People don't talk very much about car interiors — even at car shows. Considering drivers (and passengers) spend far more time surrounded by the inside of a car than they do staring at the outside (mostly, we look at others' cars, not our own), you'd think car buyers would care more about the inside than the outside of a new car.


But I don't think that's the case. I can't think of many instances when I've noticed a car commercial focusing on the beautifully laid out inside space of a car — it's all about the lines, muscularity, sleekness or bubblieness (in the case of cars like the Mini and VW's Beetle) of the exterior. 


I love a well-thought out interior, and it's one of the reasons I love my old Saab so much; besides my previous Saab, none of my other cars felt as comfortable, as inviting, as plain old 'right' while seated in the driver's seat. Buttons are within reach, everything is in a logical place; surfaces are matte or shiny in the right proportion, and even after 15 years, it still "works."  Nothing is garish, nothing is chunky, and each bit works individually, as well as of a piece. Good design is a beautiful thing. 


In the past, exciting interiors were only for high-end brands like Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Volvo and Saab. And indeed, you will see all of those brands represented below (save Saab, which is no more, sniff!). But not only have luxury car companies begun to offer lower-priced cars (Mercedes and BMW chief among them) that keep all of the enjoyable design elements of the more expensive versions, but now companies like Mini, Fiat and VW are offering very reasonably priced cars that have some seriously fun, well-designed (and colorful!) interiors. The democratization of design that started with Michael Graves at Target has worked its way down to cars, and none too soon. 


Below, a visual tour of the 2012 Detroit Auto Show, from the inside. 


The interior of the BWW i8 electric vehicle. I'm in love with the look of the bright blue seatbelts against the brown leather seats, which are sustainably processed and dyed.  


Sweet non-circular steering wheel on this Audi. 


The door of the Audi; see interior below. That woven metallic detail is so perfect, and though it looks like it might be hard and scratchy, the material was actually quite smooth and soft. Very 2012 and beyond. 


Red and black is a classic dynamic color combination, calling to mind the subtle flames of a well-stoked bonfire. (Audi)


Little details, like a gleaming seat pull on this two-door Mercedes sportscar, take a car interior from ho-hum to fabulous. 


Hand-stitched, creamy brown leather reminicent of horseback riding boots offsets the gleamy in-car phone in this Mercedes.


All interior details of the Mercedes in the above two pictures extend to the door as well. Handsome.


I'm not a fan of digital timekeepers, so I loved that a couple of the cars had an old-fashioned "real" clocks, like this one set into burled walnut on a Mercedes. 


A Mercedes interior in cream leather and black detail, with shiny silver detail. 


Not all my favorite details were interior; this 'luggage clasp' holding the bonnet closed on this Mercedes was just too sweet. 



The red and black interior (with asymmetrical touches of red) really help a car pop. 


Love that the yellow of this fun-as-can-be Fiat's exterior is carried over within. Yellow interiors supposedly encourage a positive mood. 


This red and black Mini interior is very different from the Mercedes sportscar above; here it is more 'joy and fun' than 'serious sportscar, which fits the Mini's personality perfectly. 

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

At the Detroit Auto Show: Oft-overlooked interiors make a colorful comeback
Am I the only one who finds the interior design of cars just as compelling as the exterior?