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Best & worst visibility

Jeff Bartlett

Being able to see out and around a vehicle from the driver’s seat can directly impact your safety and those around you. Vehicles with big blind spots make it harder for driver’s to see other vehicles approaching, and even children or pets behind the vehicle. When a driver can’t see, it can be a recipe for disaster. Backup cameras and sensors can be helpful aids for those vehicles with poor visibility.

Our scores are a composite of how well drivers of different sizes can see forward, to the rear, to the sides, and while using inside and outside mirrors.

Subaru Forester

Big windows, a square greenhouse, and thin roof pillars bring outstanding visibility to the Forester. Bucking the modern styling trend for sleek profiles and a badly crimped view out, here you sit surrounded by glass and with a conveniently low windowsill. There's a small blind spot at the rear corner but it's not too bad, and the big side mirrors help. All except base-level Foresters have a backup camera, which is handy, even though its display is a little small

Subaru Legacy / Outback

Visibility is excellent on the Outback, with large windows, low sills, big mirrors, and roof pillars that aren't too wide. Plus, it includes a backup camera as standard equipment and blind-spot detection is readily available. EyeSight effectively adds to visibility with its active safety systems, including forward-collision warning and lane-departure warning.

Land Rover Range Rover / Range Rover Sport

Upright and stately, both the flagship Range Rover and smaller Range Rover Sport make front seat passengers feel like lords (or ladies) of the manor. Huge picture windows and thin roof pillars give a panoramic view out. Note that we can’t say the same for the small Range Rover Evoque, which reduces glass area to a thin and skimpy slit.

Honda Fit

Great visibility helps make the Honda Fit a terrific urban runabout. All of the windows are large. Even though there’s a double pillar for the windshield, it stays out of the way, with a useful sail window at its base. Major kudos go to the Fit for having a standard backup camera; it is one of the least expensive vehicles boasting that claim.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Mercedes’ midsized sedan skips the slicker, more-coupe-like styling of many of its competitors. The reward for conservative sheetmetal: great visibility through large windows and thin windshield pillars. No wonder that the E-Class is a common sight as a taxi in crowded European cities. Too bad a backup camera is optional, even at this price.

Honda Accord

Overall visibility is excellent, particularly in an era when swoopy, coupe-like styling and thick roof pillars have made driving some cars akin to looking out of a gun turret. Instead, the Accord has upright styling, thin roof pillars, and a low beltline, giving it a wide expanse of glass all around. All trims come with a standard backup camera. Higher trims (EX-L and above) include gridlines and the ability to change view angles.

Nissan Altima

Visibility is very good overall on the Altima, with large windows all-around and moderately sized front pillars. Typical for a sedan, a high rear deck limits visibility out the back and the rear roof pillars create a blind spot, but a small quarter window helps. A rear camera is not available on the 2.5 S and lower trim levels, but the one in our 3.5 SL worked well.

Chevrolet Cruze

Upright styling gives the Cruze large windows all the way around--a plus for visibility. Roof pillars are moderately wide, leaving a refreshingly expansive view around corners. A rear camera is included in the $380 Driver Convenience Package on 2LT and diesel models; it works well and is well worth the money.

Mitsubishi i-MiEV

Driving the i-MiEV feels like sitting in a fishbowl, thanks to big front and side windows. Windshield pillars are wide but inset sail windows help view in the corners. Large rear head restraints block much of the rear window view. Big side door mirrors and our car's rear-view camera help.

Nissan Z

The view straight ahead is OK in the Z, but it is poor to the rear quarters and straight back. Large door mirrors help, but the car could really use blind-spot detection or bigger windows. At least a rear-view monitor is available, which helps.

Porsche Boxster

The low seating position, high dashboard and rear deck can make rear visibility difficult especially for smaller drivers of the Boxster. But thin front pillars and good sized windows make for adequate visibility to the front and sides. The sides of the fabric roof create large blind spots when it is up, but even with the top down the screened wind blocker, high rear trunk deck, and roll hoops impede the view to the rear.

Chevrolet Camaro

While low design of the Camaro is appealing, visibility is poor, with short windows; a long, bulging hood; and thick roof pillars. The rear-view mirror blocks a portion of the windshield, the low roofline limits the view to the sides, and the high rear deck obstructs rear visibility. A rear-view camera is a necessity for this vehicle.

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