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Car Interiors That Care About Driver Comfort

Stop complaining about your commute and sit in a decent interior.

By Clifford Atiyeh Feb 21, 2012 7:45AM

Recent college grads and other tightwads will fill living rooms with cheap, uncomfortable furniture. But the older a person gets -- and hopefully, the more money he makes -- the more his living room becomes a sanctuary from work. It's a personal corner of the earth dedicated to R&R and thumping HD entertainment.

 

Yet when we’re not relaxing, many of us are driving cheap, uncomfortable cars. We’re sitting in ugly, molded-plastic pods for hours on end each week, droning back and forth to even uglier offices. I can’t stand this logic. For well under $30,000, you can buy a car with a decent interior and eliminate this commuting agony.

 

And by “decent” I don’t mean sinking into 18-way leather-lined bucket seats with electric massage. I mean supportive, well-padded seats, attractive and easy controls, quality materials and tailored construction. So when I step into the new Honda Civic, or try out the latest Subaru WRX or Toyota RAV4, I’m amazed people put up with these best-sellers. The dashboards are cut up in several pieces that no doubt will start creaking and rattling; the fabrics are thin and marginal; and the plastics feel like black-painted cement.

 

Granted, cars aren’t sectional couches, but when you move your arm, should it bang against brittle door panels and unpadded steering wheels? Should your legs be numb after an hour? If less than 10 percent of your home is sourced from Ikea, this is the type of thing you probably care about.

 

Here are a few new and used cars with fab interiors:

 

Dodge Charger

 

 

The metal-look trim is actually real, cold aluminum. The leather-stitched steering wheel is soft and reassuring. Everything, from the one-piece dashboard to the door panels, is padded in soft rubber. The 8.4-inch center LCD is clear and functional, though Chargers with heated seats and steering wheels should have these controls as physical buttons instead of touch-screen icons. Overall, the Charger’s interior is a master class in comfort for just $25,000, and is incomparable to the previous model.

 

Mazda CX-5

 

 

Mazda’s new compact crossover makes the cabins in the larger CX-7 and CX-9 models look very dated. Soft-touch materials are all over the dash, as is Mazda’s pleasant red and indigo gauge lighting. In true Mazda form, the CX-5’s interior is sporty and simple. I was quite comfortable in the new Honda CR-V with its Land Rover-like front armrests, but the crude infotainment system glares at my eyes like a Windows blue screen of death.

 

Hyundai Genesis Coupe

 

 

Besides its tight handling and impressive sport exhaust, this compact Hyundai coupe offers big-car comfort for two. The manual shifter shakes a little too much, but the angled center stack, soft rubber, padded armrest and ample shoulder room make this car less of a wannabe racer and more of a satisfying commuter.

 

Volkswagen Jetta (2005-2010) 

 

 

The latest Volkswagen Jetta scraps its premium surfaces for Rubbermaid-grade surfaces. While the new Jetta now starts at about $4,000 less than the outgoing model, it’s not that inviting unless you’ve dished out $27,000 for the top-grade GLI. The previous-generation Jetta, despite its austere style, felt like a bargain Audi at any price -- from the solid chassis to the firm, never-fatiguing seats and idiot-proof controls.

 

Volvo S70 (1998-2000) 

 

 

Volvo has been making one-piece padded dashboards since the 1990s. We should remind ourselves that padded dashes serve a real purpose: preventing your limbs from crashing against unyielding plastic. While these cars now look quite old, they cost less than a new Jetta and are far more plush. I would rather take an S70 for a boring four-hour drive than lay on my old roommate’s $100 futon for 15 minutes. I don’t know about you, but my health and comfort are worth more than that.

22Comments
Feb 21, 2012 3:33PM
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Chrysler , Ford and GM have upped their game in the interior departments  !  The worst, and most boring and plastic interiors come from the Japanese.  Most are too bland and monochromatic. But all should do tutone and not just one shade
Feb 21, 2012 9:36AM
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The car has to look good over all, but the interior is most important to me. You're inside the car more than you are outside. I never liked the "Center Stack" thing at all, that is popular on cars today. And I don't like the Euro design period. I'm American and I remember when America had the best looking cars on the road. Now all cars, with the exception of a few, all look pretty much the same. Inside and out, butt ugly. Except for the two or three color tones I agree with frostyross, interiors of todays cars look cheap. And the prices they charge for them, and they give us cheap junk. When are car manufactures going to wake up and give us what WE want, and not what THEY think we want.
Feb 22, 2012 7:13AM
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Yep; mazda has the best interiors. One actually feels like one is driving in a luxury sports car.

I have no specific complaints with Mazda interiors and I don't think there is anything wrong with their interior designs (obviously the exterior is a whole different story).  But I have NEVER mistaken the interior of any Mazda for a luxury sports car.  In fact, I would rank them among some of the most basic of auto interiors.

Feb 21, 2012 10:18AM
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This article excludes many others vehicles in which their interior appointments flout preconceptions. In general, most car companies have markedly improved their interiors over just a few years ago. The new Buicks, the new Jeeps, new Chryslers and GM offerings in general have pushed a major emphasis on inside livability. The Buick Verano and the new Chevy Malibu are also trimmed in aesthetically pleasing contrast tones, such as cocoa & cream and brick/ charcoal. This is in stark relief to some other companies who, at one point, held respectable esteem in terms of their auto interiors. Competition doesn't sleep; holding the line no longer cuts it. Luckily, if armed with a bit of research, the average car buyer is now in a position to purchase a new 'midline' auto with what would've been deemed a true 'luxury' interior just a decade ago.
Feb 21, 2012 10:51AM
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The picture of the Charger interior does not do the car justice.  The Charger easily has the best interior in its class, but you would never know it from the picture.  I am surprised that they used a picture of black interior in an article that was devoted to the best interiors on the market.  It doesn't make sense. 

 

Same goes for the VW picture.  When that model was for sale, it was miles ahead of the competition in terms of fit and finish, and comfort.  But the picture would make you think otherwise.

Feb 21, 2012 10:37AM
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I own a 2011 Dodge Avenger Heat Edition and could not be more satisfied.  It is the perfect combination of performance and comfort.  Why the Charger would be selected and not the Avenger surprises me based on overall cost to own including insurance coverage?  Of course, most automotive writers discount the Avenger anyway....
Feb 21, 2012 11:00AM
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I can understand wanting a comfortable, supportive seat and good ergonomics for the controls, but other than that I don't really place value in the looks of the interior of my car. Real metal trim isn't going to make my car drive better, and when I'm driving I'm looking out the windshield - not at my dash trim.
Feb 21, 2012 2:43PM
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The interior of the car is the first important thing when it comes to buying a car...when it come to liking a car. Then comes power and/or gas milage, and exterior looks. Those of you who say interior does not matter i bet you guys have a new camaro. Best looking outside hands down...i always turn a look when i see a camaro (modern ones) but talking for expericen, rented one, it is the most ugliest interior a new car and think of having and im 5'5" and could hardly see out of it.

      best looking and most comfortable  interior Caddy CTS 2008 and up....

 

 

Feb 21, 2012 9:55AM
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Mazda interiors have always done it for me, personally.  I like how they keep everything driver-centered and laid out in easy reach.  The best interior ever for me is my 1986 Mazda RX-7 GXL.  It's a little unconventional with most of the controls mounted on the instrument panel and having no control stalks coming out of the steering column, but it actually works.  Plus, I have always loved gauge clusters where the tachometer is front and center, not offset.

Side note:  Is it just me or does the Charger interior look a little "truckish"?

Feb 23, 2012 8:02AM
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Have you driven the top of the line versions for the European market?

We aren't talking about versions for the European market.  We are talking about models for our market.

 

The versions designed specifically for the European market aren't available here and, therefore, it's pointless to even discuss them. 

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