These Are the Best Family Cars for Car Seats
September 21, 2018
Making sure your car seat is installed properly in your vehicle is imperative—and all too often more challenging than many new parents realize. In fact, a 2016 study found that up to 95% of new parents make at least one mistake when installing car seats. But making sure that you have the right vehicle to accommodate a car seat properly is absolutely part of the battle, which is why Cars.com conducts its annual Car Seat Check Honor Roll. The results of the 2018 Honor Roll, which highlights vehicles that earned a perfect score in Cars.com’s Car Seat Checks conducted throughout the year, were released today.
Of 85 vehicles tested in the Car Seat Checks this year, only 9 percent earned perfect scores, according to Cars.com Editor-in-Chief and certified child passenger safety technician Jennifer Newman.
"Parents often spend a lot of time determining the right car seat for their children but overlook how that seat will actually fit in their car," Newman noted in a press release. "That’s why we test and score car seats in many of the most popular vehicles for sale. We want to be the go-to resource for families looking to understand which cars fit which types of car seats the best, and our annual Honor Roll highlights the select few that do it the very best."
The hands-on testing involved 2018 and 2019 model-year vehicles. Testers looked at their Latch systems and overall ease of use, and also installed an infant seat, rear-facing convertible seat, forward-facing convertible seat, and booster seat in each vehicle, then compiled scores on an A-to-F scale.
The issues with the cars that didn't make the Honor Roll cut? "[Issues] can range from lower Latch anchors that are difficult to access because they sit too deep into the seat cushions, to limited backseat legroom that leads to the front passenger seat being moved too far forward for an adult to comfortably sit there, to large seat bolster cushions that prevent a car seat from sitting flat against the rear seat," Newman tells Parents.com." In three-row vehicles, we also look at how easy to difficult it is to access the third row, noting if the step-in to the SUV is too high for the average child or if a second-row seat is difficult to move out of the way."
Here, the eight automobiles that made the cut:
2018 Genesis G90: The luxury sedan has leather seats and a "cavernous" feel thanks to its ton room. Cars.com testers liked that they could "easily" access the lower Latch anchors, "which sit about a quarter-inch into the seat bight, where the back and bottom seat cushions meet."
2018 Hyundai Sonata: The 2018 Hyundai Sonata got high marks for its "roomy backseat that easily handled all the car seats we installed."
2019 Jeep Cherokee: "This two-row SUV, which straddles the compact and mid-size classes, is a good fit for families with its roomy backseat boasting 40.3 inches of rear legroom," Cars.com notes. The legroom makes it especially friendly to rear-facing infant and convertible car seats. Plus, recent updates have helped: "For 2019, the Cherokee gained new front-end styling, an optional turbocharged 2.0-liter engine and slightly more cargo volume than previous Cherokees."
2019 Lexus ES 350: This Lexus got a makeover for 2019 and earned all As in the Honor Roll test, "including for the booster seat fit – an area where it had previously earned a C in the 2017 Lexus ES 350 due to difficult-to-grasp seat belt buckles and intrusive seat bolsters," the site notes. "In the 2019 model, the rear-seat belt buckles are on a stable base, making it easy for younger kids to buckle up independently."
2018 Lincoln Continental: The luxury features of the 2018 Lincoln Continental include "optional reclining, heated, cooled and massaging rear seats." But the main plus for parents is of course the fact that "car seats fit like a dream on the Continental’s relatively flat rear seats."
2018 Subaru Impreza: The compact car features a backseat with "room to spare thanks to its 36.5 inches of rear legroom." In Cars.com's test, they were able to position the front passenger seat at a comfortable position for the 5-foot-6-inch tester and install a rear-facing infant seat behind it without having to move the front passenger seat forward to accommodate it.
2018 Toyota Camry: Updates have made this vehicle far more car seat-friendly. "In the 2017 Camry, the lower Latch anchors were buried deep between the seat cushions, but for 2018, the Toyota Camry now has easy-access lower Latch anchors that sit below removable plastic covers," the site notes. "It made a big difference in our car seat installations and raised the Camry’s grade significantly for 2018."
2018 Toyota 4Runner: The SUV has standard seating for five, which is the version that was tested for the Honor Roll, but an optional third row increases seating to seven. According to Cars.com: "The second-row bench seat easily handles three car seats, and we had no issues finding the top tether anchors, which are clearly marked."
No matter what make and model of car you own, there are some easy steps that parents can take to ensure that their child’s car seat is installed correctly, notes Newman. She offers the following must-knows:
1. Read your car seat’s manual and your car’s owner’s manual to ensure that you’re installing the car seat in the correct position. Some automakers don’t recommend car seat installation in the middle position of the backseat, for instance. You want to make sure you comply with both the automaker’s and car-seat maker’s recommendations.
2. Not all car seats will work in all cars. If you’re having a difficult time installing your child’s car seat, it could be that you need to try a different one. It may be as simple as your car has narrow seats and your car seat is too wide to fit into the seat well.
3. If you’re unsure if you’ve installed your car seat correctly in your car, ask for help. Car Seat Checkup events are available across the country. At them, certified child passenger safety technicians will train parents and caregivers on how to safely install a car seat in their car. Make sure you bring your car seat and its owner’s manual, as well as your car’s owner’s manual. Sept. 29 is Seat Check Saturday; car seat events will be held across the country. Find one here you on SafeKids.org.
To see how your car, or a car you’re considering purchasing, fared in its Car Seat Check, or to learn more about how Cars.com conducts its checks, head over to Cars.com.