There are lots of things to like about the new 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe. It's roomy, rides well, and comes with loads of creature comforts.
But as I test drove this particular model for the past week, I must admit that Hyundai does one thing that I truly appreciate: It puts the redundant volume control on the steering wheel on the left side. A personal pet peeve of mine when evaluating a vehicle is when the steering wheel volume switch is on the right. Right is wrong when it comes to this switch's placement.
Now I'm not going to get into the problem of switch creep that steering wheels must endure. In the past, steering wheels were primarily used to, you know, steer a vehicle. And steering wheels are essential in providing feedback from a vehicle. Steering is one of the few piece of equipment that create a tactile connection between the driver and the road. The steering wheel creates the driving experience.
But as technology improved, more and more things began to make their home on the steering wheel -- starting with the horn. Even then, the idea was that horns were needed during an emergency and people should keep their hands on the wheel during an emergency. It make sense. Really, following that idea, lots of buttons, individually, make sense on to be on the steering wheel.
Today, though, steering wheels have begun to look like keyboards. Controls on the Santa Fe's wheel included: Volume control, a mute volume switch, a mode switch to change the radio mode from satellite to iPod to terrestrial radio. There are cruise control switches, a voice recognition command button, a pickup phone button, a hang up the phone button and a command switch to change the small display screen on the instrument panel. All told, there are 18 switches to choose. (Don't forget the horn right in the middle of the steering wheel.)
Out of all of those buttons, the volume control is the one I use the most and that's why I want it on the left hand side.
The reason is simple. I drive with my left hand. Most people do. Drivers use their right hand to pickup a cup of coffee. Adjust the cabin temperature. Eat French fries. Reach down and pick up fries that have fallen on the floor. I may just use my right hand to rest on a vehicle's gear shifter as if I'm practicing my cool look. All the while, my left hand is steering the vehicle.
When the volume switch is properly located on the left hand side, a quick movement of my thumb and the volume is perfect. When it is on the wrong side, chaos. I'm forced to either look for the switch on the wheel or, gasp, find the knob on the center stack. Obviously, this is a first world problem, but, then again, cars in general are a first world problem.
I realize my personal preference may not be the same for every driver. Some people drive with their right hand. Other people drive with both.
Chrysler even puts a volume control button the backside of the steering wheel -- a feature I hope it always keeps.
Of course, there are other much more annoying features found in new cars today because of new technologies, and even Hyundai is guilty of including at least one on its vehicles.
Why do I have to agree with a team of lawyers just to turn on my navigation system?