Price: $299/ €299
Shipping worldwide: Available from Fanatec.de
For many racing game fans around the world, a good steering wheel has always been a must-have accessory. Today, more and more sim racers are going one step further by installing a ‘sim rig’ in their home. Many of these gaming seats cost well over $1000, but Fanatec has now come along with a new product with a much friendlier price tag of $299/ €299.
The racing community normally associates Fanatec with high-end steering wheels and pedals. Their only previous attempt at a sim rig was a $1200 monster, so in order to create a product for a wider market they have taken on some expert help.
Fanatec has been working closely with engineer Renato Markovic and licensed his Rinoseat GTR, a seat which Markovic previously designed and manufactured himself. Racing fans have always been interested in Markovic's unique design, but supply problems prevented his product from taking off. Now, with Fanatec's backing, the potential is there for this fantastic seat to find its way into many more living rooms.
The seat arrives neatly packaged, but requires a lot of assembly before it’s ready to play. All of the parts come in labelled bags, which correspond with the instructions to help you quickly find the correct parts you need for each step.
Unfortunately, the printed instructions are not very well presented. The illustrations are tiny, making them very difficult to follow, especially if you are inexperienced with flat pack furniture. This gets more frustrating when some of the parts do not fit together as easily as depicted by the instructions. The seat frame is particularly poor, requiring some serious brute force to get the metal tubes into place. Unfortunately, issues with fittings and instructions have tended to be common place with Fanatec products (my CSR Elite Wheel had screw holes which had not been properly threaded) and the CSL Seat continues this tradition.
Update: Thankfully though, Fanatec has responded to criticism of the printed instructions by introducing a video manual for the CSL Seat, which you can find on YouTube embeded below. This makes it much easier to see how everything fits together correctly and will definitely reduce the construction time and any frustration caused by using the paper instructions.
Thankfully, once you get the core elements assembled, there is plenty of adjustability to help you get comfortable. You can mount your pedals at a distance comfortable to you and easily adjust the seating position by sliding it forwards or backwards to find your preferred angle. Fanatec say the seat supports heights of 155 to 210cm or 5, 11" to 6, 10". However, if you're at the top end of this height scale you are definitely going to find it a little less comfortable. The seat supports weight of up to 200kg, 400 lbs or 41 stone.
Regardless of how you adjust the seat for your personal comfort, most of the seating positions are very low. If you haven't used a sim racing seat, or sat in a race car before, it might well take some getting used to, but it creates a very authentic racing experience. However, keep in mind that, because the seat is so low, you may need to adjust your screen setup. I found that I had to raise my TV slightly to create the best viewing angle from the CSL Seat.
The only aspect of this rig which isn't customisable enough is the wheel angle. On many rigs, you can adjust the wheel deck quite freely, tilting it up and down to create a comfortable wheel position which matches the seat position and your driving style. Unfortunately, the CSL Seat's design only allows for three specific wheel positions with no room for further adjustment. You also can't fine-tune the angle or height of the deck without a few tools because it locks into place with screws, so don't expect any quick driver swaps if you plan to use the CSL Seat with friends.
Despite some frustrating issues with the seat's construction, it is fantastic once you start your engine. It is extremely comfortable for long periods of play and the shape of the seat really does immerse you into the feeling of a race car. The material of the seat cover has a great feel to it as well; very reminiscent of the styling of top end sports cars.
The shape of the frame intelligently avoids a centre post reaching up to the wheel deck, so you have full freedom to move your legs between the pedals; great news for sim racers who like to use a stick shift and the clutch pedal. If you own Fanatec's top of the line CSR Elite or Club Sport Pedals, you can really imagine yourself inside a car while you're in this seat. This is because the ABS vibration function of these pedals makes the entire frame of the seat rumble, so you can feel the bite of the ABS through the seat. You get a similar effect if you use a very strong force feedback wheel such as the Fanatec CSR Elite, Fanatec Club Sport Wheel, or Thrustmaster T500RS. The CSL Seat supports all of the major Fanatec, Logitech and Thrustmaster wheels.
Rigidity is very important in a sim rig. The last thing you want during a tense online race is for your wheel or pedals to come loose at high speed. Even with the force feedback settings turned all the way up on the most powerful steering wheels, the CSL Seat is remarkably sturdy. Considering the lightweight materials (the whole package only weighs 15kg/ 33lbs before you attach a wheel), this is perhaps the product's biggest achievement. Most entry level sim rigs really struggle with this aspect of their design, so the CSL Seat's stability, combined with its lack of centre post, makes it incredibly attractive at its $300 price point.
It isn't going to take over your living room, either. It has a very small footprint and is very light, so it can easily be moved aside or tucked away in the corner of the room. Many of the other rigs in the same price range as the CSL Seat are simply too heavy or too large for smaller homes or apartments. If you currently use a wheel stand and are looking to take the step up to a racing seat without compromising your space, this is the best sim rig for you.
Overall, you simply will not find a better, more rigid, or more living room-friendly sim racing rig in this price range.