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November 17, 2013

News & Features

Tall drivers can find plenty of rides that fit the bill

Special to NWautos

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Clockwise from top left: The Volvo XC90, Nissan Cube, Audi A8 and Honda Accord are good options for tall drivers.


Tall is highly regarded in America. It's part of the beverage sizes on Starbucks' menu. Women tend to like their men tall, dark and handsome. Few people aspire to be shorter — unless they're tall people buying a car.

It's something my 6-foot, 5-inch friend Joseph recently complained about while folding himself into the passenger seat of the 2014 Mazda3 I'm currently driving. Reflexively sliding the seat to its most rearward position, he said, "These cars are not built for people like me." Once inside, however, he was fine.

As with finding the right size shoes and clothing, larger folks also face challenges when shopping for vehicles. Tall people aren't limited to just pickups and large SUVs, though. Several strategies can help bigger drivers find needed space in a car.

Start with the manufacturer's specifications. Whether or not you're comfortable in your current vehicle, look up the interior dimensions online to use as guidelines for your next ride. Nothing beats actually sitting in a car, but doing the legwork first will eliminate extra trips to showrooms.

Additional resources
    Some of the legroom — er, legwork — has already been done for tall shoppers. The website TallMansWorld.com has forums to discuss which cars work best for those long in the saddle. Mainstream resources such as Consumer Reports and Edmunds.com often update vehicle lists that work for people who are often mistaken for basketball players. A few models that are consistently mentioned:
    Audi A8
    Buick Enclave
    Buick LaCrosse
    Cadillac XTS
    Chevrolet Equinox
    Honda Accord
    Kia Optima
    Ford Flex
    GMC Acadia
    GMC Terrain
    Nissan Cube
    Volvo XC90

Automotive engineers work hard to carve out enough space for tall folks, but the smaller sports cars are generally out, as are cars with low rooflines. Cheer up, though; the Porsche Panamera and Mercedes-Benz SL-Class have decent headroom and might be worth a try if you have a stout bank account. If all you want is open-air motoring, you can see the light in a Jeep Wrangler.

People such as Joseph will have the best luck starting with midsize vehicles, but there are a few noteworthy exceptions. The Subaru Impreza, Crosstrek and Forester have extra cranium space to help keep necks kink-free.

The same goes for the Kia Soul. Though the 2014 model is half an inch lower, there is still room for those who are long of leg and torso. The Honda Fit and Fiat 500L are exceptions to the rule, too. Want to go green? The Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S are largely accommodating.

Be sure to pay attention to detail. My co-worker admitted that he forgot to check the back-seat room when he chose his compact sport utility. This fact was unknown to his wife, who eventually found out once they had their second child. He could not comfortably drive the car when two child seats were installed.

Finally, this might seem obvious, but: Sit in the exact car before buying. A family friend custom-ordered a car, making the mistake in the sales office of splurging on a sunroof. Upon the vehicle's arrival, he found that the sunroof reduced the headroom so dramatically that he couldn't drive it.

As for Joseph, I was surprised to find that he chose a Honda Civic as his daily driver. He has a 40-mile commute to work, so fuel economy is important to him. He says the space is adequate as long as he doesn't have to spend more than an hour behind the wheel. In Seattle traffic, that's a tall order.

Find vehicles that are a good fit for shorter drivers at NWautos.com.

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