There's Something Wrong With Every New Car Interior

Illustration 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:

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

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

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

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.

Advertisement

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.

Advertisement

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?

Advertisement
Advertisement

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.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

DISCUSSION

hammerheadfistpunch
HammerheadFistpunch

Its my experience that cars with an open floor plan, so to speak, kind suck because you can’t use the space. What’s the point of putting feet down there if there is no center seat (that’s a whole other thing) and anything you put down there for storage is just asking to slide all over the place and cause issues. To say nothing of having to reach down for it. Frankly, my shins don’t have the means to use anything down there and so I’d rather have it brought up to where my hands are. My hands, it turns out, are far more dextrous and useful than my shins for performing tasks and moving things.