July 1, 2005

Two Doors or Two Kids: Can't Have Both?

I can't figure out how he did it with backseats that small (a VW Beetle and BMW 325), but DT reader John managed to conceive two kids, and now he's got himself a dilemma: "We have a Graco Snug Ride and a Britax Roundabout and they have to be installed rear-facing. These seats are huge.

"I am no giant, but at 6' 1" I cannot even sit in front of the baby car seats - without my knees touching the dash.

"Will it get any better in an Accord, Passat, Volvo etc. ?? I cannot be the only one with this problem."

I'm a coupe man myself, and it already got much better last month when we went from rear-facing to forward-facing. And the Camry we just rented in Idaho felt like an auditorium, so I'd wager that almost any full-size four-door will solve the front legroom problem.

The real question, then, is how badly do you want to hold onto those rides from your swingin' child-free days?

Previously: Edmunds' Top 10 Car Seat Cars
Man wedges Porsche car seat into his Boxster


He needs to go look up cars he's interested in at the Car Seat Compatibility Database (http://www.carseatdata.org/) -- not every car is on there but the list gets bigger all the time. I've also gotten good info by going to forums for specific cars and searching for "carseat" -- you can usually find people discussing what they could get into their car and how it worked.

I've noticed you can't rely on the size of the car alone. You won't know until you get the seats in there.

In my Forester, which is considered a small SUV (i.e. a station wagon for men), I have to have the passenger seat so far up, many people I know cannot even sit there.

My wife has a Prius, which is, overall, smaller, and there's plenty of legroom in the front seat (w/ same brand/model of carseat).

The height issue is what hit me here (i'm 6'5"). While the wife was still pregnant, we went around with a friend's infant car-seat and tried it out in a whole range of cars. Seeing as we were having twins, it meant the carseat needed to fit behind my seat, which is always pushed back and reclined.

As we expected, our new family-of-four wouldn't fit into any small SUVs, Volvos, sedans, etc. We ended up getting a Toyota Sienna minivan. I know there's the whole image thing with a minivan, but this is big enough, has more power than any car i've owned, and most importantly, we fit.

plus, it's the first new car i've ever had, so i'm pretty psyched.

Another Forester driver here. We bought it a few months before we planned to move baby to a convertible seat. The Snugride fit well in the center; I don't remember feeling cramped up front.

Even when rearfacing, the Marathon fit pretty well--and the headroom, ahhh! Now that we have her front-facing, we're positively swimming in space. And she's close to being able to clamber out by herself--no more lifting.

Our other car is a Ford Escort. The Snugride fit well in the center and didn't require the front seats to be pushed up too far, although there was very little room each side for passengers (and I rode back there a lot to keep her company--ouch!).

My problem with that car was the lack of headroom, which was particularly noticeable when kneeling in the seat to heft out the carrier. Glad those days are over. I guess you just have to grin & bear it for the first year.

Now that we want to outfit the Escort with a (small & cheap) car seat, I'm looking for something airplane-friendly too. Other posters have suggested the Touriva, although reviews at BRU say it's not well padded. Hmm...

"station wagon for men" heh.

My baby sister had a RAV4, which I've always considered an SUV for chicks.

We have the car seat (rear-facing) behind the passenger seat. I think the Forester's problem is rear legroom, which forces us to sacrifice the front legroom for the car seat.

Of course, after driving the wife's Prius, I now want to upgrade to the Highlander Hybrid (fully loaded, of course). Now, if only we could get Greg to pull an Oprah and give us all one for free (heck, I'd pay the taxes on it)...

You all must be pretty tall to have a problem with rear leg room in the Forester. It ain't great, I'll admit, but if you can't fit the car seat in the middle, then you must be TALL (we're both around 5' 7").

I was fixated on headroom when we bought the Forester, and didn't notice the legroom "deficiency" until later.

We wanted to test drive a Ford Freestyle, but the local dealer didn't have any (it's a small, small southern town)--although he had a whole mess of F-150s--and baby wasn't to keen on the whole test drive thing anyway. It was all we could do to get her through the Forester test drive and negotiations.

According to a Cars.com comparison, there's less rear legroom in the Freestyle (33.7") than in the Forester (40.2"), so I guess we did OK.

Our neighbors had just bought an Element and offered to let us test drive it. Why didn't we take them up on it? Who knows--that A+ Subaru safety rating maybe...

Jay - don't get me wrong, I like the Forester a lot. I just want to clarify a few things - we don't have the car seat in the middle, but behind the passenger seat, and it is rear facing. The rear legroom is decent for a person sitting back there, but when you combine a rear-facing car seat and a normal recline to the front passenger seat, you have to move the front seat forward. I guess it isn't really an issue with the leg room, but about 2 feet higher than that, where the car seat and the passenger seat collide...

Uhh, I misread the comparison columns--the Freestyle is the one with 40+" rear legroom, not the Forester--and it's a V6 too. Sigh. That Forester sure ain't the peppiest car--my main complaint about it :(

As for the rearfacing car seat behind the passenger seat--kids grow out of that eventually, so just bear with it.

I'm a dyed-in-the-lederhosen VW fanatic, but I have to say that I did test drive a Mazda 3 when they first came out. There's a good three to four inches of legroom more than the 4th gen Jetta/Golf platform. Unfortunately, the 5th gen Jetta isn't any better in the backset than the previous version (which we have). Front seating is a bit roomier, but the back feels about the same.

Currently, we've got the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio installed in the center position in the Jetta (which is not optimal, fit-wise, for the LATCH straps), and we still have enough front seat room for my 6'1" frame, and my wife's 5'10". This of course blocks both sets of side seatbelts in the rear. If we end up having another baby, it'll probably be another Passat for us next (I get the 1993 Passat VR6, the wife gets the 2001 Turbo Jetta), and probably a wagon--as a bassist, I should have a wagon, anyway.

We haven't yet tried to put the seat in the old Passat, as it's mainly my work car, and at 222K miles, it's not going to be around for much longer. We do plan to buy a second seat for it, though.

For my next car, though, I'm vacillating between a GTI and a Jeep Wrangler.

..."as a bassist, I should have a wagon, anyway. "

This is a tagline to sell a million wagons. How is it possible no carmaker has ever picked up on this?

Well, you should see how much I can fit into that old Passat. One of my neighbors was laughing the other day because he saw me loading up for rehearsal one night and he couldn't believe that I got all that gear in the car. To top it all off, I don't generally use the trunk for my gear anyway, because my speaker cabinets don't fit through the trunk opening.

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