2019 OD SUV Slugfest: Interiors
So, the big grille, high-riding stance, chunky wheels and swollen wheel arches got you to the showroom. But you're not just going to be staring at your favourite SUV from the outside, all day, are you? In this section, we're looking at every aspect of the area you're spending all your time in the cabin. The goal? To see which one makes you feel the most special, either as a driver, co-passenger or in the rear bench. With the aesthetics of the cabin and overall ambience being pretty high on the list of priorities, we've also looked at the visibility, space (as well as boot space), ergonomics and usability of every SUV here.
But going by how often we get asked about touchscreens and connected technology on offer on the new crop of cars, it seems comfort and usability have taken a back seat for the modern buyer! While the full list of features on offer will be covered in detail, we've also spent a fair amount of time using the infotainment systems on offer to gauge just how user-friendly they are. There's an on-going debate in the office already on how much screen real estate is too much; the early consensus being a definite need for physical controls for basic functions like setting the climate control, or adjusting the volume, at the very least.
The most impressive cabin in this test will come as no surprise. The Volvo XC90 T8 Excellence truly is one of a kind in the SUV space, offering an individual rear seat experience that you're likely to find familiar if you fly business class. And apart from similarly priced luxury sedans, you're not going to find this level of space, luxury (and silence) in any other SUV unless you go way up the price ladder. While you may argue that the basic layout can be found in Volvo's smallest SUV, the XC40, you're definitely not going to find these materials there. From the tissue-soft Nappa leather, to the Alcantara headliner, wood trim and handmade crystal work from Swedish boutique Orrefors, everything comes together to make a truly luxurious and silent cabin. It's not in your face flashy either, with subtle mood lighting and a minimalist aesthetic, which proves sometimes less is more. The rear seats are the same as the front, and can be set to cool, heat or massage you, with enough space to stretch right out. The two individual seats, refrigerator and crystal glasses are specific to the hybrid Excellence trim but a slightly more affordable variant was made available with a rear bench recently. The XC90 was the first to introduce a tablet-like touchscreen to India and while it's slick and easy to get a hang of, physical controls for the air conditioning would have made the system without fault.
Next up, the BMW X5. Immediately what stands out is how far the cabin has come. While the layout remains familiar, the choice of materials, finish and light colours make it feel opulent. The cut crystal gear lever, double stitched leather upholstery, soft close doors help round off the impression. Especially at night, having a lit up panoramic sunroof and extensive mood lighting in your choice of colours definitely creates a special atmosphere, even if it's a little more night club than lounge.
Getting the next highest scores, for a variety of reasons, are the Ford Endeavour, Kia Seltos and MG Hector. Starting with the Endeavour, we liked the expansive interiors (feels even larger thanks to the light-coloured cabin), premium feeling materials and general ease of use of the cabin. It may not be ostentatiously luxurious but it's hugely comfortable whether you're behind the wheel, or being driven.
Onto the Seltos, which is exceedingly well put together and could easily pass off as a German-made car! We liked the effort to stand out, with the square instrument binnacle that stretches across the central console, and the flat-bottomed steering wheel. The infotainment is clear, precise and offers useful split-screen functionality, something we've seen on higher end luxury cars, like the BMW in this test. It may only be marginally larger than a Creta but the Seltos still seats three abreast without issues.
Where the Hector comes into its own is in offering great space. Despite the dark interiors, the Hector still feels almost as roomy as SUVs two segments up, a feeling helped by the segment-breaking panoramic sunroof, which can really make you do a double take the first time you see it. Like in the Volvo, we bemoan the lack of physical controls for critical functions. Overall, the Hector lacks polish, and would've otherwise been at a higher score for offering so much at the price!
We've scored the Honda CR-V, Mahindra Alturas G4, Mahindra XUV300 and Jeep Wrangler at 7, for matching our expectations largely but having compromises of more consequence, especially when their price tags are considered.
The CR-V feels roomy with a clean cabin layout which looks fairly modern, at first. Then you spot the faux wood trim, shiny plastics and outdated UI for the infotainment and even some of the most comfortable seats can't make up for the feeling that the CR-V is out of its depth here.
It's a similar story with the Alturas G4, which despite getting some very premium touches like the quilted-leather trim and upholstery and soft-touch materials around the cabin, ultimately ends up feeling like a collection of parts. We feel a huge mismatch with the thin-rimmed steering wheel and gated gear shifter, which takes away from the experience of piloting a large 7-seater SUV.
Another huge step forwards for Mahindra is the cabin of the XUV300 which left all of us mighty impressed with its space. For a sub-4m SUV, space management is excellent and the dual-tone cabin feels airy. Taking away from the otherwise great cabin is the central console layout which can be frustrating to use while on the go, and the smallest boot in the segment, which is a result of the original design being lopped off to fit the sub-4m space.
The Wrangler's cabin still puts function first, and as a result, there's never any doubt in your mind that you're driving a tank! You sit high enough to have to peer down at people passing you, in Pajeros! Considering the removable three panel roof and doors, the window switches are on the central console and take a moment to find. The rear seats are also quite upright with more lumbar support than what's comfortable.
In the sixes, we have the Hyundai Venue, Jeep Trailhawk and Tata Harrier. Ideally, I would've placed the Venue higher for its perceived quality and great looking cabin but its dark interior does make it feel like it's got the smallest cabin here. Ergonomically, it's a great cabin, and it has one of the largest boots in the segment but can feel cramped for three at the rear.
The Trailhawk gets some nice touches that make the cabin feel special but it loses more than it gains with a lack of key equipment. It also goes from a dual-tone cabin to an all-black one which makes it feel smaller than it is, which isn't acceptable at its price.
The Tata Harrier has the nicest cabin of any Tata we've driven so far but the premium feel of the perforated leather/polished aluminium-styled door handles goes only so far since fit/finish is still not the greatest.
At the bottom of our lists for not offering the basics apart from having poor quality, are the Nissan Kicks and Renault Duster. While the Kicks technically should score better than the very spartan Duster, the leather-covered dash, touchscreen and other functionality doesn't keep you from noticing the obvious shortcomings. The most glaring being the lack of cupholders, or even a decent storage space for your phone. The Duster does a little better in functionality (with the addition of a cooled upper glovebox) but has cheaper feeling plastics.
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