By on December 13, 2018

Sitting in a new, unfamiliar vehicle can breed a nearly limitless range of emotions and observations. Excitement, lust, desire … and annoyance.

Just as one design flourish or interior feature can turn interest into a buy, another can turn off prospective customers to such a degree that a sale becomes impossible. Sure, to the experienced observer, these minor complaints might appear frivolous, but the customer is always right. Or are they?

Again, the list is endless, but I can provide two examples of minor feature love/hate from my own family.

My mother purchased her first car based partly on price, but also on the deep-rooted appeal of the ’76 Plymouth Volare’s fender-mounted turn signals. Those small lenses were a huge factor in the decision to purchase a car that ultimately turned out to be a disastrous lemon. A rusty lemon, too.

Reversing the situation, I took my sister for a spin last summer in a vehicle I figured she’d adore. As a parent of two kids and owner of a dog, it seemed likely that her aging, domestic two-row crossover might lose some of its lustre, at least in her mind, after sitting in what I felt was a right-sized, three-row domestic crossover. (I spent a considerable amount of time driving two GMC Acadias last summer; this one was the too-pricey Denali version.)

As I wrote at the time, the Acadia is a vehicle that tries its hardest not to annoy the driver. Xanax oozes from the model’s completely unremarkable yet unobjectionable steering and suspension and transmission. Power isn’t an issue. And the extra rear cargo area (with the third row folded flat) might be just the ticket for a normal-sized family used to squeezing all of their stuff into a slightly smaller vehicle.

My sister’s chief complaint about the Acadia amounted to the windshield being too steeply raked (in her view, the trailing edge of the windshield was too far aft in relation to the driver). This observation threw me off guard, as it wasn’t something I ever considered could annoy a driver. True, her older vehicle’s front glass rested in a more upright fashion, but headroom and visibility wasn’t a problem, so it’s not like the windshield was impeding the operation of the vehicle or intruding into a driver’s personal space. And yet this might have been something that took a buyer forever out of the Acadia camp.

Yes, there’s limitless ways in which a vehicle can turn someone on or off. In your travels, what’s the most minor complaint you’ve heard someone give as reason for not buying a car?

[Image: Steph Willems/TTAC]

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67 Comments on “QOTD: Unlikely Complaints?...”


  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    The most recent was the head rest/restraint positioning in a Kia Optima. I generally like Kia vehicles but the ‘rake of the headrest’ was impossible to live with. Understand that this problem is now not uncommon.

    I also cannot drive most vehicles with extensive side or front ‘bolstering’ on the driver’s seat.

    Other complaints that members of our family have had regarding other vehicles are a) blind spots created by the location of the pillars, b) blind spots due to too small rear windows, c) driver seats that did not have sufficient height adjustments (some change the seat angle when changing the height), d) road noise, e) back seats that do not fold f) no dials to adjust radio/etc (touch screen adjustments are not intuitive and in my estimation ‘unsafe’.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      I experienced that (head restraint angle) in my 2013 Tacoma when I first bought it, and for awhile, I even ran it with the restraint turned around backwards. I eventually figured out I could recline the seat a little bit more (so my head has to tilt forward a little more), and that solved the problem.

    • 0 avatar
      BigOldChryslers

      > I also cannot drive most vehicles with extensive side or front ‘bolstering’ on the driver’s seat.

      That’s probably my biggest complaint about my wife’s 2006 CR-V. I have pretty broad shoulders. The seatbacks are narrow with firm wedge-shaped bolsters which dig into my shoulder blades, especially if I’m in the passenger seat and I recline it.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I always thought the seats in the plebeian Pontiacs of the 00s had silly amounts of side bolstering for a brand that was likely to be bought by “corn-fed” Americans.

        I was amazed that my wife could get comfortable in her Vibe or her Mom’s G6 or later Torrent. (She’s Latina and short and proportioned as you might expect.)

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      You’d like the Ford Flex; it has very flat, yet comfortable seats.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Has Ford announced the official end of Flex production, or has it happened already?

        The biggest problem I have with the Flex is fairly terrible fuel economy compared to vehicles that were designed/engineered more recently. Although one could always view buying a Flex as picking up a brand new early 2000s Volvo wagon.

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        Unless you’re an adult, sitting in the third row, on a three-hour ride, helping out with high school band – torture chamber.

    • 0 avatar
      chris724

      My one and only complaint about my wife’s 2017 Kia Sorento was the headrest. Sometimes it feels like it’s not square to the rest of the car. I’ve learned to scooch my whole body half an inch to one side or the other, to find the exact center of the headrest, and then it’s fine.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      To this day I don’t know how ANYONE sits in a RAM TRUCK built after 2009. The headrests literally go 8″ forward. You cannot sit in the car without your chin being pressed into your chest.

      The only solution I found was to REMOVE the headrests and flip them around backwards.

      I fear that is potentially dangerous, but seriously how does anyone fit in those unless they are so short their head is UNDER the headrest?

      http://images.gtcarlot.com/pictures/65337302.jpg

      Look at that head rest rake!

  • avatar
    kkop

    Lack of comfortable dead pedal in Ford F-150 I tried; it seemed to intrude into the footwell much more than the competition.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    Honestly, most cars are pretty generic these days. My biggest gripes usually come from overly complex interfaces on infotainment systems. I can’t stand having to go through two menus just to find radio presets or change the station (sadly too common these days). I like everything about my wife’s Mazda CX-9 but while the infotainment system is generally pretty common sense the radio tuning isn’t.

    With rental cars, it seems I have about a 50% hit rate whether or not the USB port will work with my iPhone for charging and/or music streaming.

    I also have a pet peeve about automatic climate controls that are hard to override. I really dislike the noise from fans blowing full speed so I like to turn them down a notch or two. The more these systems are integrated into screens the harder that seems to be to accomplish. Give me a separate knob or an auto off button right in the center.

    As for the windscreen issue with your sister, I have rejected some convertibles over that issue. If I have the top down I don’t want to feel like I’m sitting under the windshield. General lack of visibility out of some modern cars (Camaro, cough) would also keep me from buying one.

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    I liked everything about the Mazda6, especially the fact you could get a 6 speed with the mid-level trim a few years back. But no matter how I tried, I couldn’t get past the fact that the C-pillar was so intrusive. I tried adjusting the seat but for some reason that C-pillar always seemed to be inches from the side of my head. Although a small thing, I knew over time it would erode all the good points of the car and leave me eventually regretting buying it.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      B pillar you mean?

      C pillar is the last one next to the trunk and rear window. You’d have to be driving from the backseat I think…

      • 0 avatar
        2drsedanman

        Sorry, B-pillar. I’ve been looking at some Challengers lately and I guess I had it on my mind.

        On the Mazda6, even getting in and out of the driver’s seat involved working around that B-pillar. Just seemed like a big deal at the time.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      I drive it every day – no issues. Whats your head look like?

    • 0 avatar
      Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

      This. B-pillar positioning is my main gripe about the Kia Stinger, which like you in the Mazda places the pillar directly next to my head and shoulder with the seat positioned comfortably. A related gripe is the too-narrow door opening.

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      I’ve come to the conclusion that I have to drive coupes – usually the only way I can turn my head and actually see out of the door window without having to look around the b-pillar. I’m 6’2″ and, on the majority of cars, have to have the seat all the way back.

      MINI hardtop is very good, as is the Mustang, for my height and side visibility.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Electronic speedometer can turn me away from any car

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Really? You mean the digital numbers counting up and down? On most vehicles with that feature you can switch it to some other function for that screen.

      My wife always keeps her Terrain on the digital readout of speed but I usually switch it to “Avg Fuel Econ last 50 miles” – it doesn’t actually change my driving style but its a piece of data I get curious about.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Fair enough. But some cars do not have a physical dial for the speed readout. My Grand Cherokee, if you’re in speedometer view on the DIC, either shows the digital readout in big numbers or a simulation of an analog, dial readout. In any of the other DIC views, the speedometer readout is smaller and at the top of the screen. But it does not have a physical dial for the speed readout.

        Of course, most analog speedometers are digitally driven with speed sensors and stepper motors, anyway, rather than being mechanical cable-driven dials, like in the olden days.

        The first car I remember that simulated an entire analog speedometer like that on an LCD…was the W221 (2007-2013) S-Class.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        Yea man. I hate blinking digits and electronic simulation as well. I consider nice round analog gauges “classy”. I know they are driven by electronics but they are still analog readouts. Can you imagine if you are in a really quick car and your speedo has to jump 60 digits in 3 sec. It ain’t happening cleanly. Analog will do a better job. My mazda6 does somewhat nice job with temperature and fuel gauges pretending being analog. Since they don’t move much, and go through clicks, it works well. But I drove some cars, like Civic where tach wasn’t moving “arm” cleanly.

        didn’t we go with this experiment in mid-80s to beginning 90s and came back to analog? I just like simple, easy to read, not blinking in your eye gauges. Manufacturers trying fancy $h!t I am not fan of

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      We love the digital speedometer readout in the HUD on our cars. Great for when you have to match that 20 mph school zone while watching out the windshield instead of looking down at the IP.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      I’m the opposite. Analogs are a DEAL BREAKER.

      I have no idea how fast I’m going. At least in my first cars in the 80s, they were 80 MPH speedos and they were 8″ long so you could see the difference between 42 and 43 MPH. How they are all like 160 MPH and 3″ wide, and I can’t tell the difference between 60 and 80 without REALLY looking hard and taking my eyes dangerously off the road.

      If I’m stick driving a car with those awful speedos, I bought a HUD unit that plugs into the OBD2.

      I think analog speedos are so dangerous they should be banned.

  • avatar
    SixspeedSi

    Maybe not a true unlikely complaint as we saw this coming, but when I sold Ram, it was funny seeing how many men liked to voice their dislike in the rotary shift knob. It was like having the knob instead of a traditional column shifter was destroying their fragile masculinity. However, most of the ones that were actually serious buyers didn’t care that much and appreciated the extra center console space.

    For me personally, up until the latest generations, I could not stand GM sedan seats. I did not understand how everyone on here or in general loved the comfort of GM sedans. Must be my body size, but I always thought they had way too much unadjustable lumbar. I hated drive W-Body Impala’s, Malibus, Veranos, but seemed like I was the only one to complain about that.

    • 0 avatar
      BigOldChryslers

      That’s funny. I drove a Ram1500 with the rotary shifter knob for a month and I thought it was okay. I liken it to the pre-1965 Mopar pushbutton shifter. I do recall having an annoying problem with it though. It was something like, if you touched the brakes too briefly when moving the knob out of Park, the ECU would get confused and refuse to put the transmission in gear unless you moved it back to Park and did it slower.

      My bigger beef was with the buttons on the steering wheel. I use the cruise control regularly, and actually used the gear up/down buttons sometimes to limit the top gear, such as for engine braking when going downhill. The cruise and gear buttons are too small, too close together, and all feel too similar. Exceptionally difficult to use with gloves on.

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        I had one (2017 Big Horn with Hemi, UConnect and remote start) as an Enterprise insurance rental when I was getting hail damage repaired on my Tacoma. I typically put my vehicles in neutral with the parking brake set when waiting a long time, like in a drive-thru. I was waiting at Sonic one night, it was taking awhile, so I decided to shut the engine off.

        When I turned the ignition switch to off, the rotary knob whirred and clicked, and moved itself into Park. Freaked me out at first.

    • 0 avatar
      dougjp

      The shift knob vs. a normal auto shifter is a deal breaker, for various reasons. And even more so, a “button” for Park on an otherwise normal shifter. Like driving multiple cars and having to remember what used to be an automatic method ie; shove it all the way forward without thinking further, and hopping in and out, say when jumping out while the car is running to go to the mailbox. Also depending on conditions, ie; cold and wearing gloves, or someone who has arthritis in their hands (very common by the way).

      • 0 avatar

        I really don’t like Honda’s shifting button arrangement.

        http://www.canadianautoreview.ca/images/car_photos/2015-acura-rlx-sport-hybrid/icons/acura-rlx-sport-hybrid-gear-shifter.JPG

        It does not feel good, it does not feel intuitive. It takes up as much space as a shift lever.

        • 0 avatar
          SixspeedSi

          Agree on the Honda shifter. The Ram shifter, while not conventional, is at least easy to use and most can figure it out within minutes.

          The Honda one just seems like a poor design. I’m sure many owners figure it out quickly, but as you noted, it doe not add any additional space. The new Accord offers both, but the 2.0t gets the new buttons. Why, is that supposed to make it feel premium?

    • 0 avatar
      kkop

      I own both a 6-speed Ram with the column shifter and an 8-speed with the rotary knob. Fragile masculinity or not, the column shifter is so much more satisfying to operate – and I say this as a first-time column-shift (and rotary dial) owner.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    For me personally the lack of an armrest and seats that are too short is an automatic dealbreaker

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    My mom bought a 1997 Sable over the Taurus due solely to the oval rear window. It was immediate when she sat in it and looked through the rearview mirror. She drove the Taurus that day and liked everything about it, except that rear window. So, she bought the equivalent Sable.

    I’ve heard people say they’re turned off by untraditional shifters (push button or rotary dial), but honestly I think it’s just due to it being unfamiliar.

    I’ve heard many internet commenters expressing their hatred of the current Taurus due mostly to the center console. I find it just as roomy as other large cars, with a lot more usable room than the old Panthers it replaced. I took my mom’s to the Ford dealer today for an oil change and tire rotation (I usually do it myself, but I had a coupon that made it as cheap as buying the oil/filter myself), and my friend Connie rode with me. The first thing she commented on was how roomy it is. Shes tall, and said she had plenty of room. I mentioned the complaints about the center console, she said she liked it because everything was easier to reach than in, for example, her 2012 Altima.

  • avatar
    davewg

    We test drove a Ford Explorer back in 2013. The whole thing was a turn off, but what really annoyed me most was the operation of the turn signal stalk. When you turned the blinker on the stalk returned to center. The whole operation of it felt wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      igve2shtz

      My wife’s Ford Edge has the same stalk. Back in 2013, I had the same feeling after driving a friend’s Explorer for 2 miles. After buying the Edge, it took me all of 10 miles to get used to it. I’m not going to say I prefer it, but I can swap between all my cars, and when I get in the wife’s Edge, I have no problem adjusting to it immediately. For what it’s worth, I think Ford has shifted away from this style stalk as of late.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    My wife refused to even consider test driving a VW Golf Alltrack because she said it was too big and looked like a minivan.

    I was completely baffled by what she was seeing when she looked at the pictures.

    She was considering a TourX and bought a Forester.

    What???
    Also, what’s wrong with a minivan?

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    Screens that stick up out of the dash. Could be something with the room of a Suburban and road manners of a Caterham and that would be a deal breaker.

  • avatar
    Blackbeard

    I had a 2015 Audi A6 and my wife hated it and wouldn’t drive it. She claimed all the electronic gizmos, particularly the auto stop/start, intimated her. I showed her how to turn all that stuff off but she wouldn’t relent. Now I have a BMW with, if anything, more gizmos and she likes this car fine.

    Go figure.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    No moonroof is a turn-off.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      Of course my own complaints are super-important and never petty. ;) But the one that gets closest to petty if I had to choose is that I was considering a Ford C-Max Energi. Nice car! It even had a moonroof. But the moonroof was fixed and didn’t open. That annoyed me way more than I could have guessed beforehand.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I agree, I wouldn’t have a car without a moon/sunroof. Weather permitting I use mine everyday. Even when you can’t open it the extra light it brings into the cabin is great

  • avatar
    Garrett

    My biggest gripe is that Volvo isn’t in charge of seating in every car produced.

    Sometime I would like to try out the AGR (Campaign for Healthy Backs) certified seats in the Regal GS.

    Subaru puts some horrible seats in their cars. Had an ‘09 Outback that had seats worse than a five year old Hyundai Accent.

  • avatar
    DedBull

    One thing that I find annoying is cruise control on the right side of the steering wheel. I don’t know if it’s too many years driving a standard, but I like to operate things with my left hand, I find it intuitive. On my wife’s Outlander Sport, the cruise is on the right and it is annoying every time I look for the cruise and change radio stations instead.

    • 0 avatar
      dmchyla

      +1. My Cruze has the cruise control on the left side of the steering wheel (as it should be). My wife’s Town and Country has it on the right. After driving the van for a weekend I usually do dumb things in my car, like hanging up the phone when trying to cancel the cruise control.

  • avatar
    Boff

    No one little thing could ever turn me off completely. I look at cars pretty holistically…so if I’m down with the concept, looks, sound, and feel of the car, I can deal with any of its quirks and features.

  • avatar
    hachee

    When I saw the post heading, and the picture of the Acadia, I immediately thought, oh yeah, that’s an easy answer.

    About two years ago, when this Acadia came out, I looked at it, liked it well enough, took my wife to test drive it, and within 15 seconds, she said that she’d never drive this car. She’s small, sits close, and felt like the top of the A pillar was right at her head. No deal.

  • avatar
    Newsy1904

    Center air vents that cannot be adjusted to avoid blowing air into my face (drying out my eyes) when pointed in my direction. It is usually a flaw with vertically oriented vents. I see this in so many rental cars and said I would never buy a car that does this. To my dismay my 2019 RDX has this feature so on multi-hour stints behind the wheel I either point the vent up and to the center or mount a piece of hard plastic using a $1.99 dollar store magnetic phone mount to deflect the air lower into my lap.

    The other peeve I have is instrument panel lighting that is still too bright at its’ lowest setting when you are night driving. Also hard on the eyes and it reduces your night vision. I walked away from a Hyundai SUV a few years ago because of this.

    .

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    Super sized consoles. Fixed rear windows.

    Digital gauges. Still as gimmicky as they were in the 80s.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    A very minor annoyance with my car is the lumbar adjustment that doesn’t keep the adjustment. I have a lever with roughly 100° of adjustment and usually like to set it to its greatest adjustment, but after awhile the adjustment slackens and I have to redo it.

    The fake try-hard digital-cum-analog fuel gauge is gimmicky. Though if I’m honest the bar tach from the 2016 Mazda3 is more of a pain.

  • avatar
    Sigfried

    For me the biggest issue is shoulder room. I’m both wide and tall. In most cars my shoulder is touching the window until I put the seat back far enough to get my knees out of the dashboard. Then my shoulder is wrapped around the doorpost. I bought my 2013 Subaru Outback because I could put the seat back all the way and still have my shoulder not touching the doorpost (barely). After I bought it I found that sitting beside the doorpost is actually rather irritating since I have to scoosh forward to swing my legs out the door to exit the vehicle. Also I have to sit down backwards into my suebee, then pivot my legs in after ducking my head under the roof rail. In my wife’s 2010 Town & Country I can insert my right leg into the car and then slide in after it. But the space between the steering wheel and the seat is not sufficient to do that in my Outback without accompanying the move with a one legged deep knee squat. Back in the day I could do that with my 73 Capri or 82 EXP but the days of my being limber enough to pull off a stunt like that are long gone.

    Another complaint is a highly domed roofline with the top of the windshield well below the peak of the roof. I’m a tall guy as well as being wide. My hair is usually rubbing against the roof liner. I often have to recline the seat just to keep from keeping my neck bent. I’ve test driven many a car where sitting at a stoplight means I have to duck my head to see the stoplight across the intersection. Door openings can be hazardous too. I remember knocking my head getting out of a Sable about twenty years ago when I forgot that the top of the door opening was down around my ear.

    The best car I’ve had for ease of entry and exit while having a good driving position, visibility and room was a 2004 Odyssey. The seat was nice and wide (unlike my wife’s T&C which feels more like a perch) and there was no center console so my knee could flop into the area between the seats. When they redesigned it a few years later to add that lame lightning look to the side windows, they lowered the roofline and ruined the accessibility.

    Currently I’m wishing I had bought a (post 2015 redo) Kia Sedona minivan instead of my Outback. But at this point it will likely be a couple years before replacing either car becomes a financial priority.

  • avatar
    Sigfried

    I agree about the steeply raked windshields in some cars. The proximity of the top of the A-pillar in the new Chrysler Pacifica made me feel claustrophobic. I also felt like it blocked too much of my field of vision because it was so close. I suppose if I was a foot shorter so my head wasn’t pressed into the ceiling it wouldn’t be such a big deal.

  • avatar
    riggodeezil

    Lack of a damn coolant temperature gauge. The sales mooks always say that customers prefer the idiot light. I gotta have the gauge.

    Lack of a damn key to start the engine. Yeah…I know there’s precious little difference between a key and button in terms of what actually happens. I gotta have a key.

    And, yeah, the “floating tablet”. It’s the proverbial terd in the swimming pool. It’s a good thing for car makers that most people these days just don’t have a sense of taste, class, or aesthetic anymore. Super-glue a gaudy Fisher-Price tablet to the dash of a $40,000 automobile. Who cares.

  • avatar
    beachbumchris

    Power window and lock switches that aren’t illuminated at night. I work swing shift and do half my driving at night and I like having all the power accessory switches on the door lit up. Toyota, Nissan and Honda are the main culprits here, mainly in their lower end models. Even the lowly Korean Kia’s and Hyundai’s light up all their switches.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Yeah I’ve noticed the lack of illumination in my 2nd Gen Highlander at night. It is a fairly base model but does have V6 and 4wd.

      I was pleasantly surprised several years back when the fleet Taurus (last of the restyled “fish” models) even though it was absolute stripped spec had illuminated switches for locks and ALL the power windows. It made me seriously consider one as a beater commuter.

    • 0 avatar
      Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

      That’s a good one. On the flip side, I’ve owned a few vehicles that turn off the lighted passenger window switches when the window lockout is enabled. It’s a minor detail, but one I appreciate and wonder why more manufacturers don’t do it.

  • avatar
    arach

    When the DIC and the manual controls are opposite.

    its almost a deal breaker on Hyundais that you turn the dial DOWN to increase the speed of the windshield wipers, but in the DIC the bar moves UP. How is that intuitive to anyone? I’ve had the car three years and sometimes I get so mad at it I just drive without wipers on.

  • avatar
    multicam

    My wife’s 2012 Camaro had the e-brake lever on the right side of the center console, so you had to reach over the cupholder area to operate it. Drove me nuts.

    That car’s window button was in an awkward place too, angled in an annoying way. Screw that car, so glad we sold it.

    Our current and only car is a brand new 4Runner which I have yet to sit in or drive, but once I get home from this deployment I’m sure I’ll find some weird quirks about it. I’m just happy to have a real SUV waiting for me instead of that POS Camaro.

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