for years, i — along with editors jennifer geiger and matt schmitz — have been installing car seats into vehicles of all sizes to find out which play nicely with car seats. after years of testing, sometimes you can look at a car and just know it's going to be a rough car-seat installation. when things go poorly, there's often sweating and swearing as our certified car-seat technicians work to get a car seat installed correctly.
for the majority of cars we test each year, the car-seat installations go well enough. and for a few, they're a breeze thanks to tons of rear legroom and easy-to-use latch anchors. those cars made our 2018 car seat check honor roll.
the seven vehicles listed below missed our honor roll by a couple of letter grades. all of them scored a d in one category of their car seat checks, earning them a spot on our needs-improvement list.
six of the seven vehicles were done in by their lack of rear legroom that severely affected the ability to install a rear-facing infant seat in the backseat. any parent of a newborn can attest that infant-safety seats take up a lot of rear-seat real estate.
that was the case with these cars, too. in each vehicle's car seat check, we had to move the front passenger seat so far forward to fit the infant seat behind it that our 5-foot-6-inch-tall tester's knees were jammed into the glove box.
2018 chevrolet trax
2018 hyundai accent
2018 hyundai kona
2019 mazda cx-3
2018 nissan leaf
2019 volvo xc40
the redesigned 2018 jeep wrangler is the outlier on this list. the rugged suv managed to earn a c grade for infant-seat fit thanks to rear-seat-room issues, but it got a d in the booster-seat category. the rear seat's fixed head restraint pushed the high-back booster's seatback off the wrangler's seat cushion. the wrangler also has floppy seat belt buckles that are held in place with an elastic strap for the outboard seats. this setup caused our booster seat to ride over the top of the buckle; it also made it difficult to use the buckle.
the good news about a low grade is that there's often nowhere to go but up. but in the case of these cars, that may be a steep climb, especially where infant seats are concerned.
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