Is there an electric vehicle that can take three child seats?

A reader wants to go green, but can't find a pure electric vehicle that will take three child car seats across the rear bench. What does What Car? suggest?...

best car for three child car seats

I want to buy an electric vehicle, and need to install three seats for my children. Although most of the cars I’ve looked at have three spaces on the rear seat, they’re not wide enough to actually fit three child seats onto them.

If there isn’t a pure-electric vehicle that can do this, which is the best hybrid for doing the same job? 

Chris Menzies-Trull

What Car? says…

You’re right: there aren’t many fully electric vehicles that can accommodate three child car seats in the rear. 

At present, there are only two luxury SUVs that we know can do this: the Tesla Model X and the Audi E-tron. The Model X can be configured with six or seven seats over three rows, and in six-seat format you can fit two larger seats in the second row and a smaller seat or booster in the third row. The E-tron is a similar size to the Audi Q7, and although it only has five seats, the rear bench is wide enough to take three seats. 

Audi E-tron front three quarters

It’s also worth considering one of the plug-in hybrid versions of other large SUVs. Officially, the Audi Q7 60 TFSIe can travel for up to 25 miles between recharges, and although it doesn’t have the two third-row seats you’ll find in other Q7 models, you can get three child car seats into the second row. There’s also the BMW X5 xDrive45e, which can cover up to 54 miles of pure electric driving, based on the official WLTP test

More models like these will be going on sale later this year and in 2021, including a plug-in hybrid version of the Peugeot 5008; this is a really practical family vehicle that can seat seven in its current guise and has three individual, sliding seats in its second row. 

Best cars for three child car seats

We get asked this question regularly, so we’ve written an online round-up of how good our favourite cars are at accommodating three child seats in the second and third rows. You can read this feature below.

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Best cars for three child seats

A recent survey revealed that having three children was the most stressful number for parents to deal with. Having one or two children may be a life-changing experience, but adding a third to your family throws up a whole new set of challenges. Not only do most family tickets for days out and multi-packs of food come in multiples of four, but you’re also likely to find that your car is no longer big enough to transport the whole clan. 

Renault was one of the first car makers to acknowledge that not all families were the standard two parents and two children, when it launched the Espace MPV in 1984. However, the popularity of these boxy ‘multi-purpose vehicles’ – or people carriers – is waning, having been supplanted by SUVs in the affections of many families. 

best cars for three child car seats

Although most MPVs and many SUVs come with seven seats, not all are able to accommodate more than two child car seats in the second and third rows. While you might be able to 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 use the front seat unless the airbag is deactivated, and that’s not always easy to do. The rear seats are generally considered the safest place for children to sit in cars. 

To help parents pick the most suitable cars for larger families, we got together the best contenders in three classes – large SUVs, luxury SUVs and MPVs – and tried fitting three child seats into their second and third rows (but not the front, for the reasons outlined above). We’ve also included a category for electric vehicles, even though there’s currently only one with more than five seats: the Tesla Model X

We chose an infant carrier, a seat suitable for a toddler and one for an older child. The two larger seats can be secured only by Isofix mounts, while the Group 0+ infant seat can be used with an Isofix base or a seatbelt. 

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

The child seats used in our test

Maxi Cosi CabrioFix 

maxi cosi

Price £119.99 Group 0+

Child weight 0-13kg (approx birth to 12 months)

Seat width 44.5cm 

Maxi Cosi AxissFix Plus

maxi cosi

Price £395

Group i-Size

Child height 67-105cm (approx birth to four years)

Seat width 44.5cm 

Halfords 123 Isofix

Halfords 123

Price £120

Group 123

Child weight 9-36kg (approx nine months to 12 years)

Seat width 44cm