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KitchenAid 4-Slice Manual Toaster review: Make toast slowly, with retro looks

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The Good The KitchenAid 4-Slice Manual toaster stands out for its classic style.

The Bad Unfortunately the KitchenAid 4-Slice Manual costs more than ordinary toasters and toasts bread slowly and unevenly.

The Bottom Line Buying the KitchenAid 4-Slice Manual only makes sense if you have a weakness for retro appliance looks, otherwise you'd be better served by cheaper machines which make toast better and faster.

6.0 Overall
  • Performance 5
  • Usability 6
  • Design 7
  • Features 7

To compete with the rise of affordable and ultra-capable toaster ovens, regular toasters have begun to fight back, boasting extras like snazzy paint jobs, fancy toasting presets, even LED lighting, motorized slots and robot-like intelligence. The $110 KitchenAid 4-Slice Manual though stands somewhere in the middle with extreme complexity on one end and basic, old school mechanical toasters on the other.

It's certainly a looker that tries hard to impress with retro, almost classic car styling and a bright red side panels to match. The trouble is this is far from a toast-making dream machine. It takes a while to toast bread compared to other models, and what it finally serves up is often uneven. If you're in the market for a higher-end toaster, both the Cuisinart Leverless 4-Slice ($100) and Frigidaire Professional 4-Slice ($100) offer greater bang for your buck.

Design, features, and usability

Perhaps inspired by the smooth art deco lines of its 20th century appliance hit, the Stand Mixer, the KitchenAid 4-Slice toaster (model KMT422) looks straight out of a 1950s house-ware catalog. With an all-metal chassis with striking stainless steel and fire engine red highlights, this countertop gadget tips the scales at a hefty 9 pounds.

Spanning 7.5 inches tall, a foot wide, and nearly as deep (11.5 inches), the 4-Slice Manual has all the solidity and charm of a classic Buick Skylark. Completing the toaster's strong automotive motif are a pair of chrome-plated oval vents slapped on either side of the contraption. The only thing missing is a set of white-walled tires and fuzzy dice.

The KitchenAid 4-Slice definitely has retro style. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Gracing the front face of the 4-Slice is a rectangular digital readout displaying the degree of toasting power you've selected. You ramp up or down the toasting level (ranging on a scale between 1 and 7) by turning a "shade" dial left or right.

Also shown here is a reverse progress bar ticking down to final toast time plus any preset toasting functions the appliance has engaged such as "Bagel", "Defrost", or "Reheat". To initiate these special toast modes simply press one of their corresponding circular buttons during the toasting process. Keep in mind though you can only engage these modes after toasting has begun, started by pulling down one of the spring-loaded levers which sit underneath the screen.

Unlike other appliances which opt for fancy abilities such as motorized bread trays that raise and lower robotically, pulsing LED lights, or snazzy alarms and bells, this toast maker is mostly manual. As a result, if you've ever owned a toaster built in the past 60 years you'll find that operating the KitchenAid KMT422, and its paddle-ended levers, a familiar affair. The only real clue the machine hails from the 21st century is its aforementioned LCD screen.

Glossy red side panels plus oval vents complete the classic car motif. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Cleaning the KMT422 is a bit of a mixed bag. It has two removable crumb trays, a design which should be familiar to most of you. Pushing the center of each tray (located on the back bottom edge) releases them. You can then slide the flat platforms out of the chassis and toss any bits of charred bread it contains into the trash.

One annoying issue is how crumbs tend to collect just above wide shelves deep inside each of the toaster's slots. Debris often accumulated here and failed to drop into the crumb tray just below. Besides manually picking up the toaster, turning it upside down, and giving it a good shake, I don't see a way to completely clean this machine.

Performance

Priced at double the cost of the average toaster, you might think the KitchenAid 4-Slice Manual would offer twice the amount of features with significantly superior performance. Unfortunately the KitchenAid KMT422 takes its sweet time, longer in fact than almost any machine in our recent crop of test toasters. Only the pokey Frigidaire Professional 4-Slice (3 minutes, 40 seconds) was worse.

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