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Safest cars for large families revealed

Three child seats

Car retailers will be able to cite research from WhatCar? when selling the safest family cars on the market to customers as the organisation reveals the best models for those that require three child seats.

For larger families, finding a vehicle that can accommodate three or more child seats can be challenging especially as some smaller SUV and crossover vehicles only have enough room for two in the rear.

To find out which cars are most suitable for large families with young children, What Car? tested the latest models in the large SUV and MPV segments.

Stand-out models included the Citroen e-Spacetourer, Hyundai Santa Fe, BMW X7 and VW ID Buzz.

Of the MPVs tested, the fully electric e-Spacetourer comes with the highest Euro NCAP child occupant safety score of 91%, and it was the only vehicle on test with nine seats. What Car?’s testers found the sliding side doors gave good access to the interior, and each of the second-row seats slid forwards and backwards to provide enough room to fit even the bulkiest of child seats and make it easy for parents and children to reach the third seat row. The e-Spacetourer was also the only vehicle on test with six rear seats that come with Isofix mounting points. Researchers also commended the VW Multivan, Ford S-Max and Peugeot e-Rifter.

In the large SUV category, the Hyundai Santa Fe’s Euro NCAP child occupant score of 88% is the highest of the cars tested. The Santa Fe, was also the roomiest large SUV on test and comes with two Isofix mounting points on the second-row seats, while the third-row seats allow for two seatbelt-secured child seats. There are electric switches to tip and slide each of the 60/4-split second row seats forward electrically to access the third row. The Kia Sorento was also hoghlighted as it comes with four Isofix seats mounting points, but the Hyundai is priced more affordably. Other notable models were the Peugeot 5008 and Skoda Kodiaq.

Across luxury SUVs, What Car? found the BMW X7 to be the best option for carrying three or more children in car seats, because it has the most interior space and offers lots of desirable kit, including four-zone climate control and rear seats that all fold electrically. The Mercedes GLE, Genesis GV80 and Volvo XC90 were also highlighted.

The Volkswagen ID Buzz, was also included as an outlier. It’s currently available only as a five-seater, but its second row is wide enough to fit three child seats abreast. What Car? named the new electric people carrier Car of the Year 2023.

As part of the test, What Car? chose one seat that is suitable for children from birth to four years old, and two seats for children aged up to 12 years old. The results were based on both the physical testing of the seats – factoring in accessibility, space and versatility – and the vehicle’s Euro NCAP overall safety and child occupant ratings. 

What Car? consumer editor Claire Evans said: “Finding the right car for a growing family can be difficult, and our latest research shows that not all cars with seven seats are suitable when it comes to carrying three young children.

“Although MPVs have fallen out of favour with families somewhat in recent years, our test shows they are still among the best options when it comes to practicality and versatility, and they are often cheaper than seven-seat SUVs.” 

Euro NCAP tested a record number of vehicles last year, with a total of 73 safety ratings published for new and existing car models.

The safety organisation described 2022 as “an exceptionally challenging year for the automotive sector”,  citing the new safety, emission and cybersecurity regulations, as well as the economic repercussions of the invasion of Ukraine, Brexit, and the challenges related to shortages of semiconductor chips, materials, and labour.

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