Are Modern Car Seats Too Firm?...
Everyone knows that for decades and decades, most car seats have been designed with passenger comfort and safety in mind, right? Nobody has ever tried marketing a car that uses Spanish torture chairs as seats. Yet, after more than a century of car-making evolution, I find that some – if not most – car seats are not comfortable when used for longer periods of time.
I'm not talking about seats that are meant to be highly supportive, like for example those used in sports cars, but about seats used in normal, everyday cars. It didn't seem to be the case 15 or 20 years ago, but in the last decade I began noticing a distinct increase in the hardness of car seats.
From the top of my head I'm inclined to think that I've mostly experienced "hard seating" in German cars. The VAG Group, for example, uses some of the hardest seats in the industry. Whether we're talking about Volkswagen, Seat (what a coincidence!), Skoda and especially Audi, these manufacturers have some of the most back ache-inducing seats I've ever sat on.
The first time I get into either one they feel more than OK, actually providing a very premium feel, but after a few hours of continuous driving, no matter how I adjust them they start to feel like wooden benches. It's like trying to feel comfortable on moai statue from Easter Island. It's not going to work.
And the VAG Group isn't alone in this. BMW, for example, used to make some of the most masochistic seats ever. This is no longer the case with models starting from the F10 5-Series upwards, which are comfortable no matter how long you sit in them, but the "tooshie flattening" feel can still be found in the current 3-Series and 1-Series.
Another provider of firm seats is the Fiat Group, which has apparently "stolen" this idea from VAG. Every modern Fiat or Alfa Romeo I've driven for more than an hour has felt the same from this point of view. Lancia's seats are a bit softer though, but not by much.
Is it so hard to manufacture a seat that won't give you hemorrhoids after a few hours of continuos driving? Apparently not, at least when looking at other brands. The French have got it right whether we're talking about the PSA Group or Renault. I recently drove a Citroen DS3 with extreme-looking, body-hugging seats that were also soft enough to feel comfy, so we know it is possible.
Sporty and/or supportive seats don't necessarily have to be rock hard. Infiniti for example, is another car maker that has great seats, which are both comfortable and don't let you slip away from them on tight bends. But it doesn't have to be a premium manufacturer.
Opel, which doesn't exactly make the most expensive cars on the market, has a number of models that use orthopedic-approved seats. We tested them in the Insignia and they really work - no back pain whatsoever, after sitting in the car almost a whole day. And this without sacrificing the size of the side bolster support.
So, what is up with all the rest of the manufacturers? Audi, who is probably using the hardest seat compounds this side of a FIA GT racer or a WRC car, are apparently upgrading this tirade against drivers' gluteus maximus to every model in their current range.
Why? Is this a marketing-led dichotomy that separates what the customers want from what the customers think they want? Does any perfectly normal driver want a hard seat in his non-supercar daily driver that he uses to run errands? Maybe I'm alone in this... By the way, how comfortable are the seats in your car?
comments written so far
The seats are cosy and can be shaped using the air pressure.
I totally agree with the author. When I was buying my car I have tried Mazda and VW - same bloody feeling of firmness. It was not like this in the past.....
I will be in in the market for a new car next year and for this very reason I have decided on something with soft seats and came to the exact conclusion that you have, audi/vw/ford have hard seats. Next year I am going for either a Mercedes C220 or Lexus IS220d both seem to have considerably softer and more comfortable seats.
I would have thought it would be relatively easy for manufacturers to proven adjustable tensioners in both the seat and back of the car seat to provide different levels of comfort.
If this is beyond them, I would be more than happy to advise them, before we end up with a solid granite chair in the latest, so called premium cars!
I tried out a new ride several times and hated the hard seat no side wall tires of todays vehicles.
The way they are headed they might as well go to all steel wheels and a wooden seat like on the old horse draw wagon. It would have a better ride.
Who cares how well the car goes through the cones on a glass smooth southern road. That is not real world conditions for all of us. In the my world where frost heaves roads 6 months out of the year. It's like they don't realize the fluid in the shocks stiffens in cold temps as well. The next vehicle I buy I would even ask to drive. I will sit in the seat and after 1 minute will already know if I even want to drive it.
If you like a comfy seat , don't i repeat Don't make the same mistake as i did . The Volkswagen seating is so deceiving it creeps up on you , first impressions are it's okay , but believe me they are not at all comfortable after much more than ten minutes , Maybe it's down to the individual , i just like comfort . But i'm seriously going to change car brands again , just as soon as i can find a car with comfy seats . ?? Anyone out there with a good recommend ?
So I figured well, I'll take the loss and get something different, now though from what I read here, there are no comfortable seats left unless you want to spend $40,000 - $60,000, and that's no guarantee.
I had a couple Mercury Sables when they first went to the new soft shape design back in the 90's. The seats were so comfortable I loved that car, soft and cushy but never had a problem in driving with them.
Anyone knows of anything out there please let us all know.
When I see commentators comparing the front seats to their living room seating, that gets me interested.
Going to the Buick dealer tommorrow.
Since I was here on Tuesday I see figure8 and fengland have shared their experiences.
Yes, car manufacturers have most definitely taken more than just a couple steps backwards as far as comfort goes in new car seating...
And for the life of me, I have no idea why..
The new 2013 Nissan Altima claims they consulted NASA to design their new car seats for comfort.. They must have consulted the one guy at NASA who was the designated, "Don't let this Guy Fly" guy...
They don't need to consult NASA, what they need to do is go down to the Junk Yard and grab a couple seats out of a 90' Mercury Sable and relearn how to make a comfortable seat...
I had a couple Mercury Sable from the early 90's and these cars were a dream to sit in and drive. As comfy as could be, you could drive for a couple days if you had to and feel just good as when you got in the car.
So I checked out the Buick Verano that the reviewer claimed were like sitting on his living room furniture.
This guy must have had one of those $300 living room sets you see advertised, sofa, love seat and chair, made out of cardboard and other luxurious appointments.
The Buick Verano seats were about as comfortable as sitting on the pavement. I think people who review these cars have some real problems, don't know what they are though...
So here's my little story with a surprise ending after what I said about the new 2013 Nissan Altima.
2 weeks ago Saturday I bought a new Scion FRS, looked like a neat new sports car at a fairly moderate price. My last 2 cars were a 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse and a 2000 Toyota Celica. Both considered sports cars to a certain degree.
The seats in both of these were fine, the Eclipse was especialy comfortable.
I just never had a problem with a seat in a car before so when I test drove the FRS I just didn't pay attention to the seat. After the 2nd day I realized I made a gigantic mistake. There are essentially race track seats in these cars, hard as a rock and with a very narrow back with bolstering (new word I learned) on both sides.
The seat itself was knocking me out it was so hard and the bolsters on both sides pressing against so much it was impossible to take. Thought about having a car guy do some ajustments on the upholstery to soften it up, but decided the seat itself was just too extreme to start trying to change.
Long story short, tried just about every new car dealer in Stuart, Florida, except the Caddy dealer, which probably would have been the one with the best seats and the best high price were I just couldn't go... every new card I tried had the same hard seats as the other.
So I needed to change cars quick and got the card with NASA seats, the 2013 Nissan Altima. While they had to me, the best of the new car seats, they are by no means comfortable by themselves.
For the last 3 days I've been trying to figure out what to do, switch back to an Eclipse, which isn't made any more, or something.
So right now on my new Nissan Altima drivers seat I have the bottom half of a Tempurpedic Mattress, which is about 3 inches thick. It makes the card drivable.
A couple months ago I made my mothers king size Tempurpedic mattress into a regular size and saved what was left.
All those years of saving things I really didn't need finally paid off, a couple times before here and there too.
Without that though, the seats were putting the hurt on me.
Still on the lookout for something else to make it better..
Good luck to all.. I'll still be looking around...
Several years ago I bought a Mercedes CLK, and it absolutely killed my backside. I had to have coccyx treatment from a (very expensive) chiropractor. Then I bought a Lexus IS and it has fantastically soft front seats in soft leather. Lots of great padding and no problems.
Sadly, I went to see the Lexus dealer yesterday for a car service, and the latest IS has hard seats. Unbelievable! I'll have to look for a new model now. Apparently French cars have soft seats, but they're renowned for being unreliable, so I've normally steered away from them...