Most very expensive cars have nice steering wheels, but cheaper ones often don’t

Designing a great steering wheel is no mean feat: it needs to first and foremost serve the practical purpose, since it is the only means for the driver to input steering lock, but at the same time it needs to be nice to hold and, last but not least, also be nice to look at.

Steering wheels in older cars used to be so elegant, with their thin rim and thin prongs - they always look like they suggest you can drive the car with your fingertips. That’s obviously not a safe way to hold onto the wheel, but it looks really nice, especially if it’s a wood rim with exactly three polished bare metal spokes.

But since the advent of airbags, manufacturers have struggled to integrate the safety device into the wheel hub and also make everything look nice and tidy. It’s only in recent years that steering wheel look and feel has improved, and now you can go out and buy just a regular car with a nice looking helm.

This piece is only about regular (attainable) cars because there was never a time when you couldn’t get a nice wheel on an uber-expensive luxury car or supercar, regardless of how bad the times were - boutique manufacturers simply didn’t put an airbag in it and relied on fancy materials for wow factor. The fact that you can get a really nice wheel in just a regular car these days really improves their interior ambiance (especially for people who are into sportier cars) and also generally improves the driving experience. There are plenty of these out there today (thankfully), but I’ve tried to pick out my favorites in cars available right now for reasonable money.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio and Giulia QV

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio High Resolution Interior AutoShow
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Alfa Romeo made a big splash with its Quadrifoglio performance models of the Stelvio SUV and Giulia sedan - it was mostly down to the way they drove, and I particularly liked the look and feel of the steering wheel. It has suede trim, carbon fiber, the correct number of prongs (three,) and there aren’t too many distracting buttons on it.

Read our full reviews on the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio and 2018 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio.

Audi SQ2

2019 Audi SQ2
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Yes, the Audi SQ2 is a performance crossover, so it’s not really that sporty to drive, but you wouldn’t know it only by stepping inside its excellent interior. Most of that good interior ambiance for me comes from the shape, look, and feel of its steering wheel - and actually, most modern sporty Audi wheels are very nice, but to me the one they fit to the SQ2 is sporty looking enough and very inviting to hold.

Read our full review on the 2019 Audi SQ2

BMW M sport and M steering wheels

2018 BMW M5
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...Except two additional buttons...
Check the new M button behind the paddle shifter...RED!

Unless you’re not a car nerd, you may not spot the difference between BMW’s M Sport and actual Motorsport steering wheels. But they are different - the former is a less extreme and simpler version of the latter, although realistically they’re both really good. They both have an unusually thick rim (even by sporty car standards), but it’s also slightly padded so you get a nice grip; plus the full M steering wheel has three color contrast stitching that really makes it pop.

Read our full review on the 2018 BMW M5.

New Mercedes steering wheel

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA Interior
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Mercedes has fitted all its latest cars with the same design steering wheel, one which mixes looking posh with sportiness like no other manufacturer on this list. You’ll find this wheel in all their cars, from A-Class to S-Class, with minor changes, and it looks and feels amazing, much better than the model of steering wheel it replaced.

Read our full review on the 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

Volkswagen Golf GTI

8 Awesome Looking Steering Wheels in Attainable Cars High Resolution Interior
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For me the best part about the latest Golf GTI’s interior are not the cloth seats with the traditional GTI pattern, but its steering wheel. Its design really makes it pleasant to look at (it’s simple, but effective) and its rim with contrasting red stitching is very inviting to hold.

Read our full review on the 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI.

Any Skoda RS model

2019 Skoda Kodiaq RS Interior
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Skoda also bestows its sporty RS models with a nice steering wheel to - its design is somewhat similar to VW’s, but the perforated leather on the rim really transforms its look and feel. Like the VW GTI wheel, the Skoda RS wheel has contrasting red stitching and doesn’t overwhelm its driver with too many buttons.

Read our full review on the 2019 Skoda Kodiaq RS.

Hyundai i30N

8 Awesome Looking Steering Wheels in Attainable Cars Interior High Resolution
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Hyundai came onto the hot hatch scene completely out of the blue, and its first effort, the i30N, is a great one. Everything else about it aside, though, the i30N has a nice steering wheel that really invites the driver to do some spirited driving - I especially like the grooves for your thumps at 9 and 3, as well as the nice contrast provided by the light blue buttons located below the two horizontal spokes.

Read our full review on the 2018 Hyundai i30 N.

Peugeot 508

8 Awesome Looking Steering Wheels in Attainable Cars Interior
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Peugeot makes some of the strangest (and also smallest) steering wheels in the industry, but it is getting better at making them and the proof is the helm of the new 508 model. It is quite futuristic looking by modern standards, with a flat top and bottom, a thick rim and only two prongs. It’s a really special wheel unmatched in its flamboyance even by manufacturers selling their cars at many times its price.

Read our full review on the 2018 Peugeot 508

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