You don't need to spend a huge sum to get a lovely interior.
Every year,Wards Auto picks its 10 favorite new car interiors. For 2018, we had a few issues with the list, so we decided it would be a good idea to make our own. Since we didn't think it would be fair to put cars from Honda and Rolls-Royce in the same competition for best interior, we're limiting the list to models with a base price lower than $50,000 that don't require any additional pricey options.
The Kia Stinger was one of two models on our sub-$50,000 list to make the Wards Auto list, and for good reason. Not only does the Stinger live up to the hype to drive, it has a well-appointed interior with design elements plucked from more expensive luxury cars. We particularly love the three floating air vents, which look like they were taken right out of a Mercedes-Benz product.
The Mazda6 just received a facelift for 2018, and the big story was the addition of a new turbocharged engine option. Mazda didn't just give its midsize sedan more power, it improved upon its already wonderful interior. New Mazda models have a way of punching well above their price class, with Audi-like design and premium materials throughout. The Mazda6 has even been improved with never-before-offered options like ventilated front seats.
The midsize sedan category is extremely crowded, so it is hard to stand out among the other options. This hasn't stopped two midsize sedans, the Mazda6 and Honda Accord, from making the list. The old Accord featured a confusing two-screen layout, but Honda went back to the drawing board on the recently updated Accord. It is now one of the most premium feeling cars in its segment, and thank goodness it has a volume knob unlike the Civic.
The 2019 Ram 1500 is the second car that was also featured on the Wards Auto list, so clearly we didn't disagree completely. At the center of the Ram's dashboard is FCA's excellent UConnect infotainment system. A 12-inch Tesla-like tablet is also available on pricier Ram models. Even without the massive touchscreen, the new Ram's interior is our current favorite in the full-size pickup truck segment.
No list of the best interiors would be complete without the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R. We love the upscale feel of both of these hot hatchbacks, especially the plaid cloth seats found in the GTI. The Golf R has one big advantage: a digital display that replaces the traditional analogue gauges. We also wanted to mention the new Jetta, which features a digital display. We gave the nod to the sportier Golf GTI and Golf R, but a Jetta GLI could appear on next year's list if VW decides to build it.
The final non-luxury model on our list is the Ford Mustang. The 2018 Mustang combines old school muscle car form, with new car function. We especial loved the new configurable digital dashboard and ability to light up the cabin in an endless variety of colors. Throw in some aggressive Recaro seats, and the Mustang's interior looks properly aggressive.
Volvo has been knocking it out of the park with its interior design lately. While some people complain that all Volvo models look too similar on the inside, we just see it as a good thing. The simplistic Swedish design is minimalistic, and extremely luxurious at the same time. We loved the massaging seats found in the XC60 SUV, though we are eager to try the sportier seats in the Polestar-tuned S60 sedan.
In our opinion, the Mercedes C-Class already had the best interior in its segment. Still, Mercedes improved it even further with an enlarged infotainment screen, new steering wheel, and digital gauge cluster for 2019. The C-Class is still the most elegant car in its segment, and now has the added technology to stay dominant.
If you haven't already sensed a theme here, we really enjoy digital displays that replace traditional gauges. One of the first cars to introduce this concept was the Audi TT, and it is still one of our favorite interiors. We love how Audi's virtual cockpit can show map information, and basically any other important information. Add in clever looking climate controls and a driver-focused cockpit, and the TT is still a winner.
Lexus has has a bit of a problem when it comes to infotainment. The Lexus Enform system is cumbersome to use, and lacks Android Auto or Apple CarPlay integration. While the company hasn't been great with technology, it hasn't had any trouble designing interiors. The new ES350 has an interior that would make an S-Class blush, especially in the sportier F-Sport trim. Lexus has taken beautiful design elements from its flagship LS, and brought them down to an affordable price.