Coffee heat rising

“New” Car…Again???

How can I count the ways I hate the Toyota Venza?

Well…I can’t. Infinity is by definition uncountable.

The car drives OK, so I can’t complain too much about that. Fuel economy is middling, but since I don’t have to go to work every day and rarely take off cross-country, that doesn’t matter. The interior is good enough for government work…just.

The richest vein for my complaints lies in the complicated, inscrutable, unintuitive control system. The Star Trekkie audio/whatevethehellitis system is so cryptic and so frustrating and so annoying…I can hardly describe it. Look: what I want from a radio is A RADIO. I do not want to talk on the phone through the radio. I do not need to be told which way to turn at the next intersection. I do not want any other services than a radio. I just want to hear my cowboy music, dammit! Or the NPR News. The Venza, however, has other ideas: Dare to get in the car with a cell phone and it tries to grab onto the Bluetooth and turn itself into a cell and you cannot get rid of it to get your radio back.

The simplest damn things are so baroquely involved as to be nigh unto impossible. Take the headlights, for example. I’ve had this effing car since 2016 and still cannot figure out how to turn on the effing headlights.

The user manual (THREE  VOLUMES WORTH, 232 pages of which are devoted to the audio system alone) is as difficult to use as the hardware and software. As it develops, there are several headlight settings:

♦ high
♦ low
♦ foglights

(You’d expect these three, right?)

♦ regular brightness with a “high” setting that automatically comes on when you’re on a dark street
♦ setting that automatically turns the lights off a few minutes after you park and turn off the ignition

Except…it’s virtually impossible to figure out what positions on the control lever correspond to these settings. Put it on what you think is normal, and you have people flipping their brights at you. Turn it down, and you can barely see the road. If this apparently actual “normal” setting brightens up on a dark road, you sure couldn’t prove it by me.

Last night when I showed up at the church for choir practice, I drove in with what I thought was the normal setting that would turn the lights off after the car was parked. Two and a half hours later, I come out and find the damn thing sitting there with the foglights on. The headlights auto-turned off, but the foglights never got the message.

Fortunately, the car started up — to my surprise. Two hours with lights burning should have run the battery down.

It took some doing to figure out how to to turn off the accursed foglights. But when I got home, I managed to shut off the damn lights. Heaven only knows whether all the lights went off. Yesterday morning I got in the car and found the interior lights, which I had not turned on, were merrily burning away.

Next, there’s the vastness of the blind spots.

Seriously. I exaggerate not. This thing has blind spots that are SO HUGE an SUV can be sitting on your rear fender — either one, left or right — and no matter how you set the mirrors, you cannot see it.

Here on the homicidal streets of Phoenix, drivers make a game of coming up on your flank and parking there. Especially at 70 mph on the freeway. So this little flaw creates exceptionally dangerous conditions. Yeah, I do know about those little round stick-on mirrors. Sorry, but I hate them.

And fender? Fender? FENDER? You jest, right? This car’s alleged fenders are made of plastic. Look crooked at the damn thing and it cracks. Seriously: the other day I bumped into a barrier at something less than .5 mph (slower than I normally walk) and the result was a crack in the fine plastic cladding.

What. a. piece. of. junk.

Anddddd…. then we have the interior layout.

This little tank is supposed to be a sort of mini-SUV. It has a large rear compartment,  but only two rows of seats: two captain’s chairs in front and a bench seat behind them.

The  bench seat folds down, supposedly giving you lots of space in back to carry cargo. Or your dog.

Heh…  Well. No. That’s another cruel joke.

The seatbacks don’t fold down close enough to contact the backs of the front seats. So when they’re folded down, you get this empty well, into which the dog will tumble the instant you hit the brakes hard (presumably breaking her neck or, at best, a leg). There is NO way to eliminate this hole. The only way I can safely carry Ruby (short of stashing her in a carrier) is to pack the space behind the front seats with old bed pillows.

Ain’t that classy?

Then we have the amazingly inferior air conditioning system.

The Sienna, which was not significantly longer than this tank, had air-conditioning vents along the top, above the side windows. Thus the AC cooled back passengers efficiently.

The annoying Venza has ONE (1) TINY VENT at floor level, situated between the two front bucket seats. That’s it. This means that on a 110-degree day, whoever has the misfortune to sit in back gets effectively zero air conditioning.

It is as if Toyota’s designers failed to learn, in grade-school science class, that cold air drops and hot air rises.

So I decided maybe I should look around at other vehicles. Maybe someone makes a car that doesn’t require a degree in computer engineering to operate?

Well. Not so much.

When you google terms like “simple controls,” “cars for seniors,” “visibility,” and whatever synonyms you can dream up, you stumble upon 18 vehicles that might fill the bill: several of those are sedans, though, and I want an SUV-like or minivan-like contraption.

It appears that Subaru is now highly favored among the car reviewing set. I marked Toyota AVOID because, for sure, I will never buy another Toyota vehicle after my experience at Bell Road Toyota. What a bunch! The Kia Rio, the Ford F150 pickup, and the Jeep Wrangler Sport (in earlier models) come out on top, but the Subaru Forester and the Subaru Outlook appear to have the best visibility as well as acceptably uncomplicated controls. Supposedly.

Sooo… I guess if I’m going to go car shopping, the first stop will be a Subaru dealership. Now to recruit a cop and a lawyer to go with me….

2 thoughts on ““New” Car…Again???”

  1. This is kind of funny – 5-6 years ago I was working my way through the same list of vehicles – although you didn’t include the Mazda CX-5 which is what I ended up buying.

    I will absolutely agree – the Forester has the best visibility. The Outback comes in a 6 cylinder model – I didn’t dare drive it, I only road tested the 4 cylinder as I knew that if I compared them, the 6 would absolutely destroy all the 4 cylinder models and none of the other contenders come with anything other than 4bangers.

    The problem for me with Subarus – both the Forester and the Outback – is that I hated the seats – I’m not sure what was with them, but I found them extremely uncomfortable – might have been that they were shorter in the butt-to-knee dept? Not sure – but do make sure to sit for a while in them!

    You say the subarus have ‘acceptably uncomplicated controls” – I say Subarus are about 5 years behind all the other manufacturers – that plus the premium pricing on them knocked them out of consideration for me 🙂

    I do love my little zoom zoom Mazda though – the 2015 model came out with a bigger engine and made a big difference in sprightliness (I was coming from a V6 Pontiac Grand Am)

    I hope you find something acceptable!

    • Okay, I’ll check out the Mazda CX-5 — thanks! The Wonderaccountants have a Mazda sports car, which they love: it’s they’re weekend outta-town chariot. I think they drive it to church, too. 😀

      I’ll consider the seating carefully.

      It is true that a V-6 can be a bit much for these light-weight plastic cars. First time I tromped on it in this Venza, the damn car almost went airborne. The Sienna and the many cars I’d had before were made of…you remember…metal. They were heavy enough that their wheels stayed on the pavement when you accelerated like a Titan rocket.

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