It’s All About Utility on Wards 10 Best Interiors List

Seven winning utility vehicles demonstrate how automakers are focusing intently on the popular CUV and SUV segments, while two sedans and a fullsize pickup round out the list of this year’s winners.

Tom Murphy, Managing Editor

October 15, 2021

3 Min Read
DW BG JI DZ CS TM Mach-E   - Copy
Wards 10 Best judges with Mustang Mach-E are (from left) Drew Winter, Bob Gritzinger, Jim Irwin, Dave Zoia, Tom Murphy and Christie Schweinsberg.

The path to success for automakers today in the U.S. market must include a compelling car-based cross/utility vehicle.

Sales data collected by Wards Intelligence for the ’21 model year that just ended Sept. 30 confirms it: 45.3% of vehicles sold were CUVs, up nearly three percentage points from the prior year. Cars accounted for 22.8% of sales, compared with 18.2% for all pickups, 9.1% for all body-on-frame SUVs and 4.6% for vans.

So, is it any wonder that seven of the 2021 Wards 10 Best Interiors winners are utility vehicles? Clearly, automakers are unleashing some of their best interior designers on these segments where volume is flourishing and money is to be made.

We’ve been identifying each winner over the past two weeks in non-alphabetical order, and today the list is complete as the Ford F-150 shines in the winners’ spotlight.

The 2021 Wards 10 Best Interiors are:

  • Bentley Bentayga Speed

  • Ford F-150

  • Ford Mustang Mach-E

  • GMC Yukon Denali XL

  • Honda Civic

  • Hyundai Tucson

  • Jeep Grand Cherokee L

  • Land Rover Defender

  • Mercedes-Benz S-Class

  • Mitsubishi Outlander

That’s a lotta utility right there. The car-based unibody CUVs are the Bentayga, Mach-E, Tucson, Grand Cherokee L, Defender and Outlander, while the Yukon Denali XL is the only body-on-frame SUV. The F-150 pickup also is body-on-frame.

001 2021 10BI

001 2021 10BI

Years ago, when conventional cars ruled the market, even they were body-on-frame, but unibody construction eventually took over most segments to reduce weight and improve ride quality.

That gradual transition brings us to today’s market, where CUVs, SUVs and even some pickup trucks are as comfortable, stylish and technology-packed as many luxury cars – and of course they hold the upper hand in roominess and cargo capacity.

That’s not to say traditional cars are sadly overlooked. The S-Class continues to represent the pinnacle of luxury interior design, and the latest Civic cabin remains what it’s always been: handsome, upscale and a terrific value with impeccable fit-and-finish.

We evaluated 33 vehicles this past summer, and to be eligible an interior must be all-new or significantly improved from the prior year.

2021 Wards 10 BI General Award.png

2021 Wards 10 BI General Award

We score based on materials, comfort, ergonomics, safety, fit-and-finish and, most importantly, aesthetics and design harmony. There’s no price cap but value certainly is a factor.

Part of our scoring also is dedicated to driver information – how user-friendly is the infotainment system?

But that segment of vehicle development has exploded in recent years, keeping pace with consumer-electronics trends tied to connectivity, navigation, voice control and a customized experience behind the wheel.

Its because of this that we split off a third competition dedicated to the user experience. We launched Wards 10 Best UX in 2016, and this year’s nominees were evaluated at the same time we scored 10 Best Interiors vehicles.

WardsAuto will begin naming the 2021 Wards 10 Best UX winners on Thursday, Oct. 21, one day at a time in non-alphabetical order.

Wards 10 Best Interiors winners will be honored in a Nov. 16 ceremony during our Automotive Tech Week, to be held at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, MI. Click here for conference information and registration.

The following day, Nov. 17, Wards 10 Best UX winners will be celebrated.

Read more about:

2021 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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