Fans of the Ford Escape hybrid may lament the fact that it's no longer available, but Ford's new-for-2013 C-Max easily takes its place. The tall hatchback has seating for five and gets a combined city/highway EPA rating of 47 mpg. Small families should have little problem installing two child seats in the hybrid's second row thanks to visible Latch anchors and a decent amount of space.
For the Car Seat Check, we use a Graco SnugRide 30 rear-facing infant-safety seat, a Britax Roundabout convertible child-safety seat and Graco high-back TurboBooster seat.
The front seats are adjusted to a comfortable position for a 6-foot driver and a 6-foot-1 passenger. The three child seats are installed in the second row. The booster seat sits behind the driver's seat, and the infant seat and convertible seats are installed behind the passenger seat. We also install the infant seat in the second row's middle seat with the booster and convertible in the outboard seats to see if three car seats will fit. If there's a third row, we install the booster seat and a forward-facing convertible.
Here's how the 2013 Ford C-Max did in Cars.com’s Car Seat Check:
Latch system: There are two sets of Latch anchors in the outboard seats. They’re exposed for easy access, but the seat cushions are firm, which made connecting to the Latch anchors difficult. Using thicker, rigid Latch connectors to hook onto the anchors was tougher than with the thinner, hook-like ones.
Booster seat: The backseat is significantly bolstered, which made our booster sit at an angle. The seat also doesn't recline, which often helps with angle-related fit issues. The buckles are on rigid bases and slightly recessed; kids should have no problem buckling up independently.
Convertible seat: In rear-facing mode, we had a couple problems: The stiff seat cushions made connecting to the Latch anchors difficult (this seat uses the rigid connectors), and the bolstered seat cushion prevented it from sitting completely flat. Room was also an issue. The front passenger had to move the seat up several inches to accommodate it and was no longer comfortable.
In forward mode, there was plenty of room for the convertible. Again, the bolstering interfered with the seat’s angle, but removing the head restraint helped settle it. There are three tether anchors midway down the seatback. Instead of traditional metal hooks, these are nylon straps — something we haven't seen before. The strap provided lots of room to connect, so the process was easy.
Infant-safety seat: This rear-facing seat didn't take up as much of the front passenger's legroom as the rear-facing convertible, but the passenger still had to move his seat up and his knees were still touching the glove box. Connecting to the Latch anchors was much easier with this seat's thinner, hooklike connectors.
How many car seats fit in the second row? Two
Editor's note: For three car seats — infant-safety seat, convertible and booster seats — to fit in a car, our criterion is that a child sitting in the booster seat must be able to reach the seat belt buckle. Parents should also remember that they can use the Latch system or a seat belt to install a car seat.