Where are our car windows going?!

Something weird is happening to car designers.

Back in the mid-seventies there was one car in my home town that someone had imported from the US, and I remember how futuristic it had looked to us then.

AMC Pacer car
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons.
Jetsons aircar

This was the remarkably innovative AMC Pacer, and it had those huge wrap-around windows that made it look almost like a glass bubble. It was clear that in the future cars will have windows like this: you only had to think of the aircar of the Jetsons family, the future analog to the Flintstones.

So now the future is here, and not only are bubble cars nowhere to be seen – the windows on our ordinary cars are shrinking at an alarming rate. Compare the two family cars below, an older Subaru and a new Kia. Look at those windows. See the difference?
Subaru and Kia

This trend is everywhere. Makers the world over design cars with small windows; if this goes on we will soon have cars with tiny slits to look out through, like in a tank. Here are three more examples:

Cars with small windows

Now, compare the rear end of the Chevrolet in the photo below to the AMC Pacer’s behind in the next photo. See how far the designers have veered off the “future” we had expected?


AMC Pacer2
Photo courtesy aldenjewel, shared on flickr under CC license.

And what I can’t figure out is, what’s gotten into these designers? Why enclose people in lumpy metal boxes without a good view out? Or is it that car owners prefer it this way – and if so, why? Have they lost interest in the outside world (consider in-car entertainment systems!) – or are they afraid of it, and prefer to hide in their air conditioned cars, with small tinted-glass windows to make them invisible to other people?

Do you have an explanation?

21 Responses to “Where are our car windows going?!”

  1. 1 Anonymous

    Side-impact air bags have to have somewhere to deploy from.

  2. 2 Justin James

    This is simple: safety regulations and consumer demands for safety!

    The US government has been steadily increasing the rules on rollover crashes. If you compare the older cars to the new ones, you’ll also note an additional pillar added too for many cars (which is one reason why the windows are smaller, they are getting divided in two). And the pillars need to be thicker, because in the past they just needed to hold the roof up, now, they need to hold the entire car up.

    In addition, the “chopped and channeled” look is in vogue, but they can’t actually “chop and channel” a car and leave the headroom most folks want, so they create the visual illusion by raising the bottoms of the windows up. Compare the current Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger to previous years for a great example. They both look sleek, but the modern ones look like a custom car, because of the raised window bottoms.


  3. 3 Anton R.

    I feel lot more mystery about “aggressive” style domination in modern car designs. Many modern front lights looks like monster eyes. For my taste, most of old cars looks much frendly and beautiful.

  4. 4 Nathan Zeldes

    Indeed, Anton – I couldn’t agree more. The shape of current cars is far less aesthetic than that of, say, the sixties or seventies; they are often bulky and lumpy. 🙁

  5. 5 Art L.

    The chopped and channeled look might be “in vogue” and the roll over rules may be getting stricter, but in my opinion the design of cars manufactured since roughly 2003 has negatively suffered as a result. Today’s cars with smaller windows are just plain ugly.

  6. 6 henry

    I agree totally. I had not bought a car since 2003, and when I went to look this year all of a sudden I noticed that the windows had been shrunk down to stupid dimensions.

    My only consolation is that this design trend will swing back the other way, and we’ll get nice large windows again in a few years.

  7. 7 mike
  8. 8 The AntiFox

    It’s very difficult for me to park most sedans from 2005 forward: I cannot see down to either side of the vehicle, as I could in a car from 2000, ’90, or ’80. Even if the driver’s seat can be raised, it’s still like trying to park a 747!

    Manufacturers: Please! Lower the belt-lines(bottoms of window) to sensible heights before someone whacks a 5-year old kid they didn’t see standing outside their car door!

  9. 9 erica

    I own a 1984 Ford EXP and a 1995 Mazda MX3. Two fishbowls. Too bad it’s time to buy a new car: the new cars make me feel like I’m sitting in a hole, peeking over the edge.

    Then to make it worse, they break up the view out the side into three or four little subwindows with dividers in between.

    Probably as soon as I give up and buy one of those little slit-view eggs, large glass and bubble windows will suddenly surge back into popularity.

  10. 10 chuck

    Saab had the best roll over results of any car and probably still do 30 years ago and still had a greenhouse. Poor excuse. I can not drive these cars where you sit in a hole and the Windows start at your neck and you feel like you are only peering over the dash. Poor visibility horrendous blind spots. That is a safety issue.

  11. 11 OlympicClassLinerFan

    I own a 2008 Kia Optima, about midway through the
    transition from normal sized windows to the slit
    windows of today. And I still have to open my
    drivers door to see where I’m going when backing
    into a parking space!

    Folks think I look ridiculous – like I’m backing
    up a tractor-trailer! – but it’s the only way I
    know where I am relative to the space. Something
    I never had to do when backing up in my 1996
    Ford Contour or 1981 Buick Century.

  12. 12 Ian

    I have two problems with the new cars. The first is visability, the windows are starting so high and are squashed so far down in the back that it’s hard to see things around you. The second is the tendency to round down the back of the cars. They all look like they bread with a Prius. How can I safely store my belongings on top of an SUV that is not flat on top? I saw one the other day with a roof rack that followed the ridiculous contours. This squashing down of the back also takes away so much cargo space. We didn’t buy the Prius for it’s shape, we bought it for milage and nothing else.
    cars have had side air bags for a long time and managed this without such small windows and loss of cabin space. I think the change occurred because the car designers thought we all like the Prius because of it’s shape. NOT!!!

  13. 13 Bob Casamecas

    You only need glass at the level of your seeing face holes, the rest is just non-structural, brittle, hard, shatter-prone, heavy, Mac-like decoration material that you carry arround in your car at all times, posing a threat in case of an accident and all the while letting harmful radiation in, and providing poor thermal insulation.
    Despite that, I wouldn’t be surprised if the industry switched to all glass side panels that require 15kW air conditioning units and a sofisticated polarizer panel that allows only sections of the glass to be transparent to mimic a plastic/metalic sidepanel. That’s the way they went with roof panels. Have you seen the roof on the latest citroen C3?
    A real shame… Elon musk or some other engineering guy will make a fortune when they design the first car in 30 years which doesn’t feature the boot and bonnet as part of the bumpers… and head and rear lights that are the size of a lightbulb and cost $10 to replace, and aren’t guaranteed to smash into another vehicle in the event of a crash… and windows all arround the car but only at a head level height… and some room in front of the radiator so that if you bend the bumper inwards you don’t drive the fan through the AC rad, and the AC rad into the engine rad…

  14. 14 Ray

    It all comes down to dollars and cents.
    It costs more money to make glass than it does sheet metal. The cost to make glass is a least 20times that of sheet metal. Today’s aggressive styling is a great cover to reduce manufacturing costs.

  15. 15 Joanne

    Forget all the sleek look, what about safety? In case of a serious accident someone can be seriously crushed or trapped inside these cars making evacuation more difficult. I have a new 2014 Avalon and am not enjoying it like I thought I would because I can’t really see out of it the way I can my ’09 Accord. Going to really affect my car buying in the future.

  16. 16 Elizabeth

    I agree! I hate the newer small windows. You can’t see! horrible. I have a Honda Civic 2000 and I don’t want to get rid of it because I see the new designs and get upset.

  17. 17 Michelle Gray

    *I also HATE the small windows.
    *I am looking for a new car and will not buy one if I can’t find better window configuration.
    *I have a 2009 Subaru where the back windows are only slightly raised.
    *Every time I shoulder check I glimpse the back wall under the window and for a split second think its a car. Now lane changing for me is dangerous.
    * I sit very short (short torso). *I feel like I’m in a pit and the experience is unpleasant as a driver/passenger and I really cannot see.
    * STUPID STUPID Designs. They come and go like clothes and are dictated by the designers and manufacturers.
    * Hopefully this will change in the near future. We can still have safe cars and a great view!!!!

  18. 18 S.Nicole

    I’m so glad to this blog. Because I was beginning to feel like I was making it all up. The windows have disappeared. And there is difficulty in seeing around. Which horses won to depend on all these sensors on the car to be our eyes and they’ve taken away the visibility in current sedans. I just went from a Honda 2002 to a Kia 2016 and I’m a little heartbroken.

  19. 19 Janice Oakley

    Help! I have a big decision to make soon. My 2002 Toyota Corolla with 97000 miles is all rusted out underneath – looks fabulous otherwise. I had hoped to keep it for 5 more years but I’m getting afraid to drive it but can’t find a new car that I can see out of. Should I buy a low mileage 2005 aprox and wait for new cars to change?

  20. 20 loveeachothers

    Hi everybody!

    Well, as mentioned above, people like to be hide from the outside World.

    I do too. And in my greenhouse of a car, I put tints on, nothing special, just 20% because it’s the perfect shade in accordance with my eyesight. Unfortunately, it’s illegal where I live.

    If the windows were smaller, a clear tint and some dark tinted air deflectors would suffice to darken the interior and my face wouldn’t be clearely visible from a distance.

    PLUS I’m much more confident climbing in a car where my neck and shoulder are directly protected by a reinforced door than a glass…

    PLEASE, automaker, make them TINY!

  21. 21 Garth Hudson

    I agree with the various views expressed about desirability of larger windows. My wife and I want in due course to replace our excellent but aging Citroen C5 with a high ground clearance 4wd but all of the new vehicles suffer from ridiculously small rear windows and limited rear view when reversing. We often tow trailer or boat and need good rear view particularly when reversing. We are hoping that cars will appear soon which have this. Any info on suitable models would be very welcome


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