If you’ve got three small children – or regularly transport the kids and their friends around – then being able to fit a trio of car seats across the back seat of your car can be a must.
But larger families are being warned to check measurements carefully before they buy a new car, after a study claimed that just half of vehicles saying they accommodate three child seats fitted a selection used in a test.
With one in seven European families having three or more children, 180,000 couples in the UK having a third or fourth child ever year, and plenty more needing to ferry kids and friends about, there’s huge demand for vehicles with roomy back rows.
Family car buyers are being foiled: What Car? study reveals that many vehicles claiming to be able to fit three child seats can’t at any one time
But What Car? research uncovered that many models advertised as being appropriate don’t have enough space to have three child seats safely installed across the back row at once.
Under current laws, all children must use a car seat until they are 12 years old or 135cm tall, whichever comes first.
As kids grow, the requirements for their protective seats change, meaning that the size and type for a family with three children can vary considerably.
What Car? tested 16 of the best-selling cars for large families in the UK and used the same three children – aged seven, four, and 11 months – in each instance.
The youngest was in a Maxi-Cosi Pebble infant seat secured by the seat belt, while the older two were in Britax Romer Kidfix II seats installed using the Isofix points provided.
Just five of the cars tested were capable of installing three seats across the second row, while the remaining vehicles were seven-seaters and so could have safety seats installed in the third row.
Once the seven-seaters were taken into account, just seven of the 16 models advertised as being able to cope with the needs of such as three-child family lived up to the bill.
Unsurprisingly, seven-seater MPVs proved the best option for bigger groups, but they were also best at fitting seats across one row.
The Vauxhall Zafira Tourer, Citroen Grand C4 Spacetourer, Seat Alhambra and VW Touran all fitted the three seats across one row safely, all of which are available with discounts, some as much as 27 per cent, according to the magazine.
What Car? tested 16 of the best-selling cars for large families in the UK and used the same three children – aged seven, four, and 11 months – in each instance
The Audi Q7 (pictured) was the only SUV tested that could fit three child seats across the second row. As the image of the interior shows (right), the full-size seats have enough space
|Sector||Car||Can fit three across single row||Can fit three across two rows||Can fit only two child car seats|
|SUV||Land Rover Discovery||No||Yes||No|
|MPV||Renault Grand Scenic||No||No||Yes|
|MPV||Vauxhall Zafira Tourer||Yes||Yes (but no Isofix points)||No|
|MPV||Citroen Grand C4 Spacetourer||Yes||Yes (but no Isofix points)||No|
|Hatchback||Audi A5 Sportback||No||No||Yes|
|Source: What Car?|
The Seat Alhambra is one of the large seven-seat MPVs that is capable of taking three child seats across the second row
Measurements taken by the investigating motor magazine found that just one of the eight SUVs it tested recently – the Audi Q7 – was able to fit three child car seats across a single row.
Three of the six larger seven-seats 4x4s (BMW X5, Land Rover Discovery and Volvo XC90) What Car? said couldn’t fit the three seats in the second row could still accommodate three child seats if one was fitted in the third row.
However, it’s not always recommended that kids are transported in the rearmost section due to safety concerns if another vehicle collides with the back of the car.
But some seven-seat models even failed here.
For example, both the Skoda Kodiaq and Nissan X-Trail had rear benches that weren’t wide enough to take all three seats and get them secured in place and What Car? claimed didn’t have enough leg room available to secure children in the rearmost row.
The car makers may dispute the findings, however, and in This is Money’s review of the Skoda Kodiaq last year we found that as the rear bench can slide forwards it is possible to create more legroom in the third row of seats while leaving plenty for the middle row passengers.
This highlights that family buyers considering a new car should go and test for themselves whether it can fit three child seats, rather than relying on either the research of manufacturers’ claims.
A hatchback Audi A5 Sportback and Skoda Superb estate with three Isofix points across the second seating row were also tested, with neither able to fit the full allocation side-by-side at once, according to the What Car? testers.
Citroen’s sizable Grand C4 Picasso is also capable of having three child seats installed across the second row
The interior shot of the Grand C4 Picasso show there’s room for two more in the third row. The smaller C4 Picasso has the same first two row arrangement, meaning it is suitable to carry three small children at once, too
What Car? consumer editor Claire Evans, said car buyers should be vigilant and check models they’re interested in to make sure they will fit the number of child seats needed.
‘We appreciate that a combination of different seats may fit into these, and other, SUVs, and that’s why we’ve pointed out that ours is only one scenario and it’s vital to physically fit child car seats into any potential purchase before you commit to buying it.
‘If you have a larger family, picking a car with seven seats might seem like a good solution, but it doesn’t guarantee a second row of seats wide enough to accommodate three child seats,’ she said.
‘And the rearmost row of seats in a seven-seater might not be a safe or practical place to position a child.
‘Size doesn’t always equal practicality – even some of the biggest SUVs can only accommodate two child seats.
‘Our research only shows one possible scenario in terms of the combination of child ages and car seat styles, but it highlights the need for parents to check that their child seats will fit properly into a car before buying it.’
How vehicle cost are affected by having more kids
As well as causing vehicle headaches for parents, new research has also uncovered the financial burden of adding to your brood.
To help Britons understand exactly how much it can cost to increase the size of a family, MoneySuperMarket conducted a study that looks at costs such as home purchase, energy and water bills.
Also included in the research was the impact on vehicle purchasing costs.
It said the average cost of a car to transport up a family of five (two adults and three children) was £13,165.
However, a fourth child resulted in having no choice but to purchase a seven-seat model, with the average cost said to be £23,420 – over £10,000 more.
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