“Pedal to the metal”, as described by Fanatec. The new Fanatec CSL Pedals are completely built of a steel construction, with an exception for the plastic front plates. We have received these all new steel Fanatec CSL Pedals and the Fanatec CSL Pedals Clutch Kit for review. With a base price of €79.95 the CSL Pedals position themselves well below the CSL Elite Pedals, which are known for being very good pedals at their price point. The CSL Pedals Clutch Kit sells for €39.95. Of course we will test and review the CSL Elite Pedals as an individual product, but we will also compare them to the CSL Elite Pedals throughout the review. We will cover the differences and similarities, how they relate to each other and of course which pedal set we recommend in which situation.
These Fanatec CSL Pedals and CSL Pedals Clutch Kit were tested and reviewed at the same time as the Fanatec CSL DD Wheelbase of which the review will also be online soon!
Packaging & Contents
As usual, Fanatec’s packaging consists of the characteristic brown outer boxes which are precisely tailored to the actual product boxes inside. When removing the outer box, two sleek white product boxes are revealed to us containing the brand new CSL Pedals and the CSL Pedals Clutch Kit. What is striking is that the pedal set is packed more compactly and the boxes also feel a bit lighter than you would expect compared to the CSL Elite Pedals. Once opened, in the big box we find the heel plate, the accelerator pedal, the brake pedal, eight M4x12 Torx bolts with corresponding Torx key, spacers to hard-mount the pedals, an extra set of thick rubber feet and a quick guide. In the box of the CSL Pedal Clutch Kit we find the clutch pedal, with 4 extra Torx bolts with Torx key and a quick guide.
Engineering & Quality
As mentioned before, the new Fanatec CSL Pedals are built with an all-steel construction. These are a bit lighter than the Fanatec CSL Elite Pedals, which are made of solid cast aluminum. Because the CSL Pedals are a bit lighter and made of thinner material, the first impression when unpacking is perhaps less impressive when you have also been able to unpack the CSL Elite Pedals before; due to their weight and solid cast material those feel heavier and almost unbreakable. Once you pick up the CSL Pedals, however, you immediately see and feel that you have a very sturdy, well-finished pedal set in your hands. The pedals’ construction is very good and the edges are very neatly finished, which means that there are no sharp edges on the pedals. The design is quite straightforward and above all very functional, and to be honest we do not have anything to complain about!
The only thing that is not made of steel with these pedals are the front plates, which are completely made of plastic. Nevertheless, the pedals feel fine as a whole and the choice for these plastic front plates is not directly at the expense of the experience of the pedals. For those who want a little more look & feel, the Fanatec CSL Pedals Tuning Kit has been announced as well; a set with front plates made of anodized aluminum. These pedal front plates are completely flat and complement the look of the pedals to the intended all-metal design. Unfortunately, we have not yet received the CSL Pedals Tuning Kit for review, so we have not been able to assemble and feel them in practice. We expect to receive the CSL Pedals Tuning Kit soon and will update this review accordingly. Both the plastic front plates and the CSL Tuning Kit front plates can be adjusted in height in three steps to make the pedals slightly longer or shorter according to your preference.
What is remarkable about the CSL Pedals is that they are equipped with magnetic Hall effect sensors instead of potentiometers as used in the slightly more expensive (but older) CSL Elite Pedals. A good potentiometer does not necessarily have to be a bad choice, there are certainly high-end pedal sets on the market in which potentiometers are used, however they remain susceptible to wear and appear to be less reliable and accurate in practice. Inside the CSL Pedals are Hall effect sensors with a resolution of 12bit, which means that the input of the pedal can be represented in 4096 steps. For a pedal set in this price range we’ll definitely take that!
As mentioned, the design is pretty straightforward. The accelerator pedal features a spring pivot point, a Hall effect sensor and a bolt with a bushing that sits transversely and acts as the pedal’s end stop. Apart from the height of the front plate and the sideways position of the pedal, there is nothing else to adjust. But, let’s be honest, that’s one more adjustability option than the CSL Elite Pedals had.
The CSL Pedals brake pedal fundamentally consists of the same construction as the accelerator pedal, but has small differences compared to the CSL Elite Pedals brake pedal. Not only does it seem that the foam which is responsible for simulating brake pressure has become softer, but we also see that it has an opening in the middle. We suspect this was done to give the brake pedal a more progressive feel, which would mean that the initial application of the brake pedal feels a bit lighter and you gradually build up more brake pressure. Practice will show!
Then there’s the clutch pedal, the CSL Pedals Clutch Kit. Fundamentally this pedal is also the same as the accelerator pedal, but with the same wide front plate as the one on the brake pedal and a thicker, stiffer spring which provides a little more resistance. There is no technology or other tricks to simulate the bite point of a real clutch pedal, but we do not really expect that for this price range. Most importantly, the pedal should have enough resistance and precision to operate it.
Mounting the CSL Pedals on the heel plate is a lot easier and faster than with the CSL Elite Pedals. With the latter you have to tighten a couple of thick bolts and nuts from both sides with two keys. With the CSL Pedals you can just put them down, place the heel plate over it, align the bolt holes, insert 4 Torx bolts per pedal and you’re done! This set was put together in no time and sliding the pedals sideways will now be a bit easier if you still want to make adjustments later on.
Included with the CSL Pedals are the spacers to hard-mount the pedals onto your sim rig. That sounds promising, except that this is only possible if you already have a baseplate for your pedals or if that’s standard on your rig. The reason for this is that the threaded insert is incorporated into the underside of the CSL Pedals’ heel plate, which means that you have to screw in a bolt from below. In our case we placed the CSL Pedals hard-mounted on a FormulaSimRigs FXU rig, of which the pedal deck consists of only aluminum profiles where you cannot insert a bolt from below. The CSL Pedals can therefore, in principle, not be mounted on an aluminum profile without the addition of a baseplate. This is unfortunate, as this is possible with the CSL Elite Pedals; it has two (albeit hidden) brackets with a hole through which you can tighten an M8 bolt directly on an aluminum profile with a T-nut. In our case, mounted directly on aluminum profiles, the lack of such brackets means that the CSL Pedals tilt backwards when we fully depress the brake. If you have an aluminum sim rig where you want to mount the pedals on an aluminum profile without the intervention of a baseplate, then this is not the pedal set for you, unless you also want to purchase a baseplate or want to get started with a DIY solution. We chose the latter!
Using two small steel plates, with two holes through which an M6 (heel plate) and an M8 (aluminum profile) bolt can pass, we have been able to fix the CSL Pedals on our aluminum pedal deck and eliminate almost all of its flex and tilt. We have to add; for the majority of sim rigs and setups this will not be a problem. So it’s not a huge negative, but it’s worth mentioning for those to whom this will apply.
We tested the pedals in F1 2021 and Assetto Corsa with GT3 and DTM cars. Our first impression is mainly that the pedals feel very smooth and very solid! There is no noticeable play on the pedals at all, sideways or when depressing them. The entire travel of the pedals is completely smooth, there is no friction at the pivot point meaning the resistance of the spring is all you feel under your foot.
In our case, the accelerator pedal started to squeak every now and then after using it a few times. Eventually this developed into a constant creaking noise and the resistance of the pedal became a bit rough and sticky. Despite the fact that the spring seemed to be well greased, we sprayed some PTFE dry lubricant on the hinge points of the accelerator pedal and the problem was immediately solved; the pedal is wonderfully smooth and silent again. We would like to add that this is certainly not uncommon for a pedal set, we also had to spray the Meca CUP1 Sim Pedalen and Heusinkveld Sim Pedals Sprint during testing and reviewing. So it is always useful to have PTFE dry lube spray at home, see it as maintenance for your pedals for a long-lasting, smooth experience.
In F1 2021 the pedals actually feel good right away, for us at least. With the CSL Elite Pedals we had set a linearity of 30 on the accelerator pedal and a small dead zone on the accelerator and brake pedal, but we do not immediately see the need to do the same with the CSL Pedals. The pedals feel very precise and controllable, the calibration screen shows that the intuitive 50% depressing of the pedal corresponds to 50% input in the game in our case. We have not made any adjustments here, but preferences can of course differ per person. It is perfectly possible that you prefer the pedal to be more sensitive initially or while pressing it down further. Whichever pedals you have, this will always remain a bit of ‘trial & error’.
What immediately catches our attention is the brake pedal. As mentioned, it has small differences compared to the CSL Elite brake pedal due to the foam that is designed differently and which seems to be slightly softer. While driving, as expected, we notice that the initial resistance of the brake pedal feels pretty soft and then builds up to a higher pressure further along the way. Initially, the pedal feels a bit light, while the last 5% to 10% of the pedal feels a lot heavier. In addition, the end stop of the pedal can be clearly felt, because this pedal too has the same end stop as seen on the brake and clutch pedals. This means that you clearly feel when you press the brake 100%, in contrast to the CSL Elite brake pedal where the resistance builds up but no end point is noticeable, so it is always a gamble when you are at 100% and building muscle memory therefore is very difficult. So the fact that there is an end point with this brake pedal is definitely a big plus for the CSL Pedals and we are happy that Fanatec thought of improving it. This makes hard braking and then slowly releasing it, without ABS, a lot easier and more pleasant.
In Assetto Corsa we experienced that when pressing the brake pedal very little happened in the game, only to quickly go from 50% to 100% pressure upon pressing the pedal harder. In Assetto Corsa Content Manager we have reduced the ‘gamma’ of the brake pedal from the default 2.40 to a linear starting value of 1.00, to make sure the sensitivity at the beginning of the pedal returned. As a result a little bit of pressing the brake pedal was also a bit of braking in the game, and additional braking also immediately gave more braking power. The experience for us ended up being comparable to F1 2021. Braking hard to 100% is no problem thanks to the end stop on the brake pedal and slowly releasing afterwards to regulate grip levels is easy, precise and smooth. We certainly benefit from this while driving DTM cars without ABS for instance. Because the brake pedal feels a bit more progressive and has a clear end point, you can adjust the sensitivity of the pedal to your preference until it matches what you experience under your foot.
The clutch pedal is, as mentioned before, quite straight forward. Basically it’s just a third pedal, nothing more, nothing less. It is very nice that it has a thicker, stiffer spring which, together with the wider front plate, creates its own pedal feel, and is therefore not just a copy of the accelerator pedal. Due to the slightly heavier resistance regulating the pedal is easy to do and succeeds with sufficient precision, despite the fact that no bite point can be felt. Of course it helps that you can hear in your game or sim what releasing the clutch pedal does to the speed of the car. Even if you don’t drive manual cars, you can still benefit from the Clutch Kit during your race starts, with the pedal you have a little more control and depending on the car you should be able to get away a bit faster. When you drive Assetto Corsa, a clutch pedal is a godsend. In this game it is almost impossible to quickly drive away after a spin as Assetto Corsa knows no idling when your car is in gear, so you have to build up rpms from 0 rpm. As a result, acceleration from a standstill is painfully slow. Instead of looking for neutral while stationary, revving, shifting to 1 and pulling away with wheelspin, you can simply depress the clutch pedal, slowly release it with some revs and continue your way in a controlled manner. This saves seconds and a lot of panic when you are next to the track.
Despite the fact that we do not yet have a Table Clamp available for the CSL DD at the time of writing, and therefore we have not yet been able to test the CSL Pedals in a desk setting, we did put the pedals on a laminate floor and tested how these would stand their ground. Our first impression is that the pedals are amazingly stable on a hard floor! Where most pedals are easy to push or tilt when applying maximum braking pressure, this is hardly the case with the CSL Pedals. The anti-slip under the pedals does its job very well, with normal use they remain very stable. In our case, only when pushing too hard and for a long time a bit of movement is possible and the same applies to letting the pedals tilt, we only succeed when pushing the brake pedal excessively high and hard. If possible, we will do a lengthy test in a desk setting as soon as we have a CSL DD Table Clamp available, but the first impression is that these pedals are very suitable for a desk setting and perform above expectations.
The new Fanatec CSL Pedals have been positioned by Fanatec just below the existing CSL Elite Pedals, which we already were quite satisfied with. Despite the fact that we didn’t really know what to expect from the new CSL Pedals, we were very positively surprised. With the all-steel construction, the Hall effect sensors instead of potentiometers and the improved brake pedal with clearly progressive brake pressure and noticeable end stop, these are extremely good pedals for their price. The CSL Clutch Kit is a nice addition in multiple scenarios. When used on a hard subfloor, you don’t have to worry about sliding or pushing the pedals away, which is the case with many other entry-level models.
The Fanatec CSL Pedals and Fanatec CSL Pedals Clutch Kit are for available at Fanatec for €79.95 and €39.95 respectively. Soon, the CSL Pedals Tuning Kit and CSL Pedals Loadcell Kit will be released to further upgrade your pedals. Do you want to use the Fanatec CSL Pedals in combination with, for example, your Logitech or Thrustmaster steering wheel? Then you also need the Fanatec Clubsport USB Adapter.
We dare to say that these CSL Pedals dethrone the CSL Elite pedals as the best “bang for buck” pedals on the market right now. Does this mean you should upgrade right away if you currently have the CSL Elite pedals? Not right away. Broadly speaking in terms of pedal feel the two sets are similar, in that respect the CSL Pedals are more of a sidegrade than a massive upgrade. However, if you like the steel construction better, if you no longer want pedals with potentiometers or if you want that little bit of extra reference in your brake pedal, then you can definitely consider it!