Updated: May 4
Thought a Church bench was the hardest seat in the world? Think again says our resident outsider Kotto Williams, who laments the current obsession with firm car seats by mainstream manufacturers
My anus is very happy right now because I bought it a gift. My bicycle now has a suspension seat post that softens any blow to my buttocks. Riding around is a joy without having to brace for potholes, divots, rivets, or eager cats-eyes. The best thing is it only cost me £30 too. Far cheaper than buying a full-suspension mountain bike which costs about £15,000 for some reason.
Unfortunately, that brings me onto cars, because I managed to solve my hard tail’s hardtail by buying a £30 Seatpost. So why can’t car manufacturers make their cars or seats soft and comfortable?
I sat in a MY2022 Mercedes CLA this week and the seat was so hard I ricocheted out of it and into a nearby attenuation pond. The seats were rock solid, painfully, remorselessly so. I even tried playing with the buttons and switches that make zero sense and do nothing that you expect them to. It was hopeless. The seats were hard, uncomfortable, and not even good-looking enough to make up for shortfalls. It’s a miracle that the suspension was actually good in terms of shock absorption because a compound fracture of the buttocks would’ve been guaranteed.
I thought I’d seek refuge in a new MY2022 Ford Fiesta ST-Line Vignale Line Ecoboost Line Petrol Line MHEV Line and it was the same there, I’ve had more comfortable experiences sitting in a Judas Chair. Rock hard, flat, unergonomic surfaces. Is it a new trend where manufacturers compete to make chairs that came out of 1920s peasant railway carriageways? Do they employ people who’ve sat in chairs before fitting them to cars or just idiot bookworms who studied them in, well, books?
"A 2010 Alfa Romeo GT's seats are extremely comfortable and supportive, it’s like being Shaq’s little spoon"
I’ve been in cars that cost £500 to £10,000,000 and all of which were made roughly before 2015 and the seats in those ranged from good to extremely comfortable. What seats as a bare minimum expectation tends to be. A 2007 Seat Ibiza’s seats are quite comfortable, a 1966 Ford GT40 MKII RK seats are surprisingly comfortable and a 2010 Alfa Romeo GT seats are extremely comfortable and supportive, it’s like being Shaq’s little spoon.
But new cars just make seats that are more common with a budget airline than a car these days and I just don’t understand it. Because a seat can be hard, most sports or bucket seats are. But they’re adjustable or built in such a way it matches human anatomy, even the Sparco racing seats in my Racing Puma were perfectly good on a twelve-hour drive through France. But the seats in a new Mercedes or even a 2018 Vauxhall Corsa I couldn’t bear sitting in for more than half an hour, being 100% truthful. Please try them if you don’t believe me and compare them to the car you had in the 90s or 00s, it’s astonishing.
I’m honestly lamenting the days when you could get into a car after work, drive home and just sit for a few minutes in your driveway because the seat’s comfortable, the music on the stereo is good and it’s quite zen, quite chill just to have five minutes to yourself in a comfortable chair. I’d give John’s left testicle to sit in a 1988 Ford Sierra Sapphire in a great gray velour armchair and listen to Ten Years After - I’d love to change the world. But now if I drive a new Mercedes, I get home and a team of sports physios has to fold me back into shape. You’d think Mercedes would be the last straw of comfort but they’re not.
There needs to be some sort of reform where manufacturers look to the past rather than the future and get the basics right so they can proceed with surer (butt) footing. The only car I can think of in recent years that’s been noticeably comfortable is a £200,000 Aston Martin DBX 707. The seats in that car are very lovely, a bit hard from all the heating and cooling bits but they’re ergonomic so it doesn’t matter. But I don’t feel that’s acceptable - a car that costs as much as a two-bedroom house you’d expect to be very comfortable.
But why isn’t a new Ford Focus comfortable? The mk1, II & III Focus were fantastically comfortable - the last two generations have been horrific. I recently drove a 2016 ST to Scotland and it made me sick, genuinely. I’d love to change the world, starting with numb bottoms and bad car seats. But I don’t know where to begin.