2014 Toyota Prius: Car Seat Check

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When Cars.com reviewer Joe Wiesenfelder critiqued the 2012 Toyota Prius, he called it "an exceptionally efficient car at a relatively low price for people who care more about conservation than the act of driving. Given its success, the formula seems to have worked just fine." Evidently, that formula has continued working so well that the popular hybrid has changed little in the past two model years. That comforting sameness extended to child-safety-seat installation, which remained relatively easy, garnering just a couple of minor complaints from us with regard to the head restraints and seat belts.

How many car seats fit in the second row? Two

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By Matt Schmitz | July 24, 2014 | Comments (1)

Kids Headed Back to School? Get Ready With Our Tips

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I know I'm not the only parent counting down the days until school starts again. As wonderful as summer is, can we all admit that having a more regimented schedule is a huge relief?

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While we may look forward to some extra peace and quiet when the kids are finally back in school, keeping things peaceful means heeding some basic back-to-school-zone safety tips. Some of these may seem like common sense, but just like kids and multiplication tables, we could all use a little review.

By Kristin Varela | July 23, 2014 | Comments (4)

2015 Volkswagen Passat: What's Changed

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Most significant changes: More power, better fuel economy for TDI models

Price change: TBD

On sale: TBD

Which you should buy, 2014 or 2015? 2014 gas, but 2015 diesel

Volkswagen's midsize family sedan receives only a few minor trim and package changes for 2015, with the most notable to the base model S and Wolfsburg Edition trims. An optional Technology Package is available for the two trims and includes a backup camera and a touch-screen stereo system with eight speakers (instead of the current six). Satellite radio also is part of the Technology Package on the S trim; it's already standard on the Wolfsburg.

Related: What Is the Most Affordable Midsize Sedan for 2014?

All TDI diesel models get a new 2.0-liter engine that comes with a 10-horsepower bump to 150 hp as well as increased fuel economy. The Passat TDI now gets an EPA-estimated 44 mpg highway for the manual transmission and 42 mpg highway for the automatic.

By Aaron Bragman | July 22, 2014 | Comments (19)

Small Trunks in Midsize Hybrid Sedans Limit Usefulness

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Family-friendly hybrids are still more elusive than you'd think. My test of the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid proved that hybrid midsize sedans can be a great option for small families that don't haul a lot of stuff in the car's trunk. Alternatively, they also merit careful consideration if those families carry around a lot of gear.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Review

In the Accord Hybrid, as in its competitors, the hybrid system's batteries take up some quality trunk space. But how does its cargo space compare to other Accord models? And what about its competitors?

By Sara Lacey | July 21, 2014 | Comments (3)

Toyota Releases Details on Updated 2015 Sienna

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Toyota says the Sienna boasts a number of updates for 2015, including a more upscale interior and improved handling thanks to new suspension tuning. We'll see if that's enough for the minivan to get its swagger back, as sales are flat through the first six months of 2014 in a segment that's up 6.9 percent.

Related: 2014 Toyota Sienna: Car Seat Check

Toyota redesigned the Sienna's grille, and the headlights now incorporate available LED daytime running lamps, but the overall look is similar to the minivan's 2011-14 model years. The automaker promises more soft-touch materials inside — a good thing, as the current generation's middling cabin helped earn it a last-place finish during our 2011 minivan comparison. The updated Sienna gets Toyota's Driver Easy Speak system, which is also available in the automaker's redesigned Highlander SUV. It amplifies the driver's voice through a microphone up front to the third-row speakers so parents don't have to shout to anyone in the peanut gallery.

By Kelsey Mays | July 17, 2014 | Comments (11)

2015 Mazda CX-5: Car Seat Check

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Since its debut for the 2013 model year, the Mazda CX-5 has proved itself a formidable contender among compact crossovers. It particularly distinguished itself in the fun-to-drive category, where the CX-5 only improved when it returned for the 2014 model year with a more powerful 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine option. Not a lot has changed for 2015: The CX-5's base price has increased a mere $150, including destination, and for the purposes of car seat installation, all backseat passenger-room dimensions remain identical to the outgoing model.

How many car seats fit in the second row? Two

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By Matt Schmitz | July 17, 2014 | Comments (1)

IIHS: These Used Cars Are Safer for Teen Drivers

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Teen driving statistics are scary: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that car crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens and in 2010 seven teens died every day from crash-related injuries. What's worse is that according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, many teens drive vehicles that don't protect them very well in an accident. Since the IIHS estimates that 83 percent of parents who buy a vehicle for their teen purchase a used car, the agency just released its first list of used vehicles that cost less than $20,000 and are recommended as safe for teen drivers.

More Safety News

IIHS suggests that parents choose lower-horsepower larger vehicles that are equipped with electronic stability control. The cars on its list range in price from $4,000 for a 2005 Saab 9-3 to $19,900 for a 2011 Buick Enclave. Click here for more from our friends at USA Today and check out the IIHS's full list of recommended vehicles here.

Noel Hendrickson/Digital Vision/Thinkstock

By Jennifer Geiger | July 16, 2014 | Comments (10)

2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Review

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"The 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is the best version of the three-row SUV, with strong, smooth power and excellent fuel economy — as long as you can afford its steep price," said Cars.com reviewer Jennifer Geiger. Read the review for more.

2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Expert Review

Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

By Jennifer Geiger | July 16, 2014 | Comments (2)

What Our Kids Like: Games

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Ah, road trips: What parents see as a way to see the more majestic and quirky parts of our country are what kids might see as a study in the mundane.

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There are plenty of ways to entertain kids during a road trip, whether with snacks, special toys doled out throughout the journey or just by chatting up the little ones. (If you've reached the tween/teen stage and have to deal with occasional stony silences, just remember it's a phase.)

But what about having the kids entertain themselves? Here are some of our picks for in-car games of both the non-electronic and electronic variety to give parents a break as the candy-hander-outers, trash-collectors and 20-questions-champions of the universe.

By Sara Lacey | July 16, 2014 | Comments (1)

How to Install a Car Seat with a Seat Belt

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The Latch system was designed to make child-safety seat installation easier for parents, but sometimes it doesn't work out that way. Despite the fact that all automakers have been federally mandated to include the lower anchors as standard equipment on all vehicles since September 2002, all Latch systems are not created equal, as we often discover during our Car Seat Checks.

Read More #FamilyCarAdvice

Buried or nonexistent anchors mean that the seat belt is often your best — or only — option when installing a car seat. This might make parents nervous, but a car seat installed with a seat belt can be just as safe as one installed with the Latch system, provided you know what you're doing. Follow these tips to ensure safe car-seat installation with a seat belt.

By Jennifer Geiger | July 9, 2014 | Comments (0)

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