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Screens or buttons – what’s your preference?

Startline’s Used Car Tracker also reveals that only 51% think that having controls on a touchscreen is safe and 64% say it makes them take their eyes off the road more often.
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9 May 2024

EIGHT out of 10 (79%) motorists say they would rather have buttons for major controls in their car rather than a big, central touchscreen, new research shows.

Startline’s Used Car Tracker also reveals that only 51% think that having controls on a touchscreen is safe and 64% say it makes them take their eyes off the road more often.

Paul Burgess, Chief Executive at Startline Motor Finance, said: “It’s become very much the norm for modern cars to have an iPad-sized touchscreen in the middle of the dashboard containing most or even all of the controls for which there used to be buttons and knobs.

“Manufacturers do this because it allows their designers to create very ‘clean’ looking interiors but our research shows that they are not at all popular with drivers, with the vast majority wanting major controls such as heating to have buttons.

“There’s also a big safety question here. Jabbing at a screen and cycling through several menus means taking your eyes off the road for an extended period, which has very real safety implications. Many of the people we surveyed are obviously worried about this.”

In addition, 66% believe that touchscreens are largely being adopted to save car manufacturers money, and only 56% say they are convenient.

img 1368Burgess added: “Motorists are cynical that touchscreens are being introduced for their benefit and instead think it is a cost-cutting measure. It could be that, in the future, car makers that adopt a mix of screen and traditional controls will be among the most popular.”

Indeed, touchscreens can be a distraction, but is this an age thing? A generation brought up on smartphones and tablets might disagree.

As change would have it it, we’ve just had a look at a 40-year old BMW 6-series, so how you you rate it’s buttons?

This car was state of the art in its time and this pristine model is kept in BMW’s heritage fleet – the 635csi was the very first car I had on test and the model here was kindly loaned to us to bookend my career in motoring writing.

What we see here is a BMW M635CSi which was manufactured between 1984 and 89. The original 635csi was launched in 1978.

img 1359The M power model came with a 3453cc, 6-cylinder, in-line engine with a power output of 286bhp, a 5-speed manual gearbox and had a top speed of 158mph and a 0-62mph acceleration time of 6.1 seconds.

With the more powerful version of the BMW M1 engine, this classical 6 Series proved to be a real wolf in sheep’s clothing. It was the third model to bear the now famous M badge.

Price when new was £33,875 – which would translate to £136,122 is today’s money. It’s approximate value now is £65,000

Award Winners 2024

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Chris Wright

Chris Wright

Chris Wright has been covering the automotive industry nationally and internationally for 30 years. Following spells with consumer titles he became News Editor of Automotive Management (AM), Editor of Automotive International, International Editor for Detroit-based Automotive News, and Editor of Dealer Update. He has also co-authored several FT Management Reports and contributes regularly to Justauto.com

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