Don’t you just hate it when manufacturers think they know best?
Modern cars are mechanical and technological marvels, but in recent years they've been getting more and more complex. The proliferation of electronic systems and conveniences means that manufacturers cram in a whole lot more features in even base-spec cars to stay relevant. Not all modern conveniences have been met with unanimous praise, however, and some just make driving a pain. Blame insufficient development or just plain ignorance, we have selected some of the worst new car features and options that highlight the issue.
Power seats are a luxury that has filtered down to even the more affordable end of the market. They allow for an easier and more accurate adjustment and some even work in conjunction with the steering wheel and side mirrors. But don’t think that all systems are created equal. Some budget setups will only adjust the base or backrest and the front passenger may still have to do everything manually. The most frustrating part though are power seats with no memory function. The Toyota Corolla XSE is one of many examples out there. This can get quite frustrating if more than one person drives the car on a regular basis.
This one may seem like a complaint of a newly qualified driver or old, stuck-in-their-ways boomers, but bear with us. Take a look at some of the latest automatic and dual-clutch-transmission cars on the market and you will see all sorts of diagrams and letters depicting the various positions and functions of the gearbox. What was wrong with the good old P R N D system? Modern shifters aren’t always mechanically connected to the gearbox either, so this means that to engage neutral or park you may need to push a random button instead of just moving the shifter to its logical position. BMW M cars are particularly over-complicated.
Ever since the advent of windscreen wipers, each improvement was a good one. Moving from manually turning a crank handle to electronic wipers: good. Intermittent functionality to stop the wipers dragging across a dry windscreen: good. Then came the automatic rain-sensing wipers. While the ones fitted to premium models tend to be good, plenty are utterly useless. They are either way too eager to wipe away a few droplets or completely ignore a massive downpour and leave you to do it for yourself. Avoid this option on budget offerings like a Nissan Sentra.
Driving around in stop-and-go traffic has never been fun. Having to do it accompanied to the stopping and then lurchy restarting of your engine has not made it any better. Most systems are a bit rough in their operation, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is particularly frustrating. You can also sometimes catch them out if you need to get going quickly. The minuscule fuel savings may add up over time but surely the additional wear and tear on the engine can’t be good even if they were designed to take the extra stress.
A lot has been said about autonomous driving features that do no such thing and the various lane, braking, collision, and blind spot assists that are more of an irritation than a help. Some cars do it better than others but as long as we have to sit with our hands gripping the wheel waiting for the car to beep at us to take over they are not much more than a gimmick. While budget cars can be bad even premium luxury sedans like the BMW 5 Series aren't perfect. It's best to save the cash and drive the car yourself.
Almost every car on the road today has a rearview camera, since the beginning of 2018 it became law that every new car has to be fitted with one. The reason for this is partly because modern cars are bigger than ever before and partly because it has become fashionable to offer very shallow window glass that can severely impede rearward visibility. While that is a pain, the quality of these cameras on most entry level cars is pretty dismal. Grainy, tiny little screens like those fitted to a verge on being completely pointless.
Very few people actually take a corner fast enough in their daily driving to tax even the modest limits of a Toyota Prius. Yet just about everything from a budget hatchback to a sporty SUV can be had with ‘sports’ suspension and low-profile tires. Looks aside, the handling and grip benefits that you will never take advantage of will be far outweighed by the rock-hard ride you will experience constantly. The tires will also cost more to replace. Unless you are buying an actual performance vehicle like a Mustang or Corvette, stick to the standard setup.
Having a futuristic looking dashboard like on a Tesla with just a massive touchscreen and not a button in sight looks great. Having to dig through menus and submenus while on the move to adjust the radio volume or the temperature is just plain irritating. Reading a book while on the move is illegal so why is operating a touchscreen that requires as much attention perfectly fine? The huge number of features in high-end luxury cars only adds to the problem. It does tend to get better once you are familiar with the system and shortcuts are set up, but some touchscreen systems are just a pain to use.
Nothing is as useless as the voice command feature that is now either standard or an option on most modern cars. On the odd occasion that you can get the car to respond to your command the elation is short lived. These systems are almost always utterly rubbish. You need to say the correct word or phrase exactly right for the system to recognize your request, and unless you have the list printed out in front of you that is unlikely to happen. Don’t believe us? Go and try to get your car to accept navigation coordinates that contain even a slightly tricky street or city name.