Best car interiors
You don't have to buy a luxury car to enjoy a great interior. We've listed our top cars to spend time in, regardless of budget.
While prospective owners usually fall in love with a car’s exterior design, it’s the inside of the car that you and your passengers are likely to love or loathe as time goes on.
Over the years, interior design has arguably progressed even more radically than how cars look on the outside. Yes, there’s still a steering wheel (for now at least), information gauges and controls for things like the air conditioning, but the quality of materials and technology has been revolutionised – even in just the past five years.
Just take the latest Peugeot 208 supermini, as an example. A decade ago, its predecessor, the 207 was a perfectly comfortable car, but its dashboard was made out of quite scratchy plastic and the infotainment system consisted of a CD player and radio with an LCD display. The latest model’s fascia is swathed in soft-touch materials, classy piano-black plastic and a touchscreen infotainment display that you can pinch-and-swipe like an iPad and connect with your favourite smartphone apps. Even more impressive is the screen in front of the driver; the digital instrument cluster is standard and can be upgraded to a 3D version for the ultimate wow-factor.
Trade in your older model for a new Mercedes A-Class and you may feel like Captain Kirk on the bridge of the Enterprise. That’s thanks to its twin 10.5-inch displays, creating an ‘ultra-wide’ viewing experience. One sits behind the steering wheel for the driver to view crucial information, while the other flows onto the dashboard for navigation, media and settings.
Whichever car you choose, you can be assured its interior will be of a good standard nowadays, but the cars on this list are a cut above the rest and some of our favourites in their respective classes.
Read on for our list of the 10 best car interiors.
Peugeot has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, giving models like the 3008, 5008 and 508 great design both inside and out. The French manufacturer has given the 208 and the same treatment, and the result is one of the best interiors in any small car we have seen. Unlike many more upmarket and expensive cars, the 208 comes with a digital instrument cluster as standard, while Allure trims and above get a 3D version of Peugeot’s i-Cockpit. The central infotainment screen ranges from between seven to 10 inches in size and Peugeot has applied soft-touch materials, ambient lighting and piano black plastic to really give the 208 a premium feel. It’s possible to add even more luxury to the interior by ticking the Nappa leather seat and panoramic roof options. Step into any of the 208’s rivals and they will feel rather old-fashioned by comparison.
All three generations of MINI hatch have been consistently praised for their interiors, which combine retro design with modern technology. MINI’s design ethos for the current hatchback hasn’t changed dramatically, except for a more grown-up look and a 6.5-inch infotainment system in the place of the old central speedometer. The MINI hatch is also no longer sparse inside; gone are the Chilli and Pepper packs, replaced by three trim levels called Classic, Sport and Exclusive. Every MINI comes with a high level of standard equipment, with each model featuring DAB radio, Bluetooth, MINI Teleservices and MINI eCall, plus MINI puddle lights.
The latest Mazda3 hatchback is a sharp looker on the outside and the same can be said of the interior. Inside, the Mazda3 combines style, simplicity and functionality but not in a way that overlooks quality. The minimalist design is still ergonomic and the high-mounted, 8.8-inch infotainment screen is controlled by a rotary controller by the gear lever, to help you avoid taking your eyes off the road. Equipment levels are generous, which is why you won’t find many options for the Mazda3 other than metallic paint choices. On the move, the interior remains quiet thanks to improved soundproofing and it has a more luxurious feel thanks to a lack of tyre drone or wind roar.
The interior of the latest A-Class received universal acclaim when the car arrived in 2018. Not only was the quality excellent but it was supremely comfortable and futuristic inside. The highlight of the A-Class’ interior is the MBUX infotainment system, which made its debut in this model and is standard on every trim level. Two 7-inch infotainment screens (which can be increased to 10.25-inches in size) sit side by side on the dashboard. One takes the place of analogue dials and the other is the infotainment system. It’s a clean piece of design because of the way they are joined together, appearing as one unit. The system itself reacts fast, has effective voice control and cloud connectivity, giving a similar experience to a flagship smartphone. Ride quality is good but we’d recommend buyers go for a model with smaller alloy wheels to keep the interior serene as well as smart.
BMW’s 5 Series shows that a good interior is as much about logically arranged switchgear and premium materials as it is about style. Not only are the ergonomics great, but so are the infotainment and connectivity systems. The iDrive system is displayed on a screen that’s angled slightly towards the driver, which makes it easier to see and use. The 5 Series has a comfortable ride while on the move, provided you go for a model with smaller wheels. The 5 Series is a great car in which to spend time on any journey because the cabin is also so calm and comfortable.
The inside of the second-generation Renault Captur is a nice place to be, with the dashboard, door cards and seats all given splashes of colour. Its SUV dimensions means there’s more space in terms of height and the rear legroom, which can be increased by sliding the rear bench backwards. Renault focused on improving interior refinement and ride comfort for the new model, so the Capture is now a more relaxing place to be on the move. There has also been a significant upgrade in materials used in the cabin, with soft touch plastics covering most surfaces. Technology hasn’t been forgotten about either, with the option to replace the analogue dials for a 10-inch digital display. We like the central infotainment system because of its tilted position towards the driver. It’s a seven-inch display as standard and can be increased to 9.3 inches on higher trim levels.
We described the Volvo XC60’s interior as beautiful when we first reviewed it and time has been kind to the Swedish brand’s mid-size SUV, as it still looks great. Almost all Volvos now share the same design and materials, so the interior has lost some of its initial wow factor, but even the entry-level models come very well appointed and are extremely comfortable. Refinement, ride quality and seat comfort are particular highlights of the XC60’s cabin. This is in part due to the air suspension but also because engine noise is well suppressed, resulting in a hushed ride at cruising speeds. Technology is also one of the XC60’s strong points, with a nine-inch portrait infotainment screen dominating the dashboard. It’s used to control most aspects of the car, including the sat nav, climate control and stereo system.
If you want a sporty coupe at a sensible price, nothing can match the Audi TT’s interior for quality and a sense of occasion. Indeed, its digital Virtual Cockpit instruments are almost a carbon copy of the display in the Audi R8 supercar, give or take a few different graphics. With a driver-centric set of controls, you operate the media and navigation all from this screen, so the rest of the dashboard is clean and minimalist. It’s dominated by air vents that look like jet engines and have clever displays mounted in their centres. The front seats are low-slung and cosy, while the small back bench is suitable for kids. Fold them down and there’s also a surprisingly large boot.
The Kodiaq was Skoda’s first large SUV but the brand could draw on parts and know-how from the Volkswagen Group. The Kodiaq’s interior isn’t revolutionary but it’s a pleasing place to be, with enough features to stand out in its class. The biggest highlights are the build quality built and the comfortable ride on the move - even on 19-inch wheels. There’s little road noise, while Skoda has done a great job of keeping engine noise down. All models provide seating for seven, and the Kodiaq’s loftier ride height gives all on board a great view out. The dashboard is typical of those made by the Volkswagen Group but look closer and there are features that demonstrate Skoda has added its own twist. The brand pays tribute to past models in the interior design, and there are clever features such as umbrellas in the doors - a feature only offered elsewhere by Rolls-Royce. Technology comes in the form of a glass-fronted eight-inch touchscreen that rivals systems from much more expensive cars.
The Citroen C5 Aircross is arguably more stylish inside than out. It’s laden with the latest technology, including a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a separate eight-inch infotainment screen that controls sat nav and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functions. The rest of the dashboard is also eye-catching because it features colour-coded upholstery , which is especially attractive in range-topping ‘Hype Brown Ambiance’. The C5 Aircross is quiet on the move and is most at home cruising on motorways. For the money, the C5 Aircross provides one of the most stylish interiors in the mid-size SUV class and comes with plenty of standard equipment.