When it comes to cars, one size never fits all.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jun 01, 2003

Dear Tom and Ray:

My husband and I recently purchased a used Honda Civic HX. Unfortunately, I'm having to reconsider our purchase because the comfort level is not what I expected. This is causing another conflict as well. My husband doesn't want to believe that this is a real problem! He claims that I've just lost my tolerance for sitting in a small car and need to "bite the bullet"! Here's the story: When I drive the Honda for an hour or so, the back of my leg just below the knee starts to get uncomfortable, like my leg is going to fall asleep. The car is a manual transmission, so I'm constantly using both legs. My first and only other car was a '73 VW Bug. When the Bug finally died, my husband generously let me use his 1987 Volvo 240 sedan for about a week and a half. I never noticed this discomfort when driving either the Bug or the Volvo. Do you have any suggestions? -- Maria

RAY: Well, I have one suggestion, Maria. Do you leave for work before your husband? If so, I'd take the Volvo and let him do the bullet-bitin'.

TOM: We probably test-drive 100 new cars a year, usually for a week or two at a time. And I can tell you, without a doubt, that some cars just don't fit certain people. For instance, I get in an Audi, and I find it very comfortable, even luxurious. My brother gets in the same car, and he complains that his knee scrapes on the center console and it drives him nuts. Same exact car, two different reactions.

RAY: So we have no doubt that the Honda is just not built for you, Maria. That's why it's important to spend as much time as possible in a car before you buy it -- whether it's new or used.

TOM: But now that the deal is done, what are your choices? One is to swap cars with Mr. Sympathetic (your husband). If the Civic suits his body type, or if he's willing to bite the bullet and slap his leg awake every hour, let him drive the Honda and you drive the Volvo.

RAY: If he won't put his rear end where his mouth is -- so to speak -- and drive the Honda himself, then I'd just drive it into a tree. Preferably one you've already chased your husband up.

TOM: No -- that's unnecessary. Effective, but unnecessary. If the car doesn't fit you, Maria, then simply sell it and get something else. Assuming you've tried all of the available seat adjustments and they haven't helped, I'd sell it and look for something that fits you better.

RAY: We could recommend a fancy replacement seat, but that gets expensive, and there's no guarantee that it will help. It might be the position of the seat vis-?EUR?-vis the floor that's causing you the trouble.

TOM: Don't feel bad, Maria. There are some cars that just aren't right for some of us. Life is too short to spend every day chewing on bullets. But next time, take a good, long test-drive before plunking down your cash.

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