Affordable Cars With Surprisingly Higher-End Interiors: Top 10

Kyle Patrick
by Kyle Patrick

Car owners spend more time inside their car than looking at it from the outside. So, a car’s interior should be a nice place to be.

Of course, luxury vehicles excel at making sure their drivers have a comfortable and pleasing place to spend time, but luckily for the rest of us, there are plenty of affordable cars with surprisingly higher-end interiors. Crossing the spectrum from sedans, to crossover, SUVs, and electric vehicles, anything can be a nice place to spend some time.

Here are some vehicles with inviting premium-looking interiors despite their modest pricing.

Honda Civic

Starting our list of affordable cars with surprisingly higher-end interiors is the Honda Civic. Honda has given the Civic a seriously upscale makeover for the 11th generation of its compact car. The latest Civic’s interior looks like it belongs in a car a class up. There’s a level of restraint that screams premium, with a smart mesh strip that hides the vents. Twist the climate control dials and there’s a sweet, satisfying click. The top Touring trim uses a larger 9.0-inch infotainment screen, plus a fully digital instrument panel.

Hyundai Sonata

With the market’s continued crossover love affair, mid-size sedans have become more luxurious than ever before. Take the latest Hyundai Sonata. Lots of space, a well-designed, clean dashboard, and everything within reach is soft to the touch. Did we mention the heated and ventilated front seats, plus heating for the rear? If it’s all a little too much, the sporty N Line pulls back on all the interior amenities, and gives you the ability to smoke the tires in third gear. Life; it’s all about balance. Not bad for a family sedan.

Volkswagen Jetta

Volkswagen is a master of walking the line between mainstream and luxury. The restrained interior of the Jetta is the latest example. All the trim pieces are high quality, tasteful metal accents abound, plus the infotainment and instrument panel are both crisp and bright. There’s a real sense of solidity in the Jetta that some cars costing much more could learn from. All that in a package that starts in the low $20,000 range.

Toyota Camry

Toyota used to make interiors that were about as exciting as reading your dishwasher’s instruction manual. But now we find an entry on the affordable cars with surprisingly higher-end interiors list. Despite prices remaining at the affordable end of the spectrum, this Camry’s interior has the kind of quality usually found in higher priced vehicles. An intricately curvy dashboard, quality-looking metal trim pieces, and nicely textured leather seats create a confident-looking package. An even further highlight: Red leather seats!

Ford Mustang

The Mustang always had this knack for making retro-looking interiors that aren’t too kitschy. The latest Mustang has an interior that pays homage to design themes of the past while still embracing a modern feel. It uses finely crafted cabin materials and looks more contemporary than previous models. It sets itself apart from others in its segment. And pricing remains under $30,000 for entry level models.

Kia Sportage

The Kia Sportage features a technologically packed, high-end interior. With dual-mode touch button controls, a fully digital driver information center, there are some trick features not found in vehicles costing twice as much as this compact SUV. The rest of the interior continues this technology-based theme with the majority of surfaces covered in premium materials and pleasing hues.

Mazda CX-50

The Mazda CX-50 continues to have one of the nicest interiors in its segment. With a restrained, yet sophisticated design, it’s the details where the CX-50 really shines. Almost every surface is covered in soft touch materials, including the tops of the rear doors – a place most manufacturers cheap out on. The dash looks elegant and wouldn't be out of place in a luxury vehicle.

Volkswagen Taos

Much like the Jetta mentioned earlier in this list, the Volkswagen Taos adds a lot of sophistication and style to a segment that is usually all about utilitarian designs – small compact SUVs. The digital driver information center and touchscreen infotainment screen are seamlessly integrated into the dashboard’s overall design. Materials are of high quality where the hands touch and eyes see. It feels like a premium little SUV priced amongst its mainstream equivalents.

Mazda CX-30

We can’t get enough of the Mazda CX-30 here at AutoGuide, and a lot of that comes down to its interior. Simply put, you won’t find a better space for under $40,000. The Mazda’s cabin is all soft-touch materials and smooth, almost organic lines. We’ve found less impressive leather in cars costing almost twice as much. If the CX-30 is any indication, Mazda’s goal of graduating from the mainstream to luxury isn’t just a pipe dream, but an inevitability. All this, in a vehicle that starts under $25,000.

Nissan Rogue

It wasn’t long ago that Nissan’s interiors were … well, not good. But the company has a renewed focus on quality cabin time, and nowhere is that more apparent than in its best-selling Rogue crossover. This family hauler is plenty spacious, as before, but it now comes complete with touches more often associated with the next class up. A fully digital instrument panel and large, clear head-up display keeps the driver informed, while the rest of the crew will enjoy Nissan’s comfortable Zero Gravity seats, decked out in quilted leather.

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Kyle Patrick
Kyle Patrick

Kyle began his automotive obsession before he even started school, courtesy of a remote control Porsche and various LEGO sets. He later studied advertising and graphic design at Humber College, which led him to writing about cars (both real and digital). He is now a proud member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), where he was the Journalist of the Year runner-up for 2021.

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 1 comment
  • Gerard Gerard on Oct 17, 2023

    Every single Mazda model should be on this list. For all of the accolades given to the new Honda Civic, by comparison the Mazda3 looks like an Audi.