Five Cars for Urban Families

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Urban families know a thing or two about squeezing the most out of small spaces — and those who own cars usually have the dings and dents to prove it. Being an urban mom, I'm intimately acquainted with three-quarter-car garages, compact parking spaces, skinny alleys and narrow side streets. Heck, even our grocery store parking lots are spatially challenged, making what you drive in the city a crucial decision. For city-dwellers who aren’t concerned about backseat space for child-safety seats, check out our Top 10 Urban Cars.

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Families in cities want something that's both compact and maneuverable, so that navigating city streets and parking lots isn't a chore, but also a vehicle large enough to comfortably accommodate family members and all their stuff. Sounds like a tall order, right? It is, but not an impossible one. Despite what you might think, small cars can work for a family, especially if you do your research.

Here are five good vehicles for urban families:

By Jennifer Geiger | August 13, 2014 | Comments (0)

Teen's Invention Aims to Prevent Kids Dying in Hot Cars

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If it were up to teenager Alissa Chavez there'd be no more children unintentionally left in hot cars. As of Aug. 4, 20 children have died this year after being left behind in a hot car, and just last week organizations turned to social media to raise awareness of the dangers of children being left behind in cars. Chavez hopes to end these tragedies with The Hot Seat, an alert system she created as an eighth-grader for her Albuquerque school's science fair in 2010.

Related: Never Leave Kids in Cars Unattended

Chavez is raising funds through Aug. 15 on crowd-funding website Indiegogo.com to make a prototype of The Hot Seat. She's already surpassed her initial goal of $5,000. "That will let me get a prototype, and once I have a prototype manufacturers will look at it and they'll be able to build it and after that I can get it on the market," the high school senior said on Canada's CBC Radio program "As It Happens."

By Sara Lacey | August 7, 2014 | Comments (2)

2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport: Car Seat Check

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The 2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport gained the Evoque's signature looks in its 2014 redesign. It also gained an optional third row — creating seating for seven — that some families might find useful for smaller kids. Our test car had only two rows with seating for five.

We managed to fit all three of our child-safety seats — booster, rear-facing infant seat and convertible — in the Range Rover Sport's backseat, but it failed to meet our criteria for an acceptable fit: A child's hand must be able to fit between the booster seat and the next car seat to buckle up. However, in the Range Rover Sport the car seats were jammed together so tightly that even the smallest of hands couldn't fit. However, a different configuration of car seats — two boosters and an infant seat, for example — might work. Parents of three who are interested in this car should bring their children's car seats along to a visit to the dealership.

How many car seats fit in the second row? Two

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By Jennifer Newman | August 7, 2014 | Comments (0)

Which Cars Fit Three Car Seats?

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UPDATE AUG. 5, 2014: 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.

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In the more than three years that Cars.com editors have been installing car seats into test vehicles, we've come across several vehicles that can hold three car seats across a backseat.

The 2014 Land Rover LR4 and 2014 Toyota 4Runner are the latest vehicles to land on our list. The 2014 LR4's appearance is no surprise; it's been a regular on our list since the 2011 model year.

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:

By Jennifer Newman | August 6, 2014 | Comments (0)

2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport: Car Seat Check

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The 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport earned Cars.com's Family Car of the Year award for 2014, and it's easy to understand why after spending some time in it. With roomy backseat, sizable cargo area and family-friendly touches such as an optional panoramic sunroof and rear sunshades for the side windows, the Santa Fe Sport has a winning combination of features that appeal to families.

We found this two-row crossover easy to work with in terms of child-safety-seat installation. While we have some gripes with the seat belt bases, we seemed to have less trouble with our car seats' impact on front passenger legroom with this year's model as compared to the 2013. Read on to find out how the current model measured up.

How many car seats fit in the second row? Two

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By Matt Schmitz | July 31, 2014 | Comments (0)

Bench Seats Versus Captain's Chairs

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I'm on a quest for a new family car, one with three rows to accommodate my three tween/teen daughters and the occasional friend or grandparent. My pool of available options is quite limited by one hard fact: We must have captain's chairs.

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While many families may think they want the extra seating capacity that a second-row bench seat allows, I'm here to save you from making that mistake.

While offering room for three passengers, bench seats can create problems in family cars. If you have kids in child-safety seats, you're most likely to put them in the outboard position of the second row, where you have the easiest access to help them climb in and out and get buckled and unbuckled. The problem is that in most three-row SUVs, the only access to the third row comes by sliding, folding and/or flipping one of the outboard seats in the second row. That's difficult to do when a child-safety seat is installed there, though there are a few SUVs (like the Infiniti QX60, formerly the JX35), that work around this problem. Most, however, do not. This leaves limited options.

By Kristin Varela | July 30, 2014 | Comments (5)

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 (24)

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)

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