family car should have a good climate control system. Quality seating – most cars today offer bolstered seating – a bit like racing seats – they hold you in place on winding roads and allow some form of adjustment to height and arch support.
Size and Space
Depending on how many you are – say 5 members in your family (excluding the dog) – you can get away with a compact car, even a hatchback. A great example is the VW Golf 6. Your vehicle of choice needs to be spacious enough for your whole family. Folks who take their road trips very seriously will tell you how important boot space is. The ability to fit almost everything on the boot and not inside the car can have a huge impact on how much enjoyment you have on your trip. As a passenger, having bags under your feet will most certainly get you crying out for a pit stop before you actually get anywhere.
When it comes to size and capacity, you can never go wrong with a bakkie, and they’ve become very affordable these days. They have as much comfort as other car types, and possibly their greatest advantage is their versatility. With a bakkie, you can go straight from travelling the country’s rugged terrain, and into tarred city centres very easily. Could this be why South Africa’s best selling motor vehicle is the Toyota Hilux?
We have seen a great deal of diffusion of technologies previously found in top range models appear in entry level cars as well.. Another technology that’s often bypassed is the sound system and all the gadgets and controls that enable you to be easily entertained while you’re driving. Remember, you can only crack jokes for so long before that gets tiring and you need some other form of entertainment. “I spy with my little eye” is great for about 10 minutes, thereafter a good sing along is always welcome. A great family car should have an Aux port, Bluetooth connectivity and able to connect to your iPod.
If you want to take things up a notch, some DVD players for passengers sitting at the back will make for an uber experience, just don’t expect any further conversation.
Those are just 4 of the aspects to consider for a family car, especially if you intend on travelling frequently, be it to George and Mosel Bay, the Drakensberg or as far as Kruger National Park, the experience is best enjoyed as a family or close friends.