comfortable cars for small drivers - Maggie Wood
I've just filled in one of these but for some reason it went into the section I was actually reading. So, if you have seen this before apologies.
I bought a polo 14 months ago and it proved to be too uncomfortable to drive even though I had the pedals extended. As it was costing a fortune in oesteopathy bills decided to get rid. So far have tried A3 - too uncomfortable, Alpha 147 - quite comfortable but not sure about selespeed and Honda Civic - not that comfortable. I am now thinking about looking at smaller cars (although not sure that that should make any difference). I can't be the only 5'1" driver out there so your experiences/recommendations gratefully received.
Re: comfortable cars for small drivers - Mark (Brazil)
3 Series ? A colleague drives one and she ca't be much more than 5ft.
Re: comfortable cars for small drivers - Union Jack

Well done on posting your post as a new topic - if you stick with this forum you will learn very quickly not to tag on to *any* thread to do with Ladas, in any shape or form!

Re: comfortable cars for small drivers - KB
Can anyone remember What Car? doing a piece about the most comfortable cars?

I can't remember everything they said but I thought that the Civic got the thumbs up from them (so that's not going to help much). I seem to recall the Focus being mentioned. Someone must have a back copy?

One thing to remember when you're not all that tall is the distance you sit from the steering wheel. The nearer you are, the nearer you are to the airbag and you don't want to be too close to that if it goes off due to possibility of injury. Therefore you may wish to check which cars have 'reach adjustment' as well as height adjustment for the wheel. The Skoda Fabia does and also has height adjust drivers seat too. (see the other post here 'Jazz Test drive').

If you can define your needs a bit it will help. Some drivers are increasingly going for taller cars (of which there are plenty). The 4x4's appeal for that reason and I thought the Rav4 and new CRV would be a nice height and are likely to drive much lika an 'ordinary car' and are very popular with ladies.
Other MPV type cars like the new Toyota Corolla Verso or the Renault Scenic have a higher position and lots of adjustment up and down etc.

So many to choose from - narrow your needs down a bit and see what others say.

Re: comfortable cars for small drivers - Flat in Fifth
My God I'm beginning to sound like a Skoda salesman, but Swmbo is a short ar.........whack! sorry dear didn't see you there..........vertically challenged and she fits in the Fabia a treat.

KB is spot on with vertically adjusting seat and steering wheel in/out & up/down adjustments being a must in my opinion.
Re: comfortable cars for small drivers - pete
My daughter is 5'1" also ,she drives a A class (merc) ,i'm 5'4" and although short legged have never had any problems .carina , primera x2, A4 being my last four cars. Try the A class.
Re: comfortable cars for small drivers - pete
Forgot to mention , i always have lumber support to avoid backache
Re: comfortable cars for small drivers - Union Jack
pete wrote:
> Forgot to mention , i always have lumber support to avoid
> backache

I guess that saves carrying all that dead wood .... ?

Re: comfortable cars for small drivers - Maggie Wood
Thanks for all who have replied with helpful suggestions. I know that in the past I have been so wedged up agains the wheel that if the bag went off it would have probably suffocated me (my husband's mercedes for instance). KB is right I should have been more specific; ideally I am looking for an automatic hatchback.

Re the A Class. I know this sound completely divvy (stupid) but the thought of the windscreen wipers moving towards each other is not something I like - a friends car does this (not an A) and it sends you to sleep!

I had thought of the Fabia but after the disaster with the polo and then the stiff leg with the A3 + my hubbies car it has put me off German cars. I am trying the Corrolla next but just wonder whether I would be better off with the Yaris - taking on board some comments, the higher driving position might suit.

I have heard that the punto is a good buy too but the automatic equivalent only has a 1.2 engine and I do quite a lot of motorway driving.

Re: comfortable cars for small drivers - Roger Jones

My partner is about your height and is perfectly comfortable in her Rover 200 series. My sister's also not tall and her new Fiat Punto fits like a glove.
Re: comfortable cars for small drivers - Neil
Last year on holiday I met a physiotherapist, who was around the 5' mark. She wanted a comfortable car that would fit her and be safe.

She bought a Fabia estate and hasn't looked back.

Until pedals and gear levers become adjustable - or cars are controlled with PlayStation joypads then there will always be compromises in finding a comfortable driving position.

You'll need a car with a reach- and height-adjustable steering-wheel and a height-adjustable seat. You'll need to try to be a slightly-bent arm-length away from the steering wheel's airbag, be able to reach the pedals, and be high enough to have good visibility - if you're positioned in such a way that you struggle to see the road around you then this could aggravate any existing problems.

Most modern cars are, however, designed for the ergonomics and safety of a 5th%ile female and 95th%ile male. It's just worth noting that if you are at the extremes then it may take a little longer than usual to get a comfortable position.
Re: comfortable cars for small drivers - Dan J

Everyone is very different. A couple of my friends hate driving Vectras as they say it gives back probs. I love mine and it is the first car that I haven't had issues with.

If a car dealer is serious about selling you the car and you explain the situation then there is no reason why they cannot offer you an entire/half day test drive. If they won't or are funny about it then tell them you'll take your trade elsewhere. Test drive as many cars as you can this way - it'll take you time but you CANNOT tell how driving a different car will affect your back until you've been in it a good few hours and driven it in various different ways (motorway/back lane etc etc).

Best of luck - One other suggestion, what about an automatic? A big causer of back problems is that it is near impossible to get the "perfect" seating position when you have your feet needing to be in different places due to needing to press the clutch/rest your left foot/use the throttle. What about trying some automatics? (Apologies if that has already come up - am a bit pushed for time to read through the old threads!).

Good luck anyway and do let us know what you decide on in the end.

Try before you buy. - David W

Good advice from Dan. The problem is so often we buy a car with virtually no idea how it may suit us in the long term. Driving position is also a very personal thing. It interests me when cars arrive for service, and I move them in the yard, how different the seating positions can be for people to feel comfortable. One chap the same height/shape as me has his seat so far back it is hard to free the clutch and the seat reclined so that when you have contact with the backrest you are loking at the headlining. Another (girl) who is about 5'8" sits with the seat so far forward it is hard to wedge in behind the steering wheel.

Also know some very small girls who are suited fine by large people carriers (Seat/Ford Galaxy). As I said, it's a very personal thing.

I would go for pushing the dealers for a 24hr loan type test drive. It may even be worth getting down to a smaller short list and hiring each type for a day if possible. What's a hundred or two on hire compared with the two thousand you'll lose as you drive that new car from the dealer.

Are you sure you can't get used to the A-Class wipers (I hadn't even noticed them but I am Land Rover hardened and they do the same). I know of some smaller folks who really like the raised seating position.

When I had a "proper" job and the lease renewals came up we just used to borrow someone elses car of the type we wanted for the whole day, that gave an excellent feeling for how they suited us.

Good luck,

Re: Try before you buy. - KB
Maggie, Some progress being made I feel.

Don't dismiss the A Class Automatic (Now available in a slightly longer version). But I'm not sure about steering wheel in/out adjustment on that. Nice high seating position though.

Certainly go to a Toyota showroom and look at the Yaris Auto 1.3 CDX 5 door or GLS 3 door Auto (We have the 5 door auto and the only real drawback would be the size of the boot in my opinion). Also, while you're there - the Verso Corolla Auto, however neither of these have in/out steering wheel adjustment, only up/down. Both of these have slightly higher driving positions and both should be very reliable and not too dear to run.

Don't dismiss the Skoda 1.4 Auto 75 bhp petrol. It's not actually all that German, just Germanish - made in Czechozlovakia, but using lots of VW parts. Is well liked by its owners and very high up the J. D. Power Customer Satisfaction ratings. Also should be reliable and not dear to run, and DOES have in/out adjustment on the steering wheel. (As it happens, I do know that if you were to have a biff, the Skoda is a safe car to have it in - very tough little cars). The 'Elegance' 5 door Auto hatch costs £11800 retail + £225 metallic and has an unlimited mileage warranty (almost the only car to offer that) and has all the godies ie. air-con + electric this and that. The cheapest Auto is the 'Classic' at £9200 on the road less any discount you get.

There are loads of others to consider, but that's a start for you.

Re: comfortable cars for small drivers - chris eglinton
Have a good look and test drive the Nissan MICRA. 1.4. Manual or Auto.
Re: comfortable cars for small drivers - Phil
Maggie, don't dismiss the 1.2 16v Punto. They manage to get 80hp out of that small unit and that should give the car a good turn of speed. They are also using this unit in the new FIAT Stilo, whereas most of its competitors start at 1.4 engines, it uses the 1.2 16v from the Punto.
Re: data on pedals, car seats, steering position - John B
It is not possible to generalise even for peoiple of the same height - because every one who is 5ft 1in will not have the same leg length nor arm length.

One of the best sources of information on car seating layout data is given at



click here
Re: data on pedals, car seats, steering position - Maggie Wood
The information you hve posted is extremely interesting. I hate to sound thick but can you explain why wheel offset and wheel angle have an impact on the seating position. It is simply that I would like to understand the concept a little better. The VW polo 00 which I had comes out as as having low in one and none in the other and it was bl...... uncomfortable to drive. Explanations gratefully received.
Re: data on pedals, car seats, steering position - KB
John B, A useful site which should be of interest to Maggie.

It seems to speak well of the Yaris with a good seat height and no offset's.

Re: data on pedals, car seats, steering position - KB

Neil wrote...........

Author: Neil (195.127.44.---)
Date: 28-02-02 08:04

She bought a Fabia estate and hasn't looked back.

She obviously doesn't do much reversing then? :-)
Re: Joker - Neil
I realised as I hit the Post button that there would be some comment about looking back. Thanks for pointing it out to everyone!

I expected something along the lines of her being too short to adjust the rear-view mirror. . .
Re: Seat data web site - John B
Maggie: for answers to your question,
go to the home page click here

where you will find links to:
Data on wheel and pedal layout of cars. Papers on driving position
Associated sites
Contact Information
About the author
Comments and Suggestions

See if your questions are answered there, otherwise use the "contact" button on there to ask the author for help. The wheel offset and wheel angle basically cause your spine to twist and result in backache.

Another site worth looking at is the Loughborough University site
click here

With regard to the Yaris auto, a neighbour who is just under 5ft (and has a "bad hip" and has difficulty walking, drives one and is very pleased with it.
Re: Seat data web site - Maggie Wood
JB Thanks again. The sites have comprehensive info which I have printed off and will study in more depth.
Re: Seat data web site - Julian Lindley

All the previous advice given by fellow contributors is correct and helpful, but your problem is how to distill it and resolve the problem as simply as possible.


You have to form a view as to what in the past has provided you with a seat that is your comfort ideal and why. This may take a little while, but the ergonomics could include:

Seat fore/ard adjustment range, plus increments between.
Steering wheel angular adjustment.
Backrest rake adjustment.
Rake of horizontal seat squab (I find this very uncomfortable on some cars)
Seat upholstery firmness
Height of seat above floor (some are adjustable)
Seat width. (I have found sporty seats on mid price cars very uncomfortable indeed because of width, and I am slim.)
Car type re seat position: Forward control, Sports, 4x4 sit up and beg and Std car.

My wife is also 5'- 1" and finds that she has to get very close to the steering wheel to drive our Astra, but is fine using our new type Mercedes C class which has an auto box. The clutch pedal is therefore not influential re seat position as it is for her on the Astra.

When you have a shortlist, hire each one, and do a long journey that will include motorways aswell as urban driving.

You will have to be methodical in your approach to this, and it will require some additional resource. A quick survey followed by purchase will almost certainly disappoint.

Good luck

Julian L
Re: Seat data web site - Julian Lindley

I forgot to add that in my experience the smaller the car the poorer the quality of the ride you will experience from it. Pitching can be a particuar issue.


Julian L
Re: Seat data web site - Maggie Wood
I have been pretty lucky with being able to get the cars for at least 24 hours. So far have tried, Stilo - 2 days but didn't have the opportunity to do more than travel to work and back - 38 miles per day, A3 - 24 hours and knew after about 1.5 hours that it was too uncomfortable for me, Alpha 147 - 4 days - pretty comfortable but not sure about selespeed and currently testing Honda Civic which I have had for 4 days and intend to give a good run out on Saturday - again so far not that impressed. Thanks for your advice. got a Corolla next but was thinking of changing for the Yaris given the good feedback so far.
Will keep you posted.
Re: Seat data web site - Fred Stoat
Try a Focus - remarkable seats and ride quality, won't appeal to badge snobs with more money than sense though.

Value my car