Diminutive drivers will tell you there are certain things they look for when choosing a vehicle. Good visibility is probably at the top of most of their lists. Seat comfort is also important, as are features such as a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and, in some cases, adjustable pedals. All of these attributes work together to help shorter drivers pilot their vehicles in safety and comfort.
Visibility is perhaps the most important of these attributes for shorter drivers. There are two factors that have primary influence on visibility: the position of the driver seat and the shape, size and position of the car's greenhouse. (The greenhouse consists of the car's windshield, rear and side windows and the pillars dividing them.)
A vehicle with a height-adjustable driver seat enables you to easily find the best position from which to view the road. This is a pretty common feature, and most models offer a lot of seat travel as far as adjustability goes.
The greenhouse, meanwhile, has in recent years been affected by design trends that have little to do with functionality. Many vehicle models these days have a high beltline. (The beltline is the horizontal line where the glass ends and the sheet metal begins, located beneath the side windows of a vehicle, starting at the hood and continuing through to the trunk.) With a high beltline comes a shorter greenhouse. This can serve to give the vehicle a more assertive look, but it does little to improve sight lines, and can even make a vehicle feel claustrophobic for the most vertically challenged driver. For shorter drivers, a lower beltline and taller greenhouse work best, delivering optimum visibility.
As far as seat comfort goes, vehicles with long seat cushions can be uncomfortable for people with shorter legs. When it comes to the steering wheel, one that tilts and telescopes can be optimally positioned. Again, these adjustments are a common feature. Adjustable pedals are less common but they can be useful for helping drivers with shorter legs to reach the pedals without being too close to the steering wheel. If adjustable pedals aren't available with the vehicle you're interested in, you have the option of purchasing aftermarket pedal extensions, which function in a similar way.
All of these adjustments are key if the steering wheel is going to be positioned properly for a shorter driver. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), the ideal driving position is one in which there are 10-12 inches between the center of the steering wheel and your breastbone. Sitting too close to the wheel can interfere with steering and cause fatigue. More importantly, it can result in airbag injury, should you be in a situation in which your airbags deploy.
The 10 models shown below are our picks for the best cars for short drivers who are on the hunt for a new vehicle. Our choices are listed alphabetically, and include compact economy models, luxury cars, crossovers and a minivan. These models earned places on our list because each offers many or all of the attributes discussed above.
Keep in mind that ultimately, your individual physique will determine which vehicles suit you best. A car that works well for a 5-foot-2-inch driver with a short torso may not work so well for a driver of the same height with a longer midsection, for example. Test-drive the vehicle you're interested in before committing to a purchase.