It’s getting harder and harder to work out which cars are better than others these days.

I used to love my old soft top, but it did have a tendency to break down. I remember going on a road trip that was cut short by a faulty engine – luckily, we stopped right near the beach, so we took the sleeping bags down there for the night. I got quite a rude shock though when we woke up – we’d camped out on a (now very well-populated) nudist beach!

These days, cars perform so consistently that it’s hard to imagine that happening anymore.

People who are paid to review them seem to agree. Gone are the days of rust and breakdowns, says Erin Baker in The Telegraph.

“It’s probably true that there’s no such thing as a bad car these days.”

But ‘there are, however, still plenty of bad car interiors.’ And finally car manufacturers are starting to take note. Theo Nissim recently wrote in Ward Auto that ‘interior quality is one of the most critical differentiating factors when it comes to high-priced automobiles.’ He mentioned a couple of car manufacturers who get this – including Audi and Volvo.

Matthew Symonds in the Economist’s 1843 magazine agreed about the flagging importance of performance in relation to car interiors.

“Safety and reliability are not differentiators either, for most cars have a fair claim to both… cabins have become the biggest point of difference between brands.”

If that’s indeed true, what are brands doing to show off their car interiors to potential buyers?

Cabins have become the biggest point of difference between brands. - Highlight to share -

Well, some brands have been going to great lengths to woo journalists. Erin Baker found Peugeot’s approach particularly exciting.

“Such was the fanfare for this new interior design, Peugeot bussed us all to its secret facility outside Paris which used to house the French President’s cars, and where the translator for the unveiling breathed in husky tones down my earpiece: “The i-Cockpit makes you want to lightly touch and stroke the controls… You can feel it’s silky and warm… Feeling all the massage that’s available in these seats… It increases one’s sense of self-worth.” It was like a strange automotive kama sutra and I had to go outside for a breath of fresh air.”

Hmm. Interesting.

It’s one thing to try and convince journalists, but what about the people buying the cars? Let’s not forget they’ve got some clout as well.

UGC and car interiors

We’ve spoken extensively about the importance of UGC (user-generated content) in the car industry. We wrote about how Mercedes-Benz had organised ‘a steady pipeline of stylish, fun, experience-focused, millennial-specific images of vehicles,’ with their latest campaign to ‘banish the reputation of ‘stuffy-elitism’ that the brand had developed’ . There are lots of other brands that have shown exemplary use of UGC (look at our list).

But perhaps UGC is best suited to showing off interiors. Symons quoted Stefan Sielaff, head of design at Bentley, in his article:

“In the fight to appeal to the customer, the moment of first love may come from the external design. But it is the interior design that will create the bond of a long-lasting relationship.”

It’s true: we may fall in love with the exterior, but drivers see, feel and use the interior far more. That’s what they develop an intimate relationship with. So shouldn’t brands be showing off how their customers see, feel and use interiors?

And what better way to do that than ask owners of the car to send photos and videos of how they use it: how they fold down seats to fit furniture in, how they use compartments to store drinks, sweets and snacks, how they can fit three dogs and suitcase in the back. We’ve found from our experience that owners are only too happy to share those moments with you if you ask.

It's true: we may fall in love with the exterior, but drivers see, feel and use the interior far more. - Highlight to share -

So are there any brands that are doing this kind of UGC well? Mazda is doing it with Experiences on its MX-5 page. It uses UGC to get across what it really feels like to be in the car.

– Phillip from Derbyshire left an ecstatic comment:

Phillip

– Phyllis from Kilmarnock was also pretty happy:

Phyllis

– John from Horsham was a fan of the hidden cubby holes:

John

So perhaps it’s time to look on the inside… after all, that’s what they say counts. And UGC is the perfect way to make sure you get that insider view.

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Car interiors: the new differentiator?