The Common Types of Car Seats

Car seats are designed for functionality and comfort to cater to the needs of drivers and passengers. However, they are not all made the same. The style and shape of vehicle seats have evolved over the years, but bucket and bench are the two common designs. When replacing seats in your car, it helps to understand the distinctions between these two types and how they influence functionality. The type of vehicle whether it is a family, racing or sports car will determine the most suitable seats.

Bench Seats

Almost all cars had bench seating at some point, particularly American and Australian makes. A bench seat is designed to run from one end of the cabin to the other. The full length meant that even vehicles advertised as compact models could accommodate six people – three at the front and three at the back. The shifter was located on the column so that the middle passenger on the front seat could sit comfortably. Bench seats were preferred options because they were cheaper to produce than other designs. Over the years, the bench went through some changes. There was the ‘airliner’ from Nash Motors, which reclined and turned into a bed. Then, the Jeep, specifically Ramblers and Commandos introduced the adjustable bench. At one time, the bench seat was split such that you could adjust just one part to recline.

As the demand for more comfortable seats increased, manufacturers started phasing out benches. A few automakers like Plymouth and Dodge kept the front bench seat for a while longer, offering people the option of a six-seater sedan even when bucket seats took over. Some Australian models like the Falcon Ute still offer front bench seats. The bench seat in the rear took a bit longer to go than the front seat because it provided great advantages. Several pickup models still come with the back bench. A few SUVs and vans with third-row seating also have bench seats.

Bucket Vehicle Seats

A bucket vehicle seat is designed to enclose the person sitting on it. It has high sides and a rounded figure, so it can only accommodate one person. European carmakers were the first to introduce the bucket car seat during the period after WWII. In America, people had the option of bench seats as late as 2013. The first European vehicles to sport bucket-style seats had the shifter and parking lever placed on the floor.

The idea behind bucket vehicle seats was to provide maximum support in sports and racing cars that had to move at high speeds. The high ends ensured that the driver remained in the seat when making fast turns. The front seats were the first to make the transition from bench or bucket. They are considered ‘true bucket seats’ because the driver and passenger each have a different one. The shifter and gear unit rest in the middle of the two seats, allowing the freestanding design. Over time, this centre console has accommodated the cup holder and phone charging system, among other innovations.

The rear seats are somewhat a blend of bench and bucket. There is the aspect of contoured backs and high ends, but they are also fixed in place like benches. With this combined style, a car offers ample seating space at the rear. This seating arrangement, however, is not standard. Some sports cars like the Porsche Panamera have bucket vehicle seats in the front and back. Several luxury models, particularly large SUVs, have bucket-style seats at the back that are separated by an extra feature like an ice cooler for drinks. Another reason bucket automotive seats gained dominance was for safety concerns. When airbags came around, the bucket design offered better practicality. Manufacturers could fit each one for the driver and passenger as opposed to having three airbags.

Sports Seats

A different version of the bucket car seat is the sports seat, which is designed exclusively for a sports vehicle. Racing cars have the same kind. Sports seats have large contours to fit the body of the user. The seats are sometimes fitted with racing harnesses through holes at the shoulder. When racing, the driver experiences G-force when taking sharp corners and the lateral support provided by sports seats improve safety. The difference that racing buckets have from sports buckets is that they have to be built according to safety regulations. Another sports bucket design is the suspension seat, which is built for off-road use. The seats have extra suspension or springs that equip them to handle the increased vibration and shock that all-terrain vehicles have to put up with. The design also improves comfort as the car hits bumps in rough terrains.

When buying aftermarket car seats and accessories, vehicle owners can find both types although the bucket styles are more popular. Some manufacturers also have special sports seat designs to cater to the needs of high-performance cars. Reclining seats are other options that are available for vehicle owners.

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