Car Interiors That Care About Driver Comfort
Stop complaining about your commute and sit in a decent interior.
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:
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’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.
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.
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 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.
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