Cars with ambient lighting

Want an upmarket car with the soft glow of ambient lighting inside? These are our top picks, from slick hatchbacks to crossovers and SUVs

Matt Rigby
Sep 29, 2021

Not all that many years ago, the best nighttime lighting you could hope for in your car was lit instrument gauges and a map-reading courtesy light. If you had an upmarket car, you might get some switchable interior lights in the rear, too.

Then around the turn of the millennium, carmakers (notably BMW) came up with ‘pool lighting’ - softly coloured bulbs that cast a gentle glow over specific sections of a car’s interior at night. But it wasn’t until the late 2000s that improvements in LED lighting technology allowed car interior designers to control the lighting effects much more precisely.

Fast-forward to today and there are car interiors with multiple colour options, lighting effects that represent a vehicle’s silhouette and far more. And these aren't only available on upmarket or luxury models either - most cars now have some form of ambient lighting. Here is a selection of our favourites.

Best cars with ambient lighting

1. Mercedes A-Class

Used deals from £18,180
Monthly finance from £312*

The latest Mercedes cars feature an ambient lighting system that has 64 different colour options to choose from. And this feature is not just available in luxury limos like the S-Class. No, you can get this technicolour dream coat of ambient lighting even in the A-Class hatchback.

The best bit of this multi-hued night-time interior, though, are the turbine-style air vents. They’re nice enough looking during the day, but when the ambient lighting is doing its thing, the blades of the turbines glow in whatever ambient colours you’ve picked out. Gorgeous.


2. BMW 3 Series

Used deals from £24,995
Monthly finance from £567*

Your choice of hues with the ambient lighting in the 3 Series might be a bit limited, but what BMW does with it is very effective, highlighting the swoops and key lines of the interior, with tactically positioned pool lighting to give a more general glow as a counter to the sharp lines of the LEDs

There are 11 different colour options to choose from, but since the buttons and dials tend to remain the classic BMW warm orange, the designers have obviously been careful not to allow too much of a colour clash by including dozens of shades.

There’s an extra bit of intelligent attention to detail with the 3 Series interior, too. When the doors are opened, the ambient lighting pulses, helping to highlight - literally - to drivers of other cars at night that the door is open.


3. Audi Q2

Used deals from £14,500
Monthly finance from £242*

Audi has become a master of classy car interiors over the years, and it knows a few LED ambient lighting tricks, too. Opt for the Q2, therefore, and not only do you get an upmarket compact SUV, but you can tailor the interior shade to suit your tastes.

For the Audi Q2 crossover, the interior lighting party piece comes if you have one specified with the optional ‘Ambient Lighting Package Plus’, which has customisable coloured LED lights projected through the carbon-effect trim strips on the dashboard and centre console.


4. Hyundai Tucson

Used deals from £19,450
Monthly finance from £0*

The latest Hyundai Tucson comes with adjustable ambient lighting that ranges from a cool blue, through green to a warm orange colour. Its brightness can be adjusted too.

The Tucson is particularly good at creating pool lighting effects in the centre console tray and door bins, making the cabin feel particularly dramatic at night, with the cabin's contours emphasised.

And, while it’s not exactly an ambient lighting trick, those who appreciate an atmospheric interior will enjoy how the dials on the digital driver display - which replaces conventional speedometer and rev counter dials - switch to red when you engage Sport mode.


5. Jaguar F-Pace

Used deals from £29,991
Monthly finance from £547*

Jaguar was ahead of the curve with the modern wave of ambient LED-lit interiors with the cool-blue ‘vodka bar’ lighting in the first-generation Jaguar XF, launched in 2007.

Jaguar has continued the cool-blue vibe ever since and the classy F-Pace SUV is a fine example, its sharp blue lighting effects picking out the edges of the car’s interior trim, and matching the illumination for the control buttons, the dials and the starter button.


6. Range Rover Evoque

Used deals from £31,295
Monthly finance from £558*

Even though the Range Rover Evoque features all the smart interior lighting effects you'd expect of a modern upmarket SUV, it’s actually an exterior ambient lighting effect that earns the smallest Range Rover a place in this list.

The Evoque features what’s known as a ‘puddle light’. This is an area of light cast on the floor by a car door, generally from a light concealed in the door mirror housing. In the case of the Evoque, the light effect itself features a stylised sketch of the Evoque viewed in profile, which is a nice thing to look at while you’re trying to ensure you don't step straight into a muddy puddle when getting out of the car at night.


7. Volkswagen Golf

Used deals from £21,000
Monthly finance from £361*

While many ambient lighting systems in modern cars only feature LED strips and pool lighting areas, the eighth-generation of the Volkswagen Golf, launched in 2020, goes a little further.

As well as the more usual LED lighting on the trim strips (which in this case also extends to the rear doors as well as the front), the four optional colour choices extend to the central touchscreen media system and the digital driver’s display, which replaces conventional speedometer and rev counter dials.


8. Audi Q8

Used deals from £48,000
Monthly finance from £637*

As with Jaguar, Audi makes very effective use of ‘light pipes’ with its ambient interior lighting. In the case of the sporty Q8 large SUV, it combines this with a colour-wash effect on the instrument panel and doors to create a captivating night-time ambience.

This is Audi's most upmarket SUV and this type of lighting feature is one of the many elements that make the Q8 feel a rung above other Audis - cars that are pretty plush in their own right.


*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.


Read more about:

Latest best cars & vans

  1. Best vans for towing

  2. Best cars for short journeys

  3. Best premium cars