Best cars for three child car seats

Fitting three child seats into a car can be a challenge, so we’ve put 15 SUVs and MPVs to the test to find out which can accommodate three seats safely and comfortably...

Three children in car child seats - side by side

Three is apparently the magic number. Research shows that many families are now bucking the traditional average of 2.5 children and having three offspring. Famous three-child families include those of the Prince and Princess of Wales, television presenter Holly Willoughby and actors Reece Witherspoon and Will Smith. And they’re not alone: 1.2 million families in the UK have three or more children.

However, a recent survey by Mumsnet revealed that, for 60% of parents, the arrival of a third child caused the biggest organisational headaches, with 72% of parents polled saying they needed to buy a new car and 41% saying they had to move house to make room for their growing brood. Now, we can’t help you to find a bigger home, but we can reveal the best new cars for your growing family.

Families with Hyundai Santa FE SUV

Most five-seaters aren’t suitable because very few can accommodate three child seats in a single row. While you can use the front passenger seat in some cars, that’s not practical if a parent has to sit in the back, squashed between two child seats. It’s also dangerous for a child in a rearward-facing seat to be positioned in the front unless the airbag is deactivated, and that’s not always easy.

Read more: Best child car seats

The rear seats are considered the safest place for children to sit, so in most cases, the best options for installing three or more child seats are cars that can accommodate them across their second and third rows.

To find out just how practical the latest MPVs and large SUVs are for bigger families, we tried fitting three child seats into their second and third rows. We also evaluated our reigning overall Car of the Year, the Volkswagen ID Buzz, because although it’s a five-seater only (for now), practicality and passenger space were two of the reasons why it won the accolade.

Child car seats feature

We chose one seat that’s suitable for children from birth to four years old and two seats for older children. The baby seat can be fitted only using Isofix mounts, while the two larger ones can be secured via either Isofix or seatbelts.

Our results are based on our own physical tests and also on independent Euro NCAP safety tests, which state whether it’s permissible to use a child seat in each seat position. This information can also be found in the owner’s manuals of cars.

The child seats used in our test

Britax Romer Kidfix M i-Size
Child height 100-150cm (age three and a half to 12)
Seat width 44cm

Cybex Solution S2 i-Fix
Child height 100-150cm (age three and a half to 12)
Seat width 50cm

Britax Romer Dualfix i-Size
Child height 61-105cm (birth to age four)
Seat width 44cm 


Citroën e-Spacetourer

Child car seats e-SpaceTourer

NCAP overall safety rating 5 stars
Child occupant score 91%
Price from £37,045
Target Price from £37,045

We were spoilt for choice when it came to fitting child seats in the electric e-Spacetourer, because it’s vast inside and comes with nine seats and six Isofix points in the second and third rows.

Access to the rear is good via wide, sliding side doors, and each of the second-row seats slides forwards or backwards separately to give enough room for the bulkiest of child seats. We were able to fit all three seats across the second row, or put one of the seats in the third row and still have enough leg room for all of our passengers.

The interior is pretty utilitarian, though, with just two fold-down tray tables and stowage nets on the back of the front seats. However, the e-Spacetourer comes only in one length (diesel SpaceTourers can be had in even more spacious Long Wheelbase form), so boot space is limited unless you slide the three rearmost seats forward or remove them.

Child car seats e-SpaceTourer

Red tick = Isofix mounted child seat
Blue tick = seatbelt secured child seat
Black tick = other seatbelt secured child seat might fit
Black cross = not enough space for a child seat

Read our full Citroen e-Spacetourer review >>

Dacia Jogger

Child car seats Dacia Jogger

NCAP overall safety rating 1 star
Child occupant score 69%
Price from £17,135
Target Price from £17,135

The Jogger was named ‘best for value’ in its category at the 2023 What Car? Awards because it’s the cheapest new seven-seater you can buy, costing around £10,000 less than rivals.

We couldn’t fit three child seats into the second row, but we could get the two seats for older children in the third row, and it felt roomy and bright back there. The Jogger has two Isofix mounts in the second row only, and not all belted child seats can be fitted in the third row. Although the second-row seats don’t slide, they split 60/40 and can be tumbled forwards and tucked upright next to the front seats with just one lever, creating excellent access to the third row.

The Jogger scored just one star in Euro NCAP testing; that's because Dacia chooses not to fit the latest active safety systems and because its child protection scores are lower than those for the best new cars.

Child car seats Dacia Jogger

Read our full Dacia Jogger review or see Dacia Jogger deals

Ford S-Max

Child car seats Ford S-Max

NCAP overall safety rating 5 stars
Child occupant score 87%
Price from £38,540
Target Price from £36,915

The S-Max is one of the sportier MPVs to drive and it's packed with useful features, including pull-up tables for the two outer second-row passengers and electric switches in the boot to fold all the second and third-row seats flat.

The three second-row seats are all equipped with Isofix mounts and all of our child seats fitted using that mounting method, although they didn’t leave much room for doing up the belts that keep the children secure. The air-con control binnacle cuts into space in the middle seat, and while you can slide the seat backwards to improve room, it compromises space in the third row.

All of the second-row seats slide separately and the two outer ones tip forwards to give good access to the third row, which is fairly gloomy and tight for space, although each occupant at least gets a cupholder and a small shelf.

Child car seats Ford S-Max

Read our full Ford S-Max review or see Ford S-Max deals

Peugeot e-Rifter Long

Child car seats Ford S-Max

NCAP overall safety rating 4 stars
Child occupant score 81%
Price from £35,120
Target Price from £33,662

The e-Rifter is a compact, fully electric MPV that comes in a choice of standard five-seat or Long seven-seat guises.

Sliding rear side doors give good access to the interior, and there are Isofix mounts on the outer second-row seats. All three seats are the same size and could each accommodate a child seat, although securing the centre seat with the seatbelt was a bit fiddly.

The second-row seats don’t slide, but the seatbacks fold flat, providing good access to the third row. Although it’s a bit cramped back there, two seatbelt-secured child seats will fit.

Our test car had 60/40 split-folding second-row seats, but you can get three seats that fold individually if you go for GT trim or specify the 35/30/35 seat option. GT spec also adds pull-up picnic tables on the backs of the front seats and air-con controls for the second row.

Child car seats Ford S-Max

Read our full Peugeot e-Rifter review or see Peugeot e-Rifter deals

Vauxhall Combo Life Electric XL

Child car seats Vauxhall Combo Life

NCAP overall safety rating 4 stars
Child occupant score 81%
Price from £34,685
Target Price from £34,685

Closely related to the Citroën e-Berlingo and Peugeot e-Rifter, the Combo Life is a functional electric MPV that can be had with seven seats in XL long-wheelbase form.

As in its sibling, all of our child seats fitted across the second row, where there are two Isofix mounts. Securing the middle seat with the seatbelt was a bit awkward, though.

For better access, we’d put one of the seatbelt-secured seats in the third row, which offers good access because the second-row seatbacks fold flat separately at the pull of a tab. However, there isn’t a huge amount of leg room for those right at the back, and you can’t slide the second row forwards to free up more.

The sliding side doors are good for access, though, especially in tight parking spaces. And despite the third row of seats, you still get a decent-sized boot.

Child car seats Vauxhall Combo Life

Read our full Vauxhall Combo Life review or see Vauxhall Combo Life deals

Volkswagen Multivan

Child car seats Volkswagen Multivan

NCAP overall safety rating 5 stars
Child occupant score 89%
Price from £43,720
Target Price from £42,568

The Multivan is a highly practical option for large families. You can specify it in six or seven-seat guise; in the former, there are two individual chairs in the middle row that can slide, recline or spin around to face the third row. There’s also a sliding compartment between the two second-row seats that pops up at the press of a button to enable passengers to pull out two tray tables and access cupholders. In addition, there are flip-up trays on the backs of the front seats and pull-out drawers under the seats.

In the seven-seater, you get three seats in the second row. Either way, all of the seats in the second and third rows have Isofix mounts. The sliding side doors make it easy to get to the second row, and you can walk through to the third.

Boot space is minimal with all three seat rows in place unless you remove some seats or go for the Long version.

Child car seats Volkswagen Multivan

Also consider