Which cars are best for three child seats?

A BMW 3 Series Touring owner asks which BMW model would be best for his family of five...

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Claire Evans
19 March 2019

Girls in child car seats in Audi A7

Can an adult or older child fit between two child car seats in the rear of the new BMW X3 large SUV? The reason I ask is that on a recent trip to Center Parcs with my wife and our three children, we were unable to fit all three child seats across the rear bench of our 2017 BMW 3 Series Touring, so our eldest had to sit in the front while my wife sat between the other two in the back. She was very uncomfortable, because she was squashed between the two child seats. 

Is this something you have investigated? If so, is there much difference in rear seat width between the 3 Series Touring and X3? I’m wondering whether I should trade my car in for an X3 or save up for the bigger X5.

Craig Wilson 

What Car? says…

Although we haven’t specifically investigated the X3’s ability to accommodate two child seats and an adult in the rear seats, we frequently get asked about the best cars for carrying three child seats, so last year we tested a range of models to see which are best for this task. 

The only SUV we tested that could take our three child seats across its second row was the Audi Q7. We used two Britax Römer seats with Isofix mounts and a Maxi-Cosi Pebble Plus secured using a seatbelt. 

BMW X5

Other SUVs that were able to take three child car seats included the BMW X5 (in optional seven-seat form) and Land Rover Discovery (which has seven seats as standard), with older children sitting in the third row. However, it might be possible to fit three in the middle row by using a third Isofix-mounted seat instead of a seatbelt-secured one. 

In any case, the BMW X3 is 11cm narrower than the X5, so it can’t accommodate three child seats in its second row. It’s only 9cm wider than the 3 Series Touring, too, so we don’t think it would be much more comfortable for an adult sitting between two child seats. We’d therefore recommend you opt for a seven-seat X5 to get the flexibility of being able to seat older children in the third row.

That said, child seats come in a range of sizes, so we’d always recommend that car buyers try their child seats in any potential purchase to ensure they fit.

Read our full article on the best cars for three child car seats

Read more Q&As from What Car? 

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