I’m prepared for parents with more than one kid to glare with a judging look at the computer screen over the next 400 words — it’s a look I’m especially familiar with after five months of parenthood. My current kid-hauler is a 2012 Subaru Impreza hatchback that doesn’t recommend installing a child seat in the middle backseat, a position that’s reportedly the safest seat in the car.
So when I latched my kid into Cars.com’s purchased 2018 Volkswagen Atlas’ second row that not only has the middle spot open but is equipped with the coveted middle-seat Latch system, well, I felt those first-time parent jitters subside — briefly, anyway, for the length of this trip.
Related: Best of 2018: Volkswagen Atlas
The Atlas’ second row with a middle-seat Latch system is uncommon, even among the famliest of family haulers, including Cars.com’s other long-term test car, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan. There are, of course, ways to secure a child seat to the Pacifica and other cars’ second-row with a seat belt, as that’s what’s recommended with heavier kids/car-seat combos. But as an anxious first-timer, I don’t want to mess with belts and I want the kid in the middle seat. Irrational? Probably.
Our car-seat installation team gave the Volkswagen Atlas straight A’s in its Car Seat Check test, and it’s one of the only three-row SUVs tested to score 10 out of 10. My Chicco KeyFit 30 infant seat’s Latch connector grabs onto the Atlas’ seat-mounted anchor almost telepathically. There’s no digging for the anchor deep inside the seat and finding any number of things besides a metal hook, or holding up a little flap of cloth while locating a deeply hidden anchor. In my usage, I didn’t even have to be accurate with the car-seat base connectors’ placement — they just slid into place with a solid, reassuring clank.
The Latch system, after all, is there to minimize user error during child-seat installation. User error is a good way to summarize the first few months of parenthood, so it was nice to make at least one decision without fear of causing serious long-term emotional scarring. As for the Subaru, I recognize that it’s overkill to replace a tiny hatchback with a massive three-row Volkswagen Atlas for just one kid — but you should see all the gear we carry around to grandparent visits. Add in the feeling of security and ease of use from the second row — plus all the reasons it was Cars.com’s Best of 2018 — and it’s why I’m seriously considering buying ours at the end of testing.
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