The Princess of “Pea” Fame Goes Car Shopping

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The Princess of “Pea” Fame Goes Car Shopping

2016 Kia Optima Views

2016 Kia Optima Views

Let there be no question, my acute oversensitivity has qualified me, at times, to be referred to as a “princess,” not necessarily with a positive spin, but, nonetheless, accurate.

Mattress pile

The Princess and the Pea sits atop her mattresses

No question that I need a new car; I feel as though I’m on borrowed time as the mileage grows and new problems arise in my soon-to-be 14 year old chariot. Everyone has a recommendation for me – some knowing my finances, simply suggest an uncomplicated base model car, some commend the certified pre-owned cars, and some think I can afford an entry level Mercedes or a Lexus. The car salesmen think I can make a decision with one test drive and the promise of 6 air bags and “No Money Down.” WRONG!! First and foremost, what determines my choice of car is the seat (so I might as well be buying a mattress or sofa) because my comfort while sitting is going to affect me physically in and out of the car. I know I’m not alone in my suffering with back and neck conditions – but here’s the good news, when the seat is properly contoured for my body – I’m good. My current “old” car was the last one I explored when I shopped 14 years ago – and the seat won. I am not testing any base model cars – for the most part I want a good number of bells and whistles forcing me to look at the top of the line in most models, i.e., leather-upholstered, 8+ way power heated seats; navigation, and a sunroof. Please don’t assume I’m a “spoiled princess.” I am in no way a self-indulgent shopaholic. As a matter of fact, I am extremely frugal and will sacrifice all kinds of niceties as well as necessities in life just to afford the creature comforts in my automotive domain or should I say “princessipality.”

2016 Toyota Camry

2016 Toyota Camry

Some cars are more esthetically pleasing in appearance, yet, it is sometimes hard to differentiate between them. For now, it’s only the seat that I am exploring. Here’s how the examination goes: First I let the salesman know the situation, a warning that this will not be an easy sale. I’ve observed that most compact cars, e.g., Subaru Impreza and Nissan Sentra do not have power seats even if afforded with heat. Mid-size it is. The first thing I do when seat testing is:

Kia Optima

Kia Optima

  • deflate the lumbar support (turn off);
  • lower the steering wheel as low as it goes;
  • raise the seat so that I can see over the dash;
  • adjust the headrest (if possible) so that I can lean back into the seat; and, believe it or not,
  • check to see if I can reach the seatbelt without breaking my arm.

At this point in my evaluation I have seen almost every mid-size car, but am not yet committed to nor “in love” with any seat so far. Every time I return to my “old” car with the perfect seat (as helped by my magic cushion), it’s like returning to an old lover, but in a relationship whose days are numbered. Here’s a quick rundown of the positives and just a few negatives I can share, assessed from cars I have sat in and test drove:
Price range for all 2015/16 models: $28,000 – $31,000.
Toyota Camry: When I use my “magic foam wedge” the seat is possibly “doable” (at the $$ top). Very nice paint job. Steering could be stiffer.
Nissan Altima: Attractive inside and out. Best interior display and tech gadgetry. Unremarkable paint job and ride.
Subaru Legacy: Best driving and handling car. Unimpressive hard-to-see dash.
Chevy Malibu: Fun to drive, nice to look at.
Acura ILX: Beautiful exterior design, nice interior, unimpressive drive and wholly inaccessible seatbelt.
Kia Optima: Lots of bells and whistles – need to test drive.
Hyundai Sonata: Did not enjoy test drive, low ceiling. Need to revisit.
Ford Fusion: Very comfortable seat, headrest not in my way; but leather seat on the soft side and cheap-looking (very American). Too many trim levels. Rear passenger seat was horrible. Need to test drive.

Unfortunately, my back is not going to get better and car designers are configuring seats that are more intrusive than submissive and non-restricting, so I feel the “pea.” It’s bad enough to toss and turn all night in bed, but to drive with such discomfort is just dangerous. The princess has spoken.

The Princess and the Pea Back Pain

Another sleepless night for the Princess, pondering if she’ll ever be happy with a driver’s seat.