What’s the best type of car for a back pain sufferer? 

Follow our buying tips to stop your car from being a pain in the back. We reveal the best models for ease of access and seating position...

LT BMW 3 Series causing back pain

For some people driving enjoyment can be wiped out by discomfort caused by getting in and out of their car or from sitting in the driver’s seat. There are a number of reasons why cars and driving can cause back pain. Here we consider the main causes and recommend ways to avoid your car being a pain in the back. 

One common issue for people with limited mobility is having to bend over and crouch down to get in and out of their car. Sports cars are among the most difficult to access, and even hatchbacks can pose a problem to less flexible people because their seats tend to be fairly close to the ground. That’s why it’s worth seeking out a car with tall, wide-opening doors and a high driving position, such as an MPV or SUV. 

Volkswagen Touran 1.6 TDI 115 S

MPVs are generally the models with the best access. Our favourite, the Volkswagen Touran, is based on the same platform as the Golf hatchback, but it’s 17cm taller and the driver’s seat is 10cm higher up, making it far easier to get into. The Touran is also a roomy, practical car that has tidy handling and a supple, but not harsh, ride. 

Many SUVs offer similarly lofty driving positions, although not all smaller SUVs have higher seats than a hatchback, so it’s worth checking the seating and driving position information section in our online review for any model you’re interested in. The Ford Puma is our highest rated small SUV and, although it doesn’t place the driver as high up as a Volkswagen T-Roc, it sits them higher than the Fiesta on which it’s based, and its seating position is loftier than other rivals, including the Skoda Kamiq

Volvo XC40 front

If you want a family SUV, our top choice is the Volvo XC40. It has a higher seating position than rivals, such as the BMW X1 and Mazda CX-30. It also comes with four-way electric lumbar adjustment as standard across the range. This is important because it helps you to get a comfortable seating position that supports all of your back well, and this should alleviate discomfort on longer drives.

Not all large and luxury SUVs are easy to get into, though, because they tend to have high side sills so a big step upwards is required. To prevent this from being an issue, we’d recommend  considering a model that is available with air suspension. This feature often provides an entry mode that lowers the car for easier access. BMW X5, X6 and X7 models with air suspension have a button on the centre console that reduces the body's height from the ground. Many Range Rover models are available with a similar feature, too. 

BMW X5 xDrive45e

MPVs and SUVs are also generally more comfortable for people with restricted hip movement because they have seats with a better hip or H-point than hatchbacks or sports cars. The H-point is the pivot point between a person’s body and legs when they’re sitting in a car. It is a measurement used during the design process of vehicles to ensure they are comfortable for the majority of people. 

Other aspects to take into account include how well the seat supports your back and legs. To minimise back pain we recommend opting for a seat with adjustable lumbar support so you can fine tune the shape of the seat back to support you well. And if you have long legs, consider a model with adjustable seat bases so you can extend the seat out to support your thighs.

One last thing to bear in mind is that some car makes have offset pedals and that can cause discomfort for drivers. Some models from German brands Audi, BMW and Mercedes have pedals that are set a little bit to the right of the footwell and that means drivers have to sit at a slightly twisted angle.

The problem is less acute for cars with automatic gearboxes because the driver is only using their right foot, but some people can experience a lot of pain in manual-gearbox cars.  So our advice is to go for a lengthy test drive in any car with offset pedals to ensure it will be comfortable for you. 

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Rea more: The best and worst family SUVs >>

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