Car Buying

Buying a Car: Disappearing Car Features

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author photo by Jeff Taylor May 2014
  • New technology and weight-saving measures have upgraded certain functions
  • Returning buyers may be surprised by elimination of some long-standing features
  • Some standard features have reverted to options

Each model year, the pace of technology, consumer tastes, regulations and fuel economy affects the way our vehicles look and drive. If you've been out of the market for even a few short years or you're replacing an older car, you might be surprised to find that some car features are no longer available or are now extra-cost options.

Missing Interior Features

For example, CD players may soon be a thing of the past. Thanks to music downloading and Bluetooth streaming audio, CDs are ready to enter the technology museum. Of the cars available in 2014, it's becoming harder to find CD players as standard equipment. As an example, the 2014 Chevrolet Sonic doesn't even list one as an option.

Metal car keys are fading fast, but don't think that chunky pocket fobs are the only replacement. Hyundai and GM offer new smartphone-linked systems that allow you to monitor functions, service intervals and vehicle health, adjust settings, and unlock and even start your vehicle directly from your phone.

Hyundai's app for its premium Genesis sedan combines Blue Link features and data from the vehicle, the owner's smartphone and the Internet with multiple layers of intelligence. The Genesis Intelligent Assistant app can send reminders and route recommendations to owners in preparation for their drive.

Bench seats may not be around much longer. If you like 3-across seating, you may be sad to learn that the final nonrental car to offer a front bench seat was the 2013 Chevrolet Impala. Few people opted for this feature, and safety requirements (airbags, 3-point belts) made this a tricky and costly option.

Mechanical Changes

Even the way you steer a car has changed the kind of car features you can expect. Traditional hydraulic power steering is on the way out. Electrically assisted power steering reduces power loss, cost, weight and manufacturing complexity while freeing up engine compartment space. The electric steering weight and resistance effort can be programmed in. Electric steering lessens the driver's ability to really feel the road surface under the tires, but the good news is that vehicles such as the Hyundai Santa Fe offer drivers the option to select the kind of steering feel they want (most cars give choices between a normal, sport and comfort mode).

Spare tires on small vehicles are obsolete, as there is no room to store a bulky and heavy spare. Manufacturers long ago replaced full-size tires with donut inflatable tires, but in recent years tire maintenance kits have been in vogue. These kits generally contain a can of Fix-A-Flat, coupled with a small air compressor, gloves and a tire gauge. In the 2014 FIAT 500L, the manufacturer doesn't even offer a donut for a spare option.

Manual transmissions are not going away anytime soon in cars, as there seems to be a revival in the compact segment. If you want to shift for yourself in a half-ton pickup, however, you're out of luck. Manufacturers stopped offering manuals in non-heavy-duty models years ago. Lack of demand and new multi-speed automatics that boost fuel economy and reduce manufacturing complexity are the key two reasons why light-duty pickups have largely given up on manuals.

Steel wheels with hubcaps were standard-issue until the early '90s, as alloy wheels were an attractive but expensive option during that time. Today, lightweight alloy wheels aid fuel economy, differentiate models and reduce manufacturing complexity. Hubcaps and steel wheels have been relegated to a rapidly shrinking number of entry-level or fleet models.

If you haven't purchased a new car in a few years, you may be surprised to find that some newer features, as well as some older ones, are no longer around. Thankfully, the widespread result is more efficient, and in some cases, less expensive automobiles.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying a Car: Disappearing Car Features - Autotrader