Here's a handy guide on what you should pay special attention to when you visit the dealership:
Seats and Steering Position: The first thing that I do whenever I get into any car that I’m going to review is to adjust my seating and steering position. Then I just sit and run through a mental checklist for myself. Is this the ideal positioning that I like while driving? Do I have enough headroom? Is the forward visibility good? Is the rear visibility good? Is the seat comfortable? Does the seat have enough back support? If you answer “no” to any of these questions then I recommend thinking long and hard before committing yourself to this vehicle. And don’t be afraid to spend some time just sitting in the car before you start asking yourself those questions. Sometimes an incredibly plush seat might seem supremely comfortable at first, but after a few minutes you might find that you need a little more support.
Why do I make such a big deal out of seats and steering position? Simple: this will affect your enjoyment of a car more than any other feature. Sure, the sound system might be worthy of the choosiest of audiophiles, but you’re not going to have the radio on 100% of the time that you’re in the car. But, you will definitely be sitting in those seats.
Technology Features and Storage: Now is where things start to get a little out of order. The technology features and storage available in a car, while cool, should not be the main selling points of any vehicle. Salespeople love to point out things like a hard drive that can store your music, voice control for the navigation system, or radar-based cruise control, but in all probability, you’re looking at a couple of cars in the same class of vehicle, and most, if not all, offer the same set of options. There are some exceptions however, so you should try to identify the features that are important to you and determine if that is unique to a specific vehicle, or if all vehicles that you are considering have this option available. Don’t forget to try the radio at this point too, so that you can pay attention to how loud the road noise is inside the car while on your test drive.
But if I said that the technology and storage features aren’t that important when car shopping, why should you look at them before starting your test drive? On a test drive it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all of the new features, functions, and accessories that you are testing, especially when a salesperson keeps pointing out different things. By checking out all of the car’s features before trying to drive the car, you’ll be able to focus more of your attention on what’s important: how the car drives.
Throttle/Steering Response and Handling: Now that we’ve decided that the seats are comfortable and have taken a look at all of the car’s features, it’s time to take the vehicle for a test drive. As you drive on the dealer’s test route, pay attention to how heavy the steering is, both at low and high speeds. Try switching lanes to see how the car responds. Accelerate quickly and slow down suddenly. Remember, this is a test drive, so test the car. And don’t forget to pay attention to how the car rides and try to figure out if the ride quality is due to the car’s suspension or the road quality around the dealership. Other things to keep in mind are road noise and how loud it is inside the car and to check and make sure that you still find the seats comfortable.