Andrew Miles takes a hands-on approach.
From DLOs to DRGs. Pillars, A through (occasionally) D, manufacturers and commentators spend countless hours unpicking these traits. Directives about placement, rules concerning dimensions, legislative measures, crash tests and, finally, the greasy paws of the customer. However much we admire (or admonish) a car’s looks, our first point of contact with any is that oubliette feature: the door handle.
Through an exhaustive half hour lunch break during the no longer recent summer – cobalt blue skies and the mercury nudging thirty degrees – my gaze became fixed upon the indents and recessed areas our digits seek out in order to gain automotive entry.
By luck, first porte (sorry!) of call being this Peugeot 205 (above). By far the most elderly car of this research, check out the separate flap handle and door lock. Once black, now a charcoal looking plastic moulding, one cannot believe this ductile effort looked attractive when new. Functional, lending some artistic license to the door but flimsy appears a more appropriate moniker. Yet it would seem to be operating perfectly well. The remaining door handles observed resided upon mainly new vehicles, no more than a decade old. Shapes and sizes, aplenty.
First impressions count and one likes a wee flourish; this Kia Niro’s chromed affair, seated above a clothing iron-looking recess stands proudly. The reflective material breaks up an otherwise bland shape. Opposite extremes arrive in the form of the Suzuki Ignis whose circular and deep niche is bridged by a small handle. After all, a small vehicle’s dimensions require an appropriate appendage. Being so distracted, I forgot to take the picture.
Dozens of Wolfsburg’s outpourings revealed to me but two varieties of handle but their placing depends on model. The Golf and Tiguan consist of a solid looking handle, convincing the brain of some heft. Placing these almost arrow shaped designs find them on belt line creases (Tiguan), consisting of a deeper radii, or in Golf guise (Mk6) just above. This indent seems almost dainty in comparison. Similarly, the new Seat Arona has a slim affair but nothing noteworthy.
Older cars seem afflicted by the scuffs and scratches that finger nails, rings and watches apply. Is this a paint problem? Have newer coatings done away with such vandalism? Seeking shade, what these eyes saw next could be transcribed as character lines – a private plate Mitsubishi ASX. A belt line in extremis places the old fashioned looking London transport sign, “hand bay” in no man’s land. Had the designers protractor melted? Offensive is probably too strong a description, but nor did this outcome look correct to these heat affected eyes.
Toyota’s Yaris (19 plate) surprised me. What appears as a pressing within a pressing looks fussy, over-spirited. If anyone, Toyota are usually first on improving by removing excess, thus this encumbrance does not conform with the brand, making these areas simply another dirt trap, nothing more.
To the Blue Oval which sees three models but only two variants. This Agate Black Focus (19 plate) contains a pleasing off-square hollow with a handle and keyhole combination. With its rain induced filth, it’s difficult to ascertain if this hardware is already quite scratched or not but the yellow dust does nothing for black paintwork.
Similar, the brand new Kuga contains five small ridges – for what exactly? This much cleaner Chrome blue, presently unsullied example with typical torpedo aping shape. But completely different is the brand new Desert Island Blue Puma. Here we see the recess is torpedo shaped. The handle has that almost arrow shape but in this heat and from this angle, your author found this similar to sketches of American fifties cars with huge fenders.
This particular handle’s girth and implied strength suggests one that will endure many a purposeful opening from perhaps disgruntled children (or adults) within a car park in sight of some Golden Arches. Should the handle prove light in feel, less robust in operating, what indeed is the point of such architectural work?
Two plain in view yet agreeable efforts lay with the Germans via the British. A private plated season three 1 series could resemble an ice cream cone with the scooped out recess. The lines flow and there are no adornments to complicate things.
Similar, yet different, this example lives on a MINI Convertible. Again, chrome in small doses appeals. This version’s circulated alcove has perhaps something approximating the top section of a Parker ball point pen. One feels this could happily be seen atop a suit or shirt pocket and with its shiny surface, does suggest to gravity on its opening strengths. These hands have never opened a MINI’s door.
The wildcard entry hails from the Japanese, sorry, Italians with this Fiat 124 spider with, dare one offer, an almost heart shaped circumference? Flamboyant enough to be different if not screaming in your face. Are sports car driver’s (and passengers’) hands different in shape to those say of a hatchback or crossover?
Does any of this matter? Naturally, to some more than others. Before starting my lunchtime quest, I had barely given even my own door handles much thought, leading me to now to believe that Volvo actually do. The chrome surrounds, almost genteel, surround a weighty looking, if plastic grab which simultaneously elicits strength and lightness.
One’s thumb automatically locates the square, grasping digits requiring little effort for the job (ahem), in hand. And this works on both sides of the car. The tiny puddle light underneath requires searching for and has been a godsend in the darker months. An exercise in restraint, design wise. And for an operation lasting but a second, a delight to use. And no key really required – inasmuch the fob is somewhere near your person – no scratching here.
My minuscule cross-section really has only scratched the surface. Aside from costs, the design of the car handle is handled by someone in a studio but all too sadly dismissed as the remainder of the sides generate more column inches. Anyone know a door handle designer out there? Or are they locked in a cupboard, brought out only to fill in the missing blanks? I feel for them, and appreciate their efforts. Now, to sanitise the ole German bands…