2012 Subaru Outback: Car Seat Check

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With its sporty looks, the 2012 Subaru Outback challenges compact crossovers for the hearts and minds of families. That may be overstating things a little, but the Outback seats five, has a roomy backseat and cargo area, and has standard all-wheel drive. What's not to love?

For the Car Seat Check, we use a Graco SnugRide 30 rear-facing infant-safety seat, a Britax Roundabout convertible child-safety seat and Graco high-back TurboBooster seat.

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The front seats are adjusted to a comfortable position for a 6-foot driver and a 5-foot-8 passenger. The three child seats are installed in the second row. The booster seat sits behind the driver's seat, and the infant seat and convertible seats are installed behind the passenger seat. We also install the infant seat in the second row's middle seat with the booster and convertible in the outboard seats to see if three car seats will fit. If there's a third row, we install the booster seat and a forward-facing convertible.

Here's how the 2012 Outback did in Cars.com's Car Seat Check:

Latch system: The Outback's two sets of lower Latch anchors sit behind small flaps, which are Velcroed in place, in the seat upholstery. This setup usually makes it easy to use the anchors, but the Outback's anchors are set so far back that it was difficult to access them.

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Three tether anchors are in the cargo area's ceiling. This location isn't ideal because when the anchors are in use, the tether straps interfere with the driver's rear visibility.

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Booster seat: Our high-back booster seat fit well in the Outback. The outboard seat belt buckles are on stable bases, making them easy for young children to use independently. The middle seat's seat belt buckle is floppy, however.

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Convertible seat: Both the forward- and rear-facing convertible fit well in the Outback, thanks to its flat bottom seat cushions. With the rear-facing convertible, there was enough room in the backseat that we didn't need to move the front passenger seat forward to accommodate it.

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Infant-safety seat: This rear-facing car seat fit easily in the backseat. There was no need to move the front passenger seat forward.

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How many car seats fit in the second row? Two

Editor's note: For three car seats — infant-safety seat, convertible and booster seats — to fit in a car, our criterion is that a child sitting in the booster seat must be able to reach the seat belt buckle. Parents should also remember that they can use the Latch system or a seat belt to install a car seat.

Comments 

noname

Have you considered a test where you put two car seats behind driver and passenger while having another passenger seat in the middle of the back seat? I find this test to be rather useful for the family of 4 who needs space for an extra passenger in the back. I noticed that most of the compact SUVs failed this test.

another noname

Thank you! This is exactly what I needed to know!!

Brian

Excellent info. I agree with the first comment that a big thing would be fitting a 2nd seat behind the driver is a big deal. 2nd child caused a friend to buy a new care just for that reason.

Question on the Rear-Facing convertable. Is the back tied down to something on the floor? The instructions suggest it tie to something on the floor or the LATCH anchor in the back. But the back tie puts the strap right in the way of placing the child in the seat.

Darth Sasquatch

Great question about the rear facing tether. I tried this in the Outback in the dealer's showroom, but couldn't figure out how to attach it. In my current Mazda3 we loop it under the seat rail. In my friend's Ford Flex there's a crossbar under the passenger seat around which to loop it. Can anyone tell us how to attach the tether in an Outback?

Thanks!

Rose

We installed a rear facing seat and it isnt stable, easily moes side to side. There is no way to use the ceiling teher anchors. Did you install a stabilizing rod under the seat? What do you recommend?

Chrissy

So we have have used the Chicco keyfit30 and 2 Radian XTSL in our 2010 Outback. The keyfit works very nicely in either outboard position- easy install, tight fit, and no need to move either seat dramatically (for both tall parents). The Radians are harder to install- they do require some extra towels to get them tight, especially rear-facing- but it's not too bad. My daughter rear faced in hers until 3.5 years old. You can tether rear-facing using the loop to create an anchor on the base of the front seat. Don't use the rear tethers for a rear-facing installation!
Neither seat has fit well in the center position, unfortunately. However there is room for me to sit between the kids with 2 Radians (tight but doable with 1 Radian & 1 Keyfit.)

yokozuna

Hi - i too would like to know about having 2 rear facing car seats in the back and one adult in between them. We are about to become a family of 4 and would like to know if there would be the option for one parent to sit in the back with the two babies. thanks

Britt

Hi!
My husband and I are prepping for the arrival of our first baby, and we have a 2012 Outback that we love. We'd like to install our rear-facing infant car seat in the center of the 2nd row - did you try that? If so, did it work OK? I have heard there is no LATCH system for the center, is that true?
Thank you in advance for your insight!

Olivia

Britt,
I have a 2012 outback as well. The owners manual does NOT recommend installing a car seat in the center. We tried it and it didn't secure well, which is why I looked in the manual. We put her Chicco Keyfit 30 on the passenger side so my tall husband could still drive. It secured very well. Now we are running into problems with convertible seats fitting well :(

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