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Five On Your Side Hits The Road To Test New Cars

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RALEIGH — Climbing up rock hills, driving through water and mud, and maneuvering through an avoidance course are just some of the more than 40 tests

Consumer Reports

' drivers put cars and trucks through at its auto test facility.

Consumer Reports

tests braking, handling, seat comfort, ride, how well the controls work, visibility, everything. This helps consumers narrow down choices when looking to purchase a car.

As thorough as those checks are, it is also important to make sure a car works for you.

Consumers should pay close attention to how the car handles.

Consumer Reports

suggests really getting to know whether the steering feels good, whether it handles the corners well and whether the ride feels good.

Consumer Reports

suggests seeing whether the seat, steering wheel and pedals are in the right place. Also check the position of the radio, CD and heater controls, so you do not have to take off the road to operate them.

If you have children, have them try the back seat, since comfort can reduce conflict. Some consumers have found that when the kids cannot see out the window, they become bored and start fighting with each other.

When testers measured distances from the top of the rear seat to the bottom of the window, they found big differences. Some children can barely see out the window in a car with high windows, but in cars that have a lower window, they get a great view.

Something else that makes kids fidget is uncomfortable seatbelts.

Consumer Reports

found little clips that hold the seatbelt away, and make it much more comfortable, a good buy.

Another family-friendly feature to consider is lots of backseat storage space. Some vehicles tested have pockets in the ceiling so that toys and books are within easy reach. Backseat cupholders are another plus, especially ones that can accommodate a juice box.

If your children can handle it, it is good to take them with you while you are car shopping so they can try the back seat. And if they are still in car seats, take the seats along to try out in the car as well.

© 2002 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. All rights reserved.

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