Driver comfort for those big and tall is hard to quantify. Here’s one thing every person bigger than average should consider during a test drive.
Big and tall drivers have a hard time fitting comfortably inside many modern automobiles. Headroom and legroom are important considerations and easily researched before heading to a dealership for a test drive. However, there is one important aspect of comfort you won’t find on any specifications page – Driver knee comfort.
Bigger people have longer and wider legs. Automakers are trying to pack everything they can into the center tunnel in your new car, truck, or crossover. This can mean your legs are confined in a small space – even in the largest vehicles. Yet, some compact cars offer substantial knee room for drivers. Here are a few examples of vehicles we have found to be very roomy and comfortable for those who are big and tall. Your tester is six feet tall and 195 pounds.
Poor Knee Comfort – Full-Size Pickup Truck – $51K
We recently tested a full-size pickup truck. The vehicle is huge, so one would assume that the area for the driver’s knees is also ample. One would be wrong. Despite acres of dash space, the manufacturer placed a dial for the 4×4 selection exactly where a driver’s knee will rest – even with the wheel fully extended and the seat back. Our right knee was in constant contact with the hard plastic of this knob and bounced against it over every bump. This small detail totally negated the potential comfort of the huge space inside the truck.
Great Knee Comfort – Midsized Sedan $36K
The Mazda6 Signature is the top trim of this midsize sedan. Designers added a padded area where a driver’s knee might contact the center console. Although the available space is less than the full-size pickup truck, the vehicle is much more comfortable.
Great Knee Comfort – Compact Crossover $50K
The BMW X2 is a compact crossover, or a small wagon depending upon your viewpoint. We don’t care what segment it is in, we love it. This relatively small car had excellent knee comfort because our knee didn’t contact any part of the center console. The vehicle is designed in such a way that the console is below the knee area. This compact still had room for two big cupholders and a center armrest with a storage bin.
Great Knee Comfort – Compact Hatchback $24K
We tested the all-new 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback and expected to have to make some sacrifices. To our happy surprise, there were none. This compact vehicle starts at under $20K and has excellent knee area. Like with the BMW, the designers found a way to fit in everything you need, but without crowding your knees.
Same Manufacture – Same Basic Vehicle – Completely Opposite Results – Crossovers $29K – $50K
The Toyota RAV4 is shown above on the right. Notice how the designers cut away the center console area where a driver’s right knee will rest. Notice too how the console bows inward to make extra room for the driver’s legs. The image on the left is the Lexus NX crossover. The NX and RAV4 share the same platform and have the same dimensions. Yet, the much more expensive NX bulges out to the area where the driver’s legs reside intruding on that space and making the vehicle feel cramped. This example shows best just how important the interior designer’s work is when it comes to comfort.
Summary – Big and Tall Driver Comfort
Once you’ve decided on a vehicle type, be sure you take a long test drive and note carefully how your legs fit in the allotted area in the vehicle. On short test drives it is difficult to gauge how comfortable this area is. However, on your first long road trip, your legs will thank you if you choose a vehicle with a well thought-out interior.