There's Something Wrong With Every New Car Interior

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Image for article titled There's Something Wrong With Every New Car Interior
Photo: DS

Center consoles need to put themselves in the trash.

This is the brand-new DS4, a near-luxury French hatchback not for sale in America. It’s something like a European Infiniti or Acura, I guess, if neither of them were trying to be sporty. Here is the rather subdued exterior:

Image for article titled There's Something Wrong With Every New Car Interior
Photo: DS

The DS4 looks like it’s a fine car but this is pissing me off:

Image for article titled There's Something Wrong With Every New Car Interior
Photo: DS
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That’s right, the giant center console. I think I should call it the “transmission hump” but this car has a standard front-engine/front-wheel-drive-oriented layout that doesn’t have a big transmission pushing into the cabin.

See, if you found yourself driving a 1960s MG, you’d have a little hump to your right. Your transmission would be in there.

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This DS doesn’t have all of that sitting beside you. It’s just a block of space rising up to meet you. Cocooning you. Making your car feel tiny. I think it’s supposed to give a bank vault kind of vibe. I hate it.

Practically speaking, there is something going on with the center console between the front two seats and bending up to meet the dashboard. There are controls there, and there is storage there. On this DS we see that the modes of the car and the gear selector are in the center console, and there are some storage cubbies, too. You can put your phone and keys and napkins and sunglasses in there! That’s what it does.

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But these cubbies aren’t nearly as big as just ... not having anything there! You could just move your transmission controls to the dashboard and pull away the rest of the wasted space. Some modern cars do this! That 2007 Prius you see on the road, still beloved by its aged-out hippie owners is set up like this. It’s roomy! It can be done.

Now, you might be wondering why I seem so keen on this issue. After all, you’ve probably driven or ridden in new cars that have big center consoles like this and haven’t thought anything about them. There’s a place to rest your arm, there’s a place for your cupholder. What’s not to like?

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What you may not have experienced is a car with absolutely no transmission hump or center console when it doesn’t need one. Here, for instance, is an old 1960s Saab 96. It’s a vintage car, pretty much an antique at this point. But it’s still front-wheel drive and doesn’t have a transmission that intrudes into the cabin, so its layout is relatively modern. And look at how much space you have ahead of you and beside you! You and the person sitting next to you are sharing the same cabin, the same room. I’ve driven one of these things and it’s impossible for me to overstate how airy and light it is inside. It feels unbelievably comfortable and luxurious, and it makes cars like, say, the BMW X5, feel like a coffin in comparison.