Karl Brauer, executive analyst at automotive research firm iSeeCars. An automotive journalist for more than 25 years, he is a jury member for both the North American Car and Truck of the Year and the World Car of the Year awards. iSeeCars.com
If a vehicle has a second row of seats and five seat belts, its automaker inevitably claims it seats five. But squeezing three adults into the backseat of most vehicles makes for uncomfortable travel, especially for whoever gets stuck in the middle.
Buying a big vehicle is one solution—the Buick LaCrosse…Chevrolet Impala…Chrysler 300…and Toyota Avalon offer particularly impressive rear-seat room and comfort. But most small cars and subcompact SUVs/crossovers—and even some midsize cars and compact SUVs/crossovers—feel cramped with five adults inside.
Here are five small vehicles that can comfortably fit five adults…
• Kia Soul. For an economy car, the Soul feels downright roomy inside. That’s partly due to the Soul’s very impressive 39.5 inches of rear-seat headroom—but the rear seat also offers a generous (for a smaller vehicle) 54.7 inches of shoulder room and 39.1 inches of legroom. That’s comparable to the roominess of many compact SUVs such as the Ford Escape…but you’ll pay thousands less for a Soul. 24 city/30 highway miles per gallon. Price: From $16,995.
• Volkswagen Jetta and Golf. The sporty Jetta compact sedan provides passenger space on par with that of many midsize sedans—53.6 inches of rear-seat shoulder room, 38.1 inches of legroom and 37.1 inches of headroom. Its hatchback sibling, the Golf, is no slouch either—53.9 inches of rear shoulder room, 35.6 inches of legroom and 38.1 inches of headroom. Jetta: 23 city/34 highway, from $18,715. Golf: 25 city/36 highway, from $20,715.
• Honda Civic. Available as a compact sedan, coupe or hatchback, the famously reliable Civic’s 55 inches of rear-seat shoulder room is excellent for its class. Its 37.4 inches of legroom and 37.1 inches of headroom are very good, too. 28 city/40 highway, from $19,615.
• Honda HR-V. If you want a subcompact SUV that doesn’t feel excessively subcompact in the backseat, the HR-V offers 54.5 inches of rear-seat shoulder room, 38.3 inches of headroom and 39.3 inches of legroom. 25 city/33 highway, from $20,405.