In-Car Entertainment Systems: Yea or Nay?

InCarEntertainment

Early in my automotive journalism and parenting careers, I had this grand "no-DVDs-in-the-car" stance. (I'm pretty sure I was still making my own baby food back then, too — ha!). Then I took a couple of road trips with my two toddlers in a test car with a DVD system, and I became a convert after an "Angelina Ballerina" DVD performed wonders by diverting an in-car tantrum. My sister-in-law still likes to bring up my change in policy to get a laugh at family get-togethers.

Read More #FamilyCarAdvice

Now that my "babies" have entered a new stage in life, I've changed tunes yet again. My freshly blended "Brady Bunch" family is comprised of my daughters, ages 14 and 12, and my stepdaughter, age 10. Today, technology inundates practically every facet of our lives. My oldest got an iPhone when she turned 12, worked on an iPad for all her middle-school classes and is now required to have a laptop for high school. Her Spanish seminars use Google Hangouts, she Face Times with me to keep me up-to-date on all the latest teen goings-on while I'm on business trips, she choreographs dances using an app to catalog her ideas — and the list goes on and on. My other two girls listen to music, play games and watch movies on their devices when traveling overseas to visit grandparents in South Africa. Our family's weekly dinner menu and grocery list are accessible by all of us, online calendars are used to manage three kids' schedules in three different schools in three different cities — and once again, the list seemingly never ends.

I'm sure many of you can relate to the fact that having dedicated time to talk to my kids, with full attention on both sides, is a rarity. The best chance of that happening these days is in the car … without a DVD entertainment system.

By Kristin Varela | October 15, 2014 | Comments (2)

Subaru's Impreza Fits Smaller Families

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When most families think of Subaru, the cars that seem to come to mind are the Forester crossover and Outback wagon. Many don't have the Impreza, Subaru's entry-level compact, on their radar. It's got a lot to offer with its family-friendly sedan or hatchback body styles and standard all-wheel drive, plus it's more affordable then its larger siblings. For smaller families who have active lifestyles but don't need or want a larger car, take note and get to know the Impreza. Subaru recently announced that it's refreshing the 2015 Impreza with a new front end, a standard backup camera and more.

Related: 2015 Subaru Impreza Gets Some Major Updates

The Impreza competes against the likes of the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Golf. My test car was a 2014 Subaru 2.0i Sport Limited hatchback with a starting price of $23,990, including destination. It came equipped with leather seats, snazzy 17-inch alloy wheels and a moonroof. However, its most appealing feature, which none of its competitors offer, is standard all-wheel drive.

That all-wheel drive makes for sure-footed handling under all road conditions. Even on Southern California's mostly dry roads, the Impreza felt confident through the curves. However, the 2014 Impreza's 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine seemed sluggish when accelerating, and it was louder than other compact cars I've driven. For 2015, Subaru has added more sound-deadening materials, thicker window glass and tighter window seals to address the noise issue.

By Carrie Kim | October 14, 2014 | Comments (14)

2015 Audi Q3: Car Seat Check

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The all-new Audi Q3 is a subcompact crossover, a new class of cars that's growing quickly with competitors such as the BMW X1, Buick Encore, Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class and the Jeep Renegade. Although it's small on the outside, the Q3 made good use of its interior. With seating for five, this tiny SUV managed to easily handle all of our child-safety seats with ease.

How many car seats fit in the second row? Two

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By Jennifer Newman | October 9, 2014 | Comments (0)

Which Cars Fit Three Car Seats?

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UPDATE OCT. 8, 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 2015 Dodge Challenger is the latest car we’ve tested that can fit three child-safety seats across the backseat. Before parents start dreaming of driving this powerful beast with the kids in tow, they should know that in our tests, a rear-facing infant seat didn’t fit in the Challenger. We had better luck fitting a rear-facing convertible into this full-size sedan, so parents with infants should consider this car seat instead of the infant seat, which has a removable carrier.

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 | October 8, 2014 | Comments (2)

2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class: Car Seat Check

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The 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class underwent a growth spurt during its recent redesign. The sedan grew more than 3 inches in length. Backseat occupants might notice the increase because it translates to nearly 2 additional inches of rear legroom; we certainly noticed this during our Car Seat Check when installing our rear-facing child-safety seats. Our results only apply to the C300 sedan; the C-Class coupe has yet to be redesigned.

How many car seats fit in the second row? Two

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

Top Minivan? Nissan Quest May Offer Best Cargo Hauling in the Real World

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Minivans are known for their impressive storage wells behind the third-row seats, maximizing cargo space. But what should be said is that the area is more vertical than horizontal. It begs the question, how much of a minivan's cubic footage can you really use?

Related: Can a Minivan Be Stylish?

Well, that depends on what you're carrying. Luggage works well in minivan storage wells because it tends to be stackable and it's not too worrisome when it inevitably falls out when the liftgate is opened. And there's no feeling quite like propping that big stroller upright and still being able to see out the rear window.

But most of us don't carry luggage around in our daily lives, and eventually/thankfully the kids outgrow strollers; it's usually other items such as grocery bags that aren't as sturdy that create challenges in the cargo area. After all, there are only so many grocery bags that can be stored on top of each other.

Which minivans make the best of this cargo conundrum? And what automakers offer optional equipment to keep your stuff wrangled when the cargo space needs an assist? Let's have a look.

By Sara Lacey | October 3, 2014 | Comments (0)

2014 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited: Car Seat Check

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With its rear doors and an additional 1.6 inches of rear legroom, the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited seems like it's the family-friendly version of the smaller Jeep Wrangler. However, the Wrangler Unlimited's looks are deceiving. The Unlimited's bottom backseat cushion was nearly too short to properly fit our rear-facing infant seat's base; at least 80 percent of any car-seat base should be on the seat cushion.

How many car seats fit in the second row? Two, but three car seats nearly fit.

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By Jennifer Newman | October 3, 2014 | Comments (0)

Five Things Families Should Look for in Pickup Trucks

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Parenthood is rarely glamorous, and the cars we drive around often aren't either. Of course, there is merit to the practicality of a minivan or crossover, but sometimes we parents want the world to know we haven't lost our more adventurous side.

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To achieve this, parents need look no further than a full-size pickup truck. Trucks can be practical family-haulers and show the world you've still got some pizazz. If you long to be a carpool-lane iconoclast, consider a full-size pickup truck for your next family car. When you do, be sure to look out for these five family-friendly features:

By Courtney Messenbaugh | October 1, 2014 | Comments (0)

Unexpected Family Car: 2015 Volkswagen Golf

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When my husband and I became parents, we embraced our new roles with enthusiasm - except when it came to what it might mean for us out on the road. No disrespect, but we just aren't the minivan types and we both enjoy smaller cars with a little more pizazz than your average family crossover. But it didn't take long for us to realize how much a car seems to shrink with a rear-facing car seat in the backseat and a stroller in the trunk. We chose the 2012 Volkswagen Jetta as our family car, which had the largest backseat and cargo area in its class at the time. Now life's become a little simpler with a preschooler, and Mama's thinking about a new car.

Related: 2015 Volkswagen Golf, Golf TDI: First Drive

The timing was right for my family to test the 2015 Volkswagen Golf. I had some concerns about this stylish compact hatchback, but we were off to a great start with its family-friendly lower Latch anchors. The Golf's anchors are covered by plastic doors that flip up to reveal the anchor. No digging, no sweating to install my daughter's car seat; we were off and running.

By Carrie Kim | September 26, 2014 | Comments (5)

2015 Dodge Challenger: Car Seat Check

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When it comes to child-safety seats, the 2015 Dodge Challenger is a car that allows parents to have their cake and eat it, too. Not only does this muscle car offer a 305-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine for starters but also its roomy backseat can fit most styles of car seats. We were also able to fit three across the backseat.

Not everything is perfect with the Challenger and car seats, however. In our tests, we found that a rear-facing infant seat, which takes up a lot of backseat space, doesn't work well with the front passenger seat. The front seat is designed to fold and slide forward for better backseat access, and then the seat has to be pushed all the way back to lock the seatback into place. From there, you can slide the seat forward to create more legroom for backseat passengers. However, the infant seat is so long that it prevents the front passenger seat from sliding back and locking into place.

We tried to work around this setup, but ultimately decided that the Challenger and infant seats don't mix. Oddly, we didn't run into this problem when we tested the 2012 Challenger. If you have an infant, use a rear-facing convertible seat in the Challenger instead, which thankfully doesn't take up as much legroom as the infant seat. In our photo, we used the infant seat to illustrate that three average-sized car seats fit across the backseat.

How many car seats fit in the second row? Three, but if parents are using a rear-facing infant seat, it's likely too long to fit in the Challenger's backseat.

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By Jennifer Newman | September 25, 2014 | Comments (2)

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