2010 Volkswagen GTI: Eye Test Climate Controls
April 19, 2010
The Volkswagen GTI is shockingly good. It's one of those cars that has you grinning before you're 500 yards out of the Edmunds.com parking garage, and that's impressive considering you're still slogging through Santa Monica traffic at that point. Get it on an open freeway or twisty stretch of road and other drivers probably wonder why the guy in the GTI has that stupid smile plastered on his face.
Unless said guy is trying to operate the GTI's various center-stack controls with a quick glance in-between heel-and-toe downshifts, because that is frustratingly impossible.
Germans have a history of using weird icons and pictographs for their interior controls, but I've gotten used to that. What had me grinding my teeth during my recent GTI seat time was how long it took me to figure out the climate dials.
I simply needed cooler air coming out of the dash vents. Spotting the temperature control dial was relativley easy, though the tempertaure numbers are small and only legible because it's the closest of the three dials. Then there's the fan speed. Simple logic suggests turing it clockwise ups the amont of blow you get, even if the actual speed numbers are similarly diminutive.
But the ventilation control? That's an ergonomic train wreck. I took the above photo at both a lower and shallower angle to the climate control dials (than my eyes' location when driving) because I wanted the markings to at least be legible, and even in this photo it's clear how hard the right dial's markers are to read. You can't even see the right side setting for this dial (which, as it happens, is the dashboard setting I was searching for).
After spending more time scanning the dials than the road ahead I finally waited until I had stopped at a red light, then I bent down and swung my head around to get directly in front of the controls. "Oh, there it is!"
As someone with recent lasik surgery and better than 20/20 vision I'm not used to basic controls with unreadable markings. And it's not like there isn't more real estate available. Look at the three top buttons in this photo. The icons are only using about 20 percent of the total area.
I know VW likes to think of itself as a young-and-hip company making young-and-hip products for young-and-hip buyers, but in this case they could learn a lesson from Buick.
Karl Brauer, Edmunds.com Editor in Chief @ 4,103 miles