Today’s cars are super-connected — like a computer on wheels. While there are many upsides to this, there are problem as well. These range from telemetry leaks to the manufacturer’s partners and vendors you’ve never heard of as well as simple bloat to the car, making it more expensive to produce and harder to maintain.
But “dumb” cars still exist, you just need to hunt around to find them.
Connected vs. Assisted
Early on in your decision-making process you’ll have to decide if you want connected features or not (like built-in 3G), which we’re assuming you don’t if you are reading this article. You will then have to decide if you want smart, assisted featured, which you probably do, or are at least indifferent towards.
Many driver assistance features are mandated by law, or will be soon, so avoiding them can be futile, so that won’t be the focus of this article. So we won’t try to avoid collision avoidance or blindspot detection systems, instead we’ll look for cars without mandatory satellite radio, Android Auto, or Alexa integration.
Short of buying a vintage car there isn’t much you can do to avoid all these things, so we’ll focus on finding a car that is as unconnected as possible and have an overall “tech-lite” stance. We also won’t try to avoid things like OBDII (on-board diagnostics) which became mandatory in many places over a decade ago. This is similarly true of a backward-facing camera.
Other things are smart-ish but unobtrusive, like auto-climate, which doesn’t require an internet connection or Google algorithm to run, so we’ll see these features as a net-benefit.
Tech-lite means no touchscreens, no internet connections, no OnStar, no built-in GPS and similarly avoiding unnecessary technological features.
We will be listing cars that can be bought in 2021, not necessarily 2021 or 2022 models. The number of non-smart, non-connected cars is simply very limited, so we’ll do the best we can.
- Chevrolet Express Van
- Ford Mustang EcoBoost Fastback (base model only)
- Honda Civic
- Honda Fit
- Mazda 3
- Mazda CX-5
- Nissan NV200 Compact Cargovan
- Subaru BRZ
- Volkswagen e-up!
Mazda is, generally speaking, a good place to start your car search. In 2019 the company decided to move away from touchscreens and focus on physical controls. This is an important, even foundational, move towards keeping a car tech-lite as the touchscreen display is the center point for digital “enhancements” and allows for much more tech and more complex integrations. Of course digital screens could still appear (non-touch ones), but we have seen Mazda limit the use of tech in their 2021 and 2022 models.
So, for now, the investigation continues, but we’d recommend starting by investigating the appropriate Mazda car for you and seeing if it fits your non-smart car needs.