Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Why can't we get front bench seats anymore

When dropping letters at a curbside mailbox I had to drive on the wrong side of the street. I have not had a car in years that I could slide across to the other side. Large sedans are limited to 5 passengers. Even Suvs and Minivans are not made to haul 6 mature adults, the 3rd row seats are all to difficult to get in and out of.

Most of us drive front drive cars now so there is no driveshaft tunnel to prevent us from having a flat floor. Was it really consumer demant that killed a bench seat.

I was in Switzerland 2 years ago and was in a VW van that had 9 adults in it with chair height seats 3 across.

I think it has to do with air-bags, shoulder belts and shift lever location…

I’m glad my truck has a bench–couldn’t get 3 in my truck without it–but I wouldn’t want a bench in a car, at least not if it even offered a semblance of spirited driving. Benches just don’t hold you in place enough!

And at any rate, a bench only makes sense in a full-size…anything smaller, you can’t fit 3 breast anyways. It’s tight even in the F150.

1 Like

I had bench seats in my Toyota pickups and found them very useful, much more so than buckets, and my pickups were no where near full size. And I’ve long believed that shifters on the column made much more sense than on the floor, especially for automatics. IMHO the best setup ever for automatics was a row of buttons on the dashboard.

My '64 Fairlane also had a bench seat in front. I think they’re much more useful than buckets. And, frankly, modern bucket seats on any affordable vehicles are terrible for comfort. My '64 Fairlane and my "79 and ‘89 Toyota pickups’ bench seats were much more comfortable. The sporty cars have now gone to high side bolsters, making them impossible to get in and out of, and hard foam that tries to force my body in ways that some young ergonomics professor has taught some young engineer meet God’s design, but it doesn’t. Seats that don’t try to force me into an unnatural position are IMHO far more comfortable than most of the buckets out there now.

Granted, if you have $40K+++ to spend you can find a comfortable seat. But why the ones in the $20K cars have to be so crude is beyond me.

The bags and shifter could probably be sorted out but the tricky part with a bench seat, assuming it was even wide enough to seat 3, would be figuring out a three-point safety harness.

I’m a huge fan of bench seats and kind of miss having stuff on the seat beside me; roadmaps, 8-track tapes, girlfriends… :wink:

The middle front position was always awkward, even for kids. It would be easier now, but I doubt there would be much demand. In Europe, Fiat sells the Multipla with three-across seating in front, but I sincerely doubt you’ll ever see it in the US.

Agreed that most bench seats were far more comfortable than any bucket seats in cars priced less than luxury $$$$$. Bucket seats are all sunken in the middle of seat bottom and seat back. It’s like sitting in miserable plastic bucket shaped stacking chairs. I can understand tautly bolstered seats for performance sports cars or even sport trim level of average cars but why inflict such misery on average drivers?

@ok4450 couldn’t a three point seat/shoulder belt be affixed in the middle of a front bench seat the same as is done in the middle of rear seats?

Not everyone wants a seat that everyone in that row has to all slide forward or back together or recline together. A good bucket can be made more adjustable for individual differences. The market has spoken. Bench seats s…k compared to everyone getting their own recliner . No way a six foot passenger can ride with a five foot driver comfortably. It defeats the whole concept seating three across unless the driver is the same height as his passenger.

Quote from @ok4450; “I’m a huge fan of bench seats and kind of miss having stuff on the seat beside me; roadmaps, 8-track tapes, girlfriends… ;-)”

I guess we have all grown out of this…We have GPS, who needs a map…we can’t hear the radio because of hearing loss…and I’d rather the wife ride in the back of the pickup truck, you know, all those girl germs!!!

But then I think of some of those old sweat hearts from years ago.
You know what happens to old cowgirls…they turn into saddle bags.


@ dagosa – Valid points! But I do wish that the split bench seat at least still existed like was in my 2007 Impala. Or, that at the least, flatter bucket seats were available on model trims costing less than luxury models/trims. Even the vinyl bucket seats of the long ago 1973 Corolla were less uncomfortable than the seats in the 2014 Camry.

If my TWO back rows of seat can have a shoulder belt for the middle seat…so could the front !
I just don’t get it either. Since the Expedition is based on the F150…why NOT have the shifter on the column and seating for three in the front ??? I could have put all NINE people in it when my daughter and family visited for christmas…but NO, we had to use two cars :frowning:

My Toyota pickups with bench seats had three-point seatbelt systems. No problem there.

OK4450, I loved the comment about the girlfriends. Millions of young fellas will never get the thrill of cruising with a sweet young girlfriend riding up tight against them. Sigh. Thanks for waking up the old memories.

I added seatbelts in my 79 Chevy pickup ( when we were reupholstering, painting, and adding A/C back in 82 ) and now there are lap belts for the TWO middle positions as well as the O.E for the outer two.
Now alll three kids and I are belted when making the Home Depot or rental house maintainence runs .

( and that’s why I’m so ticked at Ford for the Expedition only fitting eight instead of nine )

My 2004 Truck has a 60/40 split bench with a center set of seatbelts and a column shifter. I’m not sure how the airbags are set up but I suspect the right airbag deploys for the center passenger. The center seat has a fold-up armrest and storage compartment. It is very rarely used and usually by someone small since it isn’t comfortable for taller folks. I had an earlier model of the same truck with bucket seats a a huge center storage compartment. I gave that up for a little more utility.

“…you know, all those girl germs!!!”

I believe the technical term is “cooties.”

The 60/40 bench seat with fold up center arm rest / storage and a column shifter was so practical. I never had a passenger in that front center but enjoyed the extra knee room, having the little on the floor over the center hump trash basket in front and being able to fold up the arm rest to put the kleenex box in the middle when I had a passenger. Now with bucket seats I have to reach back between the seats to reach the trash basket on the rear floor and put the kleenex box in the back too if the front passenger seat is occupied like I did for years in my first car, a hand me down 1973 Corolla. In the greater scheme of life, a quite minor convenience issue but one that adds to a preference for at least a split bench front seat.

The trouble with bucket seats is everyone has a different sized bucket.
My favorite seat is in my Dodge Ram 2500 4x4. It has a 60/40 split with the drivers portion having very useable power controls. It has a huge fold down center arm rest that folds up for the third seat if needed.
My C6 Corvette has very deep firm bucket seats. The power adjustments are ok, but once you’re in them it’s hard to move around. Probably won’t be seeing a bench seat in a Corvette for a while…

Im not sure but the expedition, if 4x4 might need that floor area raised for the tranny or transfer case which would only make a center console feasible. I havent been in a 4x4 crew cab f150. My dad has a 97 4x4 expedition, and I have a v6 03 2wd long bed single cab f150 with a bench. Only thing I hate about my bench is the cold vinyl, and if my fiance drives she needs to be closer to the pedals and we have to slide the whole thing forward, killing my leg room. I also would really like a center console to put stuff in. If it bothers you that much, perhaps somehow you could ditch the buckets and center console and bolt a bench from an f150 in?

All my vehicles are bench now (f150 and 1950 cadillac) and now i miss the buckets. Theyre certainly more comfortable with the bolstering for every day driving IMO

I agree there are times when a split bench might be worthwhile. Moving the shifter into the center, having a big console and a nearby place to put your latte seemed to have won out wih the public. The “last” Tacoma (2014) short bed had a bench seat. It was a big reason I didn’t even try it out. I like my chocolate latte right next to me and a big console to hide my 8 tracks. You tell’m @Yosemite . Do those of us who own cars with bench seats…really have that many (any) girl friends ?