A person is shown starting a 2023 Mazda3.

4 Compact Cars That Provide the Best In-Cabin Experience

More and more, cars are becoming our homes away from home. With all the technology and comfort to be found behind the wheel, the journey truly can be just as exciting as the destination. Some automakers prioritize a cozy interior more than others, and that commitment is demonstrated by the thoughtfulness put into the cabin of even their most affordable cars. In order to make a car less expensive, a luxe interior is usually one of the first things the manufacturer will scrap. Wood is traded out for cheap plastic, leather gets swapped for unsavory cloth, and the layout of the various controls feels like it was designed by the unpaid intern. Fortunately, this is not the case for vehicles like the 2023 Mazda3, 2023 Honda Civic, 2023 Audi A3, and 2023 Toyota Corolla. It’s clear these automakers refused to compromise when it came to the comfort of their passengers, creating a luxury in-cabin experience at an affordable price.

#1 – 2023 Mazda3

Getting a great interior usually means opting for the most expensive trims; when exploring options for a single model, the interior is often what changes the most as you go from base-level to top-tier trims. However, in the case of the 2023 Mazda3, even the base-level 2.5 S trim has an interior that feels thoughtfully designed with a clean layout. What’s more, it includes adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, a convenience that usually requires opting for higher trims.

Of course, opting for a higher trim level, like the uppermost 2.5 Turbo Premium Plus, will elevate the interior with higher-end materials, heated seats with power controls, and more speakers, but upper-level Mazda3’s main sell is the performance improvements, like turbocharged engines and all-wheel drive. This makes for a vehicle that feels luxurious at any trim level, especially considering the price.

Another detail that makes the Mazda3 stand out is its infotainment system. Across all trim levels, it consists of an 8.8-inch color display nestled in a pocket between two plush slabs of the dashboard. While most automakers opt for only touchscreen controls these days, Mazda’s screen can be controlled by a notary knob located conveniently behind the shifter—easily within reach of the driver’s right hand.

In my opinion, this is superior to a touchscreen for a few reasons. First of all, touchscreens are gross. With enough use, they get so covered in dust (AKA skin cells) and greasy fingerprints that they’re hard to see. Secondly, a rotary knob control is safer and easier to use, especially for people with short arms (like myself). Instead of leaning towards the screen to fuss with it, drivers can use the knob. The location of the screen is also high enough to minimize how long eyes are coming off the road.

#2 – 2023 Honda Civic

The Honda Civic has been getting savvy drivers around for generations, representing an incredible value for a wide range of budgets. That value doesn’t just come from purchasing an inexpensive vehicle with a long lifespan, however. With the new eleventh-generation Civic, it’s not just the powertrain that feels like a steal—every square inch of it feels thought through. We’re here to talk about the interior, but it’s worth applauding the exterior design of the Civic as well. It’s clean and minimalist, a look befitting of the classic sedan. You have to see the outside before getting to the inside, and it’s more fun boarding something that looks good.

The 2023 Civic has three trim levels that escalate the interior with each stop. At the top of the lineup, the Civic Touring is outfitted with the fanciest interior and the most convenience features. Its screens are the largest, with a nine-inch infotainment touchscreen and a 10.2-inch driver information display. It also gets a 12-speaker sound system by Bose, which includes a subwoofer and wireless charging for cell phones. Rounding things off is an automatic dimming rearview mirror and a one-touch power moonroof.

The black dash is shown in a 2023 Audi A3.

#3 – 2023 Audi A3

With a starting price of $35,400, the 2023 Audi A3 is the most accessible model in the German automaker’s lineup. It’s a luxury vehicle, but its price keeps it competitive with the compact sedan segment as a whole. Still, that luxury nameplate brings with it a swanky interior. Starting with its interface, the MMI touch display was designed with technology that we’re very familiar with in mind: our smartphones. Users can poke, scroll, and swipe to access infotainment, plus it gives acoustic feedback, so you know your touch is being registered. The Audi A3 also brings premium sound with a 15-speaker audio system by Bang & Olufsen.

The cockpit of the A3 is very driver-centric, with numerous buttons and dials within easy reach and two sizable air vents capping either end of the driver information display. Leather seats are included across all trim levels, and the driver and front passenger can power adjust their seats eight different ways, plus enjoy four-way lumbar support. Finally, the A3 has a large, panoramic sunroof, putting the sky above on full display.

#4 – 2023 Toyota Corolla

The Corolla is another household name in the world of sedans, but that doesn’t mean Toyota is coasting on its good reputation. The refreshed interior of the 2023 model looks premium, and the organized layout will surely be a place of reprieve for anyone who gets claustrophobic at the sight of clutter. There’s a good mix between touchscreen functionality and physical buttons and dials, so members of both camps should be happy with the tactility. The 2023 Corolla also has three trim levels, with the best in-cabin experience coming with the top-tier XSE. It has a leather-trimmed three-spoke steering wheel with tilting and telescopic adjusting capability. It also features SofTex seating—Toyota’s synthetic leather—and the front sport seats are heated and power-adjustable. Ambient lighting is an available add-on for anyone trying to set the mood.

The Corolla XSE may be top-notch of the three trims, but the LE and SE can stand on their own two feet, er, four wheels, as well. They both come standard with a six-speaker sound system, and all three trim levels now get an eight-inch multimedia touchscreen display that sits up on the dashboard in a prominent position, making it easy for the driver to view and access. All three trims also come standard with automatic climate control, which includes a dust and pollen filter.

A close up shows the front seats in a 2023 Toyota Corolla XSE.

Your Home Away From Home

A home away from home can mean a lot of different things for a lot of different people; it doesn’t have to include a Hyperscreen that’s hyper-expensive or the latest and greatest in automotive tech. Maybe the coziest car you have ever found yourself in had few creature comforts outside of an AM/FM radio. Whatever your level of comfort is, the modern auto industry delivers a wide range of vehicles designed to make every driver feel at home. With these four compact sedans, it’s clear that their respective automakers prioritized creating an unrivaled in-cabin experience at a price that’s comfortable for many drivers. They’re so good that I bet those who own them make excuses to leave the house just to get back to their cozy little oases.