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What to Look For During a Test Drive

When we jump behind the wheel of a car we’re familiar with, we often take for granted the number of things that contribute to our driving experience. In part, this is because we become familiar with all the facets everything that makes it run like clockwork.

But what about when we are shopping for a new car? A new vehicle is a completely difference experience, after all. As is often the case, we start to notice subtle differences – ones that may even shape our purchasing decision. With this in mind, as you start drawing up your shortlist of cars to check out, here are some of the key things to look for during a test drive.

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Features and amenities

Decide which features you need in a vehicle, and distinguish them from those considered ‘luxuries’. For example, you may wish to evaluate the importance of the vehicle’s: drive system, fuel system, climate control, upholstery, entertainment system, aesthetics, paintjob, airbags, GPS, cameras and sensors, as well as the inclusion of other safety-focused technology.

Depending on your needs, prioritise and rank these amenities in order of importance so that you are prepared to compromise on something if need be. You’ll get a better idea as to which features matter most from your commute around town, but also think ahead as to what driving conditions you will encounter most of the time in your day-to-day driving.

 

Ride quality and feel

It’s standard procedure for test drives to last a short period of time. While certainly better than nothing, this often falls short of providing an adequate ‘feel’ for the vehicle. As such, try asking for a lengthened trial, where you might be able to experience the vehicle in different weather conditions, and to assess whether it fits in your garage. Some dealers will even let you borrow the car for a weekend, but this is subject to availability and certain conditions.

Importantly, take the vehicle on roads that you would normally travel on. Not only does this familiarity help lower the chance of becoming distracted, it will assist you in making an informed and balanced assessment on the vehicle’s handling and ride comfort.

As part of the test, try operate the vehicle under differing road conditions – light traffic, heavy traffic, on a freeway, roundabouts, and sharp corners. Meanwhile, put climate control and other technologies through their paces – this is an area where some vehicles still encounter teething issues, and there are few things more frustrating in a vehicle than a GPS system which doesn’t recognise your voice!

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Some of the key things you’ll want to look out for include:

  • does the suspension feels soft and cushion-like, or hard and uncomfortable?
  • does steering feels light and precise, or requires a greater exertion of effort?
  • does the engine offer enough punch and acceleration to meet your needs?
  • is there a sense of balance and poise in terms of handling on the road?
  • does the car operate with low noise?
  • is it easy to maneouvre and perform three-point turns in the vehicle?
  • if it is something you desire, does the car feel as though it would be up to the task in off-road settings?

 

The Ride Environment

While all the bells and whistles might be tempting, step inside the vehicle and familiarise yourself with its layout. How is the visibility from the driver’s seat? Is there clear access for the driver to reach controls and dials? Is it an intuitive and user-friendly layout? Are passengers, especially those in the back seats, provided adequate space for a comfortable ride? Are the seats able to be adjusted and folded down? Is there a suitable number of storage compartments or space in the boot? How does the general build quality of the vehicle rate, both internally and externally?

 

At the end of the day, if you’re unable to find the right vehicle, there’s no harm in continuing to test drive other vehicles beyond your shortlist. Follow the above considerations and the process will be a whole lot easier


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