The best racing seats: recline into immersive sim racing

Racing seats can be the ultimate accessory for casual users or the starting point for serious sim racing enthusiasts.

Next Level Racing seat

by Chris Williams |

Sim racing was already on the up, but the last few lockdowns gave it a real kick in the backside, sending it on a massive upward trajectory. Most of us started with Gran Turismo Sport, a controller, and whatever TV we had. Now, so many have succumbed to the sim racing bug, steadily upgrading hardware as far as budgets allow.

At CAR, we do enjoy our sim racing. From Need for Speed to iRacing, the sport can now be fully immersive in your own house with the help of racing wheels, headphones and, of course, a racing seat.

How much should I spend on a racing seat?

There is no denying that while sim racing has democratised motor racing, creating the full setup in your spare room will still cost a fair bit. A console or PC, plus a racing wheel, monitor, headphones, and racing seat can cost hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds. That sounds rather vague, but sim racing hardware varies enormously in performance and therefore cost.

In the case of racing seats and cockpits, you can start with a racing stand. A decent one (recommended below) can cost about £100. By stark contrast, the latest Sparco sim racing cockpit costs 10-times that. Happily, there are many racing seats in between this wide price range, ensuring that there's something for everyone.

Choosing your racing seat

The length of Sim racing seats is adjustable, either by moving the seat itself or the pedal mount. However, the seat width is fixed. So along with the budget, the fit is also extremely important when choosing a sim racing seat. Each racing seat will have a size guide that you can use to help you.

Among the top-end racing seats and rigs, you’ll see a difference in style, with some seats being more upright than others. Steeply reclined options are designed for formula-style racing, while the more upright products are for GT racing and rallying. Your entry-level racing seats are more upright and intended to be versatile for all sorts of racing.

You’ll also need to think about the kind of wheel you’re going to be using. Direct drive wheels have a lot of torque and need to be mounted to a strong frame. Lighter, cheaper, or foldable racing seats will be fine for a Logitech or Thrustmaster racing wheel but will be folded inside out if connected to a direct drive wheel.

The best racing seats

Next Level Racing F-GT Lite

Best racing seat if you're short on space
Next Level Racing F-GT Lite
Amazon

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We'll keep this brief because we've done a thorough job in our Next Level Racing F-GT Lite review but this is a brilliant option for those tight on space, or looking to upgrade from a wheel stand and not wanting to commit to a more permanent set up. It folds up small and offers huge adjustability, including two driving positions. Brilliant stuff, really.

Playseat Evolution

Editoru2019s pick
Playseat Evolution
Amazon

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Playseatu2019s Evolution is an all-rounder that strikes good balance rather than a bad compromise. One immediately notices its excellent value and raises an eyebrow thinking u2018Where have they skimped?u2019. But Playseat has kept this seat simple, focusing solely on what matters to users looking in this price bracket.

The vinyl seat is very comfortable and can be used for long periods without discomfort. Meanwhile, the frame, though not suitable for direct drive wheels, is very stable and highly adjustable. It doesn’t fold away completely but the seatback does fold flat. We also like its easy tool-free setup.

This is a great racing seat for first-time buyers and more experienced users alike.

Pros Cons
• Great value • Not suitable for direct drive
• Comfortable
• Easy to setup
• Sturdy frame
Specs
Recommended driver height 120-220cm
Max driver weight 122kg
Back rest height 78cm
Seat width 48cm
Seat depth 46.5-50cm
Seat height 24cm
Dimensions (L/W/H) 130/50/98cm
Weight 20kg

RaceRoom RR3055 Sim Racing Cockpit

Best customisable base
RaceRoom RR3055 Sim Racing Cockpit

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This cockpit is an upgrade from the Playseat Evolution in terms of solidity and comfort and consequently, offers a fantastic base from which you can build your bespoke setup. Depending on what monitor size you want, or the brand and model of racing hardware you have, there are specific modular accessories to suit.

Fundamentally, this is a functional piece of kit offering wide compatibility. However, while you expect to need extras and add-ons, you would hope that seat adjustability would be exempt from this; but, no. The wheel and pedal mounts are adjustable, but you need to buy seat runners to move the seat. It's also not suitable for a direct drive - if you want one that is, we recommend Next Level Racing's Racing GT Track seat.

For those of you who anticipate upgrades and evolving your sim racing hardware, this is the racing seat for you. Though remember, this basic cockpit is going to be your starting price.

Pros Cons
• Highly customisable • Requires modular bits, which increase the price
• Comfortable seat • Not suitable for direct drive
• Easy to set up
• Durable
Specs
Recommended driver height Not given
Max driver weight Not given
Back rest height 78cm
Seat width 38cm
Seat depth Not given
Seat height 38cm
Dimensions (L/W/H) 150/38/106cm
Weight 28.5kg

Playseat Challenge

Best foldable seat
Playseat Challenge
Amazon

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As with most serious hobbies, there is a constant battle between what we want, what we need and what we can have. We want to be able to have a better sim-racing experience, but weu2019re also not allowed to commandeer the entire living room with a big racing rig.

Playseat’s Challenge model aims to keep all parties happy, and gains high marks in doing so. It’s a completely flat-folding design (even with a wheel attached), so it can hide neatly behind the couch. When in use, it is comfortable, with a well-angled driving position.

Where the seats above are both vinyl and prone to mild breathability issues, the Challenge seat uses a much lighter and more breathable material. For those who constantly jump between the sim racing world and the real world, or those who want a budget-friendly racing seat, this is the model for you.

Pros Cons
• Good value • Not suitable for direct drive
• Comfortable seat • Not suitable for serious sim racers
• Easy to setup
• Light and foldable
Specs
Recommended driver height 120-220cm
Max driver weight 122kg
Back rest height 80cm
Seat width 42cm
Seat depth 40cm
Seat height 29cm
Dimensions (L/W/H) 136/54/96cm
Weight 9kg

Sparco Evolve GP

Best for formula sim racing
Sparco Evolve GP

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Many formula sim racing enthusiasts will want to replicate the feel of a formula car, being further reclined and having their legs more perpendicular to the pedals.

In this more specialised racing cockpit from Sparco. The seat is locked in a fixed position, with the pedals being the section to adjust – like in a Lamborghini Sesto Elemento. The pedal mount is on a slider, so adjustments are made easily and accurately. The seat itself has padding which can also be placed to suit you.

You’ll notice that this cockpit comes with a screen mount and is suitable for 24- to 49-inch screens. VESA size is 100 x 100. The frame is strong enough to cope with a direct drive wheel. There is also a version with GT and rally driving in mind.

Pros Cons
• Great for enthusiasts • Expensive
• Can cope with direct drive • Only suitable for formula sim racing
• Screen mount included
Specs
Recommended driver height Not given
Max driver weight Not given
Back rest height 72.8cm
Seat width 45.9cm
Seat depth (bucket/full) 28.8/85.8cm
Seat height Ground level
Dimensions (L/W/H) 169/60/95cm
Weight Not given

GT Omega Wheel Stand

Best racing wheel stand
GT Omega Wheel Stand
Amazon

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The most noticeable feature about this item in this racing seat article is its lack of a seat. A racing wheel stand is the most budget option you can go for to house your racing wheel and pedals, short of having them plonked on the coffee table and floor respectively.

GT Omega’s stand works well for Logitech, Thrustmaster, and Fanatec hardware and, of course, is the most compact option here. Like the Playseat Challenge, it folds flat. When in use it is highly adjustable, so you can use it happily while seated on a couch or office chair. The build quality is also very good, thanks to a steel frame.

This racing wheel stand is perfect for sim racers who want a bit more realism when racing but don’t have the desire to invest heavily in a full racing seat. And besides, if you change your mind, a GT Omega racing seat can be added on.

Pros Cons
• Wallet-friendly • Not for serious sim racers
• Highly adjustable • Ergonomics are better in proper racing cockpits
• Compact
• Durable
• Seat can be added
Specs
Recommended driver height N/A
Max driver weight N/A
Back rest height N/A
Seat width N/A
Seat depth N/A
Seat height N/A
Dimensions (L/W/H) 60 (plus optional gearshift mount)/45 (plus optional gearshift mount)/92cm
Weight 13kg

What is direct drive?

It’s been mentioned here, but what is a direct drive wheel? It’s something that’s seen on the racing wheels used by serious sim racers (i.e, expensive ones). Most racing wheels are connected to the motor shaft via a belt, which helps give the wheel more torque than its motor can provide. By using a belt, the system negates the need for a more powerful motor and keeps costs down. For most users, it’s fine.

Direct drive wheels are connected directly to the motor shaft. The intention is to give the user much greater feedback and detail than a belt-driven system can provide. It works but requires a more powerful motor, which means a direct drive wheel is more expensive.

Read our reviews of the Fanatec DD1 and CSL units to find out exactly how they perform.

Read next:

The best rally games

The best racing games

The best curved gaming monitors for more immersive online racing

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