PH Blog: Why modern cars are too confusing

Mini is the perfect example of confusing model proliferation
Mini is the perfect example of confusing model proliferation
Choice is a good thing, and in an age where anything is possible, certain aspects of life have never been simpler as we refine and tweak our lives to perfectly suit our needs. One thing confuses me, though. And I'm not talking about the latest technological gadget; I'm talking about the humble car.

Things used to be so much simpler...
Things used to be so much simpler...
Not so long ago, buying a car was a fairly easy process when choosing the vehicle that best suited your needs, and if you weren't buying a new car the used market was fairly easy to decipher, with easy to recognise models giving you a decent idea of what to expect when you peered inside.

Cast your mind back a few years and let's assume you wanted to buy a small hatchback. There would be three main choices to make: three doors or five, engines from, say, 1.0 to 1.8 litres (with maybe a diesel and a sporty 2.0-litre model), and four or five tiers of trim. Then - perhaps - a sales chap would show you a fairly small list of options available for your chosen trim level; nothing more exotic than metallic paint or maybe a sunroof.

Spot a 1.3L in the street and you'd know exactly what toys the driver had to play with, see a Ghia and you'd know the owner was lucky enough to have velour seats and a rev counter. OK, so we live in an age where to make a fuss of such features is laughable, but my point is that you would know what to expect from a car at a glance.

S line trim and the like complicates matters
S line trim and the like complicates matters
Nowadays, the choice is bewildering: a plethora of body styles, a host of customisable options, a multitude of styling packages, a range of 20 choices of alloy wheel, five different dash trims, and Sir can have whatever colour Sir wants as long as Sir is willing to pay.

Has your neighbour just bought a swanky S4 or is that a base A4 diesel with all the styling kit? I wonder if he has leather and fancy audio, or might it be cloth trim and a cassette deck? That Mini looks good, too, and apparently it has the Chilli pack, whatever that means. and is that limo the LWB hybrid or the normal 3.0 entry model?

I'm not saying choice is bad, it just annoys me that as a car spotter more often that not I have no idea what trim level a car has these days. A Toyota IQ might have more toys than my LS400, but how am I supposed to know?

Does Sir want the extra-shiny wheels?
Does Sir want the extra-shiny wheels?
Why should I care? I have no idea, but I do, and short of reading the back pages of What Car? I have no idea what I can do about it. Buying a new car must take hours, as you choose what spec to go for (the new Vauxhall Adam has a million different option combinations, for example). Maybe I'm just getting old and should embrace trim levels called Jam, Chilli and suchlike...




Comments (140) Join the discussion on the forum

  • V6GTA 12 Jul 2012

    Customisation is the future.

  • Dr Interceptor 12 Jul 2012

    Get with the times... tongue out

    Modern production techniques and just in time supply chains means that cars can be built in any kind of configuration the customer desires. Gone are the days when they built ten red ones, ten blue ones, ten yellow ones... now every car that goes down the line is different to the last.

    This means that rather than just selling a customer a standard Escort GL, GLX, Ghia etc, they can start at a base model, and then upsell them lots of extras... would you like climate control sir? Just tick the box.

  • DanDC5 12 Jul 2012

    V6GTA said:
    Customisation is the future.
    If the EU get their way the only customisation you can do to a car will be when you order it. Sad times frown

  • Greg 172 12 Jul 2012

    The obvious stuff (stereo, seats, etc.) aren't as much of a worry as the various stuff you can't always see - I recently bought an old Clio and discovered the following week that it had autolights which had been switched off at some point in the past. I only knew because I'd previously had a 172 which also had them.

    God knows what may be squirreled away in the wiring looms of more modern, bigger cars.

  • Dave Hedgehog 12 Jul 2012

    you think this is bad, try and buy toothpaste

    theres 13 trillion types now !!

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