Automakers Make Big Gains in IIHS Car-Seat Installation Ratings

CARS.COM — According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, installing a car seat is getting easier. Now in its second year, the IIHS ratings program for installing car seats counts triple the number of car models receiving scores of good and three more faring even better to become the first crop of cars to earn "good plus" ratings.

Related: Why My Toddlers' Car Seats Will Remain Rear-Facing

The dozen models designated either good or good plus were among a total of 170 tested this year in a vastly expanded field of contenders. The first year for the program rated only 102 cars, with just three scoring good and none good plus. Moreover, the majority of cars last year scored either poor or marginal compared with this year, when most scored good or acceptable.

Criteria for a good score focus on ease of use to help minimize installation errors by parents. Those criteria are as follows:

  • Lower Latch anchors must be no more than three-quarters of an inch into the seat bight, or slightly deeper if there's open access.
  • It is easy to maneuver around lower anchors, with a clearance angle of greater than 54 degrees.
  • The force needed to attach a car-seat connector to the lower Latch anchors is less than 40 pounds.
  • Tether anchors are positioned on either the vehicle's rear deck or the top 85 percent of the seatback, as opposed to the bottom of the seatback, under the seat, or on the ceiling or floor.
  • The tether anchor is not near other hardware — such as cargo anchors not intended for car-seat use — that could be confused for a tether anchor. If other anchors are present, the car-seat tether anchors should be clearly labeled within 3 inches.

For a good plus rating, a vehicle must meet all of the criteria for a good score and provide an additional Latch-equipped seating position. For a two-row vehicle, that means a good- or acceptable-rated Latch position that can, for example, be in the center position and borrow lower anchors from each of the outboard seats, or even have one dedicated anchor for the center seat and borrow just one from an outboard seat. A three-row vehicle, meanwhile, must have an additional good- or acceptable-rated Latch position without borrowing from the outboard seats, as well as top tether anchors in all rear seating positions.

"We're especially interested in making it possible for more parents to use Latch in the second-row center position," said Jessica Jermakian, an IIHS senior research engineer, in a statement. "Parents are repeatedly told that is the safest place for children to ride, so we want them to have the option of an easy installation there."

The Cars.com Car Seat Check team of certified installation technicians notes that both the manufacturer of the car seat and the automaker must agree that a car seat can be installed in the center position of a given car model by borrowing a lower Latch anchor from each of the outboard seating positions. Always check your owner's manuals for both the seat and the car to be certain. If the owner's manual prohibits this, use a seat belt instead.

All models receiving good plus, good and poor ratings are listed below; cars are from the 2016 model year unless otherwise noted. For the 150 other models receiving ratings of acceptable or marginal, go here.

Good Plus

  • 2017 Audi Q7
  • Lexus RX
  • Toyota Prius

Good

  • 2017 Audi A4
  • Audi A6
  • BMW 2 Series
  • BMW 5 Series
  • Mercedes-Benz C-Class
  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class
  • Mercedes-Benz GL-Class
  • Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class
  • Volkswagen Passat

Poor

  • Chevrolet Silverado 1500 (crew cab)
  • Ford Fiesta (hatchback)
  • Ford Fiesta (sedan)
  • GMC Sierra 1500 (crew cab)
  • Hyundai Accent (hatchback)
  • Infiniti Q70
  • Infiniti QX50
  • Subaru BRZ

At Cars.com, we've been evaluating car-seat fit and ease of installation using a vehicle's Latch system for more than six years and reporting our findings in our Car Seat Checks. Check them out here.

 

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