While you’re sitting in the driver’s seat, look around and assess your environment. There are many elements that make up a well-designed interior. Is this one that you will want to spend a lot of time in over the coming years?
Check the controls and displays. Any person who will be driving the vehicle should be able to see, reach, and use all controls easily. The dashboard layout should be logical and intuitive. Are the instruments easy to see and interpret? Are controls for the audio and climate-control systems logical and uncomplicated? The buttons and knobs should be large enough to operate them quickly, easily, and without having to take your eyes off the road for more than a second. Controls you use at night should be illuminated. Push buttons should give good tactile feedback. Labeling should be clear and unambiguous. Adjust the climate-control system to your preferred temperature to see how it works.
Now is the time to find the emergency brake, hood and trunk releases, fuel-filler door release, power-door lock button, window controls, and maybe the seat heater switches. Are there map lights in the front or is there simply a single dome light behind the front seats?
Are there places to stash things? Are there sufficient storage spaces for CDs, an MP3 player, a cellular phone, or anything else you like to have close at hand while driving? See if a soda or water bottle, a large cup, or your favorite travel mug will fit securely in the cup holders. The cup shouldn’t block access to important switches. Some cup holders are positioned directly in front of air-conditioning vents, which can rapidly cool a hot drink while at the same time blocking air coming from the vent.
Open the glove compartment. Can it hold more than the owner’s manual? There should be room for maps, a flashlight, a tire pressure gauge, and any other things you carry there.
How does the audio system sound? Insert your CD or connect your MP3 player to see if the audio quality meets your expectations. Turn it up to a volume you would typically use. Run through the common audio controls to see how easy they are to operate.
Try advanced electronics systems. If the vehicle you test drive has a full-feature climate-control or advanced electronics system (such as navigation, voice-activated controls, a hands-free telephone, or a multifunction control system), you should try them out. You may want to take some time and have the salesperson show you how they work, since some are very complicated and hard to use without studying the owner’s manual. Since learning a new system can be distracting while driving, begin by going through as much as you can while parked.
Try out the sunroof or soft top. If there is a sunroof or moonroof, open it to see how easily it operates. If the vehicle is a convertible, raise and lower the top to make sure it operates quickly and easily.