2006 TOYOTA COROLLA: Rapid changes in our cars' safety, technology, performance and economy have made today's offerings so much more appealing than those of ten years ago.
2006 TOYOTA COROLLA: Rapid changes in our cars' safety, technology, performance and economy have made today's offerings so much more appealing than those of ten years ago.

How much better is your car compared to ten years ago?

WHEN was the last time you bought a new car?   

For the average Australian, it was nearly bang on a decade ago. According to the 2016 Motor Vehicle Census published earlier this year, the average age of all vehicles registered in Australia was 10.1 years, rising to an average of 12.6 years in dear old Tasmania.  

We all know the car game moves on at some pace, but the changes seen in terms of safety, efficiency, technology and included specification in the last 10 years has been quite staggering. So much so, if you're one such driver piloting that decade-old car you'd scarcely believe what today's new cars feature. And not just your Mercedes and BMWs either, I'm talking your everyday, everyman cars too.  

Let's take the Toyota Corolla, a car which over the past decade has either been Australia's best selling vehicle or very close to it. First thing to acknowledge is how prices have remained static despite inflation over the past 10 years. The entry-level Toyota Corolla Ascent of 2006 cost buyers $19,990 before on roads. Price of the entry-level 2016 Corolla Ascent hatch? A neat $200 less than a decade ago at $19,790 before on roads. Incredible.  

New 2015 Toyota Corolla Hatch Photo: Contributed.
SAME PRICE, BETTER CAR: The modern Toyota Corolla for example brings standard inclusions that would have been thought impossible ten years ago.

In 2006 your Corolla Ascent offered 93kW and 161Nm from its 1.8-litre petrol engine and returned 7.4l/100km. Today's Corolla Ascent also uses a 1.8-litre four-cylinder giving 103kW and 173Nm, while fuel use has dropped to 6.7l/100km. To show quite how far technology has moved on in the humble Corolla, you can spend $26,990 - still not much for a new car - on the Hybrid variant and return 4.1l/100km.   

When the ninth generation Corolla was launched in late 2001 (and was still current in 2006), Toyota championed such standard inclusions as driver's airbag (a passenger airbag wasn't standard until five years later), central locking, driver's seat height adjust and four-wheel disc brakes. Your entry-level car didn't even have air conditioning, traction control, electric windows or ABS brakes.  

Well, welcome to the future Corolla buyers. Safety is arguably the most important and appreciated leap. As standard your 2016 models bring no fewer than seven airbags, reversing camera, cruise control, anti-lock brakes, stability control and traction control.  

SAFETY BAGS: Only ten years ago, a passenger airbag wasn't standard in a basic Toyota Corolla. All 2016 variants have seven airbags.

Then there are the technology aspects to make your drive far more civilised. In 2006 a new Corolla was sporting a cassette deck (remember them?) while today's entry-level Corollas score a 6.1-inch touchscreen, bluetooth phone and music connectivity and USB input for your MP3 player or mobile phone. You only need to spend a few grand more on the SX model Corolla and you get sat nav and voice recognition for audio and phone control.  

A mighty dangling carrot for new car buyers over the last few years has been cars fitted with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, where your smartphone apps are integrated with your touchscreen. That means access to your text messages, phone contacts, music list and mapping projected on your car's screen in the familiar manner of your smartphone, and you're able to access these by voice command. Such technology comes included even on many sub-$20,000 cars such a Holden Spark.   

2016 Holden Spark. Photo: Contributed
DESIRABLE: Apple CarPlay is becoming increasingly a standard inclusion on all cars, even the cheapest on our market.

Start spending a bit more money and your modern kit gets even more impressive.   

Active safety systems such as autonomous emergency braking and blind spot warning are becoming increasingly commonplace on family cars and semi-autonomous features (using cameras and radar) such as lane change assist and evasive steering assist are included on entry level Mercedes E Classes, and are sure to filter down to cheaper models.  

Progress in all things is inevitable, but if you're ready to upgrade your car after a few years, prepare to be very amazed.  

2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Photo: Mark Bramley
MODERN DELIGHTS: A Mercedes E-Class cabin of today best shows how far we've come in a decade. Mark Bramley