Car Reviews: Common Quirks
Because we got tired of writing about these each time we do a review, we centralized our complaints about certain regional or brand habits in this area.
General Motors headlight warning lights
The headlight warning light is on! Quick, what does it mean?
- (A) A headlight is burned out
- (B) The headlights are on
- (C) The headlights are off
For General Motors, the correct answer is either B or C, depending on the car. That's right, they warn you either that you're driving with headlights on (during the day or at night), or with headlights off (during the day or at night). Isn't that helpful? And it's not the same in every car!
Korean automakers have come a long way since the bad old days, when Hyundai was known for underpowered, unreliable deathtraps. Yet, they still have some oddities, the most annoying of which is not engine noise - not power - but poor gas mileage. Second most annoying is the lock design.
The Korean cars we have tested have power locks which are controlled solely by the driver's lock. That means that when the driver locks his/her door, all doors lock. When the driver unlocks her/his door, all doors unlock. Period. No choices.
This is a bit of a nuisance if, for example, you want to put down your groceries in the passenger seat; you have to pretend that you have manual locks, and unlock each door individually. That's not so bad, but if you have a child, you have to (a) unlock the doors, (b) get your child out, (c) keep your child occupied while you open up the passenger door, and (d) lean through the car to lock the driver's door.
This wouldn't be so bad, but like most modern cars, our Korean samples all had locks placed in the side of the door, rather than on top, where they would be easier to reach.
Asian power window lockout
What do Japanese and Korean cars have in common? The number one thing we have noticed is that both tend to have the same inane power window lockout button. People without children probably never use this button, which is designed to prevent passengers from rolling and unrolling their windows without the driver's permission.
On most American cars, when the driver presses this button, the driver can still operate the rear windows. That is useful when your four-year-old has just unrolled the window and you want to roll it back up again. On most Asian cars, when you press the window lock, you cannot move any of the windows, either.
Now, does that make sense?
General Motors cruise controls and stalk mania
Do they really have to put every single function on Earth onto a single stalk? Especially when there's no stalk on the right side of the steering wheel?
Regarding the cruise control: most drivers now appear to believe that there are two ideal cruise systems. One, used by Toyota and others, has a separate stalk on the right hand side of the steering wheel (because most people are left handed), with the activation switch on the end. You pull to cancel the set speed, move up to set or accelerate, move down to coast or decelerate. Simple. The other is to put the controls onto the steering wheel itself, including, of course, the cancel button.
General Motors has, on most of its cars, a throwback to an earlier era, apparently before ergonomics were discovered. A small switch is mounted on the side of the left-mounted stalk, you press a button to set, and there is no cancel. It's relatively hard to use, and we can't understand why any new model would be designed with it. On the lighter side, they did pioneer the return of dash-mounted ignition switches.
This issue was resolved over the 2000s and as of 2010 is mainly gone.
General Motors keys
Back in the olden days, Chrysler used one key for the doors and the ignition, and a second for the trunk. This was helpful in the days before fold-down seats, because it meant that you could give the key to a valet without fear of losing valuables in the trunk. Chrysler keys also went into the locks teeth up, because that's how house keys work. GM used "teeth down keys," which made no sense with this explanation.
GM also had one key for opening all the doors with a second key for the ignition - a system I never did, and never will, understand. The Buick Regal and Chevy Camaro continued that insane tradition into the 21st century. What possible use is having two keys if one is to get in, and the other to drive? Don't GM executives find it awkward to constantly switch keys?
(We have since learned that this could be useful for warming up the car with the doors locked. Then again, we were able to do this with any other system simply by keeping a spare key outside of the car.)