That’ll Be a Glass of Dewar’s For the Gentleman, Then

Sometimes one tiny detail defines a car for you. In this case, it’s tiny pedals.

In 1991 the Peugeot 106 appeared on the European market, part of a two-pronged …. you know all this[1]. What I would prefer to do is to get right to the point about the pedals.

When I sat in a 106 I immediately felt ham-footed, clod-limbed and encumbered. The edge of my sole collided with the gear pedal; my feet tripped over one another. The three pedals in the footwell felt as if they were occupying the space of two, and offset to boot (or runner, or driving shoe).

Thirty-one years later that one single point stands out above all others when I think of the 106. That is quite some achievement since the 106 consists of exterior and interior surfaces, dozens of functions (lights, cigarette lighter, seat adjustments, steering, hand brakes, interior lights). The car has an engine (one of seven) with an identity, plus the rubber touching the road and the chassis. You get the idea. A lot of elements come together to make up the car’s form and behaviour and all of them are obliterated by the impossibility of reliably pressing the required one of three pedals.

It’s probably too late now to find out quite what happened with the pedals that excluded by design about 35% of the population. Three decades have passed since it landed in the dealers; probably it’s 35 since the R&D ended. A 35 year-old engineer then is now five years into retirement. The 45-year olds in more senior mistake-making and error-enforcing roles are possibly no longer sharing the mortal coil with us. We will never know why they decided to gather together the basic points of control for this car and make them unusable.

I turn the debate over to our dear readers now. Which other cars are defined for you by one big deal-breaker? I’d prefer not to hear about personal idiosyncrasies like ‘I hate brown metallic paint’ or ‘I can’t drive a car with a dog-leg reverse’. It’s more like instances of single, dumb design features that dominate in your conceptions: Renault Laguna coupé is for me always and only about a dreadful ride; the L317 LR Freelander V6 is only about its 22 mpg fuel consumption (see also Mazda RX-7); the Lancia Gamma has a hideous dashboard (not a fixable problem, unlike the cam belt detail).

So, readers, to your keyboards…

[1] I won’t mention the car always mentioned in reference to the 106. I just can’t.

All Images via the author.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

74 thoughts on “That’ll Be a Glass of Dewar’s For the Gentleman, Then”

  1. Good morning, Richard. I’m trying to think of features that would prevent me from buying a car of certain type. I’ve driven over a 1,000 cars, but can’t come up with a single feature right now that would prevent me from buying one. I’ll give it some thought.

    I have a lot of smaller issues with plenty of cars. Here’s a small selection

    How the center air vents don’t line up with the center console in a W140 or R129. Speaking of air vents, I like the left, center and right air vents in the dash similar in appearance and all be on the same horizontal level (Do I have OCD?)

    Another Benz related issue: My dad had two Benzes in his life and I noticed how the font type printed on the gear selector was different from the font type used on the gauges. (It’s more likely I have OCD now) This shouldn’t matter but it does. Once seen it cannot be unseen.

    Lexus LS400: the display for the trip/odometer (white/blueish numbers on black background) is different from the one used in the center console for the radio and climate vents (think of cheap digital watch and you get the idea). Drives me mad. The reason behind this is probably that when the sun is low you can still read the screens in the center console. BMW solved this with a light sensor that adjusts the brightness of the 605 nanometer orange numbers on the black background. Even my E30 had it on the digital clock/outside temperature gauge. A more complicated solution, but it works better for me.

    The parking brake on the Citroën XM (Sorry, Richard. I do like the XM. It’s one of the cars I still haven’t driven, but really want to). You have to use your foot to press it and then use your hand to press down a button so it stays in place (or was it the other way round, can’t remember). It wouldn’t prevent me from buying and XM and it’s something I well capable of, but it’s unnecessarily complicated. One might argue that it frees up space on the center console, but is that space used in the best way thinkable? You’ll find the height and mode adjustment of the suspension and a few other buttons to adjust the mirrors (that could easily be placed in the driver’s side door), the electric rear windows (why are these in a separate location from the front windows, another annoyance) the heated seats, the electrically adjusted center console (I think this feature was top of the line models only) and the keypad that you can use to set a personal code as an anti-theft measure (shared with Peugeot. BMW had this feature hidden in the board computer. This might be a good way to protect your car, but surely annoying on a day to day basis)

    And now that I think of it: The lack of traction on a 1997 Toyota Camry. I was waiting for a spot to merge into the rest of the traffic and when I finally had the opportunity to do so, the traction wasn’t there for a second. I manage to maneuver into the spot, but it was far from elegant and quite frankly I felt unsafe for that second. I didn’t overdo it on the throttle. In the Camry’s defense: the road was wet (only a little), I had the steering wheel turned to the left and I didn’t know the condition of it’s tires, but given this car had only covered 2,000 kilometers I think these were fine.

    1. The foot operated parking brake introduced by the DS and adapted by Mercedes isn’t foot operated to free up space in the centre console but to enable you to operate it with enough force in case the hydraulic brake fails. Mercedes even uses dedicated drum brakes at the rear wheels for this.
      The button in the dashboard actually is the release button. You step on the pedal to engage the parking brake and you pull the switch to release it. Very simple, very logical.

      Pedal arrangement is unergonimic in many cars.
      I’ve never drivan a 106 but on an Alfasud you have to take care to always step on the clutch pedal first and the brake later because once you’re on the brake there is no way your left foot will go past the pedal.
      BMW E36s have awful pedal positions in LHD cars. Because the engine sits so far back there’s a bulge in the transmission tunnel for the clutch that sits where the accelerator pedal would be in a normal car, pushing the accelerator a couple of centimetres to the left. Therefore the brake is where you’d expect the clutch and the clutch is where you’d look for a footrest. At the same time the seats are pushed outboards by the wide transmission tunnel and to keep your elbows from the B post the steering wheel is offset to the right. The result is a contortionist seating position with your legs pointing left and your arms pointing towards the centre of the car.

    2. Regarding the foot operated brake: You are right as far as Benzes are concerned. I’ve driven them for thousands of miles. You press the break with your foot, you only need to pull the lever to release. In the XM not so much, according to this article:

      and on the video in the article

      Still better than an electronic parking brake which self engages when you don’t want to. The sound the parking brake makes when released is indeed awful. It wasn’t that great in the Benzes either, now that I come to think of it. That would actually prevent me from using it, as I hate these kind of noises. I cringe every time someone opens a car door and the car door handle falls back against the metal. I slowly release the door handle, problem solved.

    3. “The sound the parking brake makes when released is indeed awful. It wasn’t that great in the Benzes either, now that I come to think of it. That would actually prevent me from using it, as I hate these kind of noises.”

      When I release the handle parking brake in the W124, the pedal returns to its position in a rather sudden and noisy way. I thought it was my car´s fault…
      I´ve learned to put the foot on the pedal and “dampen” the pedal return.

    4. Hello Freerk

      I looked for a r139 pic on the net and observed it ( sorry I don’t know how to post it)
      Being an OCD myself, I see the R129 dashboard problem from a different point of view.
      The rationale behind the layout is engineering-led, as follows:
      1 – the centre console is in the midle of the car, for a number of reasons easily imaginable.
      2 – the top of the dashboard follows other needs: the air vents should have a given width and the instruments binnacle as well.
      3 – so, there is an horizontal line that divides centre console from dashboard, reflecting the need for the use of different criteria on both elements…
      4 – …but there is also an unifying alignment between them, provided by the vertical line that on the drivers side links, uninterrupted, the centre console with the air vent / instruments binnacle.

      It’ a visual tour-de-force, I admit.

      But is engineering-led, as were at the time the different size/ shape of the wing mirrors on w201.

      Or the manual operation of the one in the driver’s side

      Is this an acceptable point of view?

    5. B234r, I seem to recall I did something similar when I drove a Mercedes. Pity, I wish the engineers had taken care of that.

      Gustavo, I see it in more or less the same way. But the gauges could have been laid out in the same way as in let’s say a W124 and then this issue wouldn’t have arisen.

  2. I can mention a menu popping up every time you start a Nissan Leaf (and probably other modern Nissans), taking up all the screen, reminding that you should not let the screen distract your attention from driving or something of the sort. And it is not a friendly reminder that goes away on its own after some seconds. You have to “click” your way out of this menu in order to use anything on the screen (such as radio, navigation, most of the HVAC controls etc) every single time you start the car.

  3. Good morning. A thing that is a big no-no for me is an excesively light steering. I can´t cope with that. A friend of mine bought years ago a very nice 2001 Saab 9-3 Aero cabrio and the steering was so incredibly light that eliminated any chance of steering feel. Driving that car was a surreal and totally joy-free experience.

    A first generation diesel Smart I drove for a week when it was new had such a terrible and jerky auto gearbox that I ended waiting every upshift with a certain anxiety.

    And now I´ve been driving a W124 320 E Merc with a manual gearbox. I can´t explain how Mercedes-Benz engineers (remember, “Engineered like no other car in the world”) could think that shoddy relationship between gearbox and clutch and the driveline shunt were good enough of a car that might cost like 35,000 GBP in 1992. Of course the Merc is 30 year old and has 120,000 miles but reading magazines road tests it seems they were like that when new. To make things worse the gearbox has a stupid and totally unnecesary dog leg pattern.

    1. The manual gear change on a W202 is awful. And it was awful from new. A Honda at half the price was way better in that respect.

    2. Any Japanese car could teach Mercedes-Benz a big lesson about manual transmissions.

      The W124 is not a bad car by any means and I´m realising that the more I use it (in the open road), the more I like it. But the “interfaces” (enormous steering wheel, strange driving position, heavy and long travel throttle and clutch) are so off-puting that I can´t explain how somebody got into a MB dealer, test drove this car around the block and decided to pay six million pesetas for it.
      2.5 millions of buyers did it, though.

    3. The dog leg ‘sports’ gearbox of the W124 is awful, even more than the already wooden and clunky manual gearboxes of other Benzes. I remember the C124 320-24 of a friend with the same gearbox which was no fun to use.
      Old Benzes need time but they grow on you. The steering is wooden but very precise, everything else is perfectly functional and unobtrusive. These cars are perfect servants that just do what you want from them with astonishing competence. I came to understand this with age – as a young guy I disliked Benzes but later I had deep respect for them (meaning stuff like W124 and W126).

    4. The dog leg gearbox has a gearing of about 40 km/h /1000 rpm. Short ratios it doesn´t have.

      About the W124, I suppose it growns on you, right, but at first the car is very inert and lacks driver appeal. When Car And Driver tested the 300 E in 1986 they named it “a superbly competent, 140 mph transportation tool”. Perhaps a cold way to tell it, but then the W124 can leave you cold. When new I would have bought a BMW E34 or an Alfa 164…

    5. When these cars were new I wouldn’t have taken a Benz even as a gift.
      Nowadays I’d take a W124 (or, preferably, a C124) over an E34 any time. A C124 320-24 with manual gearbox and Avantgarde package would be a car I’d seriously consider if I could get one with low mileage.

  4. Funny you ask, Richard, and a good thoughtpoint for a sunny Friday morning. The pedal issue can be outright troublesome and dangerous (esp. referring to the choreography apparently needed in the Alfa Sud), so that’s a point. Next in my list: undue noise and resonance: cars can be dead quiet these days, so they should be. Some French cars had very tiresome booming drones around 100 kph, whereas they would be oozing again over 120 kph. AX comes to mind in particular. Lastly: chairs can be a serious letdown… Nice article by the way, thanks.

    1. For years Japanese cars had awful road noise and that´s a constant roar that gets into your head. My old Prelude IV wasn´t a great motorway car.

    2. Early versions of the AX had the most shocking exhaust pipe resonance at most speeds – I always thought there must have been a hole in the silencer somewhere, but there never was.

  5. One of my pet hates is BMW’s reverse gear detent. On other cars you press down or pull up the grae lever or you pull up a ring under the knob. On BMWs you just push the lever with a certain speed and a defined force to slide it into reverse gear and it’s exactly the speed and force I’d never use on a gear lever. That’s somethting I fight with since Neue Klasse times.

  6. The XM parking brake came up instantly. I had no difficulty with it at all. One pushes the button under the dashboard (between the steering circle and the door). That can be done antime. It stays in once you push it. Then you press the park brake pedal. That´s it.
    To release: pull the under-dash button which is as demanding (no more or less) than the operation to release a handbrake during hill-starts. I find it easier because it´s more on/off than a hand-operated parking brake.

  7. For me it was a secondhand Quattroporte IV V8 biturbo in red that I really was seriously considering buying. This offered so many potential stumbling blocks beyond the mechanical. Opinions are divided on Gandini’s design, and that may already be trying your aesthetic sensibility. But not mine. It looked fine in red, though I knew a less provocative colour would be better. I even persuaded myself that I would not inevitably soil the very cream upholstery in some way or another. I tried to deny that I was not entirely comfortable adapting myself to what car magazines always called ‘the traditional Italian driving position’. I overlooked the excessive shine of the lacquered burr veneer and fooled myself against all reason that it would be easy to replace the awful rivetted timber steering wheel with something less slippery. I was about to ask for a test drive, then noticed …. the clock. Of course I’d seen photos, but I’d never come face to face with the ‘iconic’ Maserati clock before, and all images I’d previously seen of the QP IV interior showed just a trident in the centre of the dash. But either on the options list of aftermarket, a previous owner had thought that the car would not be complete without it. For an instant I thought of being able to prize the idiotic, kitsch, gynaecological timepiece from the dashboard, but images of peeling veneer convinced me, no. Just walk away. Which I did.

    1. Wearing my normal hat, that´s a nice story. I think your emotional life is the poorer for having dodged the life-changing experience of a Maserati. Wearing my cruel and officious adjudicator´s hat, not liking the clock is a rather subjective reason for walking away from a year of bills, crises and soiled upholstery, eh?

  8. 106 are absolutely perfect for heel and toe. These little cars were made to DRIVE. You need to push since they are not powerful, nor are they particularly quick, but they are super fun when used as intended.

    If can’t heel and toe a 106, well then, what are you doing driving one in the first place? What arrrre ya?

  9. Good morning Richard, and to our wonderful commentariat! Only on DTW could a piece on one car prompt an exchange that encompasses such a wide variety of other vehicles. Chapeau, all.

    As to the 106, isn’t it another delightful looking Peugeot, like a 306 in miniature? It’s a super-neat design, much nicer than the 206 and enhanced by a well-judged facelift in 1996 that gave it a smoother front end and enlarged rear window. The car you have captured is a facelifted example. It looks great with the bright red paintwork and white alloy wheels. It might be a warm-hatch GTi or Rallye, or just pretending to be one.

    If I remember correctly, the 106 proved to be less than robust in Euro NCAP crash tests, a consequence of its very light build. It was also the basis of the considerably less nice looking Citroën Saxo. Is that number plate intended to be read as ‘BOSS’. I didn’t think it was possible to choose the plate numbers in Ireland?

  10. I don’t think I would like this BMW key fob. Way to large to carry around. It can do a number of tricks other than lock or unlock the car, but it’s huge. Surely all the extra functions can be used in an app on your phone? It’s probably an option anyway and I can use a traditional smaller key fob if I want to.

    1. Freerk: that is not a BMW key fob. It´s a Constellarian ion blaster from Season 3 of Star Trek: the Generation Before The Next One, isn´t it? Or else it´s a mobile ´phone from 2003. It´s nuts. That´s bigger than my Ixos or indeed my Nokia clickphone (which I use as my main ´phone).

  11. I’ve been put off all Vauxhalls forever because the time/ date readout on the dashboards of Corsas, Astras and Vectras I’ve driven in the past show the year continuously. I can accept it might be useful for occupants to know the date, and maybe even the month but anyone who needs constantly reminding what year it is really shouldn’t be driving

    1. Um… that’s me off the road from January to March most years, then!

    2. Now that you mention it, that’s a weird feature indeed. I remember it now from driving Opels. Did they just use this feature to show off they had bigger screens than the competition? 😉

  12. I guess the difficulty with pedal layouts is that they have to accommodate a fairly wide range of different shoe/foot sizes. Space them widely enough apart for a man with large feet in boots to operate comfortably, and ladies with small feet will struggle to drive. And vice versa. So pedal spacing is always a compromise. That said, some cars arrive at a better compromise than others!
    The German manufacturers seem determined to stick to floor-hinged accelerator pedals, which is OK I guess but rather forces one into something of a straight-legged seating position.
    As for the Mercedes handbrake, I get the argument about being able to use it as a emergency brake, but it’s none to great as an actual parking brake – mine does the annual safety test, but the braking force exerted is well below that generated by any other car whose results I’ve seen. And I’ve never got used to the lurch when, after setting the brake, I release the footbrake, and the car settles onto the transmission in Park. Can’t be good for the gearbox?

  13. I am actually wondering about ashtrays, now. I’ve been a non-smoker all my life and I am happy to see cars without ashtrays. But there have been a few articles here about ashtrays. I get that from a design point of view.

    Are there any cars with ashtrays so badly designed the smoking part of DTW’s writers and commenters wouldn’t chose that car for that reason alone?

    1. A friend of my mother’s passed on the original Focus. She didn’t smoke, but her non-driving husband did (like a chimney!). The Focus’ ashtray was located quite high and close to the driver, and she couldn’t face the thought of his continually leaning over quite close to her left hand with a lit cigarette…

    2. Getting close to being a deal breaker is the silly ashtray in the Lancia Kappa coupé. But it´s not quite silly enough to warrant avoiding the car as a whole. Oddly, the XM ashtray is a problem because for UK-side drivers the gear lever gets in the way when it´s in fifth. Although the ashtray is huge the gear lever is still a real obstacle for casual flicking of cigar ash.

  14. Annoying details that spring to my mind…

    VW Beetle (floor hinged) clutch pedal. To engage the clutch you have to let it out for about eighty percent of its travel and only then the clutch starts to bite. You get very little pedal travel to modulate its function and the pedal has a strange over-centre kinematic that combined with its floor hinged mounting makes it awkard to use.

    BMW 02 seat position adjustment. The lever sits on the sill and is pressed sideways – your hand has to stay there while you move the seat ti the rear.

    BMW E34 seat height adjuster. You press a lever down to unlock the height adjustment mechanism, then try to take the load off the seat which then is pushed up by a spring. Very inconvenient to use.

    Alfasud boot lid. Operated by a lever on the left hand sill, every time you want to access the boot you have to open the door and pull on that lever.

    Lancia beta two door sreen wiper. You use the right hand steering column stalk to switch on the wipers, then use a push-pull switch on the centre console to change the wiper speed.

    Simca 1100 headlights. You press a button above the clutch pedal to flash your headlights.

    VW Beetle screen wash. This changed innumerable times but there was a system with a plastic screen washer bottle connected to the spare wheel’s air valve via a tube, using the wheel’s air pressure to pressurise the screen wash. I remember someone filling up the system from his bootle of mineral water at thirty degrees outside temperature. When he used the screen wash to get rid of the flies on the windscreen he discovered he hadn’t used mineral water but some lemonade with high sugar content. The mixture of dead flies and sugar was a pain to get off the screen and the rest of the system was clogged from the sugar…

    Audi A4 B8 nannying electronics. No matter what you do, the car rings a bell. Every time you open the driver’s door, the engine is shut off and can be restarted only when you wear a seat belt. Now imagine driving the car out of the garage, getting out to close the garage’s door, drive off your driveway, get of out of the car to put the dustbin out for collection, then drive away. You belt up three times – or you get an OBD software and spend a weekend to de-activate all this nonsense.

    1. “Simca 1100 headlights. You press a button above the clutch pedal to flash your headlights”. The Morris Minor had that feature. I didn´t think it was so bad.
      Nobody seems to be interested in discussing Dewar´s. I can´t get it around here so I am trying Whyte & Mackay Triple Matured. The Dewar´s was first rate though.

    2. Here’s a Dewar flask with liquid nitrogen – minus 196 centigrade.

  15. My irrational dislike of Fords in general was confirmed by the Ka (along with the contemporary Fiesta & Focus) with excruciatingly uncomfortable front seat cushions (they’re far too short). But my deal breaker now would be any so-called driving aid which cannot be disabled (with the sole exception of a reversing aid). Why on Earth would I want buzzers telling me the gap I’m negotiating isn’t wide enough to get through when my mirrors clearly show that it is? Arrrgh!

    As for inflation – wasn’t it all thanks to Richard Nixon?

    1. You´re thinking of how Nixon abandoned the gold standard. No, that isn´t the reason or cause of inflation today or generally though it might have affected inflation at the time.

  16. The floor button on the Morris Minor (and almost every other British car pre-c1957) was the headlight dip switch. Whyte & Mackay very different to your Dewars – try a Shackleton for size. But Ballantines is even better….

    1. Ballantines: the packaging is delightful. When you open the bottle a red band becomes visible around the lid´s edge. I like the brown glass and square bottle. But the drink itself isn´t good enough to justify the price premium over the cheapest bottle in my supermarket, “Back Tee”.

    2. hey jtc ive just polished off a bottle of whyte and mackay numbed my terrible toothache a treat. cant get a dentist round here for love nor money SOOO ! back to tesco for another two litres of pain relief this afternoon. APPY DAYZZZZZ !!

    3. Dental issues appear to be a running DTW motif at the present time, with at least two of the editorial team in a spot of bother with their teeth at the time of writing.

      My sympathies, Mark. Hope you get seen soon. Meanwhile, Slainté.

    4. many thanks eoin. toothache is tolerable when blasted to oblivion on cheap scotch and tramadol. great mindbending nights with the wierdest of dreams too. (im still cossetting your old 304 coupe though mate. took her to two classic shows this summer in north wales.) people adore that little car it gets so much attention as many people have never seen one before. oh well time for another tumbler of pain relief. cheeerzzzzzz ! zzz

    5. I am glad you enjoyed the Whyte & Mackay. I hope the tooth gets better soon though. I´d love to know why dental illness is not treated the same as other illnesses. Pain is pain.

  17. In our Alfa Spider, the choice of shoes had to be carefully planned before the trip. If the shoes were a little too wide, the accelerator and brake or clutch and brake were operated simultaneously.
    But you don’t go to an opera at La Scala with unsuitable footwear.

    There are no problems with the Sud – or my shoes have adapted to our vehicles over the years.

    Since I have mainly driven cars from the last century, I can say little about built-in defects. Most vehicles had too little in them to be in the wrong place.

    My only experience with newer vehicles was driving in rental cars of various makes. When I try to remember, what remains is “bling, bling, bling”. At every opportunity, meaningless warning tones – and arbitrary decisions by some electronic assistant. Each time I tried to block out the memories as soon as I returned the keys. It didn’t always work.

    The pinnacle was a Ford Galaxy whose lane-keeping assistant was overwhelmed by the various lines painted on the road in every construction site and could only be brought into line with difficulty. The switch-off function was hidden in the depths of the display and switched itself back on every time the car was restarted. Even today I ask myself what the designers actually do for a living.

    And I think the end of civilisation was heralded with the introduction of the automatic electric handbrake.

    1. Which, of course, brings me to the fact that any new car sold in the UK after 6 July 2022 has the dealbreaker of a fitted black box, which will probably be activated permanently at some time in the future. Many might ask why should I object to a device that is designed to make the roads safer? I don’t want to come across all libertarian, but I wouldn’t want to be fitted with an ankle tag either on the off-chance that I might decide to burgle your house. Of course you can shoot that argument down in flames when I assure you that your valuables are quite safe from my swag bag, but that I have certainly sped in the past, and might do so again. So a lifetime of progressively older used cars now beckons, until they are all made illegal. Please feel free to discuss. Or not.

    2. Then you’ve got one of the advantages of Brexit (in addition to keeping the Continent cut off when there’s fog in the Channel) when this dreaded black box is there but inactive.
      In cars delivered to Continental users that black box is active together with a speed limiter.
      That’s one of the reasons I won’t buy a car made after 6 July 2022.
      That’s the typical effect when bureaucrats have too much power. In an age when distraction by use of a smart phone is reason number two for accidents (after drunk driving) all they can think of is fitting speed limiters instead of making sure that drivers can’t use their phone when the car is moving.

    3. “In our Alfa Spider, the choice of shoes had to be carefully planned before the trip […]but you don’t go to an opera at La Scala with unsuitable footwear.”

      That´s a great line, Fred.
      I love DTW.

  18. The fact that my C6 thus far has been remarkably reliable makes any irritants minor in the grand scheme of things- it is a Citroen after all. But there are two.

    The PRND selector does not illuminate with the lights. One doesn’t realise how useful this feature is until it isn’t there. On the other hand the chrome effect surround reflects intense midday sun directly into the driver’s eyeline.

    The “rear seat belts not fastened” message comes up in the info display when setting off even when the back pews are unoccupied. This niggled sufficiently for me to get into the never used back and do up the belts. Now I get a “rear seat belts fastened” message instead.

    1. Wow! William, your C6 must be remarkably reliable indeed if those things (which I noticed too for the first 90 mins of ownership until they were overwhelmed by realising that the suspension was stuck in its highest mode) irritate you. After all the tribulations I have had over nearly 12 years now with mine (59 plate, 2.7l HDI Exclusive in Ganache), I count such things as charming foibles.

  19. bristowfuller – I’m with you 100%. It’s lowest common denominator syndrome in action and symptomatic of the greater malaise of pernicious blame culture. But fear not; history teaches us that the pendulum always swings back. Eventually. In the mean time keep that old motor properly serviced and enjoy it.

  20. I hate driving any car with speed and rev dials (or screen) in the middle of the dashboard. Think first generations Yaris, first C4, that peugeot MPV and off course Tesla.

    Yes, I am aware I do not have to rotate my head to look at them but I still think it’s unnatural. They did not offset the crosshairs in a fighter for a reason.

    1. How about the Alfetta Gt with the rev counter in front of the driver and the speedo centrallly mounted?

  21. Although it probably never would have got as far as me considering it seriously, sitting in a New Defender was a depressing and entirely off-putting experience. How can anyone squander so much space?

  22. Not deal breakers, but there are three things that irritate me about my 2013 Ford Fiesta.

    1. There’s no synchromesh on reverse gear. Occasionally selecting reverse results in an awful noise and the gear not being fully engaged.

    2. The indicator stalk has a function whereby tapping it lightly flashes the indicator three times to indicate a lane change. I sometimes activate this function accidentally when manually cancelling a signal in the opposite direction by slightly overshooting the stalk’s centre position (yes, I’m one of the few folk in the UK who still signals). There’s a setting to configure whether it flashes once or three times, but unfortunately not to disable it completely.

    3. It’s not possible to change the radio station for the first few seconds after turning on the ignition, whilst the display is showing a modal window saying that Bluetooth pairing with my phone and the emergency assistance feature are enabled.

  23. easy answer: the driver’s position on the Alfa Giulia Tipo 106.

    I was in love with Giulia for such a long time and when I finally got to driving one, I just couldn’t get comfortable in the driver’s seat. Not even remotely. Horrid. I have tried three times now, on three different cars, but to no avail. Me, I just cannot drive a Giulia. Which is the most off-putting thing I can say about a car.

    Btw, I have very fond memories of my little nippy, sturdy 106. It’s on my shopping list today, actually. If a nice first-gen XSi would come along for not too much money, I‘d be very tempted!

    1. There’s a very simple solution to that problem. Do as the Italians do and don’T grab the steering wheel at 13:50 but at 17:35. No self respecting Italian would hold a steering wheel at its top.

  24. I can think of two specific ones which I’ve experienced:

    1) My feet are too big for an E30 BMW’s pedals (I nearly failed to stop at a junction because my foot got stuck. I freed it just in time).

    2) Worse and inexcusable – the lack of seat height adjustment on lower spec Ford Mondeos (circa 1997). I had to drive around with the seat reclined in a semi-gangsta pose, in order for my head to clear the roof (I’m not abnormally tall). It caused me neck/back/shoulder ache. Uncomfortable, dangerous penny-pinching.

  25. The pedals in a 106 are just awful. I inherited one from a family member who had just lost their licence and after about two weeks of ownership I had problems in my lower back and right leg. Despite the obvious correlation between uncomfortable new car and new pains I didn’t make the link for ages.

    The car suddenly went bang and stopped one day. It wouldn’t crank over and I had started to hate it so I rolled it downhill and bumped it, something it didn’t like at all, and drove on with an awful banging noise. It was diagnoised as the bottom end, costing more than the car was worth. I still needed to get home so drove it the 100 miles back home through mid Wales. I think that was the last trip it made.

    Dewars? Banatynes? If you’re going into that price range an Irish whiskey is best, the inherent smoothness of being tripple distilled makes up for the lack of age.

  26. Not sure if this counts, but my personal dealbreaker, that ensured I would *never* buy a classic Beetle, was my late Mum… My mother had had a succession of Beetles all through my childhood and teenage years in the 70s. As a young car obsessive, my heart sank every time Mum said she would be replacing her car, because I knew it would be another damned Beetle. No matter how persuasive I tried to be (“an Alfasud/Citroën GS/Fiat 128 would suit you so well Mum!”), it never worked. So by the time I got my licence in 82 I had decided that whatever my meagre budget would stretch to, it wouldn’t be another *&@#ing Beetle!

    In the end I did end up borrowing one for a while, and (getting back on-topic) I absolutely hated the floor-hinged brake and clutch pedals. Indeed I almost had a very nasty accident when one rainy day I urgently went for the brake pedal with wet shoes, and my foot slipped right over the top of it into the footwell. The car went barreling onwards as the top of the pedal dug painfully into the back of my calf. Very scary moment!

    I never bought, and never will buy a Beetle. Sorry Mum.

  27. One very dangerous detail could be found in Peugeot 305 series 1.
    The steering column went diagonally through the bulkhead halfways up the lever of the brake pedal. When you had big shoes and stepped on the brake in an emergency all that happened was that your shoe hit the steering column without contact to the brake.

  28. Great subject. Deal breaker for me is the fat c-pillars and small side windows. I wish pillars to be of a certain slimness and glass area to be big. I want the light to come into the cabin facing no restrictions. Cars with a small opera window are always welcome.
    The clutch pedal has to enjoy long travel with a well defined take on point at the end of travel distance. The gear lever has to be of the long throw variety with no resistance feel at each gear gate entrance. No sponge feel is tolerated. The best gear lever in my limited driving experience was a Toyota Starlet rwd, it must have been the 1980 version. I don’t like light clutch and soft brake pedal. I would say yes to an automatic transmission. What is the dog leg gearchange discussed above if you please?

    1. Dog leg gear change pattern, most typically:

      It facilitates accuracy and speed of the 2-3/3-2 shift which is usually more critical in racing, where the pattern was common, than the 1-2. 928 and 944 among other street cars employed it.

  29. Some flimsy door mirrors like in some Fiat are not a deal breaker but they get mentioned. No problems with any design of door handles.

  30. My deal-breaker these days, sadly, is this on the bonnet:

    Oh, and badly drawn shut-lines, off course.

  31. I don’t know if classic cars are eligible for this category, but these sometimes present you with devilishly impractical obstacles for what should be routine maintenance. One of the worst (and it would likely deter me from buying one although I am not 100% sure if “surrounding model years” are afflicted in the same way) is the 1966 Cadillac’s taillight assembly.
    Wayne Kady, who was responsible for the rear end styling of the car, was adamant that there would be no unsightly exposed screws visible in the assembly. Fisher Body refused to provide access through the trunk however. Kady did in the end get his way anyway, resulting in the need to remove the entire rear bumper to replace the taillight bulbs. Amazing this slipped past the service and maintenance planning people’s scrutiny….

    1. To replace a headlight bulb in the Opel Tigra MK1 you had to take off the front bumper.
      Replacing a bulb in an AUdi A4 B6 was a half hour job and you had to cover the bumper with sticka type to avoid scratching it with the headlight which had to come out to get at the bulb.
      There’s a EU directive demanding that the owner has to be able to replace light bulbs without dismantling anything or without having to visig a dealer. Result was that manufacturers standardised on low power 25W gas discharge lights because these are exempt from the regulation as they have high voltage generators.
      In the Opel Calibra the headlight bulbs went in from above instead of from behind, placing the glow wire at a ninety degree to the geometry of the reflector, resulting in bad light quality.

  32. Some cars have really bad driving positions, like the Alfa Romeo 166. Pity, as I really like it.

    Also some manual seat adjustments have too big increments which means I am just a little too far or a little too close to the pedals in a car. A change of footwear can help in these occasions.

    Electric seat adjustment can be a pain in two door cars if someone has to sit in the backseat. The seat moves forward slowly in that case.

  33. I’ll pitch in with …

    a) engine and gearbox combo on a 1.5l Austin Maxi – the former feels like it’s made from concrete and the latter feels like it’s set in concrete;

    b) suspension on a Honda Integra EX16 (the one with the pop-up headlamps from the late 80s);

    c) any current BMW (now the i3 and i8 are no longer in production).

  34. Deal breaker. Cars with aggressive faces. Radiator opening like mouth and teeth of some animal seen in the movies, small slit of headlights like preying eyes. I much like smiling cars. See Mazda Miata and Renault Twingo.

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