Awards for great interiors go to cheap cars – USA TODAY

Posted: Sunday, May 25, 2014

A pair of unexpected automakers had a very good day when the editors of Ward’s Auto World magazine honored the best new automotive interiors in Dearborn last week.

Chrysler Group and Hyundai-Kia each placed two vehicles among the 10 winners — more than luxury icons BMW, Jaguar and Lexus.

“The line separating luxury and mainstream is becoming extremely blurry” when it comes to interior looks, feel and features, Auto World editor-in-chief Drew Winter.

Maybe so, but Ward’s top 10 includes two cars with six-figure sticker prices — the Mercedes-Benz S550 and Rolls-Royce Wraith.

Ward’s editors evaluated 41 vehicles in every market segment to choose the winner. Any vehicle that’s new or has a new interior was eligible.

Here are the top 10, with the price of the model tested and some standout features. They’re in alphabetical order.

•2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray ($71,960) — The first Corvette with an interior as good as the car’s exterior design and performance. The designers were “on a mission to compete with much more expensive cars” like the Porsche 911, Winter said. Highlights include supportive, sporty seats, a suede-like headliner and a high-visibility instrument cluster. “It’s what Corvette owners have always wanted: A truly great interior,” Ward’s executive editor Tom Murphy said.

•2015 Chrysler 200C ($31,470) — Chrysler’s new midsize sedan boasts a “well-equipped, roomy, handsome and clever” interior, Murphy said. Noteworthy features include a piece of wood trim that’s nearly three feet long and plenty of storage and prices starting at $21,700.

•2014 GMC Sierra Denali ($56,685) — The Sierra Denali luxury pickup won because it couples capability and comfort. Ward’s editors singled out attractive metallic trim and multiple power outlets for electronic gizmos.

•2014 Hyundai Equus Ultimate ($68,920) — “Anybody who doubts Hyundai can make a luxury car clearly hasn’t climbed behind the wheel of an Equus,” Winter said. Developed with chauffeured passengers in mind, the “impeccably finished” Equus has a reclining rear seat and brushed aluminum trim.

•2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited ($37,525) — “Two words come to mind: rugged style,” Murphy said. The Cherokee scored points for advanced connectivity, comfortable and attractive two-tone leather seats and details like a double line of stitching across the top of the dash and a beefy shifter.

•2014 Kia Soul ($24,010) — The least expensive winner scored with a combination of value and offbeat design. Ward’s praised it as “a small car, but it offers a lot of room and doesn’t feel cheap,” thanks to soft-touch materials and details like lime green stitching that complement the exterior paint.

•2014 Mazda3 ($30,415) — “It’s a compact car that’s a step above the mainstream,” Murphy said. Designers took some chances with features like multicolor gauges, stitching in three different colors and two-tone perforated leather.

•2014 Mercedes-Benz S550 ($122,895) — A benchmark for the whole industry, for its combination of aesthetics, technology and safety, Winter said. The interior features a double-wide display for navigation, rear headrests designed to mimic pillows and a “hot stone” massage feature that combines heat and pressure to remove the kinks after a long day at the wheel.

•2014 Rolls-Royce Wraith ($372,800) — From lamb’s wool floor mats to wood panels big enough to deck a yacht, the Wraith redefines “handcrafted interior” for the 21st Century. And don’t forget the starlight headliner. It’s made of leather and has 1,340 variable-intensity fiber optic lights to mimic the night sky. For a few dollars more, Rolls will craft the owner’s zodiac sign into the scene.

•2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI (Est. $30,695) — Another compact that sidesteps the mainstream, the sporty GTI hatchback features bright red stitching and supportive deeply sculpted seats. Brushed aluminum trim and a user-friendly touch screen keep the dark gray interior from seeming overly severe.


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