As most of us know, while an attractive exterior is a plus, it's what's inside that counts. And, the same can be said of car design. Think back to the last car you bought. Although it was how the car looked from the outside that probably drew you in, it was those all-important interior additions that kept you interested, right?
Over the years, interior design has progressed in much the same way that cars' exteriors have too. Sure, the steering wheel, information gauges and controls for the air con all come as standard (at least for now, anyway), there's a greater focus on the quality of materials used and the ways in which technology is leveraged. These innovations add up to optimise the driver's comfort and experience in refreshing, creative ways.
Looking for something new that you can admire every time you get behind the wheel? To help out, we've come up with a selection of stylish car interiors, as well as some future developments that we can expect to see in the next few years.
It's not just the all-electric engine of the Honda E that impresses; the car's straightforward, minimalist interior looks superb too. It has a comforting, roomy feel with superbly soft seats, while a wood trim on the dashboard and gearstick area adds a distinctive, retro look to things.
In addition, the Honda E's plethora of dashboard screens present a wealth of information, including mirror-camera displays and even a virtual aquarium for a more serene driving experience.
Hyundai Santa Fe
There's an increasing blurring of the lines between what is luxury and what isn't when it comes to vehicle interiors, and the Hyundai Santa Fe is a prime example of that. Stylish and spacious, the Santa Fe's interior is marked by sleek lines and high-quality materials, particularly on its soft-touch surfaces.
Also notable is its sound insulation, which delivers a quiet drive with minimal road and wind noise even at typical motorway speeds and on unpaved roads. Meanwhile, the Santa Fe's infotainment system has a quicker input response compared to previous models, with Apple CarPlay and Android as standard too, allowing for user-friendly control over your music and other entertainment, optimised by a 12-speaker Infinity surround sound system.
Volvo XC60 SUV
The Swedish manufacturer's interior designs have always impressed thanks to their excellent comfort and strong tech offerings, and the XC60 SUV is no different. With its sleek black palette and refined ambient lighting, even in cars of this class, the XC60 stands out. Nappa leather seats add to the upmarket feel too, delivering plush comfort on uneven surfaces.
The car's 9-inch infotainment dashboard is also noteworthy, allowing for satnav, climate, and stereo system control with impressive ease.
Mazda 3 Hatchback
With sharp looks to both the interior and exterior, the Mazda 3 has plenty going for it. And rather than over-stocking it with gizmos and gadgetry, the beauty of its interior is the pared-down simplicity. If you dislike cars with too many settings and buttons, the Mazda3's sharp lines and easy-to-use rotary dials make for a great alternative. Rather than modes that adjust the weight of the steering or how the engine feels, there's an uncomplicated vibe to things that puts the focus on driving.
And when you're on the go, the infotainment system can only be controlled by a rotary controller by the gear lever, so you can sort your entertainment easily while still keeping your eyes on the road.
Iconic car interior classics
Sometimes the classics never go out of style. Although the interiors of the below are a product of their time, they've still carved a place in history thanks to their iconic looks.
The C1 Corvette boasts that classic, 1950s drive-in movie feel that we know and love — its moulded dash, chrome-trimmed gauges and seats integrated into the rear deck providing a real blast from the past.
1963 Mercedes 600
A true example of '60s flash, the rear-facing seats, wood trim, carpet and even a TV seem to resemble a living room on wheels rather than the usual car interior, but we love it for its ridiculous excesses!
1978 Cadillac El Dorado Biarritz
An iconic, pedal-to-the-metal classic, the Cadillac El Dorado brings to mind 70s-era Americana in an instant thank to its plush seating, huge steering wheel and deep red hues of its soft-touch surfaces.
1987 Ferrari F40
Designed more for function rather than form, when you're only job is to get from A to B as fast as possible, the F40's interior didn't seem to matter. Not exactly luxurious, but the unencumbered retro-futurist look still makes an impact.
The future of car interior design
With technology and design constantly evolving, where car interiors are headed to next provides an exciting glimpse into the future. On the horizon sooner than we may think are the following:
Heads-up display windshield
The windshield of a car creates some prime real estate for displaying information, which is exactly what Heads-Up Display (HUD) technology strives to achieve. Everything from speed and navigation to safety alerts can be shown on the windshield to inform the driver without them having to take their eyes off the road.
Voice-activated car OS
Though voice activated speech-and-response systems are in place in some recent car models, its potential to allow vehicles to be fully navigable and controlled by voice is currently driving this innovation. This means we may be able to activate high beams and cruise control, for example, all through the power of our voice.
Incorporation of natural fibres
Plastic is commonly used in seats, door panels, upholstery and instrument panels due to its durability, low density and aesthetic appeal, but some manufacturers are looking to incorporate natural fibres into their materials.
For example, the door panelling and instrument panel cover on the BMW i3 is made from Kenaf, a fast-growing plant combined with fibres of polypropylene that's then covered with a water-thin black decorative film, laminated onto the surface. It's said that using such a material reduces the weight by about 30-45%
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