Every week I report to you about the new cars I’ve driven with all sorts of gadgets, technologies, apps and so on. I absolutely love sampling modern motors for their technical prowess, comfort, agility, ability, etc. It is both a thrill and a challenge. But there is another side I don’t raise too often.
That’s because I don’t want to bore you to death (more than usual) every week with my subjective moans and whinges.
A further reason is that I’m not a techno-head hotshot so I’m reluctant to expose my limitations on too regular a basis. However, this week I’m going to lump my whinges together and tell you about seven things (I could do more and might at some stage) that drive me crazy in modern cars.
I stress that much of what follows is entirely personal, a bit unbalanced perhaps, and I will definitely be accused of stupidity, ignorance and being a nitpicker.
But I happen to believe the only truly helpful gadgets/elements in a car are those that are idiot-proof. So here goes:
1 No spare wheel. It’s an absolutely dreadful way to treat car owners. We should be given the choice. Thank God some brands provide a spare but there are fewer of them every year.
Instead, you face the possibility of ending up with a gooey mess to solve your puncture problem that no-one I know would dare engage with (so they call roadside assistance).
Why no spare? They add weight to a car and take up boot room. The extra weight means (slightly) higher fuel consumption and emissions. A couple of grammes of CO2 can push a car into a higher taxation bracket making it costlier to buy and tax.
Yet you can often buy a spare wheel AFTER you’ve bought the car (for anything from €120 upwards). Crazy no? I’d buy, regardless. I don’t fancy being stuck on a wet country road squeezing something approaching melting cheese consistency into a tyre. Irritability score: 10/10
2 It’s all about touchscreens and infotainment systems with new cars. Some work well; some are fidgety, distracting and over elaborate.
It’s not okay to have to flick through layer after layer of functions just to change a few small settings. Irritability score: 7/10
3 Satnavs. I’m often as angry with my own shortcomings as I am with the satnavs. I just want to key in a simple address and go. I don’t see why there has to be such a fuss about getting to a town and a street. Who needs prompts for Germany when I’m in Galway? Some systems work much better than others. Why?
And then there’s the ‘stubborn’ one which insists on directing you ‘her’ way even though you now know where you are and how to get there more quickly. Irritability score: 8/10
4 Voice control: An Offaly accent and voice control systems don’t go well together. People for whom I have forgotten I had numbers, or wouldn’t answer me anyway, are resurrected as options to call when all I want is a simple Joe Bloggs. Try telling them the name you want has Cathal as a first name. I now have to break it down into ‘Cat Hal’. Some surnames that cause serious trouble include: McCormack, Devery, Kealey. When it works, it’s great; when it doesn’t, I lose the head. More seriously, it is distracting, tempting me to switch attention from the road. Irritability score: 9/10
5 Bootlids you can only release from the inside of the car or (not so bad) via your key fob. Oh, it drives me mad. Dashing back in the rain to press a button in the car. What’s wrong with pressing a button on the boot? And don’t talk to me about ‘gimmick’ systems to open the boot when you swing your leg under the car’s read end. Some require the accuracy of a Premier League footballer. It’s supposed to save arms-full mums from having to root for the key. I can see people standing on one leg and swinging in the rain in vain. Irritability score: 6/10
6 Sharply angled rear screens that clog with water just because a self-important designer wouldn’t allow a rear-wiper. It’s hard enough these dark days without rain blobs interfering with visibility. A few cars of late have annoyed me. While I’m on wipers: Is there not some mechanism to stop them from sounding like a hoarse hyena when the glass screen goes dry or less moist? They are supposed to be automatic on a lot of cars. Not always the case. Irritability score: 7/10
7 Overcrowded displays and instruments are a nightmare. Dozens of pin-prick buttons all with tiny inscriptions drive me mad. Press the wrong one and you have to peer to see what you’ve done wrong and probably drive ‘blind’ for 200/300 metres.
Some brands have taken things to the opposite extreme; the only button you’ll find is on your clothes. Four or five big tangible buttons for main controls sounds about right surely? They bring a great reassurance, too. Irritability score: 7/10
I’m overlooking several more but I don’t want to go on too much. Anyway, I feel better after that: good to get it off the old chest. For now.