A theme hard to ignore in the 2015 Ward’s 10 Best Interiors competition is the continued reinvention of the truck market. For the first time, two dedicated pickups make the list, the Ford F-150 and GMC Canyon.
Of course, the definition of trucks has evolved to include all manner of light-duty grocery-getting kid haulers with unibody architectures, such as the Nissan Murano and Jeep Renegade CUVs and Kia Sedona minivan.
Many shoppers would not confuse any of these vehicles with a conventional pickup, or vice versa. And yet, as this year’s Ward’s 10 Best Interiors honorees illustrate, the aesthetics, quality, comfort and materials found in today’s “trucks” make them the best ever.
Think back 20 years, before the arrival of enormously popular CUVs, and the state of truck interiors was downright dismal.
It was in 1998 when light-truck sales began outpacing cars in the U.S., achieving a 51% market share for the first time by the end of that year, according to WardsAuto data.
By July 2005, light trucks reached their high-water mark, 60.6% of the U.S. market, riding the popularity of pickups, SUVs, CUVs and minivans. Through March, light trucks continue to hold a robust 54.7% of the U.S. light-vehicle market.
The sales data are clear: Americans like the size and flexibility of vehicles that are bigger than cars, but they don’t want a bare-bones interior whose finest attribute is the rubberized floormats that can be removed and hosed off after a long day at a muddy worksite.
They want utility vehicles with stylish car-like interiors – interiors like those found in the Murano, Renegade, Sedona, F-150 and Canyon.
This is the first time five vehicles classified as light trucks have made our list. Two years ago, there were four.
Cars always have been well-represented on the Ward’s 10 Best Interiors list. This year’s car honorees are the BMW i3, Chrysler 300, Honda Fit, Mazda6 and Mercedes C-Class.
All five are brilliantly executed, well appointed, cleverly detailed and reasonably priced. The i3 gets special recognition for its extensive use of recycled and sustainable materials.
WardsAuto editors spent February and March evaluating and scoring 42 vehicles with all-new or significantly improved interiors before selecting the winners. There is no price cap for entries, unlike the Ward’s 10 Best Engines competition.
This year’s field included nine CUVs, eight luxury cars, eight mainstream cars, seven luxury CUVs/SUVs, four sports cars, three pickup trucks, two minivans and one cargo van.
For the next two weeks, WardsAuto will present articles and photo galleries featuring the winners, some of the losers and other trends we spotted through the course of this year’s evaluations.
The winners will be honored in a special ceremony May 13 at the WardsAuto Interiors Conference at Detroit’s newly renovated Cobo Center.