Special Coverage

Auto Interiors Conference

The field of candidates for the 2010 Ward's Interior of the Year awards represents a bumper crop of material advancement, new technology, user-friendly features and eye-pleasing style.

Some 40 vehicles with new or significantly upgraded interiors have been under the microscope of Ward's editors throughout February and March.

The winners will be announced by mid-April and recognized in a special ceremony May 19 at the Ward's Auto Interiors Conference to be held at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Dearborn, MI.

This year’s contenders are divided into six vehicle categories: popular-priced cars, premium-priced cars, hybrid-electric vehicles, sports cars, popular-priced trucks and premium-priced trucks.

The price caps were set at $29,999 for cars and $39,999 for trucks. The vehicles are categorized based on their sticker prices as tested, not on base price.

Last year, a raft of new B-cars was grouped in an “economy car” category (priced under $16,999), and the Honda Fit took top honors.

This year, with so many new hybrid-electric vehicles launching, we created a separate category.

Editors rate each vehicle based on the ergonomics of the controls; quality and feel of the materials; overall comfort; fit and finish; and, of course, value.

Points also are awarded based on the legibility of display screens and a vehicle’s ability to communicate vital information to the driver effectively.

Several vehicles this year impressed the editors with user-friendly high-resolution color display screens offering real-time traffic and weather information anywhere in the U.S.

A number of infractions can lead to low scores, such as excessive hard plastic, obstructed sight lines, poorly fitting trim panels, a shortage of legroom, excessive glare on displays and an overall design that lacks cohesion.

In evaluating interior safety, editors consult crash-test ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Admin. and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, while also considering the application of airbags and the number of backseat head restraints.

The most important category (worth 20 of the 100 points possible) is aesthetics and design harmony.

This is the design studio’s opportunity to shine by delivering a striking passenger compartment that matches the overall character of the vehicle and connects directly with a consumer eager to spend years behind the wheel.

In this category, editors are looking for gorgeous new color schemes; innovative uses of ambient lighting and attractive trim. If the interior sells the vehicle, it is bound to score well in our competition.

The scoring system resembles the well-established model for selecting the Ward’s 10 Best Engines winners. This is the fourth year Ward’s editors have picked the interior honorees in this manner.

The keynote speaker at this year’s Auto Interiors Conference will be J Mays, Ford Motor Co.’s chief creative officer and group vice president-design.

New at this year’s event, Ward’s and its sponsors will recognize interior-design concepts created especially for the conference by students from Detroit’s College for Creative Studies.

WARD’S 2010 INTERIOR OF THE YEAR FINALISTS

    POPULAR-PRICED CARS (-$29,999)
  • Buick Regal
  • Dodge Caliber
  • Hyundai Sonata
  • Kia Forte
  • Mazda3
  • Subaru Outback
  • Suzuki Kizashi
  • Volkswagen Golf
    PREMIUM-PRICED CARS (no cap)
  • BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo
  • Buick LaCrosse
  • Ford Taurus SHO
  • Infiniti M56
  • Lexus IS 250C
  • Nissan Maxima
  • Porsche Panamera
  • Mercedes E350 coupe
    HYBRID-ELECTRIC VEHICLES (no cap)
  • Honda Insight
  • Lexus HS 250H
  • Nissan Altima Hybrid
  • Toyota Prius
    SPORTS CARS (no cap)
  • Chevrolet Camaro
  • Hyundai Genesis coupe
  • Mazdaspeed3
  • Nissan Z roadster
    POPULAR-PRICED TRUCKS (-$39,999)
  • Chevrolet Equinox
  • Honda Accord Crosstour
  • Hyundai Tucson
  • Jeep Patriot
  • Kia Sorento
  • Ram Heavy Duty pickup
  • Toyota 4Runner
    PREMIUM-PRICED TRUCKS (no cap)
  • Acura ZDX
  • Audi Q5
  • Cadillac SRX
  • Land Rover LR4
  • Lexus GX 460
  • Lincoln MKT
  • Mazda CX-9
  • olvo XC60
  • Toyota Sienna

tmurphy@wardsauto.com