Most of us spend a lot of time in our cars — between commuting, running errands, transporting others, or long trips, we usually log many hours a week in our vehicles. With that in mind, you probably want a car that’s not just transportation, but also a nice place to be — a comfortable spot with nice materials laid out in a logical, thoughtful manner, and maybe even one that’s nice to look at.
We understand this desire — so we’ve laid out the 10 best car interiors you can get for under $50,000. We’ve focused on the latest models, and most have been updated recently to offer handsome, comfortable, thoughtfully-planned interiors that strike us as a nice place to spend time. Choose any one of these vehicles, and we suspect you’ll be a little happier during the hours of the week you spend in your car.
2018 Audi Q5
The recently updated Audi Q5 boasts new styling and a sporty character — especially compared to many rival crossovers. But the main attraction is the interior, which is especially handsome. Not only are the materials fantastic, but most Q5 models boast Audi’s excellent (and surprisingly easy to use) “Virtual Cockpit,” which offers full-screen map capabilities in the gauge cluster — one of the best infotainment features on the market. Even beyond Virtual Cockpit, however, everything is laid out as you’d expect and finished nicely.
2018 BMW i3
The BMW i3 is a plug-in hybrid or fully electric car with one of the most unusual interiors in the car business. Constructed using the “maximum amount possible” of recycled materials, the interior is a love-it-or-hate-it affair — but regardless of your feelings about it, you can certainly tell the i3’s cabin has some big differences from a standard car interior. From the eucalyptus wood to seats made from “active” wool (a material that includes recycled plastic bottles), the i3’s cabin sets it apart from a standard vehicle — as if the exterior design didn’t do that enough already.
2018 Buick Enclave
Shoppers interested in a luxury crossover have waited patiently for a new 2018 Buick Enclave, as the outgoing model was excellent when it first came out in 2008 — before it was eventually surpassed by newer rivals with better interiors and other improvements. But the 2018 Enclave is fully redesigned and it’s a huge step up, touting a gorgeous, luxurious interior with a simple, elegant design and handsome materials. In an age of car interiors that constantly seem to have an “attitude” with sharp angles and creases, the Enclave’s cabin is more graceful than most.
2018 Genesis G80
Hyundai has launched its new Genesis brand with several handsome sedans. While the range-topping G90 is out of our self-imposed $50,000 budget, the mid-level G80 is an excellent car — and it boasts excellent materials, with a handsome cabin that’s laid out well. While the G80’s interior doesn’t have any crazy swoops or unusual design elements to make it especially memorable, its combination of nice materials, comfortable seats, lots of cabin space, and well-placed controls ensures it’s an excellent place to spend time.
2018 Kia Stinger
The Kia Stinger is Hyundai’s first rear- or all-wheel drive sport sedan, and it’s meant to be a budget-priced alternative to established models from BMW or Audi. Its exterior styling is certainly promising, but the interior is just as nice — a handsome cabin with great materials and intuitive controls. There’s also a surprising amount of rear-seat room for a sport sedan — and we’re impressed with the door panels, which boast impressive quality typically befitting a more expensive vehicle.
2018 Lincoln Continental
The Lincoln Continental is a gorgeous full-size luxury sedan with a beautiful interior. While other automakers have adopted interior design that’s intentionally daring, Lincoln has instead stayed in the realm of traditional luxury with comfortable seats, a roomy cabin and easy-to-use controls with obvious placements. The Continental touts excellent materials, too, and test cars we’ve driven didn’t exhibit any unpleasant squeaks or rattles where we wouldn’t expect — another sign of high quality.
2018 Mazda CX-9
Although the Mazda CX-9 was on our list of the best interiors under $50,000 last year, we brought it back this year because the interior is — quite simply — still one of our favorites. It’s roomy, it’s versatile and it’s attractive — and while some people don’t like the “pop up” screen on the dashboard, we find that it’s surprisingly easy to use and intuitive. If you’re buying a midsize crossover based on the interior quality alone, stick the CX-9 at the top of your list — especially the top-of-the-line Signature model, which starts around $45,400.
2018 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
The interior of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class seems to improve dramatically with each passing redesign — and the latest model is certainly the best yet. While the C-Class still doesn’t offer the desirable “dual screen” setup you’ll find in an E- or S-Class, it still touts excellent materials, comfortable seats and good controls that feel almost satisfying to touch. The C-Class was on our list of the best interiors under $50,000 last year, and it returns this year because we think it’s still among the very best cabins in the industry.
2018 Ram 1500
Although there’s an all-new, fully-redesigned 2019 Ram set to debut soon, we’re still smitten with the interior in the outgoing 2018 model. The Ram’s position on this list doesn’t apply to the base model, which is little more than a work truck with bare-bones necessities — but as you escalate through the Ram’s trim levels, the interior improves dramatically, with some top-end models offering luxury car levels of comfort and sophistication. We’re especially impressed with rear seat room in Quad Cab models, and we love all the available technology — and the comfortable, roomy seats.
2018 Volvo XC60
The 2018 Volvo XC60 is fully redesigned with a handsome new cabin that resembles the gorgeous, highly praised interior in the larger XC90. It features a large touchscreen that’s tremendously responsive and intuitive, and easily ranks as one of the best in the car world. It also features good materials, excellent quality and Volvo’s famously comfortable seats. If you like the XC60’s interior (and how couldn’t you?), but you need more space, check out the larger XC90, whose cabin is also sure to impress.