Vehicles Archive

2015 IIHS LATCH Ease-of-Use Ratings – plenty of room for improvement


2011OdysseySecondRowLATCHIIHS just released a new Ease-of-Use rating for parents to consider before buying a new vehicle: the LATCH ratings for location and use of hardware in vehicles. These ratings for 2015 vehicles—ranging from Good, Acceptable, Marginal, and Poor—measure ease-of-use only and are not considered safety ratings. In their search for ideal access to LATCH, the IIHS researchers only found 3 out of 100 vehicles made their cut for a top rating! The 2015 BMW X5, Mercedes Benz GL-Class, and Volkswagen Passat win for being most LATCH-friendly. Most notably, the Toyota Sienna minivan, built specifically for families, fetched a Poor rating (see rating example pic below).

IIHS latch rating details - sienna

LATCH is a familiar term for parents and caregivers who must deal with child restraints. LATCH_sketchWhat is it? Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren consists of connectors on the carseat that attach to anchors in the vehicle and is an alternative to using the seat belt for installing the carseat. Most carseats have a strap with connectors that either clip or snap onto the connectors, which are found in the vehicle’s seat bight (fancy term for “crack”). The top tether strap is found on convertible and combination carseats. These are carseats that can face forward and the tether secures the top of the carseat to the vehicle; it greatly reduces head excursion, or how far forward your child’s head comes out of the carseat in a crash. Note: the tether is generally only used when the carseat is forward-facing although there are some exceptions. Tethers are awesome for forward-facing kids, and should always be used regardless of whether the carseat is installed with lower anchors or the seat belt!

Graco Argos 80 Elite Tethered Pria 85 tethered in Subaru Britax Blvd CT Tethered

LATCH has been around for a long time: lower anchors were required hardware in vehicles since 2002. Top tethers have been required in vehicles since 2000. Some earlier vehicles have anchors in them because the manufacturers were that good. When it’s available and parents know what it is, LATCH makes installation easier and parents usually get it right. There’s still room for error, but it’s basically click, click pull tight. However, parents have to be able to find the lower anchors and top tethers and be able to easily attach the connectors before they can tighten the straps. If the lower anchors are positioned too deeply in the bight or at an angle where they’re hard to access with certain styles of connectors, this easy system becomes difficult quickly. It’s important to note that LATCH isn’t considered safer than the vehicle seat belt for installation.

rigid LATCH connector

Rigid lower anchor connector

hook on LATCH connector

Basic hook lower anchor connector

non-handed push-on LATCH connector

push-on lower anchor connector

IIHS researchers used tools to measure the depth of the anchors in the vehicle seat bight and the clearance angle. They also measured how far in from the edge of the bight they are found. Top tether anchors were rated on their locations as well. The goal is to have LATCH anchors that are easy to find right away because they’re clearly labeled and easily accessed. Vehicles receive a Good rating if they have the following:

  • The lower anchors are no more than 3/4 inch deep in the seat bight.
  • The lower anchors are easy to maneuver around. This is defined as having a clearance angle greater than 54 degrees.
  • The force required to attach a standardized tool to the lower anchors is less than 40 pounds. (The tool represents a lower connector of a child seat, though the actual force required when installing a seat varies depending on the specific connector.)
  • Tether anchors are on the vehicle’s rear deck or on the top 85 percent of the seatback. They shouldn’t be at the very bottom of the seatback, under the seat, on the ceiling or on the floor.
  • The area where the tether anchor is found doesn’t have any other hardware that could be confused for the tether anchor. If other hardware is present, then the tether anchor must have a clear label located within 3 inches of it.

Because these are ease-of-use ratings, the IIHS LATCH ratings are NOT safety ratings and do NOT mean you should stop using LATCH for carseat installation. Your back seat may be differently designed than the 2015 models that they tested and as long as you can get the connectors on the anchors, you’re golden. It’s the battle to get them on that IIHS is measuring, not if they stay there. One thing you do need to remember is that there are weight limits for lower LATCH achors that vary from carseat to carseat.

What Can You Do As A Consumer?

Be *that* customer. Be informed. Ask to read the vehicle owner’s manual—make the salesperson work for their commission. The owner’s manual will tell you exactly how many LATCH locations there are and where the tethers are located (look under Child Restraints or LATCH). It will also give you any special directions for using the top tether. A Marginal or Poor LATCH rating shouldn’t preclude you from purchasing a vehicle because you can always use the seat belt to install a carseat. Sometimes knowing a trick or two, like folding the vehicle seat forward a tad to access the lower anchors, can make things easier. It just shows that you have to take more than leather seats and cup holders into consideration when choosing a new vehicle for your family.

MDX 3rd row tether

3rd row tether anchor in Acura MDX

2015 Kia Sedona Minivan Video Review: Kids, Carseats & Safety


2015-2016 Kia Sedona Minivan Review

2015KiaSedonaThe all-new Sedona is a big improvement for Kia’s new “Multi-Purpose Vehicle.”  It’s arguably the sharpest looking minivan on the market with a tastefully upgraded interior and exterior.  It is also more flexible for families than before.  For example, all trim levels offer three full LATCH seating positions, two in the 2nd row captain’s chairs and a third on the passenger side of the back row.  The third row center seat has a 4th top-tether location as well.  The Slide-N-Stow feature in the 8-passenger trim offers the easiest 3rd row door access in any minivan.  There’s a lot to like with the new Sedona, but does it stack up to the family favorite, Honda Odyssey?

Let’s start with some basic information and features. Please note that since this video was made, the NHTSA awarded the 2015 Sedona a 5-star overall safety rating.  The IIHS updated its ratings methods for 2015, requiring an auto-brake front crash prevention system for its 2015 Top Safety Pick “Plus” award.  The new Sedona did very well in all the IIHS crash tests but did not earn the “Plus” award, since it lacks such a front crash prevention system.  Visibility is decent, with a standard rear-view camera on all but the lowest trim level.  SX versions get the nicer Surround view monitor.  Our Sedona also came with the accessory tablet holder is a handy feature, but it protrudes and is very hard so it seems like a potential risk to a child in a frontal crash.

In Part II of the video, we discuss some of the aspects of the second row in the 8-passenger trim as well as the third row that is common to both 7- and 8-passenger models.  In the 8-passenger trim, the second row should fit various 3-across carseat configurations, as the middle seat is wide enough for some carseats.  Since there is no LATCH or tether in the middle, that seat is best suited for a booster seat or a seatbelt installation of a narrow, rear-facing carseat.  The seat cushion and seat back side bolsters may affect placement of wider carseats in the second row.  In the third row, the middle seat is quite narrow and 3-across will be a challenge, but might be possible with a selection of very narrow carseats/boosters.

Photo Gallery:

A Maxi-Cosi RodiFix booster and a Britax Frontier 90 combination seat (below, left) work well in the 7-passenger lounge captain’s chairs.  A Graco 4Ever carseat fits in the third row.

Review: Big Fun! The 2015 Chevy Suburban: Kids, Carseats & Safety


suburban stockUsually I jump at the chance to do car reviews. I hesitated about the Suburban, though. For one thing, it’s so big. I’m already afraid of bumping into things with my minivan, and the Suburban is longer by almost two feet, not to mention generally more imposing. My real hesitation, though, was because of my husband. He wants a Suburban so badly, I worried that he’d fall in love with it and then sink into a depression once it was time to let it go.

But duty calls.

Our full review (including car seat compatibility!) follows, but if you want a quick video overview of some features, you can watch here:


burb side viewThe 2015 Chevy Suburban is a behemoth—tons of room for passengers and cargo, tons of power for towing. But it has been redesigned to feel more like a luxury car, with a sleeker exterior and plush interior. It’s also available with an astounding array of safety features, plus lots of convenience features, too.

The model I had was a fully loaded LTZ 4-wheel drive version. Mine was a 7-passenger model, with captain’s chairs in the first and second rows, and a three-seat 60/40 bench in the third row. Depending on trim level, the Suburban is also available in an 8-passenger (two benches) and 9-passenger (bench in all three rows) version. We’ll discuss what that means for car seats later.

For comfort and convenience, the LTZ comes standard with leather seats, power-adjustable front seats with two programmable memory settings, heated and cooled front-row seats, heated second-row seats, power-adjust pedals and steering wheel, automatic folding second- and third-row seats, a heated steering wheel, push-button ignition, keyless entry, and remote start. That was enough to make me want to kiss my current vehicles good-bye.

Additional options include automatic retractable running boards, sunroof, navigation, two rear-entertainment screens, and adaptive cruise control.

But it’s the safety features that really win out. There are side-impact and head curtain airbags for all three rows, plus frontal airbags for the front seat AND an inboard seat-mounted airbag for the driver. That means that an airbag deploys in the center of the front seat to better protect in side-impacts. Other safety features standard on the LTZ model are:

  • Forward Collision Alert 
  • Lane Departure Warning 
  • Lane Change Alert
  • Backup camera with distance indicators and Parking Assist (Parking Assist is also available for the front of the car)
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert

Mine also included Adaptive Cruise Control (more on this shortly), which meant it also had the Active Emergency Braking System and Automatic Collision Preparation System, meaning that the vehicle could brake automatically if it senses an imminent collision, to either avoid a crash or reduce the impact.

The IIHS has not crash tested the suburban but the 2015 model received average results in NHTSA crash testing.  It earned a 4-star rating overall.  While it earned 5-stars in the Driver and rear seat Passenger Side Barrier Ratings, it earned 4 out of 5 stars in both frontal brarrier crash ratings and also the Side Pole crash test rating.  It received only a 3-star rollover rating.  These safety ratings fall shy of minivan competition from the Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona and Toyota Sienna.

Fuel economy isn’t going to be great on the Suburban. It averages 18 mpg (15 city, 22 highway), with the 2-wheel drive version getting one additional MPG.


So how was driving it?