Fold-flat front passenger seat: every vehicle with a hatch should have one

My wife keeps buying books, so every once in a while I must buy another 84×30-inch bookcase. The last time around I avoiding paying delivery by taking her car. Which happens to be a Chrysler PT Cruiser. The store employees took one look at the car and suggested that I’d better pony up for delivery. No way a seven-foot bookcase was going to fit inside such a compact car.

But it did, and with the hatch closed. At other times I’ve used the PT to bring home twin mattresses and a fully boxed storm door. The secret: a front passenger seat that folds flat much like the second row seats.

Fold-flat front passenger seat in the Chevrolet Malibu MaxxTo my knowledge, the 2001 PT Cruiser was the first U.S.-market car with this feature. Since then, a number of other models also offer it, including the Ford Freestyle, Chevrolet Malibu Maxx (pictured), and Hyundai Tucson. Oddly enough, you can get a fold-flat front passenger seat on the Pontiac Grand Prix, a sedan which in just about every other way prioritizes sportiness over utility.

Much more surprising are the vehicles in which you cannot get a fold-flat front passsenger seat. This group includes the large crossovers from Chrysler, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, and Mazda. In a segment that puts so much emphasis on utility, Ford Freestyle with all seats foldedonly the Ford Taurus X (an updated and renamed Freestyle) offers the ability to carry large cargo that extends the full length of the interior. Off the top of my head, among minivans only the Toyota Sienna offers this feature. The otherwise space-efficient compact crossovers from Kia and Mazda don’t offer it.

In the Grand Prix, this feature is a $75 option. As a standard feature, a fold-flat front passenger seat would add about $50 to a vehicle’s price. In my wife’s PT Cruiser, it’s already saved me at least four times this amount in delivery charges. Every vehicle with a hatch should offer this feature, at least as an option.

  • The concern that I would have is that the fold-flat design could force comfort compromises in the seat shape. And for symmetry, any changes to the passenger seat would also make their way into the driver’s seat. I’d rather have the comfort than the utility, but I do agree that whenever it doesn’t cause any other problems, it’s a handy feature to have.

  • Michael

    Good point. The fold-flat feature is deleted with the SS version of the Malibu Maxx (and Malibu), I suspect because it was incompatible with the SS seat’s larger bolsters. But then the Grand Prix seat is fairly well bolstered, and it folds, so I don’t know.

    Another incompatible feature is a power passenger seat. The fold-flat feature is not included on upper-level Siennas that have power passenger seats.

  • Rob Chang

    The Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix also have front folding passenger seat with a hard plastic back. Some of the newer base model version of these cars DON’T have this but a majority do (from a former ’03 Pontiac Vibe GT and current ’11 Toyota Matrix S owner).

  • Robert Cupples

    My wife’s 2008 Saturn Vue also has a front fold flat seat.