Good city car that fits 2+ car seats?
March 24, 2012 11:09 PM   Subscribe

What's a good car for city living that will allow me to have 2 car seats and room for passengers?

I currently have a compact car. I have car seats for my two kids in the back. The kids are primary school age and I don't have any plans to move the older child to a booster for another couple of years. I would like to be able to pick up even one of the kids' friends (in a booster) once in a while. I can't do this with the current car - I have Britax Frontiers.

I live in a busy downtown area where parking is at a premium. The school is also in similar circumstances and parallel parking in tight spaces is the norm. I have no desire to drive a real minivan.

What is a good car for city driving that would be easy to park? (I can't afford to not be able to find a parking spot.) Friends have a Mazda5 and say good things about it, but it looks so big to me and I don't know how I would find parking in the city. Perhaps it's not as big as I think. Or maybe there's some way to fit a booster in between my 2 *Britax Frontiers*! (I doubt it, though.)

The kids' dad and I are in the middle of a divorce, so I might be willing to move them to another kind of car seat (since I have to buy a new one), as long as it's roughly as good as Britax Frontier. So if that's an angle to ponder, please let me know.

Any suggestions very much appreciated! Thanks!
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
To clarify, I'm in Canada and we need car seats to 80 lbs, so at least another couple of years with my older kid. And any kids who catch a ride with us would need to be in a booster.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:20 PM on March 24, 2012

You pretty much need a third row to get three kid seats into a car these days. The Mazda 5 is actually fairly compact compared to any other car with three rows.
posted by gnutron at 11:52 PM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Kia Rondo Ex has 3rd row seating.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:29 AM on March 25, 2012

I have a Mazda 5 as of a few months ago; it's only about 4" longer than my Ford Focus. (The wheelbase is longer, tho, so I'm still getting used to parallel parking it.) Very compact for 3 rows.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:52 AM on March 25, 2012

I've heard that the Sunshine Radian is a bit slimmer than the Frontier.

We have an Audi Wagon and I doubt we could get 3 boosters in.
posted by k8t at 4:21 AM on March 25, 2012

You could also look into Recaro seats - fantastic ratings for safety AND much more compact. The ProRide is 5 point up to 90lbs and converts to a booster past that.

The Mazda 5 is quite small for a mini-ish van. Have you taken one out for a drive? Last time I test drove I made the sales guy crazy by testing my seats too.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 4:28 AM on March 25, 2012

Yeah, Mazda 5 if you want tiny. Otherwise we live our acura mdx with the third row.
posted by dawkins_7 at 5:32 AM on March 25, 2012

in addition to the Mazda5 (it's really not big), consider the Chevrolet Orlando. As far as I can tell from the marketing, it's designed pretty well exactly with you in mind - for people who want a third row, but still want something compact and relatively easy to park.
posted by Dasein at 6:25 AM on March 25, 2012

We moved from compact/midsize cars to a Mazda5 for the same reasons you describe. We're very happy with it. It drives like a car, not a minivan or SUV. It has a very tight turning radius, and is actually easier to park in the city than our Honda Accord was. It get decent mileage (25 mpg). Best of all though, it has tons of cargo space and those two pop-up seats in back so we can take a friend or two in addition to our own two kids.

I know that you're skeptical but I'd encourage you to at least test drive it.
posted by alms at 8:53 AM on March 25, 2012

Thanks. How are all these cars for getting to the third row if you have 2 car seats installed? I wouldn't want my own kid in the 3rd row on a regular basis -- I'd want that for cargo room most of the time. Can you have 2 car seats in the second row and still get back there?

Thanks for the Recaro tip, but they aren't available in Canada. (And it's illegal to import them, or at least not covered by insurance.)

I haven't test driven a Mazda 5, but maybe I should look at doing that. I'm worried about having an accident, but I suppose that would be their insurance, not mine, right?
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 9:30 AM on March 25, 2012

"Can you have 2 car seats in the second row and still get back there?"

Mazda 5: Yes, but.

There are two ways to get into the third row: You can either lean one of the second row seats forward like a two-door car with a back seat, which doesn't work with car seats in the second row; or, there's a little "aisle" between the two chairs in the second row which you can use to access the third row. This is eminently doable. Easy, in fact, for a child. For my six-foot-four husband, it's a little more acrobatic (partly because kids can stand all the way up inside, but adults obviously can't), but he managed it without any trouble.

We do slide the second row seats all the way back when the third row is folded flat and just my kids are in the car in their car seats; when someone's in the third row we slide them forward a bit to give leg room. The third row is small, but my husband rides back there comfortably for in-town trips and, as noted, he's quite tall. I wouldn't want to take a road trip with him in the third row, but for just driving around town it's fine even for full-grown adults.

Take your kids with you to the dealer and have them try climbing into the third row, and you try climbing in it; you can also take a car seat with you and just set it on the seat (no need to fully install) and see what kind of space it takes up.

My biggest problem is actually that I keep the diaper bag stowed between the two second-row seats, so when I want to use the third row I have to first move the diaper bag so people can use the aisle.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:26 AM on March 25, 2012

If you are interested in the switching car seats approach, try posting this question at
posted by oceano at 11:10 AM on March 25, 2012

I'm worried about having an accident, but I suppose that would be their insurance, not mine, right?

Uh, what? I don't understand either parts of this statement - why does a Mazda 5 worry you, and why would your insurance not be impacted?

Also, if you're worried about an accident, compare crash-test ratings for the Mazda and the Chevrolet.
posted by Dasein at 6:30 PM on March 25, 2012

She's saying that she's worried about having an accident while test driving a vehicle. Here in the states, they will go after your insurance first and then theirs will kick in to cover any gap. Don't worry though- most dealerships have a pretty specific and fairly safe route they will guide you through during your test drive. Just go do it, it's kinda fun!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 8:02 PM on March 25, 2012

Thanks. I think I will go do some test driving. I'm a bit worried that an extra 6" in car length will have a huge effect on where I can park, but actually trying some cars might help.

I must say I like the looks of the Orlando, but there aren't any used ones yet!
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 9:55 PM on March 25, 2012

She's saying that she's worried about having an accident while test driving a vehicle.

Ah, yes, that's their insurance. And really, these cars are not hard to drive. They're not that big, even if they're bigger than a compact.
posted by Dasein at 6:02 AM on March 26, 2012

It's not that I'm worried that they are hard to drive. It is that all my parking will be taking place in unmetered street parking situations in a busy area where most people drive small compacts. So I'm not sure if the extra 6" will lock me out of finding parking spots, since the spots likely to be freed up will be from Civics and Fits.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:01 AM on March 26, 2012

I decided to test drive a Mazda5 and it is just too hard to parallel park. I mean, it parallel parks just fine in designated spots at the meter - but not when there are tight spots in the unmetered street areas. I think a Mazda5 would seriously reduce my ability to get parking downtown. :(
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 4:04 PM on March 31, 2012

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