CARS.COM — Today’s cars come with so many features that it can be challenging to remember everything you should pay attention to on a test drive. Finding a car that physically fits you behind the wheel is important but that means different things for different people. Average sizes for men and women are 5 feet 9 inches and 5 feet 4 inches, respectively, but for drivers who are taller or shorter than average, there are a handful of especially important features to look for when deciding on a car.
We interviewed our staff car reviewers to find out what they look for in a vehicle to ensure comfortable driving experience. We also gathered thoughts from everyday drivers. Here are the things that can really make a difference when it comes to a good car fit for tall people and short people alike.
Elbow room is great, but legroom is at least as important. The amount of legroom a vehicle offers affects more than just occupant comfort. Your seating position can affect your reaction time when hitting the brakes as well as the seriousness of an injury in the event of a car crash. For shorter-than-average drivers who may have trouble getting in position to reach the vehicle’s steering wheel and pedals, easily adjustable seats are important, as is whether they offer a memory seat feature and are manual or power adjustable seats. This last point is especially pertinent for households with two or more drivers of differing heights who share a vehicle.
Tilt and Telescoping Steering Wheel
Having the appropriate amount of space between you and the steering wheel is important for both comfort and safety. According to AAA, there should be at least 10 inches between the driver’s chest and the steering wheel for the airbag to deploy. A telescoping steering wheel can help shorter drivers maintain that clearance even when the seat is moved forward to reach the gas pedal and brake pedal, and it can also help taller drivers achieve a comfortable driving position. Tilt steering wheels, meanwhile, let you adjust the angle of the wheel so you can properly grip it at the 9 and 3 o’clock positions with your palms just below your shoulders.