The overreliance on screens has become a safety concern. We tend to take our eyes off the road to navigate through submenus to access an often-used feature. It's a real problem that Euro NCAP has recently highlighted. From 2026, Europe's independent safety organization will penalize automakers by lowering the safety rating of a car that doesn't have physical controls for certain functions.

This decision got us thinking – are there still cars without center screens? By that, we mean no display whatsoever. There are a handful of cars with non-touch screens surrounded by buttons, but we want to focus on car interiors that do completely away with a center screen. The answer would have to be yes. For example, Dacia will sell you a Sandero hatchback, Logan sedan, Jogger wagon, or a Duster SUV without a central display, provided you stick to the cheapest version.

Cars without center screens

While the Sandero, Logan, and Jogger have been around for a few years, the latest Duster is a brand-new car that's just going on sale. Configurators are up and running in more and more European countries, revealing a gloriously spartan interior for the entry-level version. Renault's low-cost division isn't the only company doing it since Fiat has a no-screen setup for the cheapest Panda. In its third generation since 2011, the adorable city car recently had its life cycle extended to 2026. Another Stellantis brand, Fiat, recently launched the ë-C3, and it too can be had without a screen screen. 

The Volkswagen up! went out of production a few months ago, and that one too was offered in its basic trim without a center display. However, owners could hook up a smartphone and turn it into a removable infotainment. Dacia offers the same functionality for cars ordered without a touchscreen. It's called Media Control and serves as a "screen that comes out of your pocket" since you're already carrying around a smartphone. Here's how it works:

To this list, we can add the Toyota GR86 / Subaru BRZ in Japan as well as exotic cars such as Bugattis and Ferraris. Some commercial vehicles like the first-generation Peugeot Partner and Citroën Berlingo don't have a screen either. Yes, these vans are still on sale in some markets, despite being launched in 1999.

Since we mentioned VW earlier, the microchip shortage from 2021 forced the company to sell the Nivus crossover and Fox hatchback in Brazil without a center display. It was particularly weird for the Nivus since it had an all-digital instrument cluster but no touchscreen. In the recent past, VW Brazil used to sell the cheapest version of a car without a display in the middle of the dashboard.

Sure, we can agree a car interior without a screen in 2024 looks outdated. However, having no infotainment means you're getting something better – buttons and knobs. Old-school controls are more functional regardless of what an automaker's marketing team says about how great huge touchscreens are. Bean counters employed by an automaker will never officially admit it's cheaper to use the same screens across the product portfolio compared to developing separate switchgear.

VW Nivus

Volkswagen Nivus

2021 Volkswagen Fox (BR)

Volkswagen Fox

While there's no such thing as a perfect compromise, some car companies such as Hyundai are trying to please both worlds. The recently updated Tucson keeps its pair of screens but has more buttons than before. Not only that, but the South Korean brand has expressed its long-term commitment to physical controls, arguing hard keys are easier to use when driving.

BMW sees things differently since it has already killed the iDrive controller in the X1 and X2 crossovers, along with the 2 Series Active Tourer minivan. The rotary knob will be deleted from the 1 Series and 2 Series Gran Coupe later this year when the next-gen models arrive. As if that wasn't bad enough, next-generation EVs on the Neue Klasse platform won't have it either.

If you have other examples of new cars on sale today without a screen, do share! The Audi TT doesn't count since it has gone out of production, and so will the R8 soon.

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