Editor: The following is a guest post by Andrew. In search of a tall friendly car, he did an immense survey of what’s out there. This will be a huge help for anyone looking for a decent car for tall people. Note that I’ve tried to include an image for a model of each brand mentioned, but these likely won’t be an exact match (Creative Commons libraries and somewhat limited…).
Thank you for this, Andrew!!
In 2017, I was on the hunt for my first-ever new car. Although excited to replace my modified 1998 Mitsubishi Eclipse as my daily driver (yes, I know), I knew I had a challenge ahead: at 6’4” with wide shoulders and a huge car-roof-smashing cranium, I regularly fail to fit into “normal” sized vehicles. As I’m sure other extra large people out there will appreciate, my usual car experience is having my head pressing against roof, one leg twisted into the door while the other practically sits under my chin, and having the seat all the way back as I do the tall person’s “shoulder-pulling reach” to the steering wheel. Do I grow larger once inside a vehicle? Do I have a freakishly long torso? Am I all legs? I have no idea!
I could imagine my perfect car: a vehicle that was reasonably sporty (with good acceleration and responsive steering and handling) and that had excellent visibility and safety. It would feature good fuel economy, comfortable seats, enough room for two large people (my wife is 5’10’’), a useable backseat, and decent storage. And that car would be an established model with above-average reliability below $30,000. So not a fantasy wish list by any car enthusiast’s standards!
Diving into the internet of wisdom, I read way too many “best cars for the large and tall” posts. They had some great slideshows but no shortage of inconsistency (leg room, roof height, etc.) and so I eventually decided to do my own first hand research. I visited over twenty car dealerships and “sized” at least a few cars on each lot. Here’s what I found.
Like a lot of “tall car” newbies, I assumed that Jeep would be the place to start. Nope! The boxy frame and large windows of some Jeep models certainly make them look accommodating to us giants, but my experience was quite the opposite.
The super-affordable and much maligned Patriot isn’t being made anymore, so the low prices in the market made the last-year 2017 model, especially the manual shift version, a potentially attractive option. I figured I could get over the slow acceleration and known quality issues.
Trying it out: While the large and accommodating seats were quite comfortable, in any seat position I found that my eyes were positioned above the top window line (see: vision line height). The rear-window view felt particularly claustrophobic.
Conclusion: A recipe of poor reliability, slow acceleration and poor visibility is a dangerous brew. Nice seats though!
I skipped the Wrangler as I don’t off-road and it is widely seen as a poor quality road vehicle. I had high hopes for the Renegade. The brand new “cute ute”, FCA’s boxy and fun Jeep, features the same engine as a Fiat 500xl. My co-worker had one and graciously lent it to me for a 40 minute test drive.
Trying it out: Not terrible, but a disappointment. The Renegade features a huge front window panel, but visibility out for tall drivers is blocked by an oversized central (name-of-mirror-thing). Handling was flat, acceleration slow and unresponsive to anything but a flat-foot. The Renegade was loud and felt surprisingly cheap at highway speed.
Conclusion: I may have been onto something; shortly after my test drive the vehicle earned an abysmal quality score from consumer reports… makes sense.
Nissan has some ‘new’ vehicles on the market and was in the process of phasing out the always controversial Juke. I visited a couple of dealerships and did a short test drive with the Rogue.
Trying it out: While the roofline height wasn’t terrible, the knee and footwells area was sorely lacking – my legs were pressed against the bottom of the dash. The vehicle isn’t particularly well-handling, the engine is unremarkable, the interior feels by-the-numbers – as does everything else. There’s really nothing special going for the Rogue as an overall vehicle and it wasn’t particularly comfortable. It is a vehicle that defies superlatives. It isn’t anything.
I was hoping that the squarish profile on this funky love-it-or-hate it vehicle would reap the reward of a comfortable driving position. The base engine/trim level isn’t much; but there is the entirely ridiculous Juke Nismo edition so maybe this would work out to be something fun!
Trying it out: Head, meet corner/roofline. Shoulder, meet door. The Juke is a rare reverse “Tardis”, it actually is smaller on the inside.
Conclusion: Unsafe at any speed, for me, anyway. Oh well.
In Canada the model is named the “Qashqai” and in the U.S. it is labeled the “Rogue Sport”. Nissan claims this is due to the success of the Rogue in the U.S. market. Well, maybe.
This vehicle has some positives going for it:
- Pricing is competitive
- It is an established model in a later generation (sold for years in Japan et. al., so reliability should be strong and company continues invest in it and expand distribution)
- Interior quality seems good on any trim level.
Trying it out: I was pleasantly surprised. The seats on the upper trim level were quite comfortable and the seating angle was slightly more upright, which I prefer. The interior was felt well-built and a step up from other models in the price range.
My hair brushed the roof, and my eye-line (VLH) was somewhat restricted, but it was better than most vehicles I tried out as part of car shopping. Rear visibility was somewhat compromised by a sloping back roofline and a squat window, which was obstructed by the rear seat headrests. With passengers, that could be safety issue.
Conclusion: Actually, not terrible at all! If you’re on the shorter side of tall, or have a body that is more legs than torso, it may be worth a look. I was ultimately looking for something a little smaller, a little better on fuel economy (or at least of comparable MPG and greater handling/accel.), and something with a little more headroom, so I moved on.
Vendor published measurements are not a reliable indicator of fit! Despite most Toyota’s having an extra inch or two less than competitors in the “headroom” measurement, I decided to give them a shot.
Judging by my local area every third vehicle in Canada is a RAV4 and so I’ve had the opportunity to ride around in them a bit. While the roofline/sightline wasn’t terrible, there also wasn’t much to recommend it. The RAV4 deal-breaker for me though, is the leg wells. The sloping area under the dashboard is relatively low and my knees simply don’t fit comfortably.
The C-HR was clearly designed to be a part of the now-defunct Scion brand run by Toyota. Looking past the (optimistic?) “fun cars for urban millennials” brand that Scion represented, I do appreciate an interesting looking vehicle that is a little different than say, the impossible-to-remember RAV4.
Trying it out: Ha hah hah hah. Ha. Okay, I may be stuck…
Conclusion: I did manage to exit the vehicle without asking the salesperson for assistance.
Other Toyota vehicles:
- Too expensive to try: 4Runner, Sequoia
- I actually like to drive and acceleration and handling and stuff, so the Prius is not going to be a part of this conversation
- Pickup trucks: Not really what i was looking for, but they’re often not as a big as some people think, anyway.
- Would probably be fun if I was way smaller: the very affordable Yaris hatch.
Mazda has a reputation for vehicles with well designed interiors and swift acceleration and handling relative to their competition. Those driver-friendly features combine with a mature (as in ‘reliable’) model line and reasonable pricing, and that’s an attractive proposition.
I spent quite some time at the local Mazda dealership although in truth that was mostly because (1) the showroom was terribly managed (2) and they couldn’t find any of the car keys.
Trying it out: As a car with a reputation for reliability and good handling at a reasonable price, I had high hopes… and a relatively short roof.
Conclusion: To some disappointment I conceded to myself that a head squeezed into the top-left corner of the roofline is a head that is not in a safe driving position.
Conclusion: To some disappointment I conceded to myself that a head squeezed into the top-left corner of the roofline is a head that is not in a safe driving position even if the car if a little larger in overall size.
Conclusion: See review of CX-3.
Chevy is made for big, hard working Americans right? Maybe. On the basis of my criteria, Consumer Reports quality reviews and other sources I elected to skip the Trax, Equinox and Traverse and instead check out a couple of the newer members of Chevy’s lineup.
The Cruze Diesel option is certainly an interesting and rare one, and Chevy has revived their interior comfort a bit in recent years. Could it be a good value at an affordable price?
Trying it out: Too small. Not horrible as no particular thing is off here, it’s just uniformly too small somehow 🙂
Conclusion: Diesel (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Nash) will not fit into this car, and neither will I.
Trying it out: Wish I could say! As of writing this article, Chevy Bolt sales were strong but the vehicle was hard to find in Canada. Indicators on sizing are about average for the class ( https://www.caranddriver.com/chevrolet/bolt-ev/specs#specifications) but they can be deceiving (tall life vlh blog post.
Conclusion: Does the Bolt fit you? Tell us in the comments!
You’re probably already laughing, right?
The Fit’s reputation for being surprisingly roomly and decently agile on the road had my hopes up. At the dealership, the lead salesperson suggested it wasn’t even worth trying though. Thank you Mr. Salesman, but I’ll find out for myself.
Trying it out: Ever try on a shirt that was two sizes too small for you? Its like that.
Conclusion: The salesperson was right! I resist the urge to make a pun.
Relatively slow acceleration and a bland feature set isn’t a great selling point but I do like the Scion-era design notes on the funky, contorted outer shell. The HR-V was clearly designed for “the millenials”. I’m willing to fake it if the vehicle fit is good.
Trying it out: My shoulder presses hard into the frame and and top-corner headroom feels far too close to my skull. It isn’t as bad as some of the other vehicles I’ve tried, but the HR-V is still too small for safety’s sake.
Conclusion: Does this mean the Scion IA (link) won’t fit me too?
By all accounts the CR-V is an excellent, well-built vehicle. Yawnnnnn. I find the CR-V, the vehicle which arguably defined the current everything-must-be-a-crossover car market, incredibly boring. The vehicle footprint is a little larger than I’d like for squeezing into a downtown parking space. But we’ll see…
Trying it out: It isn’t terrible. The sloping roofline feels a bit tight and the VLH could be better, but the CR-V is better than most. The internal fit isn’t great, but among the rest of the field, it’s a reasonable option for this bug dude.
Conclusion: I don’t really like the CR-V but it is hard to argue with the Toyota build quality and overall value. I’d really like to find something that is a little more interesting and fun to drive, but if I’ve learned anything to this point, it is that options for the larger individual are very limited. We’ll see.
Have you read 1,000 of those “best cars for big people” posts like me? In nearly every comments section, someone says they drive a old civic and it fits them great. Maybe there’s something to this.
Trying it out: I’m trying out the new transformers-inspired Civic models and finding myself… pleasantly surprised! The seats are reasonably comfortable, and while I have to duck down a bit for enter and egress, once in the vehicle the interior space is unexpectedly adequate.
In the Civic, similar to almost all other cars I’ve tried, the headroom is a bit tight. But the visibility is better than what I expected from outside the vehicle and my shoulders don’t feel as awkwardly compressed as in other Honda models. The leg and knee space was surprisingly good with the title-steer all the way up and the seat pushed all the way back.
Conclusion: The Civic isn’t “spacious” inside but I was surprised to find it more pleasant to sit inside than other vehicles I tried. The Civic also comes with some variations on trim and engine, which is a bonus. If you’re a big person looking for a small vehicle, it may be worth a test.
Kia vehicles used to be seen as cheap and of subpar-quality. Not so today. The brand has reliably won high ratings and awards from (consumer reports) and (another source). Perhaps one of Kia’s small crossovers or the boxy Soul would be a good fit!
I’m lumping these two cars together as (1) they’re both boring crossovers/suv -type vehicles and (2) My experience in them was almost exactly the same. See also: Nissan Murano.
Trying it out: The rooftline is a little lower than I’d like relatively to my vision height. Not terrible. Rear visibility could be a little better, but that is true for most of the market.
Conclusion: The Forte has excellent safety test results and is known to be reliable. It is a little smaller and not as “driving friendly” as I’d like, but it may do in a pinch for a larger person.
The Optima is often mentioned as a “larger than you’d expect” vehicle. Let’s see if it is true!
Conclusion: It isn’t true. Perhaps an older model of the Optima had more room. This vehicle is smaller, somewhat cramped and not even close to a viable sizing fit.
The Soul! Boxy, big windows, hamster-friendly. Good safety and build quality reputation, small parking space footprint, relatively affordable and Kia even offers an EV version and a sweet (turbo model)! I’m excited!
Trying it out: The interior has a lovely, progressive design. The seats are comfortable. Huge front window and reasonable rear visibility. This is going well except… my head is pressed lightly against the top roof / corner. While my view out may be better than almost all the other cars I’ve tested, it isn’t safe (or comfortable) to drive in this position.
Conclusion: Darn it! I really liked the Soul but the roofline misfit is a non-starter. If you’re a big person, this one is worth a try though – maybe you will fit where I failed!
I’m decidedly pro-Subaru. I like the safety record. I like the unobtainable Subaru Levarge (link). I like the pretty awesome looking new Subaru Global Platform (link).
The Impreza was the first car released on the new platform and the slightly larger wheelbase, all wheel drive and impressive review scores have my hopes high! I’ve always liked the Impreza’s aesthetic design and overall cost:value ratio.
Trying it out: Not bad! ~ but not good. The overall visibility is well above average for the hatchback, with narrow pillars and a nice viewing angle. But the roofline is just too low, my head is brushing the roof and corner lines. Darn.
Conclusion: Darn. I try sitting in it twice more… I really want to fit. Double-darn.
The Crosstrek is an Impreza with more ground height, decked out in 1990’s Jansport backpack aesthetic. Which I like. Let’s do this!
Trying it out: Triple-darn. I did try the 2017 Crosstrek, not the 2018 – although stats indicate there shouldn’t be much difference.
The Forrester is Subaru’s big beefy vehicle with a reputation for rugged somewhat-offroad capabilities and enormous storage capacity.
Trying it out: Nope!
Conclusion: The 2017/2018 Forrester lists at nearly the same headroom as the Impreza on Car & Driver. While these measurements aren’t a particular reliable measurement of vehicle room, it does make sense I wouldn’t fit into this one either. Perhaps the older models are taller?
I’m here, it’s awesome, why not. I was hoping that the low profile seating position of the sports car would help me to find a good fit and some sort of convincing reason that this would make sense when discussing with my significant other.
Trying it out: I decided to take a 15km loop through a nice curvy country road – exactly the kind of driving I like to do for fun. The salesperson was game and as we headed out for a fun little sprint that I was *not* going to speed or do that thing where people “test drive” sports cars as a fun little weekend diversion of “let’s drive super fast and terrify the sales rep!” We set off with high hopes…
(image of cop lights)
Oh my. Okay, here is what happened.
- I kept the STI near the speed limit the entire time
- I took a few curves a little fast, but the STI could have cared less – it was built for this stuff
- I had a giant balloon attached to the vehicle which swung around as I went through the initial city traffic, terrifying all around me. Wait –
- I HAD A GIANT BALLOON ATTACHED TO THE VEHICLE!
The salesperson forgot to take it off….and being attached a springy pole, the thing wasn’t in my rearview. It was, however, well in the view of all those people who had it swing precariously back and forth above their car, in the other lane.
Well, I didn’t know this when the cop was walking up to my window so I remarked, “wow, this vehicle really is a cop magnet!”. Long story short, no ticket and the officer was laughing the entire team. Think we made his day.
You’re probably already laughing, right?
I was interested to see if the relatively affordable, sort-of-sporty Elantra GT would size well. Points to the dealership here for being more accommodating than the cars they are selling.
Trying it out: I’m not able to enter the vehicle without significant maneuvering. Moving on.
Trying it out: See, Elantra, GT.
I like the Veloster! It’s fun, its relatively speedy, it has THREE DOORS people! How can you not love that? There’s even a Turbo version.
Trying it out: It isn’t terrible, but it isn’t safe for someone my size. The lowest seating positions provides relatively good visibility out and up, but my head is firmly against the roof line.
Conclusion: It’s a sweet, little, car.
The Tuscon is just super boring.
Trying it out: I was expecting the the Hyundai Tuscon would be the exception in the Hyundai brand given the type of vehicle. However, the long sloping front windshield effectively steals headroom or styling. To me, it felt smaller than the Suburu Impreza, when inside.
Conclusion: “Swoopy” styling is the enemy of the large.
Like a lot of people in my general age group, I didn’t have the warmest feelings towards Ford (or Chevy) since we remember the “bad old days” when both companies were in financial trouble and their entry level cars were: unreliable, slow and always in danger of recall.
Times have changed! Today’s consumer level Ford’s are known for remarkable steering and handling for the price level. But would I fit in one?
Hot hatch is my favorite kind of car. This looks perfect for the kind of curvy, hilly, country driving I like to do. Fun video? Check. I’m much more interested in the ST than the standard focus, which is a car and has characteristics including: being a car.
Trying it out: The low seating position works to my advantage and forward visibility is actually quite good overall. It is tight, but much better than most small cars. Feels fun and zippy – but perhaps a bit crowded for a longer drive.
There’s a blocker-level issue here though: the Recaro seats. My shoulders will never, ever, fit in that. Apparently some people switch them with owners of the nicer seats on the standard Focus.
Conclusion: I really do like the ST and I suppose I could work around the seats thing. But I’m a bit tired of ‘swooping into’ a car seat and more room for groceries would be appreciated. If I was single and less interested in longer trips: yes, this car rocks.
The what? Okay, the C-Max is a strange story. It is an MPV sold for years in Europe (what North Americans might call a small crossover) that was adapted into Hybrid and Plugin Hybrid models for the market here (arguably to meet CAFE standards.)
It is tall for a car with a small footprint. As in, “pope hat” tall.
Trying it out: This is …good. Even with the upright, straighter sitting position I feel like I have a foot of air above – it is a weird, nice, feeling. Visibility can be described as …ridiculously open. There are four windows on each side and relatively thin pillars. There are eleven windows in this vehicle, if you include the gigantic moonroof option.
Conclusion: Okay, so it is probably Prius-level slow and unwieldy, or otherwise critically flawed, right? I took it for a test drive and it found it to be: agile, quick and comfortable. Wow. Okay.
The Ford escape seems perfectly fine at almost everything and remarkable at almost nothing.
Trying it out: It is, perfectly fine. I’m not cramped, but not exactly comfortable around my knees/footwell area. The ride is good but not great. Visibility is good but not remarkable. Fuel economy seems, unsurprisingly, a little better than average. That’s the story here, from my perspective. Headroom was a better than most, but not particularly good.
Conclusion: It is a little bigger than I really need and while it seems to basically be a good vehicle, there’s nothing that really recommends it for me. In the Suburu Impreza, for example, I had less space but it had some driving qualities and an overall technology, design and aesthetic cohesiveness that was attractive. Do I like the Escape? Maybe. I guess. I don’t dislike it.
Trying it out: Vroom Vroom!
Conclusion: Ouch ouch! There’s no room in here for me. Also, I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to be able to see traffic lights and stuff.
Okay, the Transit Connect isn’t an ahem, “drivers car”. But it looks like a refuge in the market for the very tall (I am a big guy, but compared to most people who read tall person blogs and help sites, I would barely be considered tall at 6’4, if you are all are feeling generous).
Trying it out: There is an enormous amount of room in here (I remark to the driver, as I return from the airport, in the passenger seat.)
Conclusion: Maybe not the most fun to zip around town in, but if you don’t mind slow acceleration, have a big family, or want to convert to an airport shuttle service, this is a great car for you. Okay look: if you are very tall and don’t want to drive a big, big van and/or are tired of looking at “Honda Element vs. Nissan Cube vs. some-giant-old-SUV-from-the-80’s” posts, this might be the right vehicle. Just keep in mind, this is a ‘working vehicle’. If you want something more posh as a consumer level highway cruiser, you may want to check out the van market.
I am the proud owner of a 2017 C-Max Hybrid.
One year and 17,000 km later, I still love it. So I found the right car for me… hop you find yours too!