The need for a cupholder originated in the 1950s as America’s drive-in restaurants and movie theatres gained popularity. Nearly 30 years later, Ford incorporated the first proper cupholder into the 1984 Bronco, and the feature has been a mainstay of American car interior design ever since.
1. Bottles win big
In the US, drinks in bottles reign supreme. According to a new Nielsen survey, 79 percent of Americans say they use cupholders for bottles. A majority of people (52 percent) say they typically use cupholders to carry cups of coffee and tea. Ford research also found that American motorists use large soft-drink cups more than other parts of the world, and they’re much likelier to drink on the go. In Asia, people tend to bring wide tea bottles into the vehicle.
2. Cupholders close at hand
People value cupholders that are within effortless reach. That’s easier said than done, given the range of possible arm lengths and seat positions. For its 2017 Fusion, Ford studied driver ergonomics to balance the needs of as many drivers as possible and positioned the cupholders accordingly, thereby ensuring that the Fusion’s cupholders are an easy reach for at least 95 percent of the population.
3. Cupholders hold more than cups
Among non-beverage items placed in cupholders, phones are the most common by far. Roughly half of the people surveyed say they use their cupholder to store their mobile phone, followed by 28 percent who use it for loose change. Food is placed in cupholders by 19 percent of respondents, while 14 percent use it for sweets, and 12 percent for wallets. Millennials and teens are much more likely than their elders to use cupholders for non-beverage items. Gender plays a role as well – men are more likely to use cupholders to store their wallet and change, while women tend to use cupholders consistently for what they’re intended to hold.
4. Cupholders should grip and hold
A great cupholder is roomy enough for an extra-large container, yet capable of holding a skinny one without it tipping over. A great cupholder also has spring-loaded resistance grips within, and the tension they exert as a cup is being pushed down should be ideal and not require too much effort.
5. The three cups
Cupholders must be deep enough to hold taller containers, but shallow enough that you can easily pluck out a small cup. Ford found that most cups can be categorised into three basic types: your average half-litre recyclable water bottle, the 20-ounce (591ml) plastic bottle typically used for juices and sports drinks, and the 30-ounce (887ml) soft-drink cup dispensed at many fast food restaurants. If a cupholder can help to hold all three, it can likely hold any cup you’ll bring to the car.
Check out the cupholders in the Ford Kuga and Mazda CX-5.