2019 Wards 10 Best Interiors Quick Hits

A summation of all 32 interiors evaluated in the 2019 competition. Many of these comments are taken directly from score sheets submitted by Wards editors. Sticker prices listed. Winners in red.

7 Min Read
Subaru Forester passenger-crossview_0764
Subaru Forester came close to making cut.Tom Murphy

Acura RDX ($48,395)
Giant HUD, standard driver-assistance tech, matte-finish walnut trim and scads of soft-touch materials please our judges – the glitchy infotainment system not so much. Radio stations changed three minutes after seek button was hit, if at all. “Boo!” says the ghost in this machine.

Audi Q8 ($77,090)
Burled wood trim, Okapi brown leather and ambient lighting are beautiful, but not ground-breaking for Audi. Did they get a discount on piano-black trim? Way too much here. We mourn the loss of MMI dial and wish cupholders didn’t block HVAC controls.

Bentley Continental GT ($276,730)
Truly suited for lifestyles of the rich and famous, Continental GT marks new interior design language for Bentley that is lean, angular and dramatic, while incorporating exquisite materials and craftsmanship that have been part of brand heritage. Here’s to organ pulls.

BMW 330i ($58,770)
Striking metallic trim, accent lighting and unique curved display screen, but too much hard-plastic trim for near $60k price point. Overall, interior is upscale and comfortable, but Genesis G70 interior is awfully compelling for a lot less money.

BMW M850i ($119,295)
BMW wins fourth 10 Best Interiors trophy with flagship coupe cabin that is elegant, driver-focused. Fat, velvety M steering wheel, luscious two-tone leather, expertly machined metallic trim and beautiful crystalline shifter make wonderful first impression.

BMW X5 ($72,530)
Stick-to-the-script styling, no standard adaptive cruise control, loose leather on seats and too much glossy trim overwhelm positive attributes of otherwise high-quality materials, ambient lighting and excellent HMI (voice recognition, iDrive dial and gesture control).

Cadillac XT4 ($54,785)
Cheap materials and uninspired styling (why wasn’t orange stitching and metallic trim extended to more places?) have us joining chorus of critics underwhelmed by XT4 interior. Infotainment and comfort are strong points, however.

Chevrolet Blazer ($49,290 – pictured below)
We tested sporty red-interior RS and black-and-tan Premier grades and found down-grade hard plastic and poor fit-and-finish. And $3,500 for ACC and lane keeping on a near-$50k vehicle? We like bright-red rings around air vents (in RS), voice recognition and ergonomics.

Chevy Blazer cockpit.JPG

Chevy Blazer cockpit

Ford Ranger Lariat ($44,240)
Glossy dark gray trim is eye-catching, as is vertical double stitching on seats. Nice deep cupholders with grippy nubs and great controls and voice recognition. But it’s second or third to Jeep Gladiator for material quality, fun factor, style and overall utility.

Genesis G70 ($44,895)
Lots of bang for the buck, with attention to detail that puts some German competitors to shame. Great contrast (ivory and black), excellent design (diamond quilting and perforation, aluminum trimmed seats) and stellar materials, plus full suite of standard ADAS.

GMC Sierra Denali ($67,735)
It’s good, but Ram clobbers this on style and materials. Wood and metal trim use too restrained. Needs more color and contrast, unless customers like their GM trucks this way. Interior is comfortable and ergonomic and incorporates clever in-seat storage in second row.

Honda Insight ($28,985)
Attractive textured black trim is Honda dipping its toe into more progressive waters, but overall interior needs more spice. Nice leather and soft-touch surfaces, plus voice recognition and full ADAS package for under $30k, though.

Hyundai Santa Fe ($39,905)
Hyundai continues to lead in interior design, with just the right amount of flair found inside this CUV. The rocky-surface-like speaker grilles, arched wood trim on instrument panel and marled headliner are two examples of the brand’s continued top-shelf elements.

Hyundai Veloster N ($29,920)
Not much to look at but glammed-up stick shift and baby-blue seatbelts and dashboard accents. Seats are solid, comfortable, but headliner is cheap and doors have too much hard plastic. Car like this intended to be driven hard needs more performance gauges.

Jeep Gladiator Rubicon ($51,245)
Gladiator arrives with unique, purposeful interior well suited for active lifestyles. Delivers loads of smart storage; big knobs control audio, climate. Ergonomics are quirky and upright, but Jeep loyalists like it this way. Every Gladiator is convertible – in a class by itself.

Kia Forte ($26,220)
Respectable effort with some nice touches: decorated lower door panels, unique perforation pattern on leather seats, tons of standard ADAS, plentiful storage and comfort. But fit-and-finish, some materials and overall style leave much to be desired.

Lexus ES 350 ($50,959 – pictured below)
Fish-scale speaker grilles and angular instrument panel are show-stoppers, and this high-value interior is comfortable. But glossy surfaces, an uncooperative touchpad and sub-standard fit-and-finish for Lexus leave us dissatisfied.

Lexus ES 350 door.JPG

Lexus ES 350 door

Lexus UX 200 F Sport ($41,285)
Multi-panel black seats with red stitching are nice, but more red and contrasting materials throughout black cabin would help. Great materials and ergonomics, but tricky ingress and egress for taller occupants. Touchpad remains divisive.

Lincoln Nautilus Black Label ($67,630)
Loaded with style, interior benefits from alluring shapes and lines, including Arabesque diamond pattern on perforated ivory leather seats and Lincoln-logo profile imprinted in storage bin floors. Transmission shift buttons are integrated neatly into center stack.

Mazda3 ($27,695)
Black-and-ivory combo continues to work for Mazda. HMI has been partially reworked, now uses a real HUD. But inability to easily seek/tune SiriusXM channels is infuriating. Bigger controller in center console is nice, but piano-black trim is sure to get scratched.

Mercedes-Benz A220 ($51,935)
More is more with 64 colors to choose from in relatively affordable ambient-lighting package, which beautifully illuminates stunning turbine-shaped vents. “Ask Mercedes” MBUX interface is truly groundbreaking for this entry-level luxury car.

Mercedes-Benz GLE ($80,955)
Excellent HMI, as seen on other Mercedes vehicles. Microsuede seats very grippy. Metallic-trimmed grabhandles in center console look cool but are they necessary? Gear-shift stalk on right side of steering wheel easily confused with windshield wipers on left.

Nissan Altima ($34,780 MSRP)
Attractive but conservative in beige and black, but subtle perforation pattern on seats (resembling hanging beads) is handsome. Unique combination of materials: faux carbon-fiber door trim, gray wood veneer, high-gloss center stack trim.

Nissan Kicks ($23,330)
Loads of standard content, excellent connectivity, sensational Bose audio system and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Contrast orange stitching and lighting make all the difference. Hey Kicks buyers, orange you glad you bought wisely?

Porsche Cayenne Turbo ($157,400)
Gorgeous materials, including microsuede headliner and spectacular red gum wood steering wheel. But certain controls too hard to find and monochrome truffle brown club leather seats need color accents.

Subaru Ascent ($45,670)
Much to like about this interior, including Berber-style floormats and excellent ergonomics in second and third rows. Touchscreen responds quickly. But vehicle a tad pricey and overall interior styling is fairly conventional.

Subaru Forester ($35,270)
Came close but stumbles with voice recognition and fit-and-finish. Quality materials (textured carbon-fiber-like and satin-metallic trim) and saddle-brown and black are winning combination. We appreciate big knobs and buttons, standard ADAS and heated rear seats.

Toyota Avalon ($44,913)
Roomy and comfortable, but all black interior feels dull. Orange-contrast stitching too subtle, and center display screen seems aesthetically detached from instrument panel. We enjoy microsuede seat inserts, faux carbon-fiber trim and fast phone pairing.

Toyota Corolla Hatchback ($25,418)
Door trim slabby and lackluster, and excessive piano-black trim on center stack and console is dust and scratch magnet. Woven headliner is high quality, and two-tone seats are handsome, especially with white contrast stitching. Excellent value for money.

Toyota RAV4 Hybrid ($39,565) 
Proving advanced design can be found in high-volume vehicles, Toyota loads this interior with fun patterns, funky shapes and first-rate materials. Mocha is used effectively as accent color, while two-tone gray seats take compact CUVs to new level. Comfortable with lots of storage.

VW Jetta ($27,795 – pictured below)
Lots of soft-touch and matte surfaces we’ve come to expect from Volkswagen, but also cheap-looking hard plastic. Overall, too much black and not enough color accents, but kudos for full leather seatbacks not found in some luxury cars tested. Nice, big icons on touchscreen.

VW Jetta console and seat.JPG

VW Jetta console and seat

Volvo V60 ($54,690)
Volvo had us at plaid. V60 sport wagon blends Scandinavian design themes with soothing aesthetic, first-rate fit-and-finish and an unforgettable fabric. Add in airy spaciousness, a clean layout and excellent ergonomics and Volvo gets third Wards 10 Best Interiors trophy.

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2019 10 Best Interiors

About the Author(s)

Tom Murphy

Managing Editor, Informa/WardsAuto

Tom Murphy test drives cars throughout the year and focuses on powertrain and interior technology. He leads selection of the Wards 10 Best Engines, Wards 10 Best Interiors and Wards 10 Best UX competitions. Tom grills year-round, never leaves home without a guitar pick and aspires to own a Jaguar E-Type someday.

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