On a sunny day, there's nothing like a zippy little roadster. Take the Mazda MX-5 Miata. Great looks, great power and handling -- and a cockpit that's such a tight fit some auto reviewers don't recommend it for people over six feet tall. That's not a problem for the vertically challenged -- until those same reviewers note that the interior design makes visibility a problem for drivers under five-and-a-half feet.
People come in all shapes and sizes, and luckily, cars do too. The flip side is that the two don't always match up. While every car fits somebody, there isn't one car that will fit everybody. Obviously, the best way to find out if you fit in the car you're considering is to put it through a rigorous test drive. But you can also shop cars that cater to your body type with features that make getting comfortable a breeze. Here's what to look for:
Sometimes the junk in your trunk is actually going to be on the driver's seat. Cars like the Nissan Altima and Pontiac Grand Prix win praise for having wide, comfortable seats. The Dodge Nitro and (surprisingly) the small Saturn Sky get high marks from reviewers for seats that are soft enough to cushion most bumps. If you're too small to fill a seat up, look for a car with side bolsters like the Mazda Speed3 -- they'll hold you in place.
Taller drivers need plenty of space, but they don't necessarily have to drive large cars to get it. Some smaller players have surprising amounts of room. The subcompact Chevy Aveo gets praise for having plenty of headroom, as does the Toyota Matrix. If you want to spend a little (okay, a lot) more, the Lamborghini Gallardo has plenty of head space, too.
Getting in and out
You can't drive a car you can't get into. And while you can drive a car you can't get out of, it makes gassing up pretty difficult. The cars that are easiest to access have low floors and high roofs to minimize stepping up and stooping down. All minivans fit the bill, but if you've got an image to maintain, check out the Scion xB, Chrysler PT Cruiser and Honda Element. All have upright, chair-like seating and a low stance.
Cars to avoid include high riders like the Jeep Wrangler and Hummer H2, and low-slung sports cars like the Mazda RX-8 and Honda S2000. There is a way around high step-ins for some SUVS: the Land Rover LR3, Ranger Rover and Range Rover Sport have height-adjustable suspensions that allow the driver to lower the car for easier access.
Tilt/Telescoping Steering Wheel
Being able to bring the wheel towards you means not having to drive in a ramrod straight position. Most cars have wheels that tilt, improving visibility, but a telescoping feature is harder to find. In the affordable small car class, there's the Honda Civic, and in affordable midsize cars you can find the feature on the Toyota Camry and Chevy Malibu. Want to go more upscale? The Infiniti G's steering wheel not only tilts and telescopes, but the instrument panel moves with it to keep important information right in the driver's line of sight.
Our cars don't need our feet as much as Fred Flintstone's car needed his, but your feet are still what tells your car to stop and go. If you can't reach the pedals comfortably, it's not going to be a good drive. If you're not long in the leg, shop vehicles with adjustable pedals like the Ford Explorer and Expedition, Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and Cadillac Escalade.
Everyone sweats, but some do it more than others, making a feature like air conditioned seats a boon in the fight against B.O. While heated seats have become common across most price points, you should shop luxury makes like Lexus, Cadillac and Mercedes to get air conditioning for your keister.
Which is Best for You?
You can't tell which car is best for you without heading to the dealership and trying it on for size. But if you have comfort concerns, here are a few things to look for:
Tall Drivers: Check out cars with high, slightly rounded roofline like the Honda Civic, Chevy Aveo or Toyota Matrix. Since tall drivers will likely be moving their seats back, consider the Honda Accord so you don't crush your rear passengers.
Short Drivers: Go for cars with that bring the controls to you with tilt/telescope steering wheels and adjustable pedals. To get these features, check out the Ford Explorer or Chevy Tahoe. For a smaller package, check out the Chevy Malibu.
Small Drivers: Look for snug bolsters like in the Mazda Speed3.