January 27, 2023

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Five great gadgets for your car

In-car audio occupies two different worlds. One is about raw power, pounding bass and accidentally setting off the alarms of cars parked nearby. It’s easy: throw a subwoofer in the trunk and turn up the volume. The other is about getting the best quality audio you might have at home, and that’s a little more difficult.

They will make volume or delicate, breathy vocals

French audio brand Focal is known for its high-end studio and home speakers (the floor-standing Sopra model will set you back around £16,000 a pair). In 2019, the company launched a new speaker cone made from recycled non-woven carbon fiber they called Slatefiber and incorporated it into some of their popular hi-fi and studio monitors. Now it’s introducing them to cars, with these PS 165 component speakers and their coaxial brethren, the PC 165s. The extremely affordable price point (considering their pedigree) puts them in direct competition with the JL Audios and Hertzes of the world.

Focal Slatefiber PS 165, £239

The woofers measure 6.5 inches (165mm) as standard for maximum compatibility across a range of vehicles, and they’re powered by a four-channel in-line amplifier that’s virtually plug-and-play. If sheer volume is your thing, you won’t be disappointed: they offer 80W RMS/160W peak power, which in testing meant Michael Bublé sang way, way louder than you could ever want or need (NB: not my pick ). If you appreciate delicate, breathy vocals or the shine of a string section more, then this composite set’s discrete tweeters deliver those exceptionally well too.

Of course, you are ultimately at the mercy of your vehicle and its structure. Certain models (old BMWs are the main culprits, I’m told) will never do justice to quality speakers, while poorly installed ones will push the sound in weird directions, lending your cup holder perfect sonic clarity while passengers wonder what all the fuss is about. But a pair of Focals installed by someone who knows what they’re doing gives you the best chance of premium audio quality on the freeway, highway, or autoroute. Focal Slatefiber PS 165, £239, focal.com

Tell us a story

Five great gadgets for your carYoto Mini, £59.99

I have yet to experience the parental hell of entertaining a child on long car rides because my son is nine months old and falls asleep as soon as the engine starts. But the Yoto Mini is designed to do just that – primarily as a storytelling device, but with “no mic, no camera, no ads”.

Stories come on cards that plug into the top of the device
Stories come on cards that plug into the top of the device

It’s extraordinarily cute, with a tiny, chunky pixel display and tactile dials that double as buttons. Stories come on cards that slot into a slot at the top, while the buttons can trigger a daily Yoto podcast or a few kid-friendly radio stations. A companion app helps parents tailor the experience to their child, and can play all Yoto stories if (God forbid) the Mini was accidentally left at home. Yoto Mini, £59.99, uk.yotoplay.com

A question of recording
Much like travel insurance, dash cams are one of those things that you end up wishing you had bought when it’s too late. Since their main job is to prove that an accident wasn’t your fault, they need to be unobtrusive and reliable, and the Miofive ticks both the boxes. It adheres neatly to the windshield behind your rear-view mirror, with cables tucked away in the fairing, has a 140-degree field of view, and produces crisp video along with a wealth of real-time driving data (time, speed, GPS).

4K UHD dashcam, £150
4K UHD dashcam, £150

The onboard AI is a bit oversensitive and audibly warns of “sudden corners” when I haven’t done such a thing (honestly), but that’s easily muted in the settings. I hereby resort to the cliché: “Small price for peace of mind”. Miofive 4K UHD dash cam, £150, miofive.com

Cool as you like
If you’re planning on cramming this fridge into your Smart Fortwo, I should start off by saying that it’s quite chunky, although there’s a 40-litre version too. It can be powered by your car (DC 12V/24V), a solar power supply, or standard 110-240V, so it also works well as a mini fridge (or mini freezer) when you’re not traveling and can easily be pushed back and forth.

Outsunny 50l car fridge, £349.99
Outsunny 50l car fridge, £349.99

The target temp is adjustable from 20°C (a bit pointless) all the way down to -20°C, and on the Max setting (i.e. cooling down quickly) it ramped down to fridge temp from a standing start after 20 minutes of a gentle whirr. There is also an eco mode for food that is not acutely perishable. Outsunny 50l car fridge, £349.99, aosom.co.uk

suck it up
This compact and portable vacuum is a battery-powered garage workhorse (no fumbling around with extension cords from the living room to the car in front of the front door), doubles, triples, quadruples as an all-purpose dirt-cleaner, a wet-cleaner for dirty spills (although it’s not big enough to be used as a water pump to be used), a leaf blower and a general purpose inflator.

Bosch AdvancedVac 18V-8, £119.99
Bosch AdvancedVac 18V-8, £119.99

You charge the removable battery like an electric drill, and at full power it makes short work of old cobwebs in the garage and nasty debris in the trunk. The filter is a breeze to clean and there’s a familiar bundle of accessories, all destined to be misplaced or stepped on, but hey, that’s 21st-century cleaning for you. Bosch AdvancedVac 18V-8, £119.99, bosch.co.uk

@rhodri