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Cars.com’s 2021 Car Seat Fit Report Card

jenni-newman-jennifer-geiger-car-seat-2021-01-scaled Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

As any older parent will tell you, babies change everything. From how much you sleep (or don’t) to what car you drive, that bundle of joy is a game changer. While we can’t help sleep-train your infant, we can help you find a family car that can handle hauling every car seat from infant to booster and beyond.

Related: Search Car Seat Checks

Cars.com’s 2021 Car Seat Fit Report Card compiles a year’s worth of our Car Seat Checks in 51 vehicles. From large minivans to tiny hatchbacks, Cars.com’s fellow certified child passenger safety technician Jennifer Geiger and I have installed child-safety seats into each one and evaluated how well the vehicles accommodate a variety of car seats. We also look at each car’s Latch system, the lower anchors and top tether anchors, which are supposed to make car seat installation easier. In fact, a Cars.com survey of 1,030 parents found that 60% find installing car seats to be at least somewhat frustrating, with nearly half of respondents sharing that car seat installation gives them anxiety.

Cars.com’s Car Seat Checks launched in 2010, and we’ve installed car seats into more than 600 vehicles over the years. Jennifer and I are both certified safety technicians as well as parents of kids who have outgrown their car seats in my case, and nearly outgrown them in Jennifer’s. It says something about our passion for child safety that we’re continuing to haul car seats in and out of cars on hot summer days.

Each year, there are a few cars that ace our Car Seat Checks by earning the top grade of A in all categories. For 2021, the following vehicles are on the 2021 Car Seat Check Honor Roll:

  • 2021 Audi SQ8: Who says performance cars and parenthood don’t mix? The SQ8 is a two-row SUV that hauls butt thanks to its twin-turbo V-8, but it can also haul the family with its roomy backseat.
  • 2021 Genesis GV80: This all-new luxury SUV can be had with two or three rows. Our test vehicle had two rows with easy-to-access Latch anchors.
  • 2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid: The South Korean automaker redesigned the Tucson for 2021 and added a hybrid version. Ample legroom and a well-designed Latch system helped it achieve all-A grades in our test.
  • 2021 Nissan Sentra: This compact sedan surprises with its incredibly roomy backseat that easily handles bulky car seats. It’s a win for small families on a budget.

Below is our 2021 Car Seat Fit Report Card, grouped by vehicle type. We install a Chicco KeyFit 30 infant car seat, a Graco Contender 65 convertible and a Graco TurboBooster into every car that we test. The front seats are adjusted for a 6-foot driver and a shorter passenger. The three car seats are installed in the vehicle’s second row, with the booster seat behind the driver. The infant and convertible seats are installed behind the front passenger seat. In three-row SUVs and minivans, we install the forward-facing convertible and booster seat in the third row and assess how easy or difficult it is to access the third row.

We’ve listed the scores of our car seat evaluations below. The abbreviations in the tables are:

  • Latch: Lower anchors and top tether system (in the second and/or third row)
  • Infant: Rear-facing infant seat
  • RFC: Rear-facing convertible
  • FFC: Forward-facing convertible
  • Booster: High-back booster seat
  • TRA: Third-row access

We use letter grades to rate each vehicle. For more info on a specific car, click through to the related Car Seat Check.

2021 Car Seat Checks by Body Style

Two-Row SUVs

Two-row SUVs come in a variety of sizes, from the popular compact SUVs to the roomier mid-size version. For families with one to two children, they easily handle family life.

Vehicle Latch Infant RFC (2nd) FFC (2nd) Booster (2nd)
2022 Infiniti QX55 A B B B B
2021 Audi SQ8 A A A A A
2021 Buick Envision A B C A B
2021 Ford Bronco Sport B C F B C
2021 Genesis GV80 A A A A A
2021 Hyundai Santa Fe B A B B B
2021 Infiniti QX50 A A A B B
2021 Land Rover Defender A A A B B
2021 Mazda CX-5 A C C A B
2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB35 A B B A B
2021 Nissan Rogue A A A B A
2021 Subaru Forester A A B A A
2021 Toyota Land Cruiser A A A B B
2021 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport A A A A B

Three-Row SUVs

Three-row SUVs have dethroned minivans as the family hauler of choice. Families will want as much functionality as possible out of that third row, so they should pay attention to how many top tether anchors are back there and how easy or difficult it is for their child to get to the third row with minimal help.

Vehicle Latch Infant RFC (2nd) FFC (2nd) Booster (2nd) Latch (3rd) FFC (3rd) Booster (3rd) TRA
2022 Acura MDX A B B A B N/A A B B
2021 Cadillac Escalade A A B A A N/A A A B
2021 Chevrolet Suburban A A A A C N/A A A A
2021 Dodge Durango A A A A B N/A B B B
2021 GMC Yukon A A A A B A A A A
2021 Infiniti QX80 A A A A B N/A B B C
2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L A A A A B N/A B B B
2021 Kia Sorento A A A A A A A C B
2021 Lincoln Aviator B B B B B A B B C

Minivans

It’s safe to say we love minivans at Cars.com, especially after completing our deep dive into the class, declaring the Kia Carnival the best minivan of 2021. Minivans know how to family with their incredible use of space, helpful family-friendly tech — a vacuum! — and more.

Vehicle Latch Infant RFC (2nd) FFC (2nd) Booster (2nd) Latch (3rd) FFC (3rd) Booster (3rd) TRA
2022 Kia Carnival A A A A A B C B B
2021 Chrysler Pacifica B B B C B B C C A
2021 Honda Odyssey A A A A B A A B B
2021 Toyota Sienna A A A A A A A B B
2021 Toyota Sienna (captain’s chairs) A A A A A A A B B

Pickup Trucks

Americans love their pickup trucks, and many pickup trucks love family life. Roomy crew cabs can easily handle all kinds of car seats, and they can often hold three across the backseat. Using the top tether anchor correctly in a pickup truck can sometimes be more frustrating than negotiating bedtime with your toddler, however.

Vehicle Latch Infant RFC (2nd) FFC (2nd) Booster (2nd)
2021 Ford F-150 A A A B A
2021 Honda Ridgeline A A A C B

EVs, PHEVs and Hybrids

If you’re concerned about the planet and getting your kids to daycare on time, these cars are a good place to start.

Vehicle Latch Infant RFC (2nd) FFC (2nd) Booster (2nd)
2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid A A A A A
2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E (EV) A A A A C
2021 Honda CR-V Hybrid A A A B B
2021 Lexus NX 300h (hybrid) A C C B B
2021 Nissan Leaf (EV) A A A B A
2021 Tesla Model Y (EV) B A B B B
2021 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid A A B B A
2021 Volvo XC60 Recharge (PHEV) A B B C A

Sedans

Sedans have fallen out of favor with many car shoppers, but they’re worth a look for families, especially with the current inventory shortage. You might find a good deal on an overlooked sedan, making your wallet happy.

Vehicle Latch Infant RFC (2nd) FFC (2nd) Booster (2nd)
2021 Acura TLX C B B B C
2021 BMW 5 Series A A A A C
2021 Cadillac CT5 A A A A B
2021 Genesis G80 B B B B A
2021 Hyundai Elantra B B B B A
2021 Kia Forte B C C B A
2021 Kia K5 A A A A B
2021 Lexus IS 350 A C C A B
2021 Nissan Sentra A A A A A
2021 Toyota Camry A A A B C

Hatchbacks

Is it a hatch or a small SUV? We can go round and round on it, but the functionality of hatchbacks can be great.

Vehicle Latch Infant RFC (2nd) FFC (2nd) Booster (2nd)
2021 Hyundai Venue A C D A C
2021 Nissan Kicks B D D B A
2021 Volkswagen Arteon A A A A B

With 51 vehicles tested for 2021, it’s clear that families have lots of options to choose from. When shopping for your next family vehicle, consider not only what you need right now, but what the future holds, whether that’s more car seats or gasp — a teen driver.

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