Rear Seat Legroom
WTF happened to Rear Seat Legroom in cars?
A car with frickin’ “reasonable” rear seat legroom is an incredible rarity these days. Especially with cars under 50k. Most cars have functionally useless rear seats. At least when it comes to passengers. Groceries? Sure! But not much else.
My current car is like a limo in the back seat. I can sit behind ME if I am driving! That is YUUUGE! But when it’s time to start shopping for a “new” car – your pickins’ are slim.
Currently – a few of the top (moderate) car choices for rear seat legroom are: VW Passat, Chevy Impala, Toyota Camry and Toyota Avalon. Not the best pick of the litter. Especially with VW crumbling under the manufactured pressure they’re facing.
To get top-notch rear seat legroom, you’d have to graduate to an Audi A8 (our choice), Mercedes S550, or BMW 7- or 8-series. All at or around 100k. Or much more depending on options.
Lincoln came out with the new Continental this year for around 65k to start. With AWD too.
But here’s an interesting column from Al Vinikor that sums it up.
Rear seat leg room? Stop living in the past
By Al Vinikour
As an auto writer, I always peruse the interior dimensions of the vehicles I drive and even those I just look at like at auto shows. Even though I speak in generalities it never ceases to amaze me how little leg room there is for the rear seat occupants in far too many vehicles.
For all practical purposes about the only usable function for a rear seat is extra storage. Have you ever seen the back seat of a Nissan Juke? It’s handy to have a place to stow packages, shopping bags, etc., when off on a “mission.” However, try to put anything short of either small children or Lt. Dan in the rear seat and you have some very uncomfortable riders.
It’s fairly obvious that airline management and auto manufacturers have held secret meetings in a cave somewhere in West Virginia to see which industry can develop the most cramped conditions for its passengers. At this point, it’s a virtual tie. The only way passengers could cross their legs in about 99% of the vehicles on the road is if they didn’t have any in the first place. Same goes for coach passengers on a fully-loaded Boeing 757.
Cramped is the new black in cars
Just as today’s first-class legroom is basically what coach legroom was at the advent of the jet age, so, too, is the front seat of most vehicles. Go to an auto show or even stop to examine a 60-year-old vehicle or older and what’s the first thing you’ll notice? That’s right, rear-seat leg room! Being a lifelong car enthusiast I used to notice some of the vehicles from the ‘20s and ‘30s when I watched The Untouchables.
Not only could people cross their legs as mentioned earlier; there was enough room to house an arsenal and plenty of room for the occupants to move around to get a better shot. Had they have tried the same thing in a new Corolla chances are they would wind up either shooting themselves in the foot or worse, picking off the driver.
Lack of rear legroom is particularly evident in convertibles. Whereas a 1949 Cadillac drop top may have had enough backseat room to hold a Monopoly tournament, a new Chrysler 200 convertible’s rear compartment looks like a shelf is molded to the backs of the front seats. As that famous philosopher Frank Oatess often says, “Dat ain’t right!”
The fun you used to have in the “back seat!”
When I wore a younger man’s clothes (as Billy Joel once said to me) we didn’t need to save up our pennies to rent a cheap motel room for an hour or so; we generally had a “suite” in the backseat (OH…I made a couplet). In some of my more hilarious moments, I used to say I was a “freelance” gynecologist and since I was just a humble one my practice was in the back seat of my Ford.
Nowadays, however, I’d be lucky to have two people use the rear seat as a waiting room and since the majority of front seats are buckets and a center console contains the gearshift handle, I’m effectively out of the medical business.
Truth-be-told I’m not convinced that a rear seat means much anymore. Teenagers don’t notice discomfort and toddlers certainly don’t care. Mature adults aren’t going to want to squeeze into the backseat of a Ford Fiesta and unlike the old days where two couples would car pool in a pre-K-Car Chrysler New Yorker, now they go in separate vehicles and rendezvous at the restaurant or event they’re attending.
Why do they even bother anymore? Insurance only? What a racket!
Rear seats especially mean nothing in a coupe or convertible. I often wonder why the manufacturers bother but I’ve heard it’s for insurance purposes because a two-seat car would be classified as a sports car and thus carry a higher insurance premium. I am forgetting an important constituency, however, pets. A dog named “Scraps” would be a happy guy in the back seat of a Mustang. He doesn’t need any legroom; he’s got the entire seat.
The cars that make no attempt to have a back seat are generally those of legend like the Corvette, Nissan Z and Mazda MX5. Anymore, the only way anyone is going to have a vehicle with rear seat legroom is to buy a Crew Cab pickup. They have four doors and generally have enough leg room in the back to allow the occupants to not only cross their legs but to kick the seatbacks of those in front of them.
It’s like returning to those thrilling days of yesteryear.