Winners announce at Ward's Auto Interior Show ~ Auto Guru India - Junction of News, Auto Reviews, Advice

Jun 6, 2008

Winners announce at Ward's Auto Interior Show

Detroit - For the first time in several years, foreign nameplates outshined domestic competitors for top honors in the 2008 Ward's "Interior of the Year" Awards. And unlike previous years, no brand won more than a single award.

Chosen by the editors of Ward's Automotive Group, the prestigious awards were presented today to executives of the automakers at a special program held on the floor of the Ward's Auto Interiors Show at Detroit's Cobo Center.

In all, 36 vehicles from 13 manufacturers were in contention to win an "Interior of the Year" award. The editorial staff of Ward's conducted a two-month review of the 36 nominated vehicles and selected the winners based on eight evaluation categories including material selection; ergonomics; driver information; safety; overall value; comfort; fit and finish; and aesthetics and design harmony. Winners were decided by overall points earned. To be eligible for the competition, the vehicle or its interior had to be new in 2008.

And the "Interior of the Year" winners are....

Car Category:
Ward's editors voted the Suzuki SX4 Sport the best interior in Economy-Priced Cars (-$16,999). The editors praised the SX4 dashboard as a clean, simple alternative to button-happy center stacks. The attractive faux metallic trim surrounding the audio and climate controls as well as the leather-wrapped steering wheel sealed the deal. They concluded the SX4 proves an inexpensive car doesn't have to be a cheap one.

The remodeled Chevy Malibu, winner of the Popular-Priced Cars ($17,000 - $29,999) category, won kudos for its dramatically different, modern and appealing interior. The editors said the harmonious design creates an upscale aura that demonstrates the successful execution of a singular design strategy by a team with a united vision. The editors' general consensus was that the Malibu is a great value.

"The Jaguar XF interior has redefined luxury, creating a fantasy that sells the car like few other vehicles tested this year," says Drew Winter, Ward's AutoWorld editor-in-chief, describing the winner of the Premium-Priced Car segment (+$30,000). "The XF's interior exudes luxury and personality as if it were creating it by photosynthesis. Push the pulsating start button and it literally comes alive. The air vent doors open in unison, and the unique circular gearshift dial emerges from a recess in the center console. It gets your blood moving and makes you feel special from the moment you sit down."

The editors selected the Audi TT as winner of a new category this year-Sports Cars (+$30,000). The TT garnered praise from the Ward's staff for its soft, high-quality materials and precise switchgear, as well as its contemporary design. Editors were impressed with the car's premium feel, sporty seats and an IP with white-on-black gauges and brushed-metallic accents.

Truck Category:
Ward's editors were effusive with praise for the affordable 6-passenger Mazda5 CUV, winner of the Popular-Priced Truck category (-$34,999). The Mazda5, particularly its interior, could very well redefine trucks for a new generation of consumers. It offers all the convenience of a car, truck and minivan, combined, the editors said. One staffer called it, "one of the most functional vehicles ever." With a lively, fuel-efficient 4-cylinder engine and room for six, the editors said the Mazda5 is the kind of vehicle many Americans will crave as gas prices soar.

Despite some very tough competition, the Chrysler Town & Country was named winner of the Premium-Priced Trucks category (+$35,000). The editors cited a feature-laden interior with elegant discreet ambient lighting, richly upholstered seats and Chrysler's exclusive MyGIG infotainment system as reasons it outscored formidable nominees. Furthermore, the editors were impressed with Swivel 'n Go seating that allows second-row passengers to face rearward safely and comfortably, an advancement the editors say "portends true sociopolitical advancement."

Special Achievement Awards:
In addition to the vehicle awards recognizing overall interiors, Ward's editors also singled out four models for special recognition in four categories. Winner of the Best Brand Expression award is the Volvo C30; for Electronic Innovation it's the Infiniti EX35; Best Redesign goes to the Hyundai Sonata; and Clever Utility is awarded to the Dodge Journey. The vehicle awards are summarized in this table:

Award Category


Economy-Priced Car(-$16,999)

Suzuki SX4 Sport

Popular-Priced Car($17,000 - $29,999)

Chevrolet Malibu

Premium-Priced Car(+30,000)

Jaguar XF

Sports Car(+$30,000)

Audi TT

Popular-Priced Truck(-$34,999)


Premium-Priced Truck(+$35,000)

Chrysler Town & Country

Awards Highlight Importance of Interiors to Vehicle Sales:
With automotive interiors taking a leading role in brand differentiation and in winning over the hearts and minds of consumers, the Interior of the Year awards continues to grow in popularity and prestige among the automakers.

A J.D. Power & Associates study showed interior comfort is the second most important factor in choosing a vehicle, ranking ahead of exterior styling and just behind reliability and durability. Many automakers showcase their Interior of the Year awards in vehicle brochures and national advertising.

"In the years since we've been holding this competition, we've seen marked improvements in the overall design and quality of all automotive interiors, even in the economy segment," Winter says.

"It's no longer acceptable to have a cheap looking interior, even in economy-priced vehicles. This is great for consumers, but it makes our job a lot more challenging."

Changes this year included creation of a new category - Sports Cars over $30,000 - because of a bumper crop of these vehicles this model year. Likewise, CUVs were consolidated this year into the overall Truck category along with pickups, SUVs and minivans.

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