Some cars are more user-friendly than others. I rent cars at least 30 times every year, and I have learned that when you sit down in some cars, everything is where it should be. Toyotas are like that. I don’t remember ever being in a Toyota and not being able to figure out how it works.
Not so with the VW Golf. It was dark at 11:00pm in the rental car garage. I stood behind the car and tried to open the hatch. I clicked the unlock button on the key fob, held it down, double clicked, to no avail. I tried to pull, push, nothing worked. I bent over and looked under the latch, no buttons. I was about to give up and throw my suitcase into the back seat when I accidentally touched the logo. It turned, and the hatch popped open.
Here is a picture I took the next day in the sunlight. Would you have guessed that you need to push in the logo to unlock the hatch?
Here is how it’s done:
The hairy blob is my left hand, holding the logo open – bad photograph.
Then I entered the car and got ready to start it. Here is what the key looks like. Doesn’t this look like you have to insert it somewhere?
I tried to find the key hole. It was dark in the car, but there was a plate on the steering column into which I tried to insert the key. But I couldn’t get it in. Eventually I turned on the flashlight on my phone to check. I found a non-functioning plate.
Notice all the scratch marks. This shows that I was not the first one to try to figure out how to start the car in the dark on a plastic cover plate.
Eventually, I found the starter button, nicely hidden and small next to the shift stick. Another thing impossible to find in the dark. Only with a flashlight was I able to find this. Whatever happened to lighting up critical controls?
This means that even though there is a key, the car actually does not need it. It must be just there to unlock the car from the outside.
And that brings me to the locks.
Later, at the hotel, at night, I tried to figure out how to lock the car. On the door there is a lock button. But when I pushed it, even though something clicked, the door didn’t lock. The only way I got it to lock was to dig the key fob out of my pocket and click the lock button. That did it. I am not sure what the button on the door does. Lock it did not.
And then there was the roadside assistance call that kept starting. It was dialing roadside assistance all the time, until I figured out how to turn off the screen – not a happy task while driving down the road. I still don’t know what made it think I wanted roadside assistance. I wonder how the operators like it when they get all these ghost calls from VW Golf rental cars with completely befuddled drivers. I almost had to pull over to stop my roadside assistance alarm call.
Perhaps, if I owned this car, I would get used to it. Maybe I would even like it. But I can assure you, the VW Golf it totally unsuitable for a rental car, where the user does not have the time to read the manual and get used to it. In a rental car, you have to be able to sit down and drive – and not have to fiddle with instructions and flashlights.
In the VW Golf, nothing works the way you expect it to work.