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Two’s company, three’s a crowd? The challenge of fitting 3 car seats

Most parents have a car with 5 seats and it is logical to think the 3 seats on the back row will fit 3 kids but unfortunately it’s not that easy! So here, the car seat experts at Diono give us the run down on what to look out for and important things to consider
Car seat regulations and best practice safety recommendations make fitting the necessary car seatsquite a challenge.
Kids need to ride in a car seat until 135cm or 12 years, whichever comes first. This means parents with 3 children are likely to have them all under 12 at the same time and therefore need to find 3 car seats which fit together. So what are the main considerations and things to look out for?
Firstly size of car is no guarantee of enough space.
The design of some of the biggest cars especially executive saloons like the Audi A5, Mercedes E Class and BMW 5 series don’t always have enough height across the back seat. The sporty styling means the roof curves and slopes down, limiting space for group 1 and group 2/3 seats. Quite often smaller box type cars can be better e.g. Fordfusion and Skoda Yeti as well as MPV’s and minivans.
Isofix isn’t always the best solution.
It may be easy to click an infant carrier in and out of an isofix base but because the isofix points are in a fixed position slight sideways adjustments can’t be made to give more room in the middle. There aren’t many cars which have 3 sets of isofix points across the back either. These are the ones we know about currently. Others may be able to be made to orderwith extra isofix points.
  • Audi Q7
  • Citroen C4 Picasso
  • Citroen C4 Grand Picasso
  • Peugeot 5008
  • Tesla Model X
  • Toyota Proace Verso
Don’t be tempted to transition too early.
This is particularly relevant for moving children to backless boosters between 15 and 18kg. Whilst a backless booster is better than no car seat, regulations are changing so only children over 22kg (around 5 years) can use a backless booster. At ages below this, seats with side impact protection and a 5 point harness offer better protection. Look for those that have metal frames so don’t require thick plastic sides and therefore are narrower.
Rear face younger children.
Not only is it up to 5 times safer but rear facing seats for younger children under 4 will jigsaw with forward facing seats for the older ones making much better use of the space. The car seats can gently touch but should not rely on each other for support. Don’t worry about kids legs when rear facing, they are actually less susceptible to injury and are more comfortable than forward facing as they have somewhere to rest their legs rather than dangling! Beware of sporty styling.
Vehicle seats are often contoured and angled for support of adult passengers (bucket seats). This means the full width of the seat often can’t be used because the sides will cause a child car seat to tip. Bench seating such as that found in the Mini Countryman or the Citroen DS3 is much more flexible.
Be prepared to compromise.
It might not be possible to use 3 of the same seats or the preferred combination of models. Older children might have to go back to rear facing or one seat may have to go in the front. Try everything you can and test out combinations before you buy. Make sure the seats fit individually before trying to get them all to work together. This may take a bit of time but it’s worth it. Manufacturers will be able to provide advice and many have fit guides on what is likely to work.

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