Child car seat fitting problems explored Child seats in large cars

Large family cars

Large cars were once the family workhorse - and if you could buy a large estate, it was the best there was. But in recent years, they've been eclipsed by the arrival of MPVs that promise family buyers more space and versatility.

We've picked several estates and a saloon and found that all had definite pros and cons - and they could all still give comparable MPVs a run for their money. 

Watch out for the specific usage recommendations set by the car manufacturer, and remember to try any child seat in your car before you buy. 

Audi A4 Avant

Audi A4 Avant

The Audi A4 is Volkswagen group's premium large car. But how does it do for carrying children?

Audi A4 Avant summary

  • Number of seats: 5
  • Number of children: 4*
  • Number of pairs of Isofix mounts: 3*

*Passenger airbag deactivation switch and Isofix points on front passenger seat are optional extras.

Front seat 

It is possible to transport children on the front passenger seat with universal child seats, secured with the seatbelt. However, Isofix mounts (front passenger and outer second row), and a deactivation switch for the airbag are only available as an optional extra when you order the car new. If you've had it fitted, the airbag is deactivated by turning the key.

 

Audi A4 Avant

Second row seats

The Isofix anchor points are very easily accessible once the covers have been removed, but there are no top tether points. 

There is enough space for three children in the second row, but only if you use a backless booster in the middle seat, which doesn't provide as much side impact protection as a full-backed seat.

The seatbelts on the outer seats in the second row are rather short, which could prove problematic for some seats, for example, rear-facing seats. 

 

BMW 3 Series Touring

BMW 3 Series Touring

In recent years the 3 Series has overtaken the Mondeo as the large car of choice, regularly matching or beating its sales volumes.

BMW 3 Series Touring summary

  • Number of seats: 5    
  • Number of children: 3*
  • Number of pairs of Isofix mounts: 3*

*Passenger airbag deactivation switch and Isofix points on passenger seat, are optional extras.

Front seat

The front seat is suitable for carrying children, either using the seatbelt or Isofix installation, but only if the Isofix mounts and airbag deactivation switch have been installed by a dealer. If they have, airbag deactivation is  done using a key-operated switch. 

 

BMW 3-Series

Second row seats

There is plenty of forward-facing space in the second row. The optional Isofix anchor points are very easy to access once the plastic caps have been opened. Top tether points are on the floor of the boot, though, so you'll need to go round to the boot to access them. 

The seatbelts on the outer seats in the second row are rather short. According to BMW, the middle seat in the second row is not suitable for child seats. Thus a maximum of three children can be transported.

Ford Mondeo Estate

Ford Mondeo estate

Our road test of this Mondeo found the seats comfortable and spacious. Large estate cars have traditionally been targeted at families, we check whether this one lives up to the tradition.

Ford Mondeo Estate summary

  • Number of seats: 5    
  • Number of children: 3*
  • Number of pairs of Isofix mounts: 2

*Fits 4 children if using backless boosters on back seat (not recommended)

Front seat

You can transport a child in the front passenger seat of the Mondeo estate using a universal child seat and the adult seatbelt, but there are no Isofix mounts. Before you use this seat for a child you’ll need to ask the dealer to fit a passenger airbag deactivation switch. If you are not able to do this and have to use a forward-facing child car seat in front of an active airbag, move the adult seat to its rearmost position.

The Mondeo Estate has very short rear outer seat belts, creating potential difficulties if you want to install a bulky rear-facing seat.    

 

Ford Mondeo Estate seat positions

Second row seats

There's plenty of space in front of the Mondeo's rear seats and Isofix mounting brackets are standard on the two outer pews.

The top tether points are located at the side of the car in the boot, so you can’t reach them from the passenger compartment and will need access to the boot to install the strap. However, the strap takes up less boot space than the one in the Ford C-Max and won’t interfere with the driver’s rear view.

Mercedes-Benz C-class Estate

Mercedes-Benz C-class Estate

Known for comfort and space, rather than sportiness, the Mercedes C-class should make an ideal family car. We assess how it does when you want to carry several children.

Mercedes-Benz C-class Estate summary

  • Number of seats: 5    
  • Number of children: 4*
  • Number of pairs of Isofix mounts: 3*

*Passenger airbag deactivation for front seat use requires use of manufacturer's own brand seats

Front seat

The C-class requires you to use special Mercedes child car seats in order to deactivate the front passenger airbag. But you also need to pay up front for a seat with the occupancy recognition system (which senses the Mercedes seat is present). This essentially rules out the use of ordinary universal child seats here because, with these, the airbag cannot be disabled.

 

Mercedes-Bens C-class

Second row seats

There is enough space for three child seats in the second row, but only by using booster seats without backrests, which don't offer the side impact protection offered by a full back seat. Only Group 0+ child seats can be installed in the middle seat, second row, according to Mercedes advice. 

On the other hand, the seatbelts on the outer seats in the second row are rather short, which may make fitting a rear-facing seat in that position problematic. 

Optionally, the outer seats in the second row may be equipped with integrated child seats (ECE Group I/II/III) as a paid-for optional extra.

The top tether points are very easily accessible up at the top of the backrests , making them straightforward to attach to from within the car.

Peugeot 508 SW

Peugeot 508 SW estate

The Peugeot 508 SW aims to beat more established German and Japanese rivals. We find out whether that includes carrying children.

Peugeot 508 SW summary

  • Number of seats: 5    
  • Number of children: 3
  • Number of pairs of Isofix mounts: 2

Front seat

The front seat has plenty of space to carry children using universal child seats, secured with the seatbelt, but there are no Isofix mounts on this seat. The passenger airbag is deactivated by turning the key, which is standard equipment.

 

Peugeot 508 SW

Second row seats

The Isofix anchor points are placed up high up in the seat and are not easily accessible. However, the top tether points are directly on the backrests and easily accessible once the rear shelf has been removed. 

Peugeot prohibits children from riding in the middle seat in the second row, meaning a maximum of three children can be transported.

 

Seat Exeo ST (estate)

Seat Exeo ST estate

The Exeo ST is the car Seat hopes can take on the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia. Here we assess whether it is versatile enough to transport the average family.

Seat Exeo ST Estate summary

  • Number of seats: 5    
  • Number of children: 3*
  • Number of pairs of Isofix seat mounts: 2

*Fits 4 children if using backless boosters (not recommended)

Front seat

There’s lots of space in the front for a child car seat, but there are no Isofix mounts, so it’s only suitable for a universal child seat secured using the adult seatbelt. And, before you fit the seat, it’s essential to disable the airbag using the vehicle key.

 

Seat Exeo ST seat positions

Second row seats 

The Exeo ST has three seats across the rear, but during our testing we criticised the lack of space for rear passengers. This also affects its suitability for child car seats, as it is not wide enough to fit three full-sized group 2/3 seats with integral backs across the bench seat.

Isofix mounting brackets are fitted on the two outer seats as standard, but the shape of the back seat means they are awkward to reach.

In contrast, the third tether attachment points are easy to access, as they are positioned on the top of the backrest, which also means the straps don’t interfere with rear visibility. The rear seatbelts are long enough to secure bulky rear-facing seats.  

 

Skoda Superb Estate

Skoda Superb Estate

Is the Skoda Superb estate superb at carrying kids?

Skoda Superb Estate summary

  • Number of seats: 5    
  • Number of children: 4
  • Number of pairs of Isofix mounts: 3*

*Front passenger Isofix mounts are a paid for option when car is ordered

Front seat

The front seat of the Superb can be supplied with Isofix mounts as an optional extra, if ordered when the car is bought new. If you have these, it is possible to transport children on the passenger seat either with universal child seats, secured with the seatbelt or using the Isofix mounts. The passenger airbag is deactivated by turning the key, which comes as standard.

 
Skoda Superb Estate

Second row seats 

There is a great deal of forward-facing space in the second row, making access for installation good. Top tether points are on the backrests and easily accessible once the rear shelf has been removed. 

There is enough space for three child seats in the second row, but only if you use booster seats without backrests, which won't offer the same side impact protection as full-back seats.

  

Vauxhall Insignia

Vauxhall Insignia saloon

When we tested the Insignia, we found there was plenty of room in the front, but the low roofline compromised rear seat space.

Vauxhall Insignia Saloon summary

  • Number of seats: 5    
  • Number of children: 3*
  • Number of pairs of Isofix mounts: 2

*Fits 4 children if using backless boosters (not recommended)

Front seat

There’s ample space in the front of the Insignia for a child car seat, but there are no Isofix mounts, so it’s only suitable for a rear-facing universal child seat secured using the adult seatbelt. Before you fit the seat, it’s essential to disable the airbag using the vehicle key. However, Vauxhall doesn’t approve the use of Group 2 and 3 - from 15 to 36kg, (from about four to 12 years old) in this seat at all.  

 
Vauxhall Insignia seat positions

Second row seats

Isofix mounts come as standard on the two outer rear seats, but access is difficult because of the seat design. The top-tether anchor points are located on the rear parcel shelf, making them easy to reach from inside the car, and the strap doesn’t interfere with rearward visibility.

The rear seatbelts aren’t very long, and the rear bench was too narrow to accommodate three full-size booster seats with backrests.

 

Volkswagen Passat Estate

Volkswagen Passat Estate

The Passat is VW's stalwart family estate and has been part of the VW line-up for decades. We find out how the latest version fares when it comes to carrying children.

Volkswagen Passat Estate summary

  • Number of seats: 5    
  • Number of children: 4
  • Number of pairs of Isofix seat mounts: 2

Front seat

The front passenger seat is suitable for transporting children, using a belt mounted seat, but there are no Isofix mounts.The passenger airbag is deactivated by turning the key, which comes as standard.

VW Passat Estate

Second row seats

There is ample forward-facing space in the second row to allow access for installation. Isofix mounts are standard on the outer second row seats and the top tether points are easily accessible on the backrests if the rear shelf has been removed. There is enough space for three child seats in the second row, but only using booster seats without backrests, which don't offer as good side impact protection as full back seats.  

The seatbelts on the outer seats in the second row are very long, which means you shouldn't have problems, even with the largest rear facing seats. 

You can opt to choose integrated child seats (ECE Group II/III) for the outer seats in the second row at additional cost when you order the car new.

Need to carry children in your large family car, but want to know more? 

Definitions

• Universal child seats have universal approval and can normally be used in most cars without major problems.

• No of seats: is the maximum number of seats recommended for use by adults.

• No of children: is the number of seats recommended for use by children.

• No of pairs of Isofix seat mounts: indicates number of Isofix seats that can be fitted.

Diagram colour coding

Red = Not suitable for carrying a child

Amber = Acceptable for carrying a child

Green = Well suited to carrying a child