First, we studied, photographed, drove and tinkered with interiors of 46 vehicles, and shot videos, too. Then we shared notes, voted, argued, researched and reviewed some of the 6,000 photos we took, followed by more debating and voting and, finally, consensus.

That’s how the 2013 Ward’s 10 Best Interiors were selected. It took just over two months for WardsAuto editors to pare the list based on fit-and-finish, comfort, infotainment, aesthetics, ergonomics, safety, material selection and overall value.

Distilling the process to its simplest elements is worthwhile because the questions always pour in this time of year: “How do you pick ’em?” That query generally comes right before this one: “Why the heck isn’t my (insert 5-year-old sports car here) on the list?”

Like it or not, the competition focuses only on vehicles that are all-new or have interiors that have been significantly revamped.

This method works well because every new interior tends to be better than the one it replaces, with richer materials, softer surfaces, the newest electronics and greater attention to detail. In general, the newest interiors are the best.

This year, 46 vehicles from model-year ’13 or ’14 received our undivided attention in the months of February and March. The only ’12 model was the Fisker Karma, which was unavailable for testing last year.

The takeaways from this year’s competition:

  • Asian auto makers overall are producing some fine interiors.
  • Stitching is becoming a vital design element within interiors. White thread makes for great contrast with black leather; the Mazda6 proves three different colors of stitching can work together in harmony. And Cadillac confirms purple isn’t just for hippies.
  • Nine of the 10 winners demonstrate definitively the benefits of an interior that highlights two dominant shades – one light, one dark.
  • Kia is the exception. Its monochromatic black interior is exceedingly handsome and effective, especially with stylistic flourishes such as carbon fiber-like trim and decorative ridges or “gills” on the doors and instrument panel.
  • The color of Jalapeno Green, best described as overheated neon, shouldn’t work inside the Chevy Spark, but it does, truly.
  • Bamboo doesn’t belong solely in tropical forests. It also fits well in luxury cars.
  • Audi interiors are still great, but this happens to be a thin year for Ingolstadt. More Audis will be in the mix next year, so all you Audi enthusiasts can stop crying in your Weissbier.

Winners will be honored at the WardsAuto Interiors Conference, to be held May 22 at The Henry hotel in Dearborn, MI.

tmurphy@wardsauto.com