Vehicles Archive

2013 and 2014 Ford C-Max Video Review: Kids, Carseats & Safety

2013 & 2014 Ford C-Max Hybrid Video Review: Kids, Carseats & Safety


Looking for a smart, economical vehicle that doesn’t say “Prius” on it?  Something that has a reasonably well-designed back seat for kids and carseats?  If so, the Ford C-Max should definitely be on your short list!  For 2014, you can expect slightly better fuel economy, thanks to improvements in the powertrain and aerodynamics.  Even so, because of some issues with the EPA ratings, the new labels will indicate a decrease to 45 mpg city, 40 mpg highway and 43 mpg overall.  For those familiar with driving a Prius or other hybrid, this drop may not be a disappointment in real world driving.  For example, I achieved just over the EPA ratings of 47 mpg around town for a 2013 model with some basic hybrid driving techniques; slightly better than the Prius V I tested in similar conditions.



The 2nd row of the C-Max is one of the better setups I’ve seen in a compact vehicle.  The lower LATCH anchors are easy to find.  The seatbelts and LATCH anchors don’t overlap.  The buckles are not too short, such that they are difficult for kids in boosters to buckle themselves like in a Prius.  All head restraints can be removed if necessary to fit a taller carseat.  The middle seat, while narrow, can still manage a 3-across with careful selection.  Overall, it’s slightly wider and much nicer than the standard Prius in terms of fitting kids and carseats.

Perhaps the only major downside is that there is not a lot of legroom back there, like any compact car.  It’s about the same as the standard Prius, but the seat cushions seem lower to the floor.  So, adults may find it a bit cramped in back.  If that’s an issue, the roomier Toyota Prius V does offer adjustable 2nd row seats that are more comfortable for older passengers in terms of legroom and also space for a rear-facing carseat.



The C-Max comes only in a 5-door hatchback, which is great if you want to fit a stroller and some groceries.  The only oddity is that the top tether anchors are fabric loops on the back of the seat, NOT to be confused with the sturdy-looking metal cargo hooks on the floor!  Fabric loops are perfectly fine, just something to note when you are looking for metal anchors.  As for the hatch, the optional power assist feature is great.  My son liked being able to open the lift gate. :-)



As mentioned, the 2nd row setup of seatbelts and LATCH is very intuitive.  Ford is also to be commended for allowing the top tether system to be used up to the maximum limit indicated by the child safety seat manufacturer.

Below, left, I tested a Britax Advocate convertible carseat.  Installed rear-facing, it left adequate legroom for a 5’10″ driver in front.  With a Recaro ProSport combination seat on the other side, a small adult or narrow booster would still have room in the center seat.  The same applies to the Cosco Scenera and Graco Nautilus I tested, below, right.  Finally, at the bottom, you can see the locations for attaching a front-facing (left) and rear-facing (right) tether system.

New Federal Regulations Regarding LATCH Weight Limits – What Parents Need to Know

We’ve been waiting for clarification of this final ruling for an entire year and we’re just getting details this week – days shy of the Feb 27, 2014, implementation date. Many CPS Technicians and advocates have been aware that these changes were coming but we were also aware that there were petitions pending so we were all waiting for the final word from NHTSA. There was much speculation that implementation of these changes would be delayed or that NHTSA would increase the weight limits, but none of those things happened.

So… in a nut shell, here is what parents and caregivers need to know:

There are two changes to federal safety standards going into effect this week that will affect some carseats manufacturered on or after Feb 27, 2014. First is a new label requirement. While that doesn’t sound like a big deal – it actually is. NHTSA has ruled that carseats with a 5-point harness should not be installed using the lower LATCH anchors if the combined weight of your child and the carseat exceeds 65 lbs. In these cases, you should discontinue using the lower anchors in your vehicle to install your carseat and switch to a seatbelt installation instead when your child reaches a certain weight. The label will tell you at what point you should make that switch.

The concern is that the lower LATCH anchors in your vehicle may not be strong enough to restrain a very heavy child in a very heavy carseat under severe crash loads. It makes sense – mass is mass regardless of whether it’s the mass of the child or the mass of the carseat. Both are going to exert forces on the lower LATCH anchor bars when they are loaded in a crash.

If your carseat was manufactured before Feb 27, 2014 and the 5-pt harness has a weight limit of more than 40 lbs. please check your carseat instruction manual for guidance on LATCH weight limits. There may or may not be limits listed  - Dorel and Evenflo don’t generally list LATCH weight limits but Graco and Britax do. Also check this link to find out if your vehicle manufacturer has LATCH weight limits

Since parents probably don’t know how much their carseat weighs, going forward NHTSA is going to require the carseat manufacturers to “do the math” for you if there is any chance that the combined total of kid weight and carseat weight may be more than 65 lbs. Many carseat manufacturers are already listing LATCH weight limits on their seats with high harness weight limits.  Pictured below is the current Chicco NextFit label. The NextFit is rated up to 65 lbs in the forward-facing position but it weighs almost 25 lbs. Therefore according to the NextFit instructions you must switch to a seatbelt installation (plus tether) once your child reaches 40 lbs.

Not all carseats will have LATCH weight limits but it will be the responsibility of the carseat manufacturer to list one if necessary. For example, Graco knows exactly how much each of their carseats weigh and they know the maximum weight limits on the 5-point harness for each of their seats too.

  • The Graco ComfortSport harness is only rated to 40 lbs. and the seat itself definitely doesn’t weigh more than 25 lbs. so the new label requirement doesn’t apply to this seat. You can use LATCH (rear-facing or forward-facing) to the weight limits of a ComfortSport without concern.
  • The Graco Classic Ride is rated up to 50 lbs. with the harness but the seat itself weighs less than 15 lbs. so once again – the new label requirement doesn’t apply here and you can use LATCH (rear-facing or forward-facing) to the weight limits of a Classic Ride.
  •  A bigger, heavier seat like the Graco Nautilus will require this new label that tells parents when to switch to a seatbelt installation. The 5-point harness on the Nautilus is rated up to 65 lbs. and the seat itself  weighs about 20 lbs. so the label will probably tell you to discontinue installation with the lower LATCH anchors and switch to installation with seatbelt (plus tether) once your child weighs 45 lbs.

It’s up to you to keep track of how much your child weighs and to make the switch to seatbelt plus tether once your child exceeds the listed LATCH weight limit. It’s important to point out that this new requirement addresses weight limits for the lower anchors in your vehicle but does NOT impose a weight limit on the tether anchor. This is important because we always want you to use the tether if a carseat is installed forward-facing in a seating position that has a designated tether anchor.


Currently there are no infant (rear-facing only) carseats that are so heavy that they could exceed the new 65 lbs. combined LATCH weight limits.  So if you have a kid in a rear-facing only infant seat – don’t worry about these new limits.

However, there are a few exceptionally heavy convertible seats that also have high rear-facing weight limits and consumers who buy these seats (manufactured after 2/27/14) will find labels and instructions telling them what the LATCH weight limits are for rear-facing (and separately for forward-facing). Convertible seats that will be required to have rear-facing lower anchor weight limits will include Diono convertibles, Graco Smart Seat & Clek Foonf.  In some cases the rear-facing LATCH weight limit could be as low as 25 or 30 lbs. child weight.

The second change to federal safety standards that is also being implemented this week involves testing with the new 10 year old Hybrid III dummy. This dummy weighs about 78 lbs. and is 51″ tall. Any carseat manufactured after Feb 27, 2014 that has a 5-point harness rated beyond 65 lbs. will be required to fit this 10 yr old dummy and also be required to pass certain crash test performance standards using this dummy. Since the 10-yr-old dummy is huge – it won’t fit in most convertible seats, which is why you’ll see many carseat manufacturers backtracking on the maximum weight limits of their convertibles and some higher-weight combination seats too. Seats that may have been rated to 70 lbs. or higher in the past may now have a weight limit of 65 lbs. Some manufacturers have already backtracked to 65 lbs., others will be doing so shortly as the new requirements are phased in this week.

The Britax Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 will retain their 90 lb. harness weight limits as those seats are already tested with the 10 yr old dummy. We know Graco is working on a new Argos 80 (we reported on it from ABC) which will be taller than the current Argos 70 combination seat and will be reinforced to pass testing with the new dummy. When we have more details about other higher-weight harness combination seats, we will share them here.

10 year old Hybrid III dummy


Top Tether Limits for Carseats

It’s crazy.  The “secret list” parents must consult to determine whether or not the top-tether component of the LATCH system can be used for an older child.  Apparently, some automakers are unsure of the strength of their hardware, so they adopted unpublished weight limits.  Other companies expect parents to know the exact weight of their child seat, and then subtract it from 65 to determine the weight limit for the child.  Simple, huh? Is that a child with 10 pounds of winter clothes or no clothes?

To work around the confusion, some advocacy organizations had suggested that unless both carseat and vehicle owners manuals clearly specified a higher limit, parents should be instructed to use a very low 40 pound limit.   Of course, there was nothing in most vehicle owner’s manuals to support this, causing some to wonder why we are trying to fear parents away from using top tethers!  What to tell a parent who bought a $300 carseat with a 5-point harness system rated to 80 pounds?  ”Sorry, ma’am, you can’t use that critical safety feature past 40 pounds for your taller child who needs the tether the most.  And I really can’t tell you why, but I’ve heard the company that made your car might have said so.

Fortunately, some auto makers have been willing to go farther!  Many now allow use of the top tether, an important safety feature, up to the maximum weight limit specified by the child restraint manufacturer.  For example, Volkswagen recently adopted this guidance, making it much simpler for parents.  The fact is that many parents don’t use the tether as it is, and those who do rarely realized that there were obscure limits for their use.  No wonder why!

NextFit tethered

Why are some auto makers causing parents to doubt the strength of these anchors and why are they making it so confusing?  We don’t know, but we do extend our appreciation to the following manufacturers who have adopted a more common sense approach and make it simpler for parents!  These car makers defer to the child restraint manufacturer instructions for top-tether weight limits when used with a seatbelt for installation:

Chrysler *
Dodge *
Jeep *
Lnd Rover
Mercedes Benz
Ram *

Weight limits for use of the lower anchor component of LATCH vary considerably. Please consult your owners manual(s) for official guidance.

* Select models only. The National Child Passenger Safety Board now has a complete list on their website.

Source: National Child Passenger Safety Board and Safe Ride News LATCH Manual.

2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid Video Review: Kids, Carseats & Safety

2013 & 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid Video Review:  Kids, Carseats & Safety

Don’t want a big minivan or midsize SUV that is lucky to get 20 mpg around town under ideal conditions?  Looking for something less expensive with great fuel economy that can still fit three kids in back?  Also want this vehicle to have good crash test results and the latest advanced safety features available?  It’s the 2013-2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid!  A fuel efficient, safe family sedan that also gives you the warm, “green” fuzzies.



As a midsize sedan, the second row seat is comparable in legroom and width to a typical midsize SUV.    A few minor compatibility issues: non-removable head restraints, very short and rigid buckle stalks, recessed LATCH anchors and some seatbelt crossover for the middle seat.  All relatively minor, so most carseats should install well.


Parking Faux Pas

photo[1]A couple times now, I’ve mentioned that I’m not very good at parking. That might be an understatement. I’m really bad at it.

Regular parking spaces, angled parking spaces, parallel parking, even spaces that simply require me to pull straight ahead…I always wind up lopsided or over the lines. I’m a great driver, but when it comes to low speed maneuvering, apparently I have some kind of deficiency.

But the other day, I hit a new low. Literally.

I drove into Chicago to meet someone for lunch. There were street-sweeping restrictions in the neighborhood that day, so I could only park on one half of the street, but those spaces were already taken. (I would have considered taking my chances parking on the street-sweeping side, but the couple cars over there had boots, so I figured it was better not to risk it.)

After driving around for 15 minutes, I finally saw a space. It was along a curb, with a car in front and an alley in back, so I had room to pull in without needing to parallel park. Perfect! I pulled up and realised I was hanging slightly into the bike lane, so I backed up and turned closer to the curb a bit, then pulled forward…and heard a terrible scraping sound and realized I was stuck.

I tried backing up, but it wouldn’t go. I tried inching forward, but it wouldn’t go. I thought if I could rev it hard, I could make it, but of course there was a car in front of me.

I got out and surveyed the scene. On a normal curb, my tire would have bumped, but this was a really really tall curb, and my wheels were jammed. Panic set in as I tried to figure out how I’d get home and how we would unstick the car.

I got back in and tried a few more times. I realized that by turning the steering wheel lightly, I could move a fraction of an inch in either direction. So I sat there, slowly rocking my car out of the space and praying that no one was filming it for YouTube. At one point, I noticed a AAA tow truck emerging from the alley behind me and was about to flag it down, but it turned the other way. I continued to maneuver the car inch by inch until I had finally freed myself.

I texted my husband to tell him I ruined our hubcaps. He wrote back, “We don’t have hubcaps.”

I said, “Well maybe we should. In that case, I ruined the round metal things in the middle of the tires.”

I hoped it would “just buff out,” but Hubby says no. So I broke our car, but at least it appears to be cosmetic.

Now it’s your turn. Make me feel better by sharing your traumatic parking stories.