A Mostly Forgotten Angle – The View from the Backseat


(Note:  This was written by my daughter, who is in 7th Grade.  Except for the header picture and where noted, all pictures were taken by her.)

I am not a car fanatic; I am one who much prefers music and dancing. However, I wanted to present this article to refresh memories of what most car designers seem reluctant to remember–the back seat.

Most car designers only seem interested in the engine, what type of seats are used, is it turbocharged and, oh yeah, the back seat. The backseat often seems to be forgotten during the design process, as any child likely knows.

There often seems to be a higher amount of focus on the front half of the vehicle. This is fine, but the backseat is a very important area also.  I have spent large quantities of time there wondering why so few vehicles have a third passenger seat up front.

For me, there are three primary things I look for in cars: Plenty of legroom; is the back seat comfortable; and, does it have a good sound system. Sadly, the first two requirements seem tricky to come by.

Here is a compilation of reviews of different cars.


2013 Ford Fusion

I likely would never have ridden in a Ford Fusion if it weren’t for having to go car shopping with my parents –not my idea of a fun day.


The seat itself was okay, and definitely better than the 1993 Buick Century I used to ride in. The shape was better but the cushion was much firmer. As far as legroom, it was about the same, maybe a bit better.

We only test drove this briefly so it’s hard to compare it to other cars I’ve spent more time in.


2014 Ford Escape

This is another vehicle my parents test drove. Room wise, it was like the roller coasters in the kiddie section of an amusement park – that’s not good when you have long legs (and I’m currently 5’6” tall). Comfort wise it was gag-a-phyingly bad.


The seats were about as soft as a rock, and the shape was very flat without any curves to keep you from sliding around. It reminded me of a concrete park bench. Whoever designed the back seat was rather unenthusiastic about their assignment.


This is how I feel about the back seat of a Ford Escape.


Photo by JS

2007 Ford F-150 Super Crew

Legroom is okay. Comfort wise it is also okay. The center seat has the seat belt coil very near my head when sitting on the left side and I find it rather intrusive. A head rest for the middle passenger seat in the rear would make the seat belt coil less spiteful.

I really have no clue on the sound system as I’m not allowed to have very much volume (except if it’s Willie Nelson–gag!).

van exterior

Photo by JS

2000 Ford E-150 conversion van

Considering it is a conversion van with two rows of rear seats, I will start with the middle row. There are not many seats where I can stick my legs all the way out in front of me without brushing anything.

It’s as refreshing as a cucumber salad with pieces of fresh watermelon and a root beer on a warm summer day.

van interior

Photo by JS

Comfort wise it is like somebody stuck a recliner in it where a person can even recline it. That is one feature my parents love.

The back seat is not quite as comfortable, but is surprisingly cushy for not having very much shape. The legroom back here is not quite as good as the middle row, but it is comparable to that of our next car.

I must say that if somebody turns on the interior lights, it is lit like the inside of a limousine.


Photo by JS

1963 Ford Galaxie

The back seat cushions in this car are unbelievable, especially considering the age of these seats.

There is something so satisfying about the muffled squeak of the seat springs when I sit down. The satisfaction is likely from knowing I am sitting on a thick cushion versus what often seems to be a plastic seat with a quarter-inch thick layer of padding over it (I shall not name names but you might get an idea from what I’ve already mentioned).

There is a lot of freedom riding in a car that has no rear seat belts – ah, room to stretch. It’s pretty novel for me to ride in a car without the (three-point) seat belt rubbing against my neck. Those were the days when the back seat was just as important as the front; what happened?


2014 Volkswagen Jetta

The first two requirements were met pretty well considering the overall size of the Jetta. It’s one of the few newer cars I have ridden in where the backseat was given more attention than other cars (Ford, listen to my advice and then apply it to your Escape).


The back seat is comfortable and done quite nicely for the size of the car, but the middle of the rear seat could use some help.  I would either need to straddle the hump or sit with my legs up quite high. That area is wider than in these other cars. One could easily place a tissue box on top of the hump (with room to spare) it is so wide. The seat cushion had a slight mound in the middle, which would make sitting there for very long rather uncomfortable.

Legroom is quite nice for a small car. As you can see, I have plenty of room to stretch my legs; it almost seems geometrically impossible to get so much room in such a small car.


2014 Volkswagen Passat

The backseat is a lot like the Jetta but with even more legroom. I’ve had a few decent tests of the sound system at my own will, but the one sound testing when the volume was at maximum is when Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson were singing.  I was begging to have that turned off, to no avail whatsoever.

Returning to the back seat, the Passat is like the Jetta with an extra 3.75” of legroom.  On long trips, such as our trip to Chicago in January, the back seat does get quite firm after about 90 minutes to two hours.

Overall, this back seat is pretty darn good, the best of the new cars I’ve ridden in.

beverly hillbillies oldsmobile

There are a few cars I would like to ride in to try out the back seat just for the fun of it. Anybody who likes to watch classic television shows should recognize this one. For those who don’t, it is the car from the Beverly Hillbillies television show (It’s a 1921 Oldsmobile – JS).

I sat in this very car where it’s displayed in Branson, Missouri, but I was too young to really remember much about it. I’m hoping to sit in it again. I’d also like to try a limousine.  Those have very big back seats.