You've scanned the manufacturers' specs, but as we all know, the numbers don't tell the whole story: Until you actually get into a vehicle, there's no way to know if it's really a good fit. To help you narrow down your test-drive candidates, we polled the shorter editors on our staff and came up with a list of favorites — vehicles that they've found comfortable to drive in the real world. Our picks cover a range of market segments and are arranged in no particular order.
Although an SUV might seem like an obvious choice for someone of shorter stature who wants to be able to sit up high and have a great view of the road, it's really not necessary to go this route (especially if you dread the prospect of higher fuel costs). Moreover, not all high-riding vehicles offer good visibility. Regardless of the type of vehicle you're considering, it's important to take a hard look at the driving position when you go out on a test-drive: Once seated, can you see out the front, down the sides and out the back? If not, does the vehicle offer an ample range of seat-height adjustment to allow you to find a workable position? Can you get the seat positioned so that you can comfortably reach the pedals? If not, does the vehicle offer either adjustable pedals (allow you to alter the pedal height off the floor) or telescoping steering wheel adjustment (allows you to move the wheel closer to the dash so that you can move the seat farther forward)? Be sure to test the vehicle's step-in height — many SUVs and pickups can be a bear to get in and out of unless you equip them with running boards. Finally, don't forget to go around the back of any prospective SUV and see how easy it is to close the liftgate — if it's a stretch now, you're not going to be happy when it's time to load up a week's worth of groceries.
- Scion xA: Although it offers few frills on the inside, a tall cabin design and great sightlines make this inexpensive five-door hatchback worth a look.
- Mazda 3: Available as a sedan or five-door hatchback, the Mazda 3 offers good visibility and a standard tilt/telescoping steering wheel. Upgrade to the higher-line "s" model and you'll get a height-adjustable driver seat.
- Volkswagen Golf, GTI and Jetta: Built on the same platform, these VWs are easy to see out of and almost anyone can find a comfortable driving position in them. Seat-height adjustment and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel are standard.
- Mini Cooper: We've never been wild about its funky manual seat adjusters, but there's no denying that the pint-sized Cooper's cockpit is well proportioned for smaller drivers. A height-adjustable driver seat is standard, and visibility doesn't get much better than this.
- Subaru Forester: If you really want an SUV, the Forester is just about the perfect size — it's tall enough to give you a nice view of the road but not so tall that you'll have difficulty getting in and out. A height-adjustable driver seat is standard. Around back, the Forester's liftgate is lightweight and a sturdy grab handle makes it easy to close.
- Chevrolet Malibu and Malibu Maxx: Although roomy enough to accommodate people of all sizes, this sedan and wagon team is a good bet for shorter drivers — adjustable pedals and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel are optional on all models.
- # Honda Accord: The current generation of this well-rounded family car goes a long way toward keeping its occupants happy. Visibility is excellent in the sedan, thanks to a relatively low cowl. Besides that, seat-height adjustment and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel are standard from the LX model on up.
- Volkswagen Passat: This premium family sedan has a cozier cockpit than the Accord or Malibu and features an exceptionally wide range of both seat-height adjustment and telescoping-wheel adjustment.
- Toyota Sienna: The Sienna isn't the only minivan that offers a good view of the road, but it's the only one that comes standard with a telescoping steering wheel.
- BMW 3 Series: Got a little more to spend on a car that fits you just right? Well, it would be hard to go wrong with the 3 Series. The sight lines are good, the seats are supportive and there's a multitude of ways to adjust both the seats and steering wheel.
Copyright Edmunds.com, Inc. All rights reserved. First published on www.edmunds.com and excerpted with permission.