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
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

    £70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

    Nursery Nurse

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

    Nursery Nurse

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments