Hooniverse Asks: What Car is Too Cramped For You?

clown car
When I was but a lad I had the hots to own a sports car. My ride at the time was a Corvair 500 Turtletop four-door and while an excellent conversation starter, it was about as far from a sporting ride as one could get. This led me to visit one of the many small used car lots that once carpeted my neck of the woods to check out a natty Fiat 850 Spider.
It sat there in its fly yellow paint and black vinyl top, gleaming under the buzzing overhead lights. It didn’t matter to me that the engine had but 47 horsepower, or that it sat well behind the rear axle line potentially giving the car all the handling characteristics of a bucket of water swung on the end of rope. No, what mattered was that it had split blade bumpers front and rear, and sugar scoop headlamps, and a top that disappeared behind a hard tonneau, it was sex exemplified.
Then I got in. One thing I perhaps haven’t mentioned is the the Fiat 850 Spider is an incredibly small car. Did I mention that? I didn’t think so. It’s so small in fact, that once I was behind the wheel I found that there was room in the footwell for only one of my feet. I’d be a tough choice which one as I’m pretty attached to both. The problem was of course, the front wheel arch. It encroached significantly into the floor space where your feet should go. It was so tight in that car that the sideview mirror would have to do double duty as the dead pedal. Sadly, my love affair with the 850 was over almost before it started. My next car would be a sporty car rather than a sports car, a 1965 Mustang 289 coupe, and it had room to roam.
What about you, have you ever encountered a car that was just too dang cramped to drive? Was it a sad realization for you too?
Image: JoyReactor

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42 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: What Car is Too Cramped For You?”

  1. Sjalabais Avatar

    I’m 192cm, the easier question would be: What car is not cramped? Interestingly though, newer cars often feel more cramped than older ones, build like fortresses with some electric goobleedegoos behind every intruding panel.
    The only car I could really stretch myself in was my ’71 Volvo 145. Our Camry is okay. In my Honda, I sit as easy as on a kitchen chair, sigh. Lots of modern Hondas, like the Civic or CR-V can’t offer me a relaxed position at all, with the pedals not aligned with my body, my knee rammed into the steering column, side walls, or even steering wheel. Bleh.

  2. Alff Avatar

    Miata. Makes my Alfa Romeo feel spacious.

    1. P161911 Avatar

      I would love to get a Mittal, but the sad reality is that I don’t fit. The big problem is the width. My shoulder sit where the window is supposed to be.

      1. Alff Avatar

        NB is even worse with a rollbar and hardtop. Super fun to drive, though.

  3. Lokki Avatar

    I really, really wanted a Saturn Sky. I’m not particularly big but there just wasn’t room for my left arm, and with the top up it was like wearing a hat.

  4. ptschett Avatar

    I haven’t sat in the current MX5/Miata but the immediately prior generation was too tight for me… and I can sit in my dad’s Austin-Healey Sprites just fine.
    Also, the Fiat 500. (My right leg wants to be where the shifter pod is.)

  5. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    I haven’t yet encountered a car which I felt was too cramped to drive, but the smallest car I’ve driven has been a Triumph Spitfire. Reading your assessment of the 850’s interior space is a bit disappointing. I’ve always liked the look of the 850 Spider, and have dreamt of one day owning one.
    The 850 isn’t actually the smallest car that I have dreamt of owning, though. That title probably belongs to the Berkeley SE492. I haven’t tried to wedge myself into one, but I probably should before I make the leap from fan to owner.
    Is there anyone here over six feet with any experience driving any of the early ‘90s Kei sports cars (Cappuccino, Beat, AZ-1)?

    1. Wayne Moyer Avatar
      Wayne Moyer

      The Spitfire is more spacious than a 850. The primary reason is that the Spitfire lets you put your arm over the door. The Fiat has such a high door that it tends to give you a really cramped feel.
      I might be a bit biased as a Spitfire owner but I was test driving the Fiat’s before I bought it and that was the reason I didn’t.

    2. mdharrell Avatar

      Berkeleys have surprisingly little legroom. I’ve been in cars that are significantly smaller overall than a Berkeley without difficulty, but I couldn’t fit myself into a Berkeley Sports in any reasonable manner.
      Of course I’m willing to try again should a T60 ever come along.

  6. Harry Callahan Avatar
    Harry Callahan

    I find 64-68 Mustangs highly desireable to look at but far too small to sit in. I am 5”11″, 230lbs. When I sit in my 1968 coupe, my head is touching the headliner and with the seat in the max back position, my knees remain quite bent. My shoulder is also very close to the side glass.
    I briefly owned a 2013 Mustang, but quickly parted with it because I found it uncomfotably cramped.
    Yes, I know, I am overweight, but I hate driving trucks and SUVs, which is where most fat-assses find maximum comfort…. As such, I find sedans of the Camcord size or larger my best bet.

  7. Harry Callahan Avatar
    Harry Callahan

    I find 64-68 Mustangs highly satisfying to look at, but far too small to sit in. I am 5”11″, 230lbs. When I sit in my 1968 coupe, my head is touching the headliner and with the seat in the max back position, and my knees remain quite bent. My shoulder is also very close to the side glass.
    I owned a 2013 Mustang, but quickly parted with it because I found it uncomfotably cramped. So for me, Mustangs are mostly off limits for DD use.
    Yes, I know, I am overweight, but I hate driving trucks and SUVs, which is where most fat-assses find maximum comfort…. As such, I find sedans of the Camcord size or larger my best bet.
    Generallyl, I fnd that today’s large center consoles contribute greatly to the sense of being cramped. A column shfter, while eschewed by nearly every living enthusiast, frees up floor space, giving the cabin much more usable space. I also believe that the requisite cup holders and phone cubby could be relocated so as to allow for deletion of space-robbing center consoles.

  8. CraigSu Avatar

    Jaguar E-Type. Imagine my chagrin when I got in the driver’s seat only to discover, much like Robert in the Fiat 850, that the footwell was too cramped for my large-ish feet. Perhaps it would have worked without a clutch down there but then, what would have been the point?

  9. Kiefmo Avatar

    I’m not tall or overly large, but I’m already feeling squashed putting the family into the Pilot after so many years with the minivan. We went to IKEA this weekend to look at a potential cheap office chair purchase, and looking at the space behind the rear seats in the Pilot, I decided they had to go down, and put all three kids in the middle row. They’re all still little, and not at all cramped, but the arguing did indeed commence with the quickness.
    Point is, I think I could fit the same amount of stuff behind the Pilot’s second row that I used to fit behind the van’s third row. We’re going to have to get a rooftop cargo box, and that bugs me. We had better take this AWD, definitely-not-a-minivan-in-a-smaller-boxier-package into some terrain that would stick a minivan.

    1. Guest Avatar

      We’ve had the exact same realization moving from our Odyssey to the CX-9. It has way less space inside, but the same overall footprint.

      The difference in driving is noticeable, however, even on gravel. The Mazda holds the gravel road a lot better, and is a lot quieter (those few extra inches in ground clearance mean that a little less gravel hits the undercarriage).

    2. Inliner Avatar

      I have no idea if any are available for the Pilot, but I had heard years earlier of various companies making rear-mounted cargo boxes designed to mount where a rear-mounted bike rack would otherwise go.

  10. theskitter Avatar

    Not only the most cramped (even with the top down, as shown), but also the sketchiest vehicle I’ve ever driven. After I tried it, I thought back to some of the hills I’d raced him on, and had to be shaken out of it.

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      Does that have any sort of steering and/or brakes?

      1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

        Brakes? Other objects.

      2. theskitter Avatar

        The round PVC tube has a loop of string that runs to each upright and allows for maybe 10 degrees of steering lock. The left-side handle operated a wooden dowel that rubbed on the back of one rear tire.

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          Ah. Fair enough. I just wanted to check the extent to which “driving” was a meaningful description of the experience.

          1. theskitter Avatar

            Nothing compared to any of your fleet that manage net positive power.

    2. Alff Avatar

      Is this an organized class? Orange crate racing? Or did you just decide the world needed something like this? I don’t know which is the scarier answer.

      1. theskitter Avatar

        Run what you brung. The builder intended to make it look like a Hummer, and succeeded in frightening me after we swapped cars. He wasn’t even the craziest one there. That would be the guy who rode the pallet jack down the hill, standing on the tips at the back, steering with two ropes.

        1. Alff Avatar

          I rode the pallet jack skateboard in the window factory where I worked many times. You’d have to be nuts to do it on any kind of slope.

  11. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    Rather ludicrously, my own Rover. By UK standard it’s a big car, but the driving position is pure ’85 Honda Legend – e.g, Jackie Chan would find it luxurious. I have to contort myself a little to successfully fit in.
    By contrast, my far smaller Audi A4 has far more space for the driver’s legs and feet.

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

      Speaking of leg and foot room, old Ford vans were best driven by contortionists and people with one missing leg.

  12. JohnComposMentis Avatar

    My last 2 cars were a 2006 Honda Element and my current 2011 Honda Fit, both with top-hat-class headroom and adequate legroom and shoulder room for my 5’11” height and 210 pounds. At the LA auto show in November I test-sat numerous cars and found the most common deficit in front-seat room was that the windshield header felt too close to my forehead, even though the actual headroom itself was OK. I suppose I would get used to this if I owned one of those cars.
    The only other car that comes to mind was my almost 4-decades-ago (!) 1979 Renault LeCar, in which footroom was narrow not because of the wheel wells but because of the intrusive housing for the engine, which sat behind the front axle.

  13. Mr. Ollivander Avatar
    Mr. Ollivander

    It’s sad to see from the image above that Ringling Brothers has already started to close down operations. 😉
    For current cars, a member of my staff was given a Fiat 500 for a rental. It was painful even for a short ride to a nearby restaurant.

  14. Citric Avatar

    I am a wider fellow, and as a result the seats in the Focus ST roundly reject my presence and give me sore ribs.

  15. Tiberiuswise Avatar

    I find my Ford Expedition a little cramped. Especially in the headroom department. Ironic as my previous car, a Ford C-Max felt like a TARDIS.

  16. Jack Dempster Avatar
    Jack Dempster

    I’m 6’2″ and a lot of cars are tight in the front, but so many more have zero footspace in the rear once I get comfortable to drive. It’s been a real issue looking for a replacement.

  17. crank_case Avatar

    I was able to get in and just about shut the door, but my knee was jammed against the door, making it just too tight to be comfy, gutted..

  18. Alff Avatar

    Also, Jeep Cherokee. For all of its praises, it was a bit of a penalty box inside. That’s probably why I kept it for only seven years.

  19. Manxman Avatar

    Being of average height I never had a problem feeing cramped. My first car was a Renault 4cv and my second car was a 62 Ford Galaxie. Both had advantages and were fun to drive. The most closed in feeling car was an MG Midget with the top up. The most roomy feeling car was my 92 Caprice. I’ve never turned down a car because it was too small or too big.

  20. Guest Avatar

    The new Toyota Tacoma.

    I’m about 6’0″, and when I sat in one at a show, my head was practically touching the roof. I would not be able to wear a hat! If had $30k to drop on a new truck that’d be a dealbreaker.

    This is to be expected in my sister’s old 1991 ‘Yota, as that LOOKED like a small truck, but the new one is pretty big on the outside.

  21. spotarama Avatar

    i’m a touch over 6 foot 5 and wander between 110 and 130kg (depending on financial circumstances), so….
    my 77 ford falcon, my 77 rover 3500, my Hillman hunter, my 06 holden rodeo, every car my sister has ever owned, most every car I’ve ever got in, mrs spottys 62 valiant isn’t too bad though do have to contort to get in it and a fair few 50s cars I’ve travelled in haven’t been to bad
    a friend used to have a 62 holden (EH or EJ, can’t remember which) wagon which had the delightful ability to smash itself into my left knee every time I got in or out of it, oh how I laughed when the percentage of rust to metal finally tipped in favour of the tinworm leftovers
    also (Tuesday answer) every motorcycle I’ve ever owned or ridden, including all the scooters (especially the scooters)

  22. Douche_McGee Avatar

    No car is an issue for me. I’m 5’6″ – Miatas are roomie to me.

  23. salguod Avatar

    Factory Five 818. The seats mount in essentially one location, back against the fuel tank. When I put my 6’1″ frame in the car my knees are in the air and my head is almost above the roll hoop.

  24. MattC Avatar

    Id have to say the last generation Jeep Liberty. We had several in our work fleet and I could not believe how uncomfortable I felt in the vehicle. For reference, I am only 5’9″ tall.

  25. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

    Modern stuff with gun slit windows and huge consoles feels cramped. Surprisingly the 93-97 Ford Ranger regular cabs are really tight, because they have less legroom than the earlier “square” cab although Ford fixed that in 98 by making the cab longer.
    I’ve never tried to wedge myself into a Kei car but the one time I rode in an MG Midget with the top up it was pretty cramped. It’s actually surprising what will and won’t fit, when I was 12, 4 of us crammed into the back seat of a 76 Camaro, and I got 3 people comfortably in the back seat of a Mazda2, although it helped that they were all around 5’2″ and 110 lbs.

  26. Inliner Avatar

    My build and height are both uncommonly undersized, so I’ve never been too large for any car. I’d think that a person of my size is what the Autozam AZ-1 (notoriously cramped, and no open top) was designed for, but I have yet to find one to try out.
    Consequently, I’ve actually been too tiny to (comfortably) drive a MG B, which I did during Hagerty’s Driving Experience, as the seat had to be forced to the foremost position, and a pillow still had to be put behind me for me to use the clutch properly. My feet aren’t too small though so I had just enough footroom.

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