We’re told not to judge a book by its cover, and that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. It’s a mantra that can be applied to all walks of life, and automobiles being a perfect example: Take the $67,000 Kia K900 luxury sedan for instance. It’s unassuming and sports a Kia badge, but has an interior that punches well above its weight — and even the weight of cars twice its price.
So what happens when you reverse the roles, and suddenly there’s an attractive looking vehicle that unfortunately lets you down when you climb inside? Regardless of how dependable, fun, or fuel efficient a vehicle may be, if the interior is unpleasant, no one is going to want to ride in it.
In order to keep this cheat sheet brief and business like, we narrowed it down to five offenders, all of which have personally left us wanting and were criticized by other members of the media. While attractiveness is typically a matter of opinion, quality and practicality are not, two key factors that are at the forefront of our minds when reviewing a vehicle.
Naturally, there are dozens of other vehicles out there that have disappointing interiors, and while we would love to include every dated, obscure, and abominable cabin in history, for the sake of time and brevity, our list today is more focused. All five of these vehicles can be fairly easily obtained, and they all have an outward appearance that many find to be fetching. It’s just their interiors fall flat, which is a shame because every single one of these cars was an absolute blast to drive in its own unique way, and we sincerely hope that refreshes will bring forth some favorable cabin overhauls.
1. Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
Long respected for its athletic prowess and ability to make even the most hardcore Mustang guy rethink what a turbocharged four-banger can do, the Mitsubishi Evolution has ascended the ranks as one of the most iconic tuner cars in history. Unfortunately, most of the budget for these things goes into engineering an amazing powertrain, rally-ready suspension, and aggressive aero, leaving interior designers with little more than table scraps for a budget.
While the Evo Final Edition we reviewed did have some great aluminum sport pedals and nice leather door inserts, the economy-class seats, cheap plastic accents, 1990s-grade buttons, and bland interior colors left us unimpressed. But then again, if you’re buying an Evo, you probably already expect these things, and the last time I checked no one was buying these cars because they offered a cushy ride and butt massages.
2. Kia Forte
Much like the aforementioned Evo, the Kia Forte5 SX pictured here was a manually-driven joy, offering a surprisingly rewarding drive. Its interior, on the other hand, proved to be a bit of a bizarre place; for as well-equipped as it may have been, with its heated leather seats, snazzy sport pedals, and over-sized shift knob, it also felt dated and cheap.
From the various oval buttons that looked like they had been recycled from a bin leftover from the late 1990s to the dated looking dash and the overabundance of fake carbon fiber trim, a lot of this cabin felt like it needed a refresh. There were also some consistency issues with dash stitching, as well as with certain knobs and buttons, where one would work perfectly, and the next felt loose (though this could have been a unit-specific issue). The glovebox and center console storage area were very small (even when there was plenty of room to make them larger), and the e-brake was so close to the driver’s seat that it was almost impossible to put one’s hand around it.
3. Toyota Tundra TRD-PRO
Maybe we’re getting spoiled, but it seems like truck interiors are getting to the point where they rival what you find in an average luxury sedan nowadays. From heated seats and steering wheels to clever storage compartments and useful MID controls, the blend of rugged practicality and modern day luxury is one that pickups tend to succumb to regularly.
Unfortunately, the Toyota Tundra TRD-PRO is not one of those trucks, and for all of its brashness and off-road dexterity, it falls flat in the interior department. While everything worked fine inside, the TRD-PRO retains a bare-bones cabin feel that’s endlessly accented with cheap plastics and some dated design cues. Even though the CrewMax cab is quite roomy, and both the gear selector and the AC control knobs are rugged and masculine looking, you can’t get over this feeling that for $45,000 you just bought a hardcore truck that has a cabin out of a Corolla. Once compared to equally priced pickups from the competition, it’s apparent that the Tundra TRD-PRO falls short in the interior arena and could use a refresh.
4. Hyundai Veloster
I personally dig the Hyundai Veloster. It’s this uncouth little spaceship of a car that looks, drives, and rides with the style of an alien aircraft freshly plucked from the imagination of an eight-year-old. Turbocharged, with a manual transmission, and equal parts sporty and strange, this little blue demon is a solid starting point for the Korean automaker, even though it could use some help in the interior department.
In Rally Edition trim, you get that barren economy car vibe that doesn’t feel very special-edition. If the obnoxious “TURBO” stitching and all of the brightly colored plastic accent pieces don’t turn you off, chances are all of the squeaks, groans, and rattles from the loosely joined interior will. Our tester also had a shift knob that spun freely in place, which can bind the reverse gear, which didn’t help its case.
5. Buick Cascada
It’s not often that a new convertible comes to market, and most certainly not under the Buick badge. It may be a hair less powerful than the convertible barges of old, but it handles and drives surprisingly well nevertheless, and it’s certainly not hard on the eyes either.
But climb inside and the Cascada welcomes you with some strange and dated touches. From the outdated orange and black driver MID and the odd criss-crossed perforated seat patterns to the cramped rear seat and overabundance of buttons across the center stack, the Cascada was a bit of a let down internally. Naturally, these are all things that most drivers can learn to live with, but even then we’ll still be curious to see what changes when it’s time for an update down the line.