Till the early 80s most of the cars in India had bench seats in the front with a column shifter. Although the reference is only about the Indian cars in the 70s (Ambassador and Fiat), I somehow like the idea. Maybe it is because I learned to drive in an Ambassador car or maybe the idea that it allows better bonding between the family members, couples, lovers because of the proximity of occupants.

Even if I leave out the emotional reasons, in this new age of optimization and cost cutting, it is relevant because it saves space. The modern car, even the ridiculously small Suzuki Alto has separate front seats with a floor shift and in many cases with a lower console! It feels as if your are sitting inside a jet fighter all strapped in and no space to move. I feel the lack of free space around you makes the mind even more stressful. Even the new Ambassadors have relinquished the bench seat and column shifter, although there is hardly any change in the external appearance. I cannot understand the rational behind designers thinking of making everything and anything sporty... I feel driving under stress is the biggest killer on the road.

The new Suzuki Wagon R is a step in the right direction. Very smart use of space .. twin seats but no gap between them .. gear shifter moved from the floor to the dashboard etc. etc. I suppose in this new age of stress, tension and family break ups this trend might start to rekindle lives, love and friendship.





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