When Legroom Is the Most Important Interior Tech Feature

Sections: Chassis

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2014 Kia Forte Koup

The 2014 Kia Forte Koup revealed at NYIAS has decent rear legroom, as two-door cars go. It certainly has more legroom all-around than our tiny-but-fun Scion FR-S tester. (Photo courtesy Kia Motors America.)

My week in the too-fun Scion FR-S has me seriously thinking I could rock this two-door car thing, though one with as little legroom as the FR-S is not feasible for a family man such as myself. What options are out there for those of us with a kid or two?

Well, starting with Scion, we have the tC. Its front-wheel drive architecture allowed engineers to design in a fair amount more legroom than the rear-wheel drive FR-S. While the FR-S front/rear legroom is pegged at 41.9/29.9 inches, respectively, the tC’s measurements are a slightly more roomy 41.8/34.6 inches.That extra 4.7 inches in the rear would be most welcome. If you don’t believe me, ask my teenage brother-in-law, who got stuck in the rear of the FR-S on the ride home from Easter dinner last weekend. Nobody was comfortable riding four-deep in the FR-S. That includes me, at 6’3″, my wife at 5’3″ in the front passenger seat, my brother-in-law who is slightly taller than my wife in the rear passenger side seat, or my 19-month-old son in his compact forward-facing baby seat in the driver’s side rear seat.

Outside the Scion dealership, Kia has released its newest Forte Koup design as of the New York International Auto Show, and it clocks in with an even more generous 42.2/35.9 inches front/rear legroom. Like the tC, it is front-wheel drive.

Then, there’s the perennial Honda Civic Coupe. Though a long-respected nameplate in the small-and-somewhat-sporty segment, the Civic Coupe falls slightly short of its Scion and Kia rivals in terms of legroom both front and rear, with 42.2/30.8 inches front/rear. You can always step up in size (and lest you forget, price!) and get the larger Accord Coupe, though it nets a barely-better 42.2/33.7 balance.

The folks at Nissan still have, at least for a short while, the Altima Coupe. It’s roughly the same size as the Accord Coupe on the outside, and offers 42.5/34.4 inches of legroom front/rear, slightly beating its Honda competitor. Unfortunately, unlike all the others we’ve listed so far, Nissan has decided a manual transmission has no place in the Altima Coupe. That’s a disqualifier for me. Another chink in its armor: It comes at a fairly steep premium compared to the four-door Altima, with a base price of $25,230 compared to the four-door’s $21,760.

Over at the Hyundai dealer, you can find the, shall we say, “uniquely styled” Veloster with 43.9/31.7 inches of legroom front/rear. Its tight rear quarters would be eased somewhat by the third door that aids access to the back row. Then there’s the Elantra Coupe, with its 43.6/33.3 inches of legroom front/rear. If you want to step up in size (and again, price!) you can look at the near-ponycar Genesis Coupe, but you’ll pay a legroom penalty for the rear-wheel drive sportiness, because the two-door Genesis has only 44.1/30.3 inches of legroom front/rear. I’d blame the presence of a live rear axle, but I’m no interior engineer.

On the subject of ponycars, there’s the original ponycar, the Ford Mustang. It fares no better than the Genesis, with a front/rear legroom of 42.4/29.8 inches. Across the street at the Chevrolet dealer, the Camaro offers no extra inches at 42.4/29.9, while the Dodge dealer down the block does slightly better with the Challenger at 42.0/32.6 inches front/rear. These numbers hurt my heart, because deep down, I know none of the ponies is suitable for carrying the two children we plan to have in our family in coming years, despite how much I like the clean-slate appeal of a V6/stick-shift Mustang and the visceral hot rod looks of the Challenger.

Two final options that don’t quite fit the long-and-low look of most of the previous suggestions:

1. The Fiat 500. Even in fast Abarth trim, it slots in below the base Mustang price point, and it features 40.7/31.7 inches of legroom front/rear. Yes, the diminutive Fiat 500 has more rear seat legroom than the ‘Stang or the Camaro, and is barely eclipsed by the Challenger that positively dwarfs it in terms of exterior footprint. Hooray for efficient interior packaging! Bonus points for the Abarth, because it has without a doubt the best-sounding stock four-cylinder exhaust on the market today.

2. The MINI Cooper. Slightly longer than the Fiat 500 overall, it trades front seat passenger comfort for rear seat passenger legroom, clocking in at 41.4/29.9 inches front/rear. Everyone says they’re a blast to drive and, true to the conveyance of choice for its countryman (no pun intended) Dr. Who, “bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.” If we ever get to test one, I look forward to seeing if both those rumors hold true.

Of course, all of these options are ignoring the high-end possibilities. Since there’s no likelihood of me affording a Porsche or Aston Martin, for instance, I didn’t consider them for this piece. Bottom line: there’s no shortage of options out there for folks who want a sporty coupe, but their ability to haul offspring may be largely dependent on whether long legs run in the family.

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  • Brett

    My daughter survived the FR-S stuff em’ in test in the passenger rear seat in a Britax forward-facing car seat. Dug those cutout slots to reveal the lower anchors. But at a scant 27 pounds and four years old, she isn’t exactly looking for footroom.