/ Motoring, Parenting

Child car safety compromised for big families

Children in car seats

Parents have a real struggle on their hands when trying to fit their kids safely into the ‘family car’. Carmakers must take note – the options for families of more than 2.4 children are severely limited.

Better car safety is something Which? has been campaigning ardently for since the 60s, and even if we do say so ourselves, we’ve been quite effective. So we’re delighted that today’s new cars are now so much safer.

But while safety features for adult passengers (and drivers) have moved on apace, I can’t help feeling carmakers could be doing more for children.

As a parent, I know only too well that I need to use a suitable child car seat for my little boy until he’s either 135cm tall (4ft 5in) or aged 12 – and of course, I want him to be as safe as possible when travelling in my car.

Three kids or more?

I’ve got it easy really – I only have to fit one seat into my mid-sized hatchback. But we’ve had loads of emails and letters from readers who need to fit three (or more!) child seats into their ‘family car’. Anyone who’s ever tried this will tell you it’s a bloody nightmare…

Why? Because the rear bench of many family cars isn’t wide enough to easily accommodate three full-sized child seats.

To investigate this further, we’ve just tried fitting three very popular child car seats (for kids of different ages) into 15 big-selling family cars – ranging from hatchbacks like the Vauxhall Astra, to seven-seat people carriers such as the VW Touran.

Most cars are only good for two kids

Our findings show that it’s impossible to carry a newborn in the front seat of a top-selling MPV – one that’s heavily promoted to families – because the front passenger airbag can’t be disabled. That beggars belief, in my opinion.

We also found that the middle seat in the second row of a popular medium family hatchback (which is already a squeeze for an adult) can’t be used to carry a child either. So it fails to live up to its five-seater claim.

In many other cases, the middle pew in the back seat was only just ‘acceptable’ for fitting a child seat – the same goes for the two rearmost seats in large people carriers. So whether you buy a five-seater or a seven-seater, chances are that only the two outboard rear seats are actually any good for fitting a child seat.

We need ‘real’ family cars

As a car lover and a parent, I worry about what I’d do if my family ever grows to three or more children. It really starts to limit your options when you’re buying a car (usually to cars I’d never drive through choice, I’m sorry to say).

So carmakers, please spare a thought – there’s a baby boom going on, and we parents (and grandparents) need more help squeezing our offspring into your so-called family cars. Those carmakers that genuinely make life easier for parents stand to rack up big sales to anyone with more than 2.4 children.

Louise Nixon says:
2 June 2017

As a childminder, does anyone have any suggestions about cars to fit five car seats in? (preferably a hybrid)

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