Will Skinny be back in 2015? A Plea to Manufacturers.

Britax-StarRiserComfySkinny is back in demand – that is, if you’re a carseat or booster. Unfortunately, skinny is also hard to come by these days and that’s a real problem. In a time when Americans are downsizing their vehicles in droves –  increased laws and awareness are keeping more and more kids in carseats and boosters longer. The combination of these two factors is creating a real space problem.

We need more seats that can fit in narrow seating positions and in those tricky 3-across situations. Manufacturers really need to work to address this issue because if I see one more parent without armrests on their Turbo booster because they’re trying to make it fit next to another carseat – I’m going to lose my mind!

Here are some suggestions for all CR manufacturers. Work on designing new, narrow seats, or even booster seats that are width-adjustable like some of the old Britax boosters and pay particular attention to how your various models fit/puzzle/mesh next to each other.  

For those parents and caregivers who can’t wait for future seats – the brand new Cosco Scenera NEXT is a neat little convertible that is going to work in a lot of tight situations. But it’s small and really meant for infants and toddlers. The Evenflo Tribute convertible can be a saving grace in many 3-across scenarios too but again, it’s not that big and many kids will outgrow it by height before hitting 40 lbs. The Radian models have built a reputation on being narrow and working well in a lot of 3-across scenarios but they have their quirks and incompatibility issues in some cases. I’ve seen the Harmony Defender forward-facing combination seat recommended for people looking for a slim seat but not everyone wants a carseat that has to be assembled like IKEA furniture. The Clek Foonf and Clek Fllo are narrow convertibles too but they’re pricey and out of reach for many families on a budget.

In the last decade the industry has been very focused on bigger and wider. No doubt this is due to the fact that American kids are getting bigger and wider, not to mention they’re staying in carseats and boosters for much longer than in the past. Plus, there has been a strong, steady demand for higher-weight carseats and boosters that can accommodate bigger/older children. This is all well and good – but you can’t focus exclusively on bigger and wider because if the bigger seats don’t fit in smaller vehicles – then what?

What do you think happens when a family of 5 trades in their Tahoe for an Accord? And what happens at a check event when a car pulls in with 3 kids in the back of an old Corolla and all 3 need to be in seats? My CPS program stocks Evenflo Tributes, institutional models of the Maestro and Harmony Youth Boosters but sometimes it’s not enough and parents are forced to make those “tough choices”.  Do you put a kid up front? Let the oldest ride without a booster in back even though he clearly still needs one? This is reality. This is what we have to deal with at check events just because we no longer have those really narrow affordable options like Cosco Tourivas and Graco Cargos and Evenflo RightFit backless boosters.

Manufacturers, you can help those of us in the trenches (and those who are personally in these predicaments) by meeting these challenges and making more 3-across-and-small-vehicle-friendly seats. We also desperately need more affordable options for our CPS programs that work in these tight situations and are made in USA so we can actually buy them with our grant funding! I know we can’t fix or solve every incompatibility that we encounter but this particular problem seems to have some possible solutions that are realistic and within reach. I hope you’ll agree.


Happy 2015!

15 Happy New Year

Safest 2015 5-passenger SUVs for Families: Part II

Safest Family SUVs for 2015

In Part I, we awarded the safest 3-row vehicles.  In this part, we will look at 5-passenger SUVs for families who don’t need a 3rd row of seating for one reason or another.

As with the larger vehicles, we have the same basic requirements to trim the long list of very safe vehicles to a select few that stand out from the pack:

  • Must be an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ for 2014 or 2015
  • Must have an NHTSA 5-star overall rating
  • Must not have any individual NHTSA crash test results of 3-stars or less

All five finalists are among the safest vehicles on the road and meet the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ criteria for both 2014 and 2015 (with optional equipment packages).

  1. 2014-2015 Mercedes Benz M-Class
  2. 2014-2015 Volvo XC60
  3. 2015 Subaru Outback (all new)
  4. 2014-2015 Mazda CX-5
  5. 2014-2015 Subaru Forester

Safest SUV for 2015:

2015 Subaru Outback.  Some may argue that this is not a true SUV, but rather a glorfied station wagon version of the Legacy sedan we reviewed, and that is a reasonable debate. Even so, the EPA puts the Outback in the same vehicle class as the XC60 with similar size and specs.  You certainly can’t argue with Outback’s luxury-class safety at a reasonable price.

Subaru is to be commended for offering a full set of advanced safety features on a lower trim level model. Notably, the EyeSight system that earns the Top Safety Pick+ award also received the highest possible “Superior” rating by the IIHS in their front crash prevention rating and is one of only a few vehicles to actually prevent a collision altogether in both of their tests.  The M-Class (with Distronic Plus in the Driver Assistance Package) couldn’t quite match this, and the XC60 (with City Safety and Technology Package) only avoided a crash in one of the two tests.  What’s more impressive is that the Outback 2.5i Premium trim can be equipped with automatic transmission and the excellent EyeSight Safety System for under $30,000 MSRP.

Outback aced the IIHS crash tests with “Good” results in every test and sub-category of each test.  The Outback also received a 5-star overall rating from the NHTSA with 5-star results in all five crash test evaluations and a 4-star rollover rating.  Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and a backup camera are standard on all trim levels.  Plus, you get their excellent AWD system standard and very reasonable fuel economy at 25 city, 33 highway on regular gas.  Not bad for a 3,500 pound SUV with all-wheel-drive standard!

Runners Up:

The Mercedes M-Class and Volvo XC60 are also exceptionally safe.  “Runner-up” hardly does them justice, but we had to pick a winner somehow.  The XC60 base level trim earns a Top Safety Pick+ and an Advanced frontal crash prevention rating starting around $36,000.  To add AWD and the more advanced full autobrake system to compete with Subaru’s Eyesight, you must step up to the Premier trim with Technology Package, bumping the price up to $43,000.   Meanwhile, the ML350 and ML250 BlueTEC start at a whopping $48,000 with only a basic frontal crash prevention rating to earn the Top Safety Pick+ award.  Sadly, to match the lowly Outback for AWD and an advanced autobrake system, you must add the 4Matic and Driver Assistance Packages, forcing you to also add the Premium 1 Package and bumping the cost to a whopping $58,000, almost twice as much as the Outback:-(


While the Subaru Forester and Mazda CX-5 are technically compact vehicles, making them the smallest of the group, they still offer excellent crash safety and accident avoidance features at more reasonable prices.  The Forester can be equipped with the top rated EyeSight system for under $25,000, making it the least expensive model on this list to get the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ designation.  The CX-5’s front crash prevention system is not nearly as effective as EyeSight and you must buy the Touring trim and Moonroof/Audio Package to get the Technology Package with Smart City Brake Support, driving the price to nearly $30,000 to earn a Top Safety Pick+ rating.

Together, the 2015 Subaru Outback, 2014-2015 Mazda CX-5 and 2014-2015 Subaru Forester join the 3-row 2014-2015 Mitsubishi Outlander and 2014-2015 Honda Odyssey as being a standout group of vehicles with a nice array of advanced safety features and very good safety ratings that all sell for around $30,000 or less with the necessary safety equipment.  You no longer need to buy a pricey luxury-class vehicle to keep your family as safe as possible!

Stay tuned for our Safest Family Sedans for 2015 Award!


Merry Christmas!

We wish you a Merry Christmas and that any holiday traveling you are doing is safe and worry-free!