Your car’s cabin is important because you spend all your time sitting in it. Driving is difficult enough as it is but if you’re uncomfortable, or if it’s too hard to just put the radio on, then it can make a long journey feel like a war of attrition.
Cabins become even more essential to a car’s success as you move upmarket. Executive buyers insist on comfy seats and plenty of technology to keep them occupied on the long drive between the office and their homes.
We agonised over the shortlist for this year’s award but, ultimately, it had to go to the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class. It has a list of talents as long as your arm but mainly it’s the quality and sheer attractiveness of its design that wins it the top award.
The first thing about the C-Class’ cabin is the sheer attractiveness of the design. A swoopy centre console runs down the front half of the cabin and looks like it’s been hewn from one solid block of wood. The rest of the interior is dominated by wood, leather and metal in an elegant yet sophisticated design.
A number of highlights includes an optional Burmester stereo that features speaker grilles cut and shaped by lasers. The central controller for the infotainment system incorporates a touch-pad to enter addresses by hand and forms a miniature sculpture in the centre console.
Mercedes knew it couldn’t make any excuses in this department to take on the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series. It’s not only matched its rivals – it’s completely blown them out of the water with a cabin that wouldn’t look out of place on the larger S-Class than the compact C-Class.
The high quality is most evident in the switchgear because Mercedes has fitted real metal knobs and switches borrowed from the S-Class where most makers would fit metal-look plastic switches. It’s a small difference but the improvement in perceived quality is tangible once you sit in its rivals.
There’s nothing that ground-breaking inside the C-Class – but this only goes to show how much in-car technology has come on in the last few years. What really impresses is the tech on offer to maximise the comfort of passengers. So you can, for the first time in the market segment, specify air suspension for the C-Class meaning longer journeys shouldn’t be a hassle at all.
Take a look at our runners up – the Audi TT and the Citroen C4 Cactus – both of which came very close to snatching the top spot from Mercedes. Then have a look at our other 2014 carwow award winners to help you make the best car buying decision.