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The first two new Volkswagen models in Australia to scrap the touch-sensitive steering wheel buttons subject to customer backlash and media criticism have been announced.

German car giant Volkswagen has commenced its move away from its controversial touch-sensitive steering wheel buttons – and return to physical switches – in Australia after nearly five years of criticism towards the technology.

However new Volkswagen models that solve complaints with other controversial touch-sensitive interior controls – including a lack of illumination under the sliders for the stereo volume and air-conditioning temperature – remain some time away.

The touch-sensitive steering wheel controls – also known as haptic or capacitive touch buttons – were introduced in Europe in 2019 on Volkswagen electric cars and R-Line, GTI and R sports models, in place of physical buttons for volume, cruise control speed, and other functions.

They have been subject to criticism from customers and media for being difficult to use while the driver’s eyes remain on the road – and for being both too difficult to press accurately, and too easy to press accidentally.

The global boss of Volkswagen passenger cars, Thomas Schäfer, confirmed last year the company would backtrack on touch-sensitive steering wheel buttons starting this year.

Now Volkswagen Australia has confirmed the first two models to drop the feature – the Polo GTI hot hatch and T-Roc R-Line small SUV – for Model Year 2024 (MY24) examples due later this year.

The new Volkswagen Amarok ute launched earlier this year does not have touch-sensitive steering wheel controls – however nor did its decade-old predecessor.

It is unclear which existing models will be next in line to drop touch-sensitive steering wheel controls.

VW models in Australia that currently have the feature include the Polo GTI, Golf R-Line, GTI and R, T-Roc R-Line and R, Tiguan R-Line and R, Tiguan Allspace R-Line, and Touareg and Arteon line-ups.

Many of these models may wait until new generations, or heavily updated models to drop touch steering wheel controls – including a facelift for the Golf due late next year, and the brand-new Tiguan due in late 2024.

Alex Misoyannis

Alex Misoyannis has been writing about cars since 2017, when he started his own website, Redline. He contributed for Drive in 2018, before joining CarAdvice in 2019, becoming a regular contributing journalist within the news team in 2020.

Cars have played a central role throughout Alex’s life, from flicking through car magazines at a young age, to growing up around performance vehicles in a car-loving family.

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