By on September 11, 2018

Comfort comes up as a topic quite often around these parts, and a recent QOTD asked  which unlikely vehicle surprised you with its level of coddling and tranquility. We’re definitely not talking about that today.

No, today we’re talking about physical misery so bad, so acute, that it costs an automaker a sale. It’s amazing that, after constructing a vehicle out of thousands of components both major and minor, OEMs sometimes succeed in making a mass-market automobile that’s literally a pain in the ass.

I’ve mentioned the 11th-generation Toyota Corolla and its iM cousin before as glaring examples of “I could never daily drive this,” but in this installment, we’re singling out another very accessible automaker for crimes against vertebrae.

Sorry, Kia — I know we ragged on the leather-clad Telluride yesterday, but you’ve got a problem with your chairs. Some of them, at least.

About a month ago, a friend thought he’d stumbled upon a sure-fire replacement for his aging midsize sedan. Roomy, jet black in color, and endowed with an agreeable amount of content and horsepower, this five-year-old four-door was the one. Or so he thought after setting out from the dealer. Ten minutes later, halfway through the test drive, he was counting down the seconds until he could escape the 2013 Kia Optima, gritting his teeth in agony.

Having suffered an injury during military training, my friend’s back is not the steel beam Kia must have envisioned — or it might have demanded a smidgen of lumbar support in that flat seatback. And so, despite the car being perfect for his needs (and budget), a sale was out of the question. He’s still looking.

I made a similar observation after renting a Kia Optima to drive to Detroit back in January, but, given my back’s status as merely “dodgy,” I managed to weather the trip in one piece. Still, it always felt like something could give way at any second. It’s always embarrassing when you suddenly can’t stand up straight in public without screaming.

The Optima incidents came to mind after our managing editor complained of discomfort after testing the next-gen 2019 Forte last week. While his main gripe centered around the Forte’s thrashy engine, NVH is a liveable — if annoying — condition. A car that actually hurts to drive? That’s a no-go zone. A non-starter. Only the truly kinky fork over money in exchange for punishment.

And yet an automaker kiboshed potential sales by spending hundreds of millions designing a car with seats that may as well yell belittling insults at the driver. (Think this is a localized, minor gripe? Google “Optima front seat discomfort/uncomfortable” and watch the hits roll in.)

Is my friend’s story relatable? Have piss-poor seats ever killed the purchase of an otherwise competent vehicle? Sound off in the comments.

[Image: Kia Motors]

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68 Comments on “QOTD: No One Got Your Back?...”

  • avatar

    Here’s the problem with making the “these seats are crap” claim – it’s all individual. Example: one of my all time favorite cars was my ’05 Focus ST. The Focus’ seats were roundly panned in the car books, but I never had any issues.

    Someone with military-related back issues is going to have problems with any number of seats, I’d think.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d have to agree with Mike. I’ve actually mentioned how impressed I was with a recent basic-trim Optima LX-FE I had to drive to NYC and back this summer. I wasn’t absolutely coddled in luxury and comfort, but it was one of the better overall “goldilocks” midsizers I’ve driven recently. Excellent ride/handling balance, fantastic fuel economy (43 mpg observed driving out, 39 mpg driving back), well laid out interior, handsome styling. Hard to find something to gripe about for the $17-18k I see them listed for.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Foley

      I liked the first-gen Focus too. Test-drove a new ’01 ZX3 and the whole driving experience reminded me of the ’83 GTI, except the GTI had great seats and I couldn’t get comfortable in the Focus no matter what I did.

      Flip side of that was the ’13 Altima. It had excellent seats…but other than that, I can’t think of a competitive advantage it had over a Fusion, Accord, or Camry.

      • 0 avatar

        Matt, further proof that it varies by person- I absolutely HATE the seats in a modern Altima. They kill me.

        • 0 avatar
          Matt Foley

          Good point, John. I have a simian build with unusually long arms and short legs, so if the seat is where a normal 5’10” guy would put it, I have to move the bottom cushion forward two clicks and recline the back cushion two clicks. Guess I’m not representative of the average person.

          • 0 avatar

            Ha, I must not be, either. I find that even someone my size (height and weight) and I can have the same driving position. Cars I find uncomfortable, others don’t mind, even those with back issues like I have. And cars I find excellent, others say they aren’t right.

            Just goes to show, we all fit in different molds, even two people of the same body type. One may have had an injury or heredity issue that makes them prefer one over another. What works for someone isn’t guaranteed to work for someone else.

            Another example would be the center console in a modern Taurus. Often I’ve seen people say its too big and intrusive, however I’ve never found it to be such. Other cars, my leg constantly touched the console and it was uncomfortable. I find that the Taurus has deep footwells that allow me plenty of room to keep my legs more up and down rather than going to the side, as in some other cars.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree- it’s individual. My daughter has a kia optima. I thought the seats were fine. I have a bad back too. You can type all sorts of sh!+ on a google search engine and get positive affirmation for your wrong opinion.

    • 0 avatar

      If my ’05 Focus hadn’t rusted to sh!t, I would still be driving it. The only thing I hated about it was it was a sedan and I couldn’t put stuff in it. I had a trailer hitch (and do on my ’15 Focus).

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    1991 Honda Accord EX-R: The seat thigh bolster cut off the circulation in my legs after 90 minutes rendering them numb regardless of seat adjustments. A $2 wedge cushion offered some relief. Liked the car but was glad to see it go.

  • avatar

    I was willing to “Save the Manuals” and buy a Honda Accord Sport with 6 speed. But the seats were an absolute deal killer. As someone who owns a 1990 Miata, I know sucky seats, as those are the standards by which sucky seats are measured. But the Accord seats were the worst. I just couldn’t get comfortable.

    Maybe Volvo should offer to make seats for all makes as their seats are awesome. Of course, your mileage may vary.

    • 0 avatar

      I went through exactly this. The seats just didn’t work for me. They were too narrow and not centered in the space between the console and door, but rather right up against the console with all of the extra space on the door side. This meant that I couldn’t sit in the center of the seat because the console was pushing my left leg off the seat. Driving with half a cheek off is not comfortable!

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      I concur, Honda sedan seats are torture.

      Further, you are spot on regarding the Volvo seats. In fact, the effort that Volvo expends in ensuring the comfort of their front seats may in fact be the reason Volvo owners are willing to overlook the glaring reliability issues that accompany so many of their cars and SUV’s. The whole separation makes the heart grow fonder deal…

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah, I really love the seats in my XC70.

        (I don’t like it being nearly farkin’ impossible to reset the service indicator without their VIDA tool.

        And I don’t like the electronic glitch in the infotainment system that periodically, randomly drops it to “none of that works”, though there I suspect a loose connector between modules.

        I’m borderline on ever buying a Volvo again, despite how much I love the rest of the car, because of that kind of thing.

        But those SEATS.)

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah my ‘13 Accord EX-L’s seats are unbearable for me after an hour or two. Yet my Jetta I am comfortable all day long in. And I’m 6’4”, is you’d think the bigger car would be much more comfortable for me.

  • avatar

    A story of three Mustangs, and two Trucks.

    The 2008 base model Mustang convertible was a great car with terrible seats. My weekend car, a 2005 GT convertible has great” looking” leather seats, only marginally more comfortable than the 2008. My daily driver a 2015 EB Premium package has excellent seats. I’m 64 years old now I’ve spent eight hours, much of it stuck in traffic, with no back issues.

    I bought a brand new 89 S15 4×4, reg. cab, long box ,in late 88 ..The bench seat wasn’t quite as comfortable as a park bench !! The rest of the truck was an absolutely rolling POS. Had it not been a GM logo on my pay cheque, I wouldn’t have ever bought GM again.

    Nine long years later I traded that 89 in on a base model 97 full size Chevy W.T. reg. cab long box. That was a great, trouble free truck. The bench seat was a huge improvement over the 89 S15. We had put 60,000 Klms on it ,when my wife started to complain her back hurt, after a long drive. My wife was 5 foot 7 maybe 140 lbs ?

    I once loaned it to my 6 foot 5, 260 lb buddy to move his daughter to School in Montreal. He thanked me for the use of the truck. He then recommended a trim shop to get the seats re-done. The trim guy showed me just how little much foam GM had used. I had them rebuild the seat, and got another 40,000 out of it.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 re: your final paragraph. Between that and complete or partial lack of sound deadening on some (many?) vehicles, there should be a booming business opportunity to fix these problems.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 on the seats in Mustang – I don’t know If I’m not a just a good match for whatever passes as Ford’s golden rules for seat design but they just don’t fit me well – oddly enough I prefer GM’s chairs over Ford’s.

  • avatar

    So why don’t oem’s make a variety of seats that work for different body shapes, and make them easy to swap out in the car?

    So when people buy a car, they can pick what seat works best for them.

    I know it’s an idea that makes the bean counters heads explode, but surely it could work for luxury vehicles at least.

    • 0 avatar

      Because they would have to crash-test every variant, which gets very expensive.

      And then dealers would be expected to stock every seat option, so consumers can test each out, which would take up a ton of dealer capitol and stockroom space.

      And because the nicer cars get the nicer seats. Luxury cars do offer upgrade-able seat packages. For example, you can order an A6 with a comfort package that gets you the A8 style seats. But you’re forking over big bucks for that and the Camry buyer may not be willing to pay an extra 10% of the price of the car to get Avalon seats.

    • 0 avatar

      The best they usually do is sport seat vs regular seat options.

  • avatar

    Well yeah it’s a kia.

  • avatar

    It’s a Kia. He should get a Volvo.

  • avatar

    I wanted go fancy – I liked Mini Clubman, so I thought, hell with reliability, I’ll be fancy with $3K cash on the hood. The seats… the cushion on the front was thigh torture. did I say cushion? What cushion? You push your finger into that “cushion” and you can feel the board under it in like, 1 inch. The rear seat wasn’t better – only worse. The seatback is positioned at nearly 90 degrees with no reclining, which makes uncomfortable ride. although, it was only beginning of long list of issues why not to buy this car, but this alone was a deal breaker.

  • avatar

    I may not be as prone to back injury or rear discomfort as some of the populace, but I think in my experience I have found varying degrees of comfort always acceptable. I don’t think I have ever encountered a car where the seat comfort was the overriding factor either way. I would be much more inclined to be put off by a crashing suspension/tire set up. I feel that pretty much any car can be tolerated for an hour or two and never has a car soothed my rump and back so thoroughly that I didn’t want to get out of the car.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    My 13 Optima Hybrid seats are awful. The problem is that I couldn’t detect this during the test drive.

    • 0 avatar

      Step up to the ’15+ version. I’ve got a terrible back, and the seats are great. In fact we just hauled a couple who each own Benzes for about 10 hours in the back seat of the Optima: when we got home they were raving about what a nice ride it was. They aren’t small people, btw. For me, Toyota really struggles with seats. Totally hit and miss depending on model.

      • 0 avatar

        Agreed on the ’15. I’ve been driving mine for 3yrs and don’t have any complaints on seat comfort with my dodgy back. I drove 3 consecutive Buicks before this and didn’t notice a decrease in comfort. I don’t love the deadpedal positioning, but I can’t think of a car where that hasn’t been a problem for me. It’s worse in my Roadmaster though.

        I do a 4hr round trip in the Kia nearly every weekend. And my fat ass has yet to cause any concern that it could ‘give way at any second’, as the author suggests.

        The car has essentially been flawless, I can’t say enough about it.

  • avatar

    Since I have a bony butt there are several cars I did not consider in my latest quest for a new car. These cars’s seat are, as our columnist put it, a pain in the butt… for me. The Miata, Boxster, Acure TSX (I know, it’s old) and NSX. Hmm, do Japanese seat designers have well padded bottoms?

    My 85 Thunderbird was awful like those mentioned, I had a car upholsterer add some padding which helped.

    I’d be awfully reluctant to do that today, or consider replacing the seat with something more comfortable. All the sensors and power controls must be a nightmare.

  • avatar

    I have not gotten the opportunity to experience truly “high end” seats like Volvo (that is the caveat to what I’m about to say.)

    Usually I find at least one compromise in every seat that makes them uncomfortable in some way. Like my father-in-laws current gen Terrain SLE, the cloth seats were comfortable but the headrest isn’t adjustable for tilt (only height) and I couldn’t find a position that it wasn’t somewhat in the way. The bottom cushions on my Highlander are too short. My wife’s 1st gen Terrain I find the bolstering a little aggressive (and I’m 5’11” 165 lbs) and I can’t comprehend how she finds a comfortable position at 5’3″ and a Latina booty. My mother-in-laws 1st gen Acadia has some of the worst headrests known to man. My old 2004 F150 had a bench seat that was fairly comfortable but lacked lumbar support.

    Seats I remember as surprisingly comfortable were the ones in 4th gen Taurus (the redesign to get rid of the ovals) it was a fleet queen one from the end of production with essentially no options but had adjustable lumbar that I really appreciated.

    • 0 avatar

      You can get a great deal on a lightly used Volvo (with a warranty!), from Carmax, say…

      (In fact, urg, I just checked and there’s a 2012 C30 T5 R nearby with 58k on it for $17.6k.

      That is … unreasonably tempting, in its way.)

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve wondered at times if someone was to buy a brand with an unreliable reputation from Carmax, buy the ridiculous bumper to bumper unlimited mileage warranty, and then live 130 miles one way from said Carmax – how would they cover me?

        • 0 avatar

          Go to YouTube and check out Doug Demuro’s CarMax Range Rover.

          All the work was done by Land Rover dealerships under the CarMax warranty.

          • 0 avatar

            See in New Mexico (5th biggest in land area but less than 2 million people living here) unless you are talking about the Big 3 or Toyota or Nissan you are practically always hundreds of miles from the quirky brands unless you live in a major metropolitan area.

  • avatar

    I’ll totally echo the “headrests are insane” comment – in some cars, it’s like they expect you to sit with the back of your head 6-8 inches FORWARDS of the seat back. Is that the only way they could pass safety standards?? In our ’08 Grand Caravan (seats themselves were comfortable – WAY more comfortable than the ’15 Town and Country “Touring” seats), I ended up swapping in headrests from the back of our Legacy GT wagon (and bought a replacement set so I could put those back into my LGT). Headrests are much better on the ’15 T&C..

    My ’05 LGT wast the first car that I bought, and then noticed it was pretty uncomfortable. Coming from VWs with “open center console” design (maybe the fact that they were manuals had something to do with it), I wasn’t expecting it to feel so crowded / cramped. When I had to commute regularly and sit in traffic, I would get leg cramps / sore spots from my shin pushing against the center console (I like to spread my legs a little while driving, because I can rarely push a seat far back enough for me to really stretch my legs). I guess I’m all legs?? I’m “only” 6’1″. Mind you, the ’84 Jetta had the problem of the seat not going back far enough, and we had to drill out the adjuster and turn that into another hole so that I could slide it back another 3/4″.

    ’90 GTI 16v (power Recaros) were the best seats I’ve ever had. Drive 12-14 hours one day, get up, and don’t feel tired at all. Must look into Recaros again..

  • avatar

    I have one question for the Kia: Did it have any form of lumbar support available? Some cars have a manual lever or dial for that purpose, others use an electric one. A long, long time ago I actually rolled up some eggshell foam and inserted it between the springs and cushion of a Mitsubishi pickup truck to give myself that support. That’s no longer necessary with a lot of modern cars, even if they’re not optioned-out models.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I agree , my mom has a Legacy of the same generation, I couldn’t get comfortable. As much as I loved my g37S sedan 6mt, I had to trade it in because the somewhat vague clutch friction point(too high) caused occasional flare ups of my low back pain. I reverse commute here in KC so stop and go isn’t really an issue, but my commute can be 70 miles back and forth, so seat time is an issue. I think a lot of Japanese/Korean cars are made for 32 inch waists and below.

    The ML350 seats were a god send, and I have to admit the replacement Disco Sport seats aren’t as comfortable, but not uncomfortable.

    I do think MB, Audi , full size Toyotas-Camry/Avalon/SUV/minivans, VW and Volvo(although I was only a passenger)seem to fit my needs better than some other company’s. My e46 sport seats were supportive but not soft enough for longer trips.The 16 Impala seats were some of the best domestic seats I’ve tried.The XT5 Caddy seats were comfortable.

    I pay attention to seat comfort and outward visibility more than any other interior aspect of a potential car-ICE be damned, if I can’t see well enough or be comfortable,scratch it off the list.

  • avatar

    OMG – so many choices, but one that sticks in my mind is an early 2000’s Grand Ma V6 rental car, the curved corners of the seats and roll off on the front of the seat cushion always left me feeling as if I were about to slip off. When combined with the car’s horror at being asked to turn corners at anything exceeding the speed of Grandma with her walker …

  • avatar

    Having either owned or rented pretty much every car in the universe, overall my back is most happy in domestics, least happy in Asian cars. Euros are hit and miss. Audis…not so good, Mercedes, heaven, BMWs….in between.

    • 0 avatar

      My experience is different. Asians generally bad, Americans hit or miss, and Euros almost always good – plus they usually offer some seat upgrades that should satisfy the 5% that don’t like the base seats.

    • 0 avatar

      My experience is different. Asians generally bad, Americans hit or miss, and Euros almost always good – plus they usually offer some seat upgrades that should satisfy the 5% that don’t like the base seats.

  • avatar

    Ford panther cars. I was always told they were SO comfortable and there was perhaps no better car for someone with a bad back.

    Well, I’ve had back issues since I was a kid, though not severe until an accident where a Chevy pickup slammed into the Honda Accord I was driving and fractured two vertebra (among other things).

    Before the accident, I’d describe my back issues as mild to moderate. During this time, I worked at a GM dealer for a while, and drove a 1994 Ford Tempo GL. A really clean 1997 Crown Vic came in on trade, and knowing I’m a Ford guy, my manager let me take it home for the weekend. I could not return it fast enough. Although I loved the styling, especially the rear profile, I hated how I sat in it and how it handled. I was much happier in my cheap little Tempo.

    Cut to a decade or so later, my mom replaces her 200k mile Mercury Sable with a 2008 Grand Marquis LS “Fleet”. Again, the seats were the equivalent of a torture chamber. This was after the injury had amplified my back issues by a factor of 100. It literally brought me to tears one day after driving her around all day in the car. By contrast, the 2012 Ford Taurus SEL that replaced the panther is the total opposite. I can drive it all day and experience very little aggravation. The seats themselves are far more supportive, and the seating position helps tremendously.

    Leaving Panthers aside for the moment, my single cab Isuzu Hombre was terrible. I would get this stabbing pain in my upper back and my extremities would go numb and tingly after driving it for a couple hours. I don’t know if it was the seat so much as it was the lack of adjustment available given the limited space in the cab. I can’t sit fully up right or the pressure on my spine gets to me. I don’t recline way back like a gangsta, but I do have to have a little recline or it will cause issues. I traded the Hombre for a Ford Tempo GLS coupe, and although it was remarkably better, I ended up selling it too due to being unable to deal with a clutch in a daily driver.

    Although the seats in my recently purchased GMC Sonoma crew cab aren’t the greatest, I can at least adjust the driver seat more given the ample room behind it. I will probably get a small pillow to leave in the truck as lumbar support, and that will likely be acceptable. Although, given the choice, I’m sure I’ll be more inclined to take my Taurus on any multi-day road trips.

    I replaced the stock GL bucket seats in my 1995 Taurus with those from a 1992 LX model, which includes inflatable lumbar support. It is a gift from God above. I am comfortable in that car, and it rides and drives well enough that I have long since decided I’m keeping it for as long as possible. I may (and have) buy other vehicles, but the Taurus will be mine from now on, baring some disaster that destroys it beyond repair.

    I saw someone above mention newer Honda Accord seats, and I must say, I had the opposite impression when driving a new 2016 LX coupe and my cousin’s (wife’s) 2017 Sport Special Edition sedan. I was not uncomfortable whatsoever, it was miles ahead of the recent Nissan Altimas I’ve been in. Perhaps a longer drive would tell a different tale, but first impressions were good, at least to me.

    I drove a 2013 Focus on a long trip a few years ago, and it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great either. Again, far better than the Altima, IMO. I’m speaking of seat comfort, but NVH was about the same. I also disliked the DCT as much as I do Nissan’s Xcrement CVT, although the DCT pulled ahead a *little* after the Ford dealer flashed it for her and I drove it on a similar trip thereafter.

  • avatar
    Jeff Weimer

    I’ve had 2 2012 Cruze Ecos, and the first – with manual seats – was quite comfortable for long distance drives. The second one, with the power driver’s seat, isn’t as comfortable.

  • avatar

    I have found that most seats are comfortable, the problem is in the cab design. I had a string of cars with very uncomfortable seats that hurt my lower back. Yet all the years I put in driving my 89 full-size Chevy PU, never a problem, and all that thing had for a seat was a flat bench! After some experimentation (had to rule out that maybe I was just old) I realized that the pain was caused by having my legs splayed out in front of me 6 inches off the floor. This caused my hip to rotate into an uncomfortable position. Have you ever sat in a seat pulled out of a car? Most sit as high off the ground as one of those low-rider beach chairs. There is a reason you don’t see living room furniture sets so low to the ground, most people find that position uncomfortable.
    I now only buy cars with upright seating positions which limits me to CUVs and trucks, but there are a few cars like the Kia Soul that work.

  • avatar

    The worst car seats I ever experienced were the bench seats in 1970s Toyota pickups. Think of a concrete park bench with a thin layer of padding. Combine that with cabin space that was very marginal for a six-footer and you’ve got the recipe for real pain after a couple of hours.

  • avatar

    Most cars have horrible stock seats from an ergonomic standpoint.

    We really need something like AGR (Germany’s Campaign for Healthy Backs) in the US to certify seats.

    Volvo earns our business on two things: safety and seat comfort. Nobody else really comes close on both aspects.

  • avatar

    2008 Chevy Aveo (yes, I know, I got what I paid for). I’d drive about 2.5 hours regularly to visit family and after awhile I felt like I was riding on my tailbone. Had to get one of those wedge cushions, and that only helped moderately.

    • 0 avatar

      That sounds like too-soft seat cushions rather than lumbar… I had that exact same problem in a 1966 Buick Electra 445… couldn’t drive it more than about 45 minutes before my tailbone hurt. Try a firmer ‘wedge’ or consider getting that seat re-sprung.

  • avatar

    I daily drive a Saab 9-5 and have had 3 volvo wagons so seat confront is a big deal, I drove a ton for work so the seat time adds up and the Swedes know their seats, surprisingly the VW jetta TDI wagon I drove about 30,000 miles a year for 4 years had good ( not Volvo Good but ) seats and held up. My next car will have AC seats and heated seats, and it will be test driven for about 3 hours to make sure the seats are good.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      I will 2nd VW seats. They are quite good, at least the 3 I have owned were quite comfortable. Well, one was a 78′ Rabbit, and I was really poor, so yes it was more comfortable to drive it than walk in the Wyoming winter weather. So, sometimes comfort is a matter of situation.

  • avatar

    I want to echo some of the above – I think a combination of padding, support, and cabin design/layout make for a good or bad seat. I’ve had support without padding in a 2006 Hyundai Sonata. My max was 1-2 hour trips before pain and I don’t have back issues. I’ve had padding without support in a 1990 GMC G2500 conversion van (Glaval interior). Those seats had lots of padding and zero support. My *favorite* seats were in our 2004 Honda Odyssey, with our 2012 Caravan being a close runner-up. I could spend hours in the Odyssey’s seats – too bad the tranny went….

  • avatar

    Some of you folks really need to learn to demand more than the usual 15 minute “round the block” test drive. You really can’t tell almost anything about a car’s true comfort from spending that little amount of time in it.

    I didn’t do that with my first “real” car, a ’96 Lexus SC300, and boy did I pay for it. Miserable seats in that car (among many other issues). By far the worst seats I’ve ever experienced though were the seats in my mother’s 2001 Lexus RX300. Just absolute torture chambers that made that car literally undriveable after 3 hours or so.

    Other car’s I’ve owned:

    2004 Audi A6 2.7T: Very comfortable. Audi has regressed considerably in terms of seat comfort in standard “A” cars. The seats in my mother’s current 1st gen Q5 and the A4 I test drove a couple of weeks ago were average at best.

    My ex’s last gen Nissan Maxima: I made sure we spent plenty of time in the car before buying because most Nissan seats are lousy. These on the other hand were pretty good, and the headrest didn’t force your head forward like more recent Nissans.

    My current 2014 Lincoln MKZ: Very comfortable. I spent quite a bit of time trying to decide whether to get the massage seats or not, and ended up deciding that I like the standard seats better because they feel softer and a bit more padded than the massage seats.

    Other cars I’ve driven:

    2010 BMW 5 series w/o sport package: AWFUL. I had the car out for maybe a half hour and had to give it back. It felt like I was sitting on a park bench with somebody digging their fist into my back. That car also had all of the driving fun of a Camry. I’ve never driven a sport package Bangle era 5, but the regular car was an absolute POS.

    Buick Verano: Heavenly. Not very adjustable at all, but they felt like they designed them for me specifically so I didn’t need to adjust anything.

    Last gen Buick Regal, both regular and GS versions: Total opposite of the Verano. Same “fist in the lower back” sensation as the Bangle 5. I couldn’t drive either for more than about 25 minutes.


    First gen S60: Heavenly, some of the most comfortable seats I’ve been in of any car.

    Second gen S60: Mediocre. What happened Volvo? These seats gave me a weird backache after about a half hour behind the wheel, and the headrest pushed my neck forward.

    Second gen S80: Basically the same as the S60, just with slightly less of a headrest problem.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Have posted this many times before. Had to return a rental Optima because the headrest pushed my head too far forward and caused extreme pain. Yet I daily drive a Sonata with no problems.

      And all members of our family find our Kia Rondo comfortable to drive, regardless of their height or build. Although I drive it rarely now, each time I do, I end up commenting on how comfortable the seat is, and how good the field of vision is. Just a relaxing vehicle to drive.

      I do find the current Nissan ‘zero gravity’ seats to be comfortable.

      My favourite seats of all time being the 60/40 split bench velour seating on 1970’s PLCs.

      Previously I ‘dumped’ a first generation Explorer because the seat was too narrow and I could not buckle/unbuckle the seatbelt with a coat on.

      I do not fit into Recaro or similar ‘performance’ seats because my back/shoulders are too wide.

      When I drove a C4 Corvette, manual, my training partner could not ride in the passenger seat beside me because between the 2 of us there was little to no room to shift. Our elbows and shoulders bumped together.

      About 20 years ago, while stuck in traffic for a few hours on the QEW, my right buttock, hip and thigh went numb. The Doctor blamed the fact that since entering Grade 8, I had always carried my wallet in my right back pocket. To this day, I experience the same numbing sensation when driving. The only variable being that with comfortable seats, it just takes longer to take effect.

  • avatar

    The front seats in my 99 Regal GS were without question the most comfortable of any vehicle I’ve ever owned. On the flip side the rear seat of my wife’s 06 Saturn Vue was so close to the floor it had absolutely NO thigh support. Good for kids and not much else.

  • avatar

    The front seats in my 99 Regal GS were without question the most comfortable of any vehicle I’ve ever owned. On the flip side the rear seat of my wife’s 06 Saturn Vue was so close to the floor it had absolutely NO thigh support. Good for kids and but much else.

  • avatar

    Worst ever: a 1990s Kia Rio. Those things hurt my back as a fit 20-something without injuries. Very close second worst: a brand-new Chevy Bolt EV—hard steel lower seat pan clearly felt every time you slide in or out, seatbacks so narrow the bolsters are behind your back instead of around it, non-adjustable headrest beating the back of your skull with every bump, and—as it turns out—a wrong-size steel bolt sticking well into the lower seat foam…maybe that’s how they named the car.

    Best seats ever: 1990s Volvo 850. Very distant second best: modern Volvo.

  • avatar

    The seats on early 2000s VW group small cars (Golf, SEAT Leon, SEAT Ibiza) seemed to have this strange quirk where the sides of the seat bases didn’t seem to have a lot of padding, I would end up nipping my thigh when getting out of the seat and it would be painful.

    Best seats I encountered are either a 1970s Citroen CX or a similar era Merc W123 which had seats like properly sprung armchairs.

    Best seats in cars I owned were probably the Citroen Xantia or the Saab 9-3.

  • avatar

    Fellow bad-back person, couple of fused lower vertebrae, so, I know the bad seat pain.

    So, my worst-to-best seats were:

    worst: 1992 Mercury Sable. Ungodly uncomfortable for any drive longer than 45 minutes. Back and forth between Ottawa and Toronto was excruciating.

    Remarkably-not-worst: 1988 Ford Temp. Not awesome, but not bad.

    Pretty damn good: 2003 Acura RSX premium. I really liked these, and I was rarely fatigued.

    Best I’ve Ever Owned: 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe. I did Fontana Village/Tail of the Dragon to Ottawa, ON (1789km/1110miles) in 15 hours, stopping for gas, coffee, and the border. Got out of the car fresh, and I could have done another two hours to Montreal, had I needed to.

    Side-story. One of my buddies, who has had two back surgeries, and is now out of the automotive industry/mechanic world, swapped seats from a 2003 Hyundai Tiburon into his 1998 Dodge Dakota, and he adored them. I have one of the same seats on my racing simulator rig, now, and I’ve got zero issues turning laps on Forza, Assetto Corsa or iRacing for hour after hours. Remarkably good seats… for me.

    As people say, it’s a super-subjective subject and what’s good for me, may not be good for others.

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