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Dark Car Interiors Are Ugly

I hate dark grey or black interiors. They’re awful. I can understand when buying a used car or there are just no choices, but today we have so many good interior color choices. A Volvo dealer in Marietta, Georgia, told me Denim Blue exterior with a cream-colored interior is the most popular color combination for the XC60. Good! Color is cool; color is life. Black seats, black dash, grey steering wheel, grey center console – It just loses all the detail. Who would want to drive a car with an interior custom-made as a place where light goes to die?

Some Do Dark Well

2023 Mazda CX-50 front cabin black interior

And to make matters worse, add some of that glossy so-called seat “protectant.” Gross. It must be because that was the look inside every Camaro I saw in my high school hometown of Roseville, California. I didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it now. Dark interiors make even expensive cars look cheap. Occasionally, someone does it nicely. Mazda’s CX-50 is a good example. Some Lexus and Mercedes-Benz cars do black interior well also, and the black and white you can get in the Kia EV6 is decent, too.

Too Many Fingerprints

One thing that has to stop is “piano black” car interiors. Honestly, what is that? Aren’t most pianos wood colored anyway? Oh, I get it, “Grand” pianos are usually black so, you know, fancy and all. Still, not all pianos are black, and when a piano, or anything in life, is black, isn’t it just called “Gloss Black” or “flat black?” Besides, When did gloss black become a thing for car interiors? When did we decide buyers want every interior surface made of a fingerprint, goop, gunk, and dust magnet?

If you have a car with a black exterior, you probably love cleaning it or seeing it clean all the time. The truth is, there’s no reason to touch the outside of a car other than the door handles, trunk release, or to fix or wash it. So a car with a black exterior might look sharp. On the other hand, you literally touch everything on a car’s interior. Glossy black interiors are a hassle and unattractive. Flat black and gloss black interiors are low-budget looking and unattractive.

An Expert Says…

2022 Kia Telluride Interior

There’s also some science here. Light colors reflect light, so the contours, patterns, and textures stand out. In short, the driver and passengers in a car can better experience the vehicle’s interior as intended. There’s a reason many concepts or show car interiors, if they have an interior, are usually finished in a light color. Black absorbs all the light. An all-black or dark interior largely hides the shapes, patterns, and the designer’s intentions.

I asked Kia’s Chief Designer why many concepts or show cars have light-colored interiors. After all, Kia is kind of on a roll. Vehicles like the EV6, Telluride, and Niro are among the freshest-looking vehicles in their segments. Tom Kearns, Kia’s Chief Designer in the U.S., told me a “… dark or black interior usually doesn’t show the design well either in person or photos.” Exactly!

There is an element of this that comes down to personal taste. It’s like listening to a new song through your phone’s tiny, built-in speaker. Some people actually like that. Yeah, you hear it, and you can probably appreciate the melody, but a decent pair of headphones brings out the subtleties of the music and the production. That little phone speaker is like an all-black interior. Sure, it gets the job done, but without all the detail and artistry the designer or composer intended. I’m not wrong. See new cars for sale

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Brian Moody
Brian Moody
Brian Moody is an author specializing in transportation, automotive, electric cars, future vehicles as well as new, used, and certified pre-owned advice. He also specializes in liking ridiculous cars like the Buick Reatta, Studebaker Lark, and the GM A-Body wagons from the late 80s and mid-90s. Why? You'd have to ask him. Brian graduated from Cal State Long Beach and has been creating written... Read More about Brian Moody

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  1. I also disagree. I buy used cars vs new, and as others have mentioned, a lighter interior can look grungier than darker interior (unless immaculately maintained). I’m good with a darker interior so long as it’s dark gray or black.

  2. I 100% disagree! I only have black interior in my cars and they are never get finger prints or look bad. I think lighter interiors tend to start looking dirty, damaged and grungy. I will never get a light interior in my car.

  3. Black as a dust magnet – so true! With the larger screens in cars these days, it means more dusting. Not a fan of gloss or too much black.

  4. Bravo! I’ve seen a few red interiors (at least the seats) that I find atrocious. Maybe it gives a racecar feeling to some folks. To me, red upholstery is just plain horrible to look at and far worse than black.

    • Red interior on some white convertibles looks good…, then again, I’m picturing cars from the 1960s, not from 2020.

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