The all-new 2013 Buick Encore is small. It's really small, and it's a challenge for almost any family to embrace it. Buick's three-row Enclave is for larger families, but I was interested to see whether the Encore, a subcompact crossover, could handle my family of four's daily life despite its size.
The Encore surprised me at first and seemed to tolerate family activity fairly well as long as rear-facing child-safety seats weren't part of the equation.
For 2014, the Kia Sorento received an update to its exterior and interior, but what hasn't changed substantially is the crossover's legroom. The 2014 Sorento has slightly more legroom in the second row, growing 1.2 inches from the 2013 model. The optional third row's legroom has increased less than a half inch for 2014. Our test car had two rows of seats, and accessible Latch anchors aided car seat installation.
They say hindsight is 20/20, and in the case of my child-safety-seat purchases, they would be correct. If I could go back in time, I'd skip buying the super-wide convertible car seats and would look for a much slimmer design, like the Foonf car seat by Clek.
The Foonf is a slim but pricey convertible car seat that's just less than 17 inches wide, which means that fitting three safety seats into a backseat could be a little easier with this car seat. According to Clek, 50 inches of seat width is required to fit three forward-facing Foonfs side by side (48 inches if you stagger one of them rear-facing).
When Baby No. 3 comes along, many families buy a new car because they can't fit three car seats across their smaller car's backseat. Some cars will fit three child-safety seats across the second row, but the list is small. While the Foonf might make it possible to keep your current car, you'll likely end up having to buy more than one of them.
The Ford Explorer's popularity has always vexed me. There was a time in the late 1990s that it seemed to be everywhere — much like the Kardashians today. Back then, I didn't get the appeal of the Explorer. Thanks to a well-received redesign in 2011, the Explorer started to add worth to its celebrated weight. Now, with the advent of the Explorer Sport model, I get it.
The 2013 Ford Explorer Sport showcases a powerful new engine and sleek styling while incorporating some family-friendly attributes and top safety ratings. I'm no longer confused; this three-row crossover should be popular.
UPDATE 6/7/2013: Parents are often searching for the automotive holy grail: a car that's not a minivan and can fit three child-safety seats across the backseat. It's a short list.
In the more than three years that Cars.com editors have been installing car seats into test vehicles, we've come across only a handful of cars that can hold three car seats across a backseat.
The newest vehicle to make our list is the 2013 Nissan Armada. The largest of the brand's SUVs has room for eight passengers and easily accommodates three car seats across its second row.
As we come across more cars that fit three child-safety seats, we'll add to this list. For now, here are the cars from our Car Seat Checks that can fit three car seats in the second row:
I own a 2012 Volkswagen Jetta, and for its size it's got an amazing amount of space, a ginormous trunk and pretty good fuel economy. I figured the 2013 VW Jetta Hybrid could only be better. While I can't say that the Jetta Hybrid is markedly better, it served my family of three well and saved us a bit of money with its fuel economy.
Hyundai worked some magic with the 2013 redesign of its Santa Fe. This family-friendly crossover now comes with two rows in the 2013 Santa Fe Sport or three rows in the 2013 Santa Fe. In the Santa Fe Sport's Car Seat Check, we had to move the front passenger seat forward to accommodate a rear-facing infant seat, and the Latch anchors were difficult to use. While the Santa Fe can seat up to seven, our test model had second-row captain's chairs, bringing seating capacity to six. Did it outperform the Santa Fe Sport?
The 2013 BMW 335i is a lot like salted caramel: It's a fine balance of the best of two worlds. The 3 Series has luxury, but it's not gaudy. It has performance chops, but it's not stiff or uncomfortable. The balance achieved through its luxurious features and stunning performance is fantastic — even for those of us with families.
Yes, salted caramels are going to cost more than a bag of caramel cubes and the 335i is no different. My test car, a 335i xDrive sedan, rolled in at $56,145, including an $895 destination fee. But my, oh my, was it delicious.
My face was sore from smiling so much while piloting the 335i with its 300-horsepower, 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine. With its standard all-wheel drive, the 33i xDrive gets an EPA-estimated 20/30 mpg city/highway. To help offset my lead-foot driving, the sedan has an auto stop-start system that shuts down the engine when idling (drive-throughs, carpool lane, stoplights). The engine jumped to life lickety-split whenever I hit the throttle. It also has an Eco Pro driving mode that uses a gauge to help you drive conservatively.
With its towering ride height and loads of cargo and passenger room, Nissan's largest SUV is king of the road and easily handled all of our child-safety seats. The eight-passenger Armada joins the list of vehicles that can comfortably accommodate three car seats in the second row. Its roomy third row held two with room to spare for an additional small passenger.
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