We’ve known for a few months that a redesigned Chevrolet Impala is heading our way. Now, Chevrolet has announced that when the 2014 Impala hits dealer lots next year, it will no longer be available with a front-bench seat. “The outgoing Impala is the last passenger car in production in North America to offer three-across front seating, an option that that ends with the introduction of Chevy’s redesigned flagship sedan,” says General Motors in a press release.
General Motors says that only 10 percent of buyers purchased the $195 bench seat option last year. Additionally, GM notes that SUVs and crossovers are largely filling the void (or lack thereof) that the outgoing Impala will leave behind. Left Lane News writes, “The front bench seat was a staple of the automotive landscape through most of the 20th century, but has fallen out of favor with buyers with the advent of the center console.”
When equipped with a front bench, the 2012 Impala LS will cost you $26,780 after destination charges. Along with the ability to seat six, the Impala offers 18.6 cubic feet of trunk space and gets 18/30 mpg city/highway. Those numbers are respectable among affordable large cars, but if you need a spacious vehicle, there are options that offer more cargo and passenger space, as well as better fuel economy at a lower price.
Affordable compact SUVs like the base 2012 Toyota RAV4 get 22/28 mpg city/highway, and will cost you $24,585 after you add the optional third-row seat. If you’re willing to pilot a minivan, you could drive off the dealer lot in the six-seat 2012 Mazda5 for as little as $20,420. Even some affordable midsize SUVs offer more space at a lower price. The 2013 Kia Sorento LX’s optional third row is an $800 option, but after you add it, the Sorento’s bottom line of $24,750 is still lower than the Impala’s. Three-row versions of the Sorento and RAV4 also seat seven, which gives you an extra seat when compared with the Impala.
While GM notes that most car shoppers won’t miss the front-bench option, some journalists say that there’s an element of nostalgia for certain shoppers. Edmunds writes, “Cruisers of the 1950s and '60s, with memories of girlfriends riding close beside them in the middle of the bench instead of ‘polishing the door handle’ on the passenger side, will likely mourn the passing of the bench seat.”
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