Leading From Behind: Vehicle Seat Comfort and Owner Loyalty

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Are comfortable seats the secret behind the popularity of the Jeep Compass/Patriot siblings?

Many would argue that rock-bottom pricing and a lack of knowledge of better choices could have something to do with it, but a study by J.D. Power finds that drivers stay loyal if their seats treat them right.

In its 2016 Seat Quality and Satisfaction Study, J.D. Power ranks the top cushions in each vehicle category, based on feedback from 80,000 people who bought or leased a 2017 car or light truck. Drivers were asked about any seat defect, malfunction or design problem in their vehicles.

Seats aren’t sexy. Well, the non-massaging kind, anyway. But we spend a stupid amount of time in our vehicles, and an uncomfortable seat can break a driver-vehicle relationship (in addition to our backs and asses). Reliability isn’t everything.

When asked to rate their loyalty to their vehicle, 68 percent of drivers who gave their seat comfort a perfect score said they’d “definitely” re-purchase the same vehicle. Only 45 percent of drivers who gave their seats a nine out of 10 would do the same. What about seven out of ten? Seats that are just okay? Less than one-third of drivers said they would buy the vehicle again.

The Jeep Compass and its boxier sibling will die early next year, and this study hands it a solitary accolade as it heads to the gallows. J.D. Power claims the fantastically old model has the best seats in the mass-market compact SUV category, followed close behind by the Ford Escape and Chevrolet Equinox.

The Acura RDX carried the luxury SUV field, while the Toyota 4Runner pleased the most backsides in the midsize/large SUV category. Ford’s Super Duty topped the list of mass-market trucks and vans.

Among compact cars, the funnest entry (Mazda MX-5) nailed the top spot. In the midsize/large car category, the far, far less fun (but still comfortable) Toyota Camry ranked the best. We’re not sure how many taxi drivers J.D. Power surveyed. The best luxury car seats are found in the Porsche Cayman, a vehicle that would still be fun if there was a pin in each cushion.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Frylock350 Frylock350 on Sep 02, 2016

    I think the seats in most new vehicles are generally pretty good, though there are a few exceptions in both directions. For me as long as there's a height adjustment, fore/aft tilt, and some way of reducing lumbar I'm happy. For most folks lumbar support alleviates back pain; for me it causes it. The Chevy Captiva seats are terrible. I could not get comfortable. The seats in my Silverado are fantastic. They're a good combo of soft and supportive and I can and do drive for hours upon hours in them.

  • Hemi Hemi on Sep 03, 2016

    Funny enough I have a 2016 Compass rental and surprisingly it is very comfy and nice. It's very basic, but I would take it over a Crv/rav4 due to the cheap price. Some of the worst seats I've sat in is the 2013 C and E class. I sat in a 2017 E class and we're slightly better. The Benz seats don't do it for me.

    • Sgeffe Sgeffe on Sep 06, 2016

      The seats were OK in a Compass I had a couple weeks ago. The rest of the driving position sucked!

  • MaintenanceCosts Last year, I rented a closely related Audi A3. The overwhelming impression was of cheap build quality, although the drive wasn't bad. It had ~45,000 miles and the sunroof sunshade and passenger side power window were already not working correctly. Lots of rattles, too.
  • Lou_BC As others have pointed out, some "in car" apps aren't good or you pay for upgrades. My truck did not come with navigation. It was an expensive option. There's a lame GM maps app that you need to subscribe to "in-car" data. The map does not give you navigation other than to tell you where restaurants and gas stations are located. I'd want Android auto since I already pay for the phone.
  • Theflyersfan Given so many standard nav systems aren't the best and updating could mean a dealer trip, and I stream all music, Android Auto is an absolute must. Wireless isn't necessary and some wireless chargers overheat the phone. And there are some hacks that let YouTube stream on the screen - excellent for listening to concerts.
  • Jeff I going to guess by the condition of the body and interior that there is little to no rust on the frame. Appears to be a very well maintained car.
  • MaintenanceCosts Would not buy a new daily car without it.