A good racing seat is like a good suit. It doesn't need to be expensive or flashy. It just needs to fit well and be strong enough to do its job.
Annoyingly, the world of FIA-rated racing seats bears other similarities to the ever-changing world of fashion. Just as your favorite suit wears out over time, racing seats age out: The FIA 8859 certification on racing seats expire after just 5 years, after which many sanctioning bodies will no longer allow you to use them. And when you do go to replace them, you'll often find that the styles and features of your favorite seat have changed, leaving you guessing whether they will still fit and work as well as your old one did.
This is exactly what happened this winter. The beloved Bride Zeta III that kept our drivers safe reached retirement age. While we couldn't go out and buy a brand-new Zeta III, Bride did release a new series of compact head containment seats called the Xero. So after taking some basic measurements to ensure that it would fit in the car, we ordered up a Bride Xero CS.
What is the Bride Xero CS?
The Xero is Bride's new line of FIA 8859-homologated head containment racing seats, replacing the bulky winged monster known as the Gardis III. It comes in three variants, the VS, CS, and RS. The CS is the "medium" size amongst the three and is the model that is designed to fit most cars. The RS is slightly wider and has longer head containment bolsters, while the smaller VS is an extra-compact model designed for cars with extremely narrow cockpits, like the Lotus Exige.
In keeping with current trends in racing seat design, Bride has made the Xero more compact than its predecessor. The Xero CS's shell is almost an inch narrower than the Gardis III, making it one of the smallest full-size racing seats on the market.
Compared to their older seats, the bottom of the Xero's shell is sunk an additional half-inch, and is fitted with pads that are about half the thickness of those on the Zeta III. Bride calls this the "LowMax system" and it allows the driver to sit lower in their seat, further maximizing the space in this compact seat.
The most notable changes, however, are in the head containment guards. The enormous elephant-ear head guards from the Gardis are long gone, replaced by a set of small wings that look more like an airplane headrest than a halo. This is a welcome change, as the Gardis' notoriously bulky halo made getting in and out of the seat surprisingly difficult.
Finally, the seat shell is covered in Bride's standard fire-retardant fabric and comes fitted with three removable insert pads for your thighs, butt, and lower back.
Why not a Sparco, Momo, Racetech, or ____?
Despite being coveted by JDM car enthusiasts, Bride seats are a rare sight in American racecars. Part of the reason for this is that many American racing organizations allow the use of aluminum seats, which tend to be cheaper and do not expire like FIA seats do.
The other reason is that there is a huge variety of racing seats readily available in the US, including some budget-friendly entries from the likes of RaceQuip that undercuts even the cheapest Bride seats by a significant margin.
All that said, there are still good reasons to invest in a Bride seat for your racecar. You should look at Bride Xero if you:
- Are shorter and/or narrower than the average driver
- Drive a car with limited interior headroom
- Drive a car with narrow seat tunnels
- Are concerned about having the lightest seats possible
- Want a full containment seat but are concerned about visibility
- Want to sit as low as possible
How does it measure up?
Bride racing seats have always been designed for smaller, shorter drivers. The Xero CS is no exception.
We took some detailed measurements of the Xero CS to show you just how compact this seat is:
Measurements in US Standard units:
Measurements in Metric units:
For comparison, here are the measurements from the Sparco Circuit QRT, a popular compact FIA head containment racing seat sold in the US:
Source: Sparco USA. Original here.
Make no mistake, the Bride Xero CS is a narrow seat. The seat bottom tapers down to a mere 11 inches towards the seat back, while the seat back is just 10 inches wide at its narrowest. And It isn't just the back that's like this. The opening at the front of the seat is just over 13 inches, smaller than any other composite seat on the market. Don't expect to spread your legs very much once you're nestled in this bucket seat.
Thankfully, the shoulder bolsters are about as wide as those on larger seats, so those of us with broad shoulders should fit against the back without issue. There shouldn't be any issues with lateral visibility either, as the CS's low-profile head containment wings only extend by about 3.1 inches forward of the headrest.
All this interior space-saving means that the exterior of the seat is compact as well. Normally, head containment seats tend to be larger, taller, and heavier than regular road racing seats. Not so with the Xero. A side-by-side comparison with our old Zeta III revealed that the Xero is the same size or smaller in every exterior dimension. This is welcome news for drivers that have trouble fitting a head containment seat into their cars' cockpits. With the Xero, they may finally have a way to do it.
The compact dimensions mean that the Xero CS is also extremely light. With all pads installed, the FRP version of the Xero CS weighs only 17.6 lbs. That's a full 2.3 lbs lighter than the Sparco Circuit QRT, which is already one of the lightest seats in Sparco's lineup. Spring for the more expensive Super Aramid shell and it will bring that weight down to a featherweight 15.6 lbs. Most carbon fiber racing seats weigh more than that.
How does it fit?
Sitting in the Xero CS feels less like sitting in a chair and more like wearing a long coat. Not just because the seat is designed to fit tightly around you, but also because the thigh bolsters feel exceptionally tall. When you lower your bottom into the Xero, the seat completely engulfs your hips and thighs. It's a secure, if slightly odd, feeling.
You'll experience a similar sensation when you lean against the seat back. If you sit in a Xero CS with your arms at your sides, you'll find that there's a bit of space between your upper back and the seat. This is because the Xero's shell is contoured to the shape of your back while you are driving. Hold out your arms as if you were holding the steering wheel, and that extra space disappears, making the Xero fit like a glove.
While this all seems a bit strange, it makes perfect logical sense. Racing seats are designed to be safe and supportive when you are racing. By forming the seat around you in your driving position, they have been able to make the Xero fit your body more closely, making it more comfortable and safer in the event of a crash.
This is the same logic that Italian racing suit manufacturers like Alpinestars use when designing their racing suits. Alpinestars suits are intentionally designed so they fit tightly in the front and loosely in the back. They feel odd to stand in and are frankly uncomfortable to walk around in. But as soon as you sit down, those same suits feel like they disappear around you. The Xero CS works the same way. Once you are nestled in its fire-retardant shell, you barely notice that it's there.
Who does it fit?
Annoyingly, the manufacturer doesn't really give you any specific information about the size or shape of the driver that the Xero is built for.
So we took some measurements off of StudioVRM.Racing's official race and test driver so you have a point of reference on how the seat fits:
Driver's Basic Size:
|Height||5 ft 8 in (172cm)|
|Weight||165 lbs (75kg)|
|Suit jacket size||40R US|
|Pants size||32 / 32 US|
|Racing Suit Size||Alpinestars 40 US / 50 EU|
Detail Measurements over Alpinestars GP Tech Racing Suit:
|Chest diameter||40 in (101.6 cm)|
|Waist diameter||36.5 in (92.7 cm)|
|Hip diameter||39 in (99 cm)|
|Shoulder width||17.5 in (44.45 cm)|
|Torso / back length||28.25 in (71.8 cm)|
|Leg length to heel||31.5 in (80 cm)|
|Leg length to knee||18 in (45.7 cm)|
These measurements mean that our test driver is slightly shorter, slightly smaller, and slightly lighter than the Hybrid III 50th Percentile crash dummy that is usually used to crash test FIA 8859 seats. Despite this fact, he found the Xero CS to be a very snug fitting seat.
There was just enough room to route the belts around our driver's hips once he was seated in the Xero. While getting in and out of the seat is no problem, it is a noticeably tighter fit than with the Zeta III.
In particular, the super-narrow opening at the front of the Xero CS took some getting used to. Bride has left just enough room for his legs to operate the throttle, brake, clutch, and dead pedal. And that's it.
There is about 2.5" of space between the edge of the seat and the inside of the driver's knees, which is slightly more than enough space to press the pedals comfortably. Fortunately, the Xero's split thigh pad has enough give to them so our driver could apply full throttle or full brake without issue.
As expected, the driver's shoulders aren't completely contained within the seat's shoulder bolsters while his arms are at his sides. With his arms forward, his shoulders sit exactly where they should be. The HANS-friendly seat belt pass-throughs are at just the right height for our driver, with some room to go up or down. We suspect that the seat could easily accommodate drivers from 5'5" to 5'11", depending on whether you add to or remove the bottom pads.
There is, however, one area that is given ample room, and that's around the head. Not only are the head containment wings of the Xero CS extremely compact, but they are also spaced far apart. Our driver could turn his head a full 90 degrees in either direction without hitting the seat.
Clearly this head containment system is designed to be used with a head and neck device. With the lateral restraint of a Hybrid Pro, DefNder, or HANS device, the head guards extend out far enough that they can stop a driver's head from snapping sideways in a crash. But because of their compact size, they likely won't be as effective without one.
On the flip side, lateral visibility is excellent. During testing, the head guards only came into view when the driver turned his head completely sideways. There aren't many head containment seats out there that allow for such an unobstructed view.
Fit and Finish
Workmanship and durability have always been Bride's strengths, so it should be no surprise when we say that the fit and finish on the Xero CS are excellent. Every part of the seat, from the stitching to the Bride decal embedded in the back of the shell were flawless.
The Xero is covered in the same fuzzy fire-resistant fabric as the Zeta series. We aren't sure what it exactly, but we know from using our other Bride seats that it's quite a durable fabric. Apparently this wasn't good enough for the designers, as they decided to cover the edges of the Xero with an additional leather-like pad to give them additional protection against wear and tear.
New in the Xero is this diamond stitched fabric on the inside of the lower bolsters. While this might seem like an exercise in retro seat styling, it's a functional feature meant to provide additional padding for your thighs. The quilt-like stitching gives additional structure to the padding under the fabric and makes it feel thicker than it really is. This lets them use less padding on the seat, allowing them to make the shell tighter and keeping the whole thing compact. It's an elegant solution, and certainly a more attractive one than the skeletonized padding used on seats like the Sabelt X-Pad.
The plastic harness hole guards are lined with a carbon fibre-textured matte finish, like on all newer Bride seats. While they are obviously fake looking, the textured finish does give them a more premium feel than the smooth glossy pieces found on most racing seats.
One thing we should mention is that, unlike with Bride's older seats, the Xero's seat cover is not removeable. You can still remove the bottom pads and bottom half of the back pads. But the main fabric cover is glued to the shell and held in place with a rubberized strip. While you could theoretically remove, wash, and re-attach the cover, it doesn't look like it would be an easy or practical thing to do. Just try not spill anything on it.
At $1,033 US for the FRP model, the Bride Xero CS is priced right in the middle of the range of lightweight FIA-homologated head containment seats.
For comparison, you can get the slightly larger Sparco Circuit QRT for $950 US, a similarly compact Sabelt X-Pad for $1,025 US, or a comparable RaceTech 4100HR for $1,200 US.
The Xero CS definitely isn't what you would call cheap. But we would say that the price is fair considering its compact size, light weight, and high build quality.
Conclusion and Recommendations
As with all safety equipment, fitment is the most important aspect of choosing a racing seat. If it doesn't fit, you shouldn't sit. Hopefully our measurements and testing will help you figure out whether you would fit in a Bride Xero CS.
If you do happen fit in a Xero CS, we would recommend it for your racecar or dedicated track car. The seat has excellent holding power, is extremely comfortable while driving, and provides outstanding visibility compared to other FIA-rated head containment seats. Plus, the small exterior dimensions allow it to fit into cars where the average full containment seat cannot.
However, the form-fitting shell that makes this seat comfortable while driving also makes it less than practical on the street. If you are looking for a more supportive seat for your street car or your weekend track car, we recommend that you look elsewhere. Bride says the Xero is a dedicated racing seat. Based on what we have seen, we can tell you that they are not exaggerating.
See you at the track.
Neither StudioVRM nor Roger Maeda are supported or affiliated with Bride Corporation. All products tested were purchased at full price out of Roger's own pocket.