Help me find a car that fits
October 2, 2011 11:41 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a car that fits me. I'm 6'5", 300# and in the US, and would like something with reasonable economy, but still decent performance. I would prefer 4WD capability. Suggestions?

I'm currently driving a 2000 Chevy Blazer, but it's getting long in the tooth. My 1955 DeSoto is good too, as it was designed for people wearing hats.

Driving will be a 12-minute daily commute, a once-monthly out of town trip of about 200 miles, and an annual vacation road-trip of a couple-thousand miles.

Small cars I've successfully driven in the past: VW Beetle (1967, 1972, and 1974), Datsun 310, Dodge Colt (4th Gen), Chevy Camaro (3rd Gen). I can stick with trucks or SUVs, but it's hard to get decent economy for the commute that way.

Cars I've tried that don't work: Fiat 500 - no room for my knee while operating the clutch. Chevy HHR - poor forward vision due to the low roofline in front. Mini Cooper - bonk my head on the roof. And many many more that I've test-driven. I'm pretty convinced that if it gets good mileage or is sporty, I don't fit in it.

I guess I could get a Smart, but I'd really like a little bit of performance. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
posted by DaveP to Travel & Transportation (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not sure about the performance aspect, but my dad was about your size and liked his Ford Escape very much.
posted by pantarei70 at 11:43 AM on October 2, 2011

Audi are known for their capable Quattro four-wheel-drive systems. VW have a slightly less advanced system, the Syncro. BMW have some 4WD models that are probably good. Subaru have long made good 4WD cars.

What price range are you looking at?

Modern diesel engines are a lot of fun to drive.

Personally, I really want a recent Audi A4 Quattro.
posted by krilli at 11:45 AM on October 2, 2011

My good friend who's about your size really likes his Jetta SportWagen, which is a 5-speed. His proportions are odd -- he has a super-long torso, so he needs height more than leg room.
posted by linettasky at 11:58 AM on October 2, 2011

Maybe check out the Scion xB? I recently test drove a couple Mazdas and a couple Hyundais and found the Scion to be surprising roomy (and it's peppy with a teeny turning radius that's a blast!).
posted by MeiraV at 12:17 PM on October 2, 2011

To add one more bit of info to pantarei70's Ford Escape suggestion, it also comes in a hybrid version that gets over 30mpg.

My VW GTi has pretty good headroom for a small car. I'm not sure if you would find it comfortable, but you might. The diesel version gets very good mileage.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 12:21 PM on October 2, 2011

I usually like to recommend the Honda CR-V but I don't believe it will have enough legroom for you. The seat doesn't go back far enough, in my opinion.

A friend who's slightly shorter but heavier than you recently rented a Toyota RAV-4 and really liked it. He went camping and even slept in the back.
posted by cabingirl at 12:30 PM on October 2, 2011

My tall cousin and uncle like their Mazda3 (with the seat all the way back) and Rav-4, respectively. They are a bit lighter than you, though.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 12:35 PM on October 2, 2011

You might try the Hyundai Veloster which had a surprising amount of room in the front seat in the one I tried out (I'm not as tall as you but nearly as big). Plus, the driver's side door opens wide for easy access. The back seat? No. Small people and kids only, but if you are primarily one or two in the car, the Veloster might work. It's also packed with tech for something in its price range.

Note: the Veloster is not a speed demon. It has a small engine for good mileage (28/40). So if you want lots of power, look elsewhere.
posted by Fortran at 12:39 PM on October 2, 2011

A Toyota Matrix maybe? I'm 6'4" and could comfortably fit in the one I test-drove, and it's got decent performance and fuel efficiency. I know they make 'em in AWD, if not 4WD.
posted by xbonesgt at 12:46 PM on October 2, 2011

I'm going to ix-nay the Scion xB, at least the first-generation models. I own a 2006, and it feels very roomy for 5' 3" me to drive, but my 6' 5" boyfriend has a tough time seeing out the windshield and windows and has to slump uncomfortably to get any enjoyment out of a scenic drive. It's too bad, because it's a great car, but the slope of the windshield and windows presents a challenge for people who sit tall.
posted by jesourie at 1:26 PM on October 2, 2011

I'd recommend a Mazda. My friend's tall dad (6'5" maybe) fits in theirs just fine -- the have a Mazda 3 hatchback and a Mazda 6. The Mazda 6 is less sporty but more roomy. I have a Mazda 3 and love it unconditionally. They also get decent fuel economy.
posted by DoubleLune at 1:39 PM on October 2, 2011

I have a 2nd gen xB and can tell you not only does the new one have a lot more head and leg room than the earlier model, it also has about 50% more HP. About half of my driving is on steep, curvy mountain roads and my 5sp 2008 xB scoots right along. It would be perfect if it were available in 4wd, but it's not.
posted by buggzzee23 at 1:58 PM on October 2, 2011

Price? I'd prefer to get out the door for under $45k. Audi is basically out as the A4 doesn't fit, and the A6 gets too expensive. The CR-V front seat doesn't go back far enough. The Scion was a non-starter as jesourie points out, but I guess I have to go look at the new one. The Mazda 3 was tight on the headroom when I tried one two years back. My impression is that the roofline has been lowered since then. Subaru would be a choice four or five years ago, but they lowered the roofline a few years back, screwing up the cars.

The VW GTI is a possibility if they offer the R without a sunroof. Sunroofs take away about 2 inches of headroom.

The Escape is a possibility, too. I wasn't impressed when it first came out, but it's been tweaked a little since then.

On the performance front, my annual road-trip is frequently out west, so anything that can't maintain 80mph will be dangerous and slow on the interstates in WY, MT or NV. I also like being able to accelerate when I do hit the loud-pedal hard. But I'd like to get 25mpg or better if I'm taking it easy.
posted by DaveP at 2:02 PM on October 2, 2011

My dad is about the same height, drove Beetles and Datsuns, and now quite likes his Subaru wagon. It's 4WD, gets decent mileage, but still has a fair bit of cargo space. Maybe his Subaru is the older model, but it seems more recent than that. Or could it be the difference between a Forester and Outback?

My friend has a diesel Beetle with something like 270,000 miles on it, with great headroom. It has the usual VW foibles, but it's served him well. Plus he added a greaseburner to it, so he can ride for free on old vegetable oil, which is pretty sweet - best gas mileage out there.
posted by ldthomps at 5:02 PM on October 2, 2011

I'm 6'1" and the Subaru Liberty (Legacy in the US?) wagon I drive has heaps of legroom (the seat goes back far enough that I can't reach the pedals) and headroom to spare for me. I'd be very surprised if a normally-proportioned person at 6'5" couldn't fit comfortably with the driver's seat in the lowest position. Nice performance, great fuel economy, lovely to drive. Could easily maintain 80 mph - I travel 700 km a week on the highway, mostly at 110 kph (~70 mph) and the car is perfectly poised. I average 7.0 l/100 km (33 mpg) If you want better (ie some) off-road capability, the Outback is the same car with more ground clearance.
posted by dg at 5:28 PM on October 2, 2011

I'm 6' 3" and drive a Honda Element (4wd) that I absolutely love. While it's not as fuel efficient as a Jetta TDI Wagon, the utility of being able to fold up the seats and have a useable space in the back is awesome. It's like a combination of a van and a flatbed truck (which is the least romantic image I could possibly conjure, but the fact that you can actually sleep (read: full size blow up mattress) in the back of an Element is definitely a bonus).

I also hear that they are preferred by basketball players because of the huge amount of head room the box configuration affords (I have 10 inches between my head and the roof).

The biggest downside is that it only seats four (the two seats in the back fold up, and instead of having a middle seat they put in stupid cup holders), and that it has suicide doors, which for the child-rearing crowd is apparently a death knell (supposedly it makes it impossible to get a child seat into/out of the back seat when parked next to another car/structure).

I've put 90,000 miles on mine (with nothing but routine maintenance, and no problems have emerged), traversed the country several times (with an apartment's worth of stuff in the back), dragged a trailer, driven it in sand, mud, and snow, and feel that for the money it is one of the most useful vehicles on the market. Oh, but I hear this year is the last year of production, so you might want to snag one quick.
posted by ghostpony at 5:30 PM on October 2, 2011

Husband is your size and I am 6'1" myself and we are really happy with our 2007 Chevy Equinox. It really seats 4 people over 6'. I just got home from a 300 km day trip where I sat behind my 6'1" sister and we were both comfortable. I have not seen another vehicle with the same amount of passenger space per person at all. I don't find it too bad on fuel and there is an awd option as well.
posted by saradarlin at 5:47 PM on October 2, 2011

6'6", 275 here. We have an 2006 Acura TL and newer Toyota Highlander. I fit in both, the Acura is more comfortable for long trips. The Highlander doesn't have as good arm support, and my shoulders get sore.

This link might help.
posted by procrastination at 6:14 PM on October 2, 2011

How about a Volvo?
An XC70 is AWD, typically comfortable, sized for big n tall folks, plenty of room and amenities.
That's just the XC70, other models might work better for ya.
posted by artdrectr at 6:17 PM on October 2, 2011

Also chiming in to say a Subaru WRX and for more performance the STI. The hatchback gets you more space than the sedan.
posted by dottiechang at 7:31 PM on October 2, 2011

I'm very similar in height and weight. We share two cars in our family, both of which were chosen largely in part because I was comfortable driving them: a 2008 Honda Fit, used primarily for my wife's commute and quick city trips, and a 2001 Volvo V70 T5, used primarily for long-distance trips and whenever we need to move something large.

The Volvo is absolutely perfect - I fit like a glove in either the driver or passenger's seats. It's very similar in terms of interior to the XC70 artdrectr mentions above, but is the "performance" version with a turbocharger but without AWD.

In the driver's seat of the Fit, which is surprisingly roomy for such a small car, everything is just fine except for a slightly awkward right knee position. (I don't, however, fit in the passenger seat of the Fit, which doesn't have as much legroom as the driver's side.) I don't have to slump to see traffic lights in either. Both get 25mpg or over on the highway.

A wildcard: I recently got the new Dodge Charger as a week-long rental, and found it remarkably comfortable for a person of my size. High roof, low-slung seat, adequate legroom, a real surprise given how much trouble I've had fitting in Chryslers these past two decades.

I found I fit substantially better in all three than the Smart that I drove last week, which I technically fit in, but was never comfortable.
posted by eschatfische at 8:41 PM on October 2, 2011

Thanks folks! Got a bunch of things to try, and the chart procrastination posted is hugely useful. That's the chart I've been trying to google for and failing!

FYI, here's how those top ten break down:

Ford Flex - 16-25 mpg, $30k, more for 4WD
Honda Accord - 19-29 mpg, $22k, FWD
Honda Odyssey - 18-27, $28k, FWD
Lexus LS 460L - 18-27, $67k, RWD, more for AWD
Mercedes M350, 16-20, $47k, RWD, more for 4WD
Mercedes S550 16-24, $91k, RWD, more for 4WD
Nissan Murano, 18-23, $30k, FWD, more for AWD
Subaru Forester, 18-24, $21k, AWD
Volvo S80, 18-27, $37k, FWD, more for AWD
Volvo XC70, 15-22, $32k, AWD

So it looks like I'll be hitting the Volvo, Honda, and Subaru dealerships in that order.

I've sat in the Murano, and was underwhelmed, the Mercs and Lexus are too high priced, and the Flex, well, I don't know if I could stifle my gag reflex over the styling. I test-sat a Forester two years ago, and I didn't think it had that much headroom at the time, but I'll try again.

I have a friend with a Element, and while there's plenty of headroom in the front, the "theater seating" in back severely limits rear headroom. What were they thinking? But I loved James May's review of it on Top Gear, and found it very accurate to my friend's experience with her Element.
posted by DaveP at 2:33 AM on October 3, 2011

My dad is about your size -- 6'4", and very picky about his drive. He recently drove my Subaru Forester and was noticeably impressed at the room (both head and body) he had and its performance. More kick than you'd expect, was what he said, IIRC. He even fits in the backseat, although not as comfortably as the front.
posted by southpaw at 10:22 AM on October 3, 2011

Sidetrack a little, but its interesting that in this chart that procrastination (great user name!) linked to, none of the cars that are the 10 worst for tall drivers are the 10 best for short drivers, and vice-versa.

But the Subaru, the Mercedes and the Acura are on both tall and short best lists, and there's a lot of overlap between the tall and short worst lists. Which suggests that flexibility and design are more important as the actual size.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 1:45 PM on October 3, 2011

I'm 6'5"/220 lbs. and have a 2005 Subaru Impreza and a 2011 Subaru Outback. I love that little Impreza, and never felt cramped in it. I believe the Forester is built on the Impreza platform, and we test drove a 2011 Forester recently and I was impressed by how much more room there was. Great handling, too.

We ended up going with the Outback, which I love love love. The week after we bought it we took a 1,500-mile trip and I was very comfortable the entire trip. We got 30.3 MPG (2.5L engine) for the trip and the extra cargo space was nice.
posted by DakotaPaul at 3:38 PM on October 3, 2011

6'7"/250 here and I've got a 2003 Infiniti G35 sedan. At the time it had the most leg room for a sedan in my 25k max budget (lucky to get EPP). 9 years later and I still love driving it esp. on road trips. Plenty of power for the open road.

The key for me was to get it without the sunroof--which usually lowers headroom by an inch or two. Not sure if this is still possible (or if the leg room has changed in subsequent revisions), but maybe something to consider regardless of make.
posted by shakobe at 11:00 PM on October 3, 2011

Followup - Volvo S80 and XC70 don't fit in the AWD version. In both cases, buying AWD gets you a moonroof, which in Volvo's case takes away two plus inches of headroom. In the XC70, the bottom of the moonroof frame hits the side of my head only slightly above eye-level. Even without the moonroof, it would be a tight enough fit that I probably wouldn't buy it.

The XC90 is spacious enough, but more pricey, and I sit high enough in it that I'm looking through the tint at the top of the windshield while in a normal driving position. The dealerships seem to be hungry for sales, but it would be very close to my price limit once taxes and prep are paid unless I can talk them down significantly.

Next stop, the Honda dealership.
posted by DaveP at 2:13 AM on October 27, 2011

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