Best cars for three child car seats
Fitting three child seats into a car can be a challenge, so we’ve put 16 SUVs and MPVs to the test to find out which ones are most suitable...
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.
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
Price £119.99 Group 0+
Child weight 0-13kg (approx birth to 12 months)
Seat width 44.5cm
Maxi Cosi AxissFix Plus
Child height 67-105cm (approx birth to four years)
Seat width 44.5cm
Halfords 123 Isofix
Child weight 9-36kg (approx nine months to 12 years)
Seat width 44cm
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