A bucket seat is a seat contoured to hold one person, distinct from bench seats, which are flat platforms designed to seat multiple people. Bucket seats are standard in fast cars to keep drivers and other passengers in place when making sharp or quick turns.
Racing vehicles usually have only one bucket seat. Vehicles sold to the general public often have two bucket seats in the front compartment and may contain more in the rear compartment.
The term 'bucket seat' may be derived from its two meanings
- 'A rounded seat with high sides for one person'
- 'A seat in a car, aircraft, etc, having curved sides that partially enclose and support the body'
Automobile bucket seats first came into use after World War II in European small cars due to their relatively small size when compared to a bench seat and presence of a floor-mounted shifter and parking brake lever.
The bucket seat trend was especially apparent in sporty cars, particularly two-seaters, most of which were manufactured in European nations. Some bucket seats may be swivel seats as well.
Use in American cars
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For decades, American cars were typically equipped with bench seats, which permitted three-passenger seating. As European cars became more accessible to Americans following World War II, bucket seats became the symbol of sport and luxury. Bucket seats then spread to American manufacturers, beginning as "sporty trim packages" in the late 1950s and later coming as a standard feature.
By 1962, more than 1 million U.S. built cars were factory equipped with bucket seats; often, these were fitted with a center console containing a gear shifter and other features between the seats. The popularity of the bucket seat grew with the advent of sporty compact cars (or "pony cars") such as the Ford Mustang. With the introduction of subcompact-sized automobiles such as the Chevrolet Vega and Ford Pinto, bucket seats were used due to the lack of seating room and floor-mounted levers for the gear shifter and parking brake.
While bucket seats continued to gain popularity among compact and sports cars, the traditional bench seat, which could seat up to three people, continued to be the preferred front seating arrangement in larger cars and trucks until the late 1990s. By the 1990s, a few mid- and full-size domestic cars, as well as trucks, offered front bucket seating options for customers who wanted a sports car image or a more personalized car.
Recently, as U.S. cars were designed smaller in order to meet economy and safety standards, as well as intense competition from imported cars, bucket seats became the de facto front configuration among domestic cars. The last sedan to come with a front bench as standard was the 2011 Lincoln Town Car and the last sedan to even offer it as an option was the 2013 Chevrolet Impala. As of 2015, only some pickup trucks retain the front bench seat.
Although rear seating in automobiles largely utilizes bench seats, some 2+2 cars have bucket seats in the rear. Long-wheelbase variants of full-size luxury cars, such as the Lexus LS 460L have an "executive seating package" option that reduces the rear to two passengers but provides them with more amenities. The Porsche Panamera offers only bucket seats as the rear configuration despite its large size.
Third row seating
Bucket seats are also used in passenger vans and minivans, although they are not always referred to as such. Unlike those in cars, bucket seats in vans can be configured in different ways or even removed for more cargo storage. In the typical minivan configuration, the front and middle rows have two bucket seats each, while the third-row seat has a three-person bench, for a total of seven passengers. Honda Odyssey 2005-2010 models (except for the base trim) adds a stowable "PlusOneSeat" between the middle row bucket seats. The Australian Mazda MPV has three seats in the middle and two in the last row.
A sport seat is an improved version of a bucket seat with advanced lateral support and ability to accommodate racing harnesses. Sport seats are designed according to the shape of a human body to provide advanced lateral support and weight distribution, which helps the driver withstand g-force while cornering. Sport seats come with special openings for 3-point, 4-point, or 5-point racing harnesses to increase safety in extreme driving conditions. These seats often are lighter in weight compared to stock bucket seats, which is vital for any sport car. They are universal and technically can be installed in any vehicle using model specific or universal bolt-on seat mounting brackets.
A suspension seat is a variation of a sport bucket seat designed for off-road vehicles. Unlike seats for sports cars, this type of seat is equipped with additional springs or suspension components that give extra shock absorption for bumps and jumps, making them softer and relatively more comfortable for the driver. While suspension seats provide more comfort for passengers, they are not considered safer than the static bucket seats used in motorsports.
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- "bucket seats". TheFreeDictionary.com. Retrieved 2017-03-30.
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