Car Shopping

It hasn’t been a quiet week (or more) since I last wrote.

Mainly I’ve been

  • getting the hang of a new day gig
  • trying to arrange a music reading session
  • attempting to woodshed material for the New York Philharmonic audition
  • and shopping for a car.

It’s that last that is the subject of today’s post. How does a bass player find a car that fits him? You take your bass to the dealership, of course.

Thursday night, my wife and I did a whirlwind tour of four dealerships (well, three dealers, four brands actually) with bass in hand to see which of these–in hatchback body style–might be suitable for us:

  • Nissan Versa
  • Toyota Matrix
  • Mazda Mazda3
  • Honda Fit

Unfortunately, Chicago Northside Toyota/Scion did not have a Matrix on the showroom floor, so that one will have to wait.

The goal for my wife and I is to be able to fit the bass and three people (driver and two passengers) and still have some room left over for other things (small amplifier, collapsible music stand, luggage?). Although we didn’t specifically check it, keeping a relatively unrestricted view from the driver’s seat to the back window is also important.

For all these cars, we just went to whatever vehicle was on the showroom floor. I didn’t make note of whatever option packages and such were on the vehicles.

Mazda Mazda3

On its back, my bass fits in the "60" side of the split rear seats.

Enough headroom for the bass to be on its side, as well. But still on the "60" side of the split.

My bass fit neatly into the “60” side of the split folding rear seats in the 2012 Mazda Mazda3 hatchback. The scroll and tuning keys rested on the center armrest between the front seats, so a little something placed under the heel of the neck will be a necessity in order to prevent damage to the tuning gears.

The bass fit both lying down on its back as well as on its side, but always on the “60” side. The “40” side of the split seats was not wide enough to accommodate the bass in either orientation.

The fold-down seats made a very nice flat surface. The lip of the trunk is not too deep; I had no trouble maneuvering the bass in and out by myself, using my usual grip-points on the case.

Since the bass fit on the “60” side of the rear seats, there’s room for a passenger in the “40” side, and next to the bass there remains room for some stuff. Not a LOT of stuff, but some.

Honda Fit

The bass fit in the Fit, no problem ... but on its back, the bass required that both parts of the rear seat be folded down.

The rear area of the Honda Fit, once the seats are folded down, is … huge! for the size car it is. The floor of the cargo area is very low compared to the Mazda3 and the Versa, and the seats fold quite flat. In spite of the deep lip, I still didn’t have a problem getting the bass in and out. But on its back, my bass required that the entire rear seat be folded down. This is of course a problem for the goal of fitting a third person into the car.

It was a tight squeeze for the scroll between the two front seats.

Up front, the scroll was very tightly pinched between the driver’s and passenger’s seats. A block of some sort below the heel would elevate the scroll by angling the bass upward. This might cause it to feel a bit close to the shoulders of the occupants, but would probably be workable.

On its side, the bass' scroll will tickle the passenger all the way to the gig.

Putting the bass on its side would allow the “40” side of the rear seat to remain a seat, solving the problem of the third human occupant. But this position caused the scroll to angle into the front passenger seat in a way that would be quite uncomfortable for an extended trip.

There were other ways of getting the bass in. For instance, the front passenger seat reclines all the way back, to nearly flat. The bass can then ride cleanly on the passenger side, with only the “40” side of the rear seat folded down, leaving the “60” side for passengers. Technically that meets our 3-person goal, but for a long drive? Not really.

Also, the seat of the rear seats actually folds UP, allowing plenty of room for something fairly tall from the footwell-level to the ceiling. The salesman suggested for instance if you bought a tall plant a a garden center, it could ride home without bending over. I could also see my SWR Baby Blue amplifier fitting neatly there.

Julian Romane has a 2008 Fit and describes getting his bass, his wife’s cello and their daughter in their car “comfortably.” It didn’t look like that was going to be the case for me; it may be that the upper bouts on my bass are just enough bigger than his bass to change the dynamic. It could also be that the 2012 model has enough interior differences to account for the change. I’ll have to borrow his car someday to test out the theory.

Nissan Versa

An optional accessory container in the cargo area brought the effective floor level up to the seat backs.

The Nissan Versa’s cargo compartment was a little surprising to us. The area behind the rear seats goes down pretty far, but unlike in the Fit the seat backs of the rear seat do not match the level of the cargo floor. This means that the lower bout of the bass would be quite deep and the bass would angle up steeply. However, in the model we looked at, an accessory container filled the space to near-level with the folded down seats. For my bass, it was necessary to fold down both parts of the rear seat back in order lie the bass on its back. The projection of the scroll between the front seats wasn’t too bad, although I think we lost the use of a cupholder there.

The face of a guy who has to think about financing a car.

The rear area was tall enough to allow the bass to be on its side, and that meant that the “40” side of the rear seat was usable. But in this position, the height and angle of the scroll projecting into the front seats might have been uncomfortable on a long trip.

It didn’t seem to us like the Versa was going to work for us. In addition, the cargo cover seemed insubstantial and cheaply attached. Our impression was similar in the rest of the car, sort of lightweight and plastic. Of course, it’s not an expensive car.


A quick shout-out of thanks to these dealerships for humoring us on this expedition:

Other Resources

I’d be completely remiss if I didn’t point out that is a terrific place to do your searching for a car online. Now c’mon guys, implement that “shopper’s helper” page that I sketched out! I need it now!

Now added: Part 2 of our car shopping journey.


3 Responses to “Car Shopping”

  1. […] earlier struck out on finding a new Matrix at a dealership, we tried a used model. I think it was a 2010. I […]

  2. The 2012 Honda Fit is the most bass friendly small car I’ve ever owned. My bass must be a little shorter than yours – the scroll just makes it to the space between the front seats- no squeezing and no resting my forearn on the tuning box. Plus I was able to swap out the nameplate -I now drive a Honda Jazz ( which is what they ironically call the car everywhere but in the U.S.).

  3. […] This post is here to show ya that you don’t necessarily have to drive a giant SUV if you’re a bassist. (And to prove a point made in an earlier post about a bassist searching for a car to buy.) […]

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