Sit smart

with Sharon Peters

Q: We test drove a 2013 Nissan Altima and the front seats seemed strange. Looked a little different, felt different. The sales guy said they’re “zero-gravity” seats and they were inspired by NASA. Good grief. Does everything have to have some gimmick? What are you hearing about those seats? A: I’m hearing that many consumers like you and like me are put off by the goofy terminology. That said, I always welcome any improvement in comfort, no matter what they call it.

The idea/claim behind the zero gravity seating in the 2013 Altima is a design alteration that Nissan claims minimizes muscular loading of the individual’s back, pelvis and torso for a sitting position that heightens comfort and reduces fatigue, especially on long trips.

Well, I’ve sat in so-called zero gravity chairs in stores specializing in products to help bad backs. The Altima’s seats bear no resemblance to those, largely because the actual ones’ legs are perched up in a way not unlike a reclining La-Z-Boy (a position and a configuration that would add some difficulty to the process of driving).

Still, I do find these new Altima seats more comfortable than the seats in many sedans. And I’m not the only one. Autoguide.com in its review said “we can attest to the claims of superior comfort,” and U.S. News gave the seats “high marks for their comfort and support.”

But back to the verbiage: Many consumers are considerably turned off by the terminology — calling it “an absurd claim” and an “idiotic slap at the intelligence of consumers,” on one forum devoted entirely to the “zero gravity” car seat. So in the end, this could, if all is really right with the world, wind up being one of those terms that the carmaker may decide to rethink.

If you more or less liked the car, maybe you can try to ignore the marketers who came up with this silly lingo, and just settle into the seat for at least an hourlong test drive to see if it wears as well for you with time as it promises. When I first sat in an Altima, the seat seemed different enough that I found it a little weird, but soon I found it nicely comfortable.

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E-mail sharon@ctwfeatures.com.