Buttons on radios are invariably tiny, suitable only for people who have fingers shaped like ET

Of the innumerable design solecisms to be found on cars, none is more repulsive to the eye and more awkward to the hand than the typical radio. And that's before we talk about its sound quality. (In general, car radios - at least those fitted as standard by most manufacturers - sound appalling. This is no wonder. I have it on good authority that one major manufacturer buys its standard-specification radio/cassette players for only pounds 20 - well under a tenth of what the same manufacturer charges for replacement units.)

Their poor sound quality is, arguably, excusable - after all, how many of us notice that they're so bad? But their shoddy appearance and usability are certainly not. In the main, they are just plastic-faced boxes fitted willy-nilly to some convenient (for the manufacturer, not for the user) position on the dash. Their buttons are invariably tiny, suitable only for people who have fingers shaped like ET. And what's more, the buttons have graphics which are incomprehensible to most punters. As an upshot, I'll wager that most buttons on car radios are never pushed, twirled or pulled.

In the old days, car radios tended to have two big round knobs - one for on/off and volume, the other for channel selection. Push buttons helped to locate your pre-programmed channels. This design worked well and looked good. It should never have changed. But it did. We have been confused ever since.

At long last there are signs of improvement. The new Ford Ka has a radio designed to integrate into the dash, rather than merely have a rectangular hole into which some radio manufacturer can insert its latest multi-channel, multi-watt eyesore. The Ka has big knobs and buttons, just like old-fashioned radios, designed to be pushed by fingers not pins. I mastered it in minutes, rather than remaining baffled by it for months.

Other manufacturers are now also making an effort. Most praiseworthy is the new Renault Espace, on sale in the UK next spring. It has no radio visible at all. This clearly deters the hooligan who, judging by the number of car radios stolen, seems to be the only person who understands modern car radios.

In the Espace, the radio's electronics are all hidden under the bonnet. Controls are mounted on satellites either side of the steering wheel. Renault pioneered satellite controls, a major and yet unsung contribution to road safety, now copied by the likes of BMW and Jaguar (on its new XK8 sports car) among many other makers. They allow channels to be changed and the volume to be altered without taking your eye off the road and groping around at the bottom of the dash for those wretched little buttons. The Espace, though, now takes the concept a stage further.

By removing the radio head unit from the dash, Renault has also improved the cabin design. After all, what better way of tidying up the interior than by getting rid of its ugliest feature?

Suggested Topics
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
News
people
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SAP Project Manager

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

    SAP Project Manager

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

    Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

    £600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

    Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star