The Fanatec Universal hub principle is not new. Fanatec already had the ClubSport Universal Hub in its range and now Fanatec has added a little brother, the CSL Universal Hub! The CSL Universal Hub is an entry-level version hub which has a price tag of € 149, making it more than half as cheap compared to its bigger brother. Fanatec was kind enough to send us a copy including a Universal Hub Wheel Rim for a test and review.
What’s in the box
At Fanatec, the packaging always consists of a characteristic box with a complete content, which is perfectly fine again this time. In this package you will find the CSL Universal Hub, the manual and some tools (an Allen key and open-ended wrench) to adjust and mount the CSL Universal Hub.
The CSL Universal Hub
What can you do with it? You can add extra functionalities to steering wheels that do not have a display, buttons and switching units, such as the Universal Hub Wheel Rim supplied with us. Every single Fanatec steering wheel and most third-party steering wheels (e.g. Sparco, MOMO and OMP) fitted with a 6 × 70 or 3 × 50 mm bolt pattern will fit this Universal Hub. The CSL Universal Hub has full compatibility for PC, limited compatibility for Playstation and unfortunately no compatibility for Xbox.
The CSL Universal hub is equipped with 2 button modules with 8 standard buttons, a 2-way tumble switch, 2 2-way toggle switches, the tuning menu button and a 7-way funky switch with rotary encoder functionality. There is also a 3-digit LED display in the middle for the tuning menu functions and telemetry data. On top of the LED display you will find a USB-C data port that Fanatec says is there for future upgrades. The CSL Universal Hub is also equipped with the new ‘tool-free’ simplified quick release adapter with which you can easily (dis)mount the steering wheel on your Fanatec wheelbase. If you want to use the high-torque mode on your DD wheelbase, you must purchase the optional ClubSport Quick Release adapter. However, the CSL Universal hub can handle a maximum of 2.5Nm and you might be better off with the Clubsport Universal Hub.
The way Fanatec has made the CSL Universal Hub compatible for different steering wheels is simple but at the same time very effective. By loosening the bolts on the back (with the supplied tools) you can easily slide the hub in and out. The width of the Hub is 214mm and it can be extended to 274mm. This way you can make the buttons and shifters fit nicely for the steering wheel you have chosen.
The shift units are a snap-dome variant with a nice short travel, which gives a good click with every shift. The shifting itself is not very difficult and the paddles offer sufficient grip. Although completely made of plastic, Fanatec does use a honeycomb pattern for the shift paddles, which was introduced on the new McLaren GT3 V2 steering wheel, for improved structural rigidity. In itself, the whole feels fairly sturdy, but because the housing consists of several separate parts, to make it possible to slide in and out, which causes the inevitable flex in the housing. When shifting, for example, you see the button modules move inwards.
The use of this steering wheel is actually no different from other steering wheels. We tested this steering wheel with F1 2020 and opted for the Classic Cars. Breaking around the track in the Ferrari F1-90 and / or McLaren MP4 / 5B, we feel best suited the CSL Universal Hub with the included steering wheel.
Let’s start with the shifter units, the shifting itself is smooth, but these shifters feel a bit heavier than the modules that are mounted on other Fanatec steering wheels. There is also a little bit of flex in the paddles. If you shift with your fingers in the middle of the paddles, this is minimal, but if you shift with your fingers on the top or bottom of the paddles, more flex will can felt there. It is sturdy by itself, but the honeycomb pattern does not quite do the trick yet.
The button modules are nice and compact meaning that the buttons sit nice and close together. The advantage of this is that you do not have to let go of your hands from the steering wheel to press a button. You can also feel very well which button you press because good use has been made of different types and sizes of buttons. This allows you to clearly distinguish each button, even if you use gloves while racing. You have to press the buttons a bit harder than the buttons on, for example, its bigger brother. They also give a slightly harder ‘click feeling’ instead of a ‘tactile feeling’.
As mentioned earlier, the button modules flex a bit inwards during switching. The amount of flex increases if you use a wider steering wheel and you also make the CSL Universal Hub wider (read: extend). We also think it is a pity that the button modules cannot be tilted, you are slightly less flexible and the button modules always have a fixed position. All steering wheels supplied by Fanatec fit properly, but it can be a disadvantage that some third party steering wheels do not fit properly. Pay close attention to this when purchasing.
To be honest, as ‘Fanatec fanatics’ we were a bit clueless on which way Fanatec wanted to go with the CSL Universal Hub. It felt a bit comparable to us when Ferrari puts a € 30,000 street car on the market. After this review, however, it is clear to us that Fanatec will increasingly challenge the bottom of the market with the release of the CSL Universal Hub, and that is of course very good!
The button modules are fine and do their job well. We do think it is a pity that these cannot be tilted, so you may be slightly more limited in the use of third-party steering wheels. Being able to make the CSL Universal Hub wider is a nice feature but, in combination with the somewhat “heavier shifters”, it also provides more flex. The wider you make the hub, the more flex it produces. It is also manoeuvrable and this does not necessarily have to be a disadvantage.
The CSL Universal Hub is not great, but not bad either. The CSL Universal Hub is just good enough for what it is intended for. You will spend approximately € 250 for the CSL Universal Hub with a compatible steering wheel. There are several CSL steering wheels for sale for that amount, which in our opinion are more ‘value for money’. However, with the CSL Universal Hub you are a lot more flexible and it gives you more options for the use of various loose steering wheels.
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