Keeping a car in a metropolitan area is not for the faint of heart. Roads can be more congested, traffic patterns can be more complex, and your fellow drivers can be more daring. On top of road safety concerns, city drivers must also take part in a battle royale for limited parking space, and be extra careful to not violate any parking or traffic laws—lest they suffer the painful burn of a $100+ ticket. Yes, it’s a vehicular jungle out there, but many modern vehicles include features that can ease the stress of city driving. Below are six key attributes to look for when choosing your perfect urban automobile.
1) High Safety Rating
There’s a reason insurance premiums are higher for city dwellers. Accidents are, unfortunately, more common in the congested, chaotic environment of a metropolis. You’ll want to take this into account by choosing a car with top marks in safety. Like the 2016 Subaru Legacy, which received five stars for overall safety performance in government crash tests. Your ideal car should have received a high rating in headlight effectiveness, front, side, and rollover crash testing, and automatic brake system responsiveness.
2) Parking Assist
Parallel parking can be a scary endeavor in any setting, but in the tightly packed corridors of the city, it requires steady hands and nerves of steel to avoid damaging your vehicle and the ones around it. A parking assist system, like the one included in the 2014 Chevy Volt, can take some of the pressure off; its sensors detect the space between the front or rear of your vehicle and other solid objects. Its beeping indicators will let you how much room you have before you make contact, so you can fit your car into a tight spot like a glove.
3) Blind Spot Detection
City driving is not a passive experience, partly because it requires a lot of passing. But before you change lanes, it’s crucial that you check your blind spot to make sure you aren’t going to sideswipe another driver or cut off a cyclist when you move over. The 2015 Hyundai Sonata is one of several cars to add blind spot detection to help drivers stay aware of unseen hazards. The moment an object enters your blind spot, an indicator icon on your side mirror lights up. Once the icon turns off, it’s safe to make your move.
4) Smartphone Integration
A vehicle equipped with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay (the 2016 Honda Accord EX-L has both) can be a godsend for city-dwelling smartphone users behind the wheel. Not only does it make it easier and safer to manage your music, podcasts, and other media while driving, but it also offers a wealth of navigation features perfect for urban driving. For example, Waze integration can alert you of upcoming construction, road closures, and other slowdowns—and display alternate routes so you can avoid them.
5) Hatchback Bodystyle
With their low fuel consumption and ability to squeeze into impossible parking spaces, compact vehicles like Smart Car or Mini Cooper might seem like the perfect city cars…but the moment you try to load them up with any cargo larger than a bag of groceries, you’ll soon see what you’ve sacrificed for that smaller footprint. Instead, take a look at the 2015 Ford Focus SE and other similar hatchback models. This body style allows much more storage space while maintaining the modest size befitting an urban auto.
6) All-Electric Operation
Need a set of wheels but don’t want to contribute any more carbon to your city’s air supply? Go electric! Most cities are now well stocked with EV charging stations, so you needn’t be worried about running out of juice. Just be sure to select a model that can travel a considerable distance before its battery is depleted. The 2016 Kia Soul EV should be your benchmark; with its range of 93 miles on a single charge, it’s a rather exemplary long-range EV.