What do the following pictures have in common?
Unless you’re some sort of autospotting wizard, you probably didn’t ID them as being Chevrolet Impalas, which is certainly the case. They are, from top to bottom, the 1959 Impala Sport Coupe, 1976 Custom Coupe, and 1979 Station Wagon.
The thread of commonality is that they are all front bench seats.
The Impala is the last production car produced in North America with a front bench seat.
And when the 2014 Chevrolet Impala comes out next year, it won’t be offered with the optional front bench.
Turns out that front bench seats—three-across seating notwithstanding—are not particularly popular. Only 1 in 10 Impala buyers last year ponied up the additional $195 to get the bench.
“A lot of people prefer bucket seats because they’re sporty, even in models that aren’t sports cars,” observed Clay Dean, GM director of design.
He admits, “There is a certain nostalgia for bench seats, like being able to snuggle up with your date at a drive-in movie, and some customers still like them.”
But just as there are far fewer drive-in movies than there once were, there is evidently an insufficient number of people who go beyond nostalgia when it comes to bench seats.
Dean doesn’t think that the bench seat will be necessarily gone forever: “You never know; we might see bench seats re-emerge someday, possibly in very small cars like the EN-V urban mobility concept vehicle, in which the feeling of open space may be very desirable.”
Given the compact form of the EN-V, any feeling of open space would probably be appreciated.