Which 2 Row SUVs Are Best For Child Car Seats? The Ultimate Car Seat Challenge

Child Car Seat Audi Q7

New parenthood has so many tough decisions; we just made this one easier.

Buying a child car seat is one of the most painful parts of new parenthood. You wade through all the rules, regulations, features and benefits of child passenger car seats to be sure that you have the absolute best, safest possible car seat for your little angel. Additionally, you have to keep in mind the car you’ll actually be installing it in. The installation may seem like the simplest part of obtaining a new car seat, but it can actually be far more complicated than you first think.

Which two-row SUVs are best for child car seats? What installation features does your car have? Does a rear-facing car seat mean compromised legroom for the driver or front-seat passenger? Will three seats fit across the back seat? Moreover, does having two car seats installed mean that you can’t accommodate anyone else?

These are common and important questions that need answers. Therefore, we asked five women (who collectively are moms of 12 kids) to bring their experience to the New York Auto Show and put the show’s SUVs to the child car seat test. Our testers are Karen Proctor, Lauren Conlon, Tomika Bryant, Kimberley Smith, and Dani Schnakenberg. Plus, there was a little help from me

This is what our testers had to say after the car seat challenge.

Child Car Seats

Dani, Lauren, and Karen size up the Kia Sorento.  Photo: Scotty Reiss

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. 

So… Which Are the Best? 

First, we bought six top-selling car seats from Target (two infant carriers with bases, two toddler seats, and two high-back booster seats). Then we installed them in nearly every SUV at the show.

A few top review car seats at Target are the Baby Trend Secure Snap 35 Infant Car Seat ($94.79 on Amazon), the Graco FastAction Fold Travel System ($197.99 on Amazon), and the Graco 4Ever DLX 4 in 1 Car Seat ($199.00 on Amazon).

Here we tested out popular brand two-row SUVs (we will publish our results for luxury two-row SUVs, three-row popular brand SUVs, and three-row luxury SUVs in future stories). We know that minivans are built for this. We also know that sedans, while required to accommodate child car seats by law, are not as ideal as SUVs (ask my chiropractor!). Lastly, we were not able to test every SUV, but we tried to get a good representation of each brand.

Two Woman Posing Next To A Suv Next To A Child Car Seat

Kim and Tomika take a break from the installation process. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What We Tested

  • We evaluated the ability of a full-sized adult and the seats to fit into the car for installation
  • We evaluated the ease of locating the LATCH system
  • We evaluated the ease of installing the seats
  • We evaluated the room between seats once they are installed (when installing two);
  • We evaluated whether installing a rear-facing car seat impacts front-seat passenger space
  • We evaluated the ability to install three child car seats across a middle row and still get the doors closed
  • Also, we evaluated:
    • Lower anchor locations – these are U-shaped metal loops built into the seat bight (the space where the seat and seat back meet) for attaching the car seat’s anchor clip; these are used INSTEAD of the vehicle’s seat belt
    • Tether locations – tethers are metal hooks built into the seatback or shoulder for attaching the car seat’s tether strap; these are used IN ADDITION to the anchor or seat belt and help to prevent whiplash or snapback in the event of a crash

Which is Best: LATCH Systems Or Seatbelts?

Fortunately, all child passenger car seats can be installed using a vehicle’s seatbelt. However, you should not use LATCH systems in addition to a seatbelt–use one or the other but not both. Also, only use LATCH systems when the weight of the child and the weight of the car seat are less than 65 lbs. combined. Otherwise, a seatbelt must be used. Last, keep in mind that a tight squeeze in the middle seat may compromise a child’s ability to buckle his or her own seatbelt when using a booster seat. Also, make sure seatbelt buckles are accessible to passengers who need them.

We used two high-back booster seats: the Evenflo Sport Harness Booster Car Seat ($105.88 on Amazon) and the Britax Midpoint Booster Seat ($119.99 on Amazon).

Two Child Car Seats Inside The Lincoln Corsair

Three child car seats fit in the Lincoln Corsair. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Cars, Not Car Seats, Were Tested

A bit of a disclaimer here: We are not certified car seat technicians. We are parents, caretakers and car reviewers. So we looked at each SUV and how the manufacturer accommodated the car seat installation puzzle. We looked at the space we had to work with. Especially, we analyzed the placement of a LATCH system and the ease of getting the seats in and out of each model. Also, we did not remove headrests, which owners may need to do to ensure that a forward-facing car seat or a booster seat fits snuggly against the seat back. 

Then we took notes of each SUV and each model’s benefits or drawbacks when installing a child passenger car seat.

We hope this guide will help you narrow down your new car decision. Still, we recommend you take a car seat with you when taking a test drive. If possible, try installing it and placing the baby in the seat to make sure that the car’s ergonomics work for you. After all, it’s so much easier to return a $300 car seat than a $35,000 car.

Woman Sitting In Honda'S Backseat In-Between Two Car Seats

Lauren sits in middle seat, Honda. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Shop for a new SUV today!

Car Seat Challenge: 2-Row Popular SUVs

Chevy Blazer

The 2019 Chevy Blazer RS. Photo: Connie Peters

Chevrolet Blazer (similar to Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain)

  • Two-row mid-sized SUV
  • Accommodates three child car seats. However, it is a tight fit.
  • Rear seat outboard seats have anchors and tethers. The middle seat has a tether only.
  • Anchors are visible, but it took some pushing to get the anchor clip attached
  • When using the child seat in a rear-facing position behind the passenger seat, we needed to push the front seat forward to accommodate installation or helping a child into the seat

Chicco KeyFit Car Seat ($199.99 on Amazon) and the Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Infant Car Seat ($149.99 on Amazon)

Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car SeatA Girls Guide To Cars | Which 2 Row Suvs Are Best For Child Car Seats? The Ultimate Car Seat Challenge - 0Ac91851D3777070968D0518Dc83Bcdcfd5849438B1D864E6E57Af85C9Ca15E9.Png 1

Related: We took the Chevy Blazer for a test drive and this is what we thought

Ford Escape Two Row Suv Parked By A Hybrid Sign Ford Escape

  • Two-row compact SUV
  • Accommodates two child car seats
  • Anchors on the two outboard seats were easy to reach
  • The rear seats recline, allowing better positioning of car seats
  • We had to move the front seats up to install a rear-facing seat
  • Has a sliding rail for the rear seats, so you can move them forward and back, allowing easier reach from the front row

Related: The Ford Escape has been completely re-designed and this is what’s new

The Honda Cr-V'S Mesh Grille Is So Elegant

The Honda CR-V’s mesh grille is so elegant. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Honda CR-V

  • Two-row, 5-passenger compact SUV
  • Accommodates three child car seats
  • Two sets of car seat anchors, one single anchor in the middle seat and 3 tethers
  • Anchors can be hard to reach
  • Legroom is average for installing car seats
  • The middle seat room is small for an adult
  • We installed rear-facing car seats just fine, though you may need to move the front seats to accommodate them

Related: The Honda CR-V is one of our favorite compact SUVs; this is why

Sideview Of A Parked Two-Row Honda Passport

The five-seater Honda Passport was all-new in 2019. Photo: Jill Robbins

Honda Passport

  • Two-row, 5-passenger mid-size SUV
  • Accommodates three child car seats
  • Three car seat anchors and 3 tethers across the rear seats
  • Car seat anchors were visible and labeled, but we had to dig to get to them
  • We could not fit an adult comfortably in the middle seat between two child car seats; installing a third seat can be a challenge.

Related: The Honda Passport is back and better than ever; this is what we found irresistible

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Driving On The Road

The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe takes a rugged stance as it crosses from a crossover to the SUV category. Photo: Becky Fixel

Hyundai Sante Fe

  • Two-row mid-size SUV
  • Two latch anchors in the outboard seats
  • Accommodates two child car seats
  • There is little room for a third seat or a person in the middle seat
  • Has a sliding rail for the back row to move forward, and backward and can recline
  • There was plenty of space for a rear-facing car seat

Doona Infant Car Seat & Latch Base ($499.00 on Amazon)

Donna Donna Car Seat And Stroller

Related: The Hyundai Santa Fe has long been a standby SUV for families. Here’s what it’s all about

Woman Standing Next To A Blue 2017 Hyundai Tucson Compact Crossover

The Hyundai Tucson. Photo: Joanne Pham

Hyundai Tucson

  • Two-row compact SUV
  • Two outboard seat anchors, three tethers
  • Accommodates two child car seats
  • The space between the car seats is not enough for an adult or a third child car seat
  • Center seats are on a rail and are able to slide forward
  • Rear-facing seat installation space is very tight, forcing the driver to sit very closely to the steering wheel

Related: What’s the Hyundai Tucson all about? We took it for a spin!

Exterior Of A 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit

The Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Edition. Photo: Erica Mueller

Jeep Grand Cherokee

  • Two-row mid-size SUV
  • Two sets of anchors on the outboard seats, three tethers
  • Accommodates three child car seats with a snug fit
  • Latches were easily accessible
  • We were able to sit comfortably in the front seats (we didn’t have to push them too far forward) even with the child passenger seats installed rear-facing
  • Removing a baby from the middle seat requires moving the front passenger seat all the way forward

Related: The Jeep Grand Cherokee is elegant, capable and fun to drive. This is what our test drive found

2019 Jeep Compass Headlights


Jeep Compass

  • Two-row compact SUV
  • Two sets of anchors on outboard seats, three tethers
  • Accommodates two child car seats
  • We could not get an adult between the car seats in the second row
  • Has average legroom, as well as the room to install the car seats
  • Latches were not easily accessible

Related: The Jeep Compass is all the best of the Jeep in a more affordable but nicely outfitted package; this is our review

Black Exterior Of Kia Sportage Compact Crossover Rear Trunk

The Kia Sportage. Photo: Shannon Entin.

Kia Sportage

  • Two-row compact SUV
  • Two outboard anchors and three tethers
  • Accommodates two child car seats
  • Anchors are labeled, so it was fairly easy to clip (but we had to dig to get to them)
  • We could not fit an adult or third passenger in the middle seat
  • The driver had tight legroom when we installed a rear-facing car seat on that side

Related: Style, capability and fun define the Kia Sportage

Blue Exterior Of A 2 Row Suv Parked Outside

The 2019 Mazda CX-5. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Mazda CX-5

  • Two-row compact SUV
  • Two outboard anchors and three tethers
  • Accommodates two child car seats
  • Latches are easily accessible
  • We could not fit another car seat or third passenger between the two car seats
  • We fit a rear-facing child seat in the middle seat, but there is a tighter fit on the outboard seats

Related: Mazda CX-5 has long been on our faves list; this is why

2021 Nissan Rogue

Photo: Jill Robbins

Nissan Rogue

  • Two-row compact SUV
  • Two outboard anchors and three tethers
  • Accommodates two child car seats
  • The anchors and tethers were easy to find and use
  • The center is stationary (is not on a rail and does not move forward or back). Therefore, the seats fold flat in a 40/20/40 configuration. Additionally, a cup holder folds down from the center seat and opens to pass-through to the rear compartment, which we thought might tempt kids to push toys (or other things) through to the cargo area

Related: The Nissan Rogue is the SUV with something for everyone; this is why

Green 2019 Subaru Forester 2 Row Suv Parked Outside

2019 Subaru Forester. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Subaru Forester

  • Two-row mid-size SUV
  • Two outboard anchors and three tethers
  • Accommodates three child car seats
  • Anchors and latches are easily accessible
  • The middle seat worked best with the front-facing seat
  • We thought that the best place for an infant seat is behind the passenger seat

Related: The Subaru Forester has been redesigned and this is what is new

2019 Toyota Rav4 Compact Suv In Blue And Parked By A Tree

The 2019 Toyota RAV4. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Toyota Rav 4

  • Two-row compact SUV
  • Two outboard anchors and three tethers
  • Accommodates two child car seats
  • Anchors and latches were easy to reach and install
  • Seating was tight for an adult or third child car seat in the middle seat
  • There is enough legroom to install seats and rear-facing seats comfortably

Related: How can Toyota improve the RAV4? Well, they did, and it’s awesome

Wondering what we found in 2-row luxury SUVs and 3-row SUVs? We got it, and we’ll share it shortly! Stay tuned!

A Girls Guide To Cars | Which 2 Row Suvs Are Best For Child Car Seats? The Ultimate Car Seat Challenge - Which 2 Row Suvs Are Best For Child Car Seats


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Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss