Every year, we test hundreds of new cars on all types of roads in all kinds of weather. During that time we develop some deep-seated animosity toward certain features, even those that you might not expect.
1. Touch-Sensitive Controls
As car reviewers, we have railed against the increased use of touch-sensitive controls – electronic “buttons” that have no actual physical button to press – since their earliest incarnation. Consumers complained too, and we’re seeing these buttonless buttons drop like flies.
2. Touch-Screen-Dependent Controls
One thing almost everyone likes is a big, beautiful touch-screen in the middle of their dash. They’re terrific for viewing maps, album artwork, etc. But we can’t stand when a car requires you to use the touch-screen to control a simple function like, let’s say, adjusting where the air conditioning hits your body. Yes, we’re looking at you, Chrysler.
3. Stereo Tuning Buttons Instead of Knobs
In some cars tuning the radio station via a button – whether a physical one or on a touch-screen – is no big deal, but in many it is a royal pain. Especially when you just want to flip to a station to get a traffic report. Using a knob or dial will get you there quickly; using a button can sometimes require a push of that button to go past every increment on the radio spectrum, one push to go from 101.1 to 101.2 and on and on.
4. Navigation Systems That Lock Out Passengers
In the age of driver distraction, it makes sense for a navigation system to lock a driver out of certain functions, like entering a destination address. However, this lockout is in place when a passenger wants to help out, too. Wouldn’t it be great to hop in the car with your co-pilot and start driving right away while he or she starts typing in a destination? Nope, you’ll have to keep it in Park and waste precious minutes … and don’t get us started on what happens if a new destination pops into your mind while you’re en route. Your passenger will whip out a smartphone app, lickety-split.
5. Giant Key Fobs
Car keys that actually get inserted into an ignition switch are slowly disappearing, replaced by a key fob that can electronically start the car even if it is in your purse or pocket. That we like. While those carrying purses might not mind a large fob that is easy to locate, those drivers who have to put them in their pockets likely don’t appreciate giant fobs that bulge out of even non-skinny jeans. Automakers like Ford and Kia are the serious offenders here.
6. Square Cupholders
Remember the last time you bought a bottle of Fiji water and thought, “I wonder why only one company makes a square bottle?” Well, designers of car cupholders must think they’re common because there are more than a few cars on the road forgoing round receptacles for square ones, including late-model Subarus.
7. Auto Stop-Start
Saving gas is a priority for many drivers and almost every automaker. One approach that engineers have found to boost fuel economy is with an automatic stop-start function that cuts the engine when you come to a stop. It’s great in theory, but it can be annoying in practice. Some cars manage a somewhat smooth stop, while others … not so much. It’s especially annoying when your high-powered German sport sedan rumbles up to the stoplight, and you’re looking good and feeling good behind the wheel, then all of a sudden there’s a dramatic shudder and that rumble disappears. It’s deflating, to be sure.
8. Voice-Controlled Systems
Talking to a computer has been a dream of science fiction since “2001” … the movie, not the year. Now, nearly every automaker has some sort of voice-controlled system available where you can touch a button and then give a voice command to the car’s onboard computer to execute without taking a hand off the steering wheel. There’s just one Hal-like issue here: These systems often don’t understand what you’re saying. That, or the command you give must follow a very specific formula that never sounds quite as good as “Tea, Earl Grey, hot.”
9. Car Alarms
Car alarms serve a specific purpose; they’re intended to shoo away car thieves. However, in today’s world, most people tune out these blaring sirens and flashing lights assuming that the car alarm is malfunctioning, the car is getting towed or someone with a really loud stereo drove by. Basically, they think it’s anything but a theft.
10. Small Side Mirrors
Some editors nitpick about blind spots, but for most of us good side mirrors do the trick when making a lane change. That’s why when we test a car with miniscule mirrors, we start getting annoyed. When you can’t see much of the abutting lane in the mirror you must rely on the over-the-shoulder glance, and you better not be in a sports car, which are notorious for bad visibility.