What car might you recommend for a driver who's both vertically AND horizontally challenged?
I am horizontally and vertically challenged. Yep, that's right -- I'm fat. I am as tall as I am wide (5 feet 3 inches in both directions). I would like a no-nonsense practical car like a Camry or an Accord, but I have discovered that they don't have enough room for ALL of me. I test drove a '94 Lexus this weekend, and it, too, left me looking for more room (although the car was so beautiful, I wouldn't mind if half my rear dragged out the front door, but the neighbors might!). The practical side of me would like a car that is about a year or two old, reliable and roomy. I can only spend about $18,000. What would you suggest? -- Isabel
TOM: Well, Isabel, we have a friend, children's author Daniel Pinkwater, who has similar problems. He refers to himself as "circumferentially challenged."
RAY: I don't know if he's quite as wide as you are (or even if YOU'RE quite as wide as you suggest), but his biggest problem was always getting himself in and out of cars.
TOM: No. His biggest problem was always getting anyone to buy his books. But getting in and out of cars was a close second.
RAY: Then he called us one day and said he'd found the car of his dreams. It's a VW New Beetle. We were kind of skeptical, since we think of that as a small car. But according to Daniel, it's got very big doors, nice, big door openings and a tremendous amount of room inside due to its unusual "bubble" shape. He didn't say anything about the size of the seat itself. But I presume that if it can contain Daniel without a breach, it can probably hold you, too.
TOM: And it happens to sell for about $18,000 brand new. So I think the Beetle is definitely worth a "test sit."
RAY: If the Beetle's seat does prove too small, then I'd suggest you look at a few cars that come with bench seats in the front. In that category are the Toyota Avalon, the Ford Crown Victoria and the Mercury Gran Marquis -- any of which can be had used for $18,000. And I've never seen anyone NOT be able to fit on a bench seat.
TOM: And when your search is complete, post a note in the Special Needs Zone of our Web site (the Car Talk section of www.cars.com) so that other overextended people can benefit from your experience. Best of luck, Isabel.