Volkswagen has struck the perfect chord with the interior of the seventh-generation ’15 Golf GTI, balancing sporty good looks with topnotch build quality and just enough flair to let owners know they’re driving something special.

For this year’s Ward’s 10 Best Interiors testing, editors drove the Autobahn edition, which features black-leather seating surfaces accented with red stitching, as well as matte-finish metallic accents. The red stitching punctuates the black surfaces and signals a high degree of craftsmanship and attention to detail. Yes, plaid is still available.

Other touches not often found in vehicles in this class include an aluminum sill plate, plenty of soft-touch surfaces and tight seams between connecting panels.

The sporty feel of the cabin comes courtesy of a meaty steering wheel for easy gripping, a GTI shift-knob and stainless-steel pedals and footrest. Best of all are the well-bolstered seats that grip the body comfortably, but with authority when aggressively cornering.

Switchgear is intuitive, easily within reach, and doesn’t feel flimsy when handled. The glowing red needles of the tachometer and speedometer are nice touches that further highlight the GTI’s athletic nature.

The infotainment system makes it easy to pair a phone and access other functions, including a state-of-the-art 3-D navigation system, while climate-control switches are placed under the 5.8-in. (14.7-cm) touchscreen for fast-and-easy operation.

The interior is surprisingly spacious for a car this size, with extra leg and elbow room compared with the outgoing model in both front and back. Additionally, cargo capacity is increased nearly 30%, giving the GTI a cavernous hold able to swallow up a weekend’s worth of gear with ease.

Significant effort was made to make the passenger space driver-friendly. Little things such as moving the wide center console toward the driver and providing a storage compartment for a smartphone or other electronic device make this interior not only livable but eagerly anticipated each day.

Everything about the interior just seems right and, with an as-tested sticker price under $31,000, the GTI represents a terrific value in today’s marketplace and raises the bar for competitors.

One editor sums it up best, noting on his score sheet that with the GTI, “VW has figured out how to do a premium-looking sporty interior that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.”

bpope@wardsauto.com