Safest Family Minivans and SUVs for 2018 with 3rd Row Seats

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Safest Family Vehicles for 7 or 8 Passengers in 2018

Are safety and seating at least a few kids your most important considerations when selecting a new vehicle?  You aren’t alone!  SafeDad helps shorten the list of dozens of very safe 7+ passenger vehicles to just a handful of the safest for 2018.  Also, see last year’s awards for Safest 5-Passenger SUVs, Safest Family Sedans and Safest Used Cars with updates coming soon for 2018.

For 2018, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety not only requires a “Good” result in the driver-side small overlap crash test to qualify for a “Top Safety Pick+” rating, but now also requires a “Good” headlight rating as well an “Acceptable” rating in the new passenger-side small overlap crash test.  Many vehicles have not had this new test, so they may only earn a “Top Safety Pick” award in 2018.  The IIHS also demands a front crash prevention system.  These systems are not all created equal; some are only basic warnings that no longer qualify for an award, while advanced ones can actually brake in emergency situations and some are more likely to avoid a crash than lesser systems.  To earn IIHS awards, an auto-brake system with an “Advanced” or “Superior” rating is still required.  Note that even models that qualify with these systems may not actually have them available on anything but the highest trim levels with pricey options packages, so we help you sort through trim levels to find the right ones!

The NHTSA ratings remain the same, but they no longer allow consumers to see details of individual crash test results for each vehicle.  Instead, you may now only see the overall rating and a composite frontal (driver and passenger tests) and side rating (driver, passenger and rear pole impact tests).

Subaru and Honda have set a nice trend for inexpensive advanced safety feature packages available on low and mid trim levels.  This year, we again recognize Toyota for making all these features standard on all trim levels of many of their vehicles. That means even the least expensive Highlander and Sienna models now have advanced crash avoidance features in 2018, making these important improvements to safety easy to find on dealer’s lots!

Many publications use only either the NHTSA crash tests OR the IIHS ratings as the basis for their recommendations, leaving an incomplete assessment of overall safety.  Some are subjective and apply different standards based on personal preferences or corporate sponsors.  So how do we filter the list of so many family vehicles that have earned safety awards?  It’s very simple and completely objective:

What 3-row vehicles make the cut to qualify for our awards?  Due to new IIHS Top Safety Pick requirements, only 8 make the cut this year so far, down from 11 last year in this segment.  Models that lack complete NHTSA testing but may be added to this list later include the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe and Mazda CX-9.  Others may be added or removed as test results from the IIHS and NHTSA are updated, as many have not yet been tested in the new passenger-side small overlap crash test.   As a testament to how safe all these vehicles are for families, we recommend nearly all of the the 2018 qualifiers as well as those Honorable Mentions that fell a little short only in terms of the IIHS headlight ratings. The exception is the Mitsubishi Outlander, due to its relatively small size and various restrictions that make installations of multiple carseats more difficult than the others on the list.  If your vehicle is not on the list, that doesn’t mean it is unsafe!  That said, here are the finalists:

  1. 2014-2018 Acura MDX
  2. 2017-2018 Chrysler Pacifica
  3. 2018 Honda Odyssey
  4. 2016-2018 Honda Pilot
  5. 2018 Kia Sorento
  6. 2018 Lexus RX
  7. 2017-2018 Mitsubishi Outlander
  8. 2017-2018 Toyota Highlander

For our top pick, we give preference to models that have already received a “Good” result in the newer passenger side small overlap crash test, as long as they received at least an “Acceptable” headlight rating and still qualify for the standard IIHS Top Safety Pick award.

And the Safest 2018 3-row Family Vehicle is:

2018 Honda Odyssey: At the time of this publication, the 2018 Odyssey is the only one of our qualifiers to receive a “Good” IIHS Small Overlap frontal crash test result for both driver and passenger sides.  In addition, it has stellar results in all the IIHS and NHTSA crash tests.  Its long overdue “Superior” front crash prevention system avoided crashes in both IIHS tests and is STANDARD on the EX trim level and up.  The Odyssey’s only blemish is headlight coverage that kept it from an IIHS TSP “Plus” award, as it earned an “Acceptable” rating on Touring and Elite trims only.

While the EX and EX-L trims have only a “Marginal” headlight rating, they are still an impressive value for excellent safety with standard front crash prevention and top crash test results for around $34,000.  Also, in our opinion, the Magic Slide feature is very handy, and Odyssey is still the best family hauler on the market in terms of fitting multiple child safety seats.  In that regard, it’s also one of the few 3-row vehicles to earn the IIHS “G+” rating for ease of use with its LATCH car seat anchors.

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Honda’s latest recall and what you need to know about it

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2011-2017 Honda Odyssey Recall

Got an Odyssey? Then get ready for a NEW recall notice in the next month or so for model year 2011-2017 Honda Odysseys. We addressed a similar recall that was first announced in December of 2016, so be sure to update yourself on that as well if you are not aware. This upcoming recall affects the second row seats just like last year’s recall, only this time it has to do with the vehicle seat latches possibly not connecting fully when reattaching the seat or moving it from the inner most position to the neutral or outermost position. This recall does not involve the lower LATCH anchors used to attach carseats. If the vehicle seat is not latched to the car, it can tip forward during moderate to severe braking and hurt a passenger. According to NHTSA there have been 46 reported (minor) injuries.

To emphasize: If you had a already recall fix done to your Odyssey during 2017 for 2nd row seat release lever that remains unlocked, that is a DIFFERENT RECALL.  This is a NEW recall that is similar to the one from earlier in 2017.  All 2011-2017 owners will be mailed a NEW recall notice starting in late December, 2017.

Over 800,000 Odysseys from model years 2011-2017 have been recalled. Visit Honda’s website with your VIN to check if yours is affected.

What you need to know according to Honda:

-Right now there is no fix available and Honda is currently working toward a resolution.

-Mailed notifications will be sent by Honda to owners in late December, 2017

-When a fix is available, Honda will notify consumers. The repair will be free of cost.

-In the meantime, Honda’s website has step by step instructions for making sure your seat is latched down properly for safe use. You can view those steps here: Instructions for Properly Installing/Positioning the Second Row Outer Seats and Confirming They Are Securely Latched.

-Honda does not recommend tipping the second row seat forward for access to the third row because it increases the chances of it not latching properly when placing it back down.

-Most dealerships are honoring a stop-sale on all Odysseys that fall within this recall and will not sell them. However keep in mind that this recall is very new and a lot of dealerships are not yet aware. So if you are in the market for a used Odyssey, keep in mind that you will not be able to purchase one from those model years from a dealer until the fix is issued. If your local dealer is selling them, know that any model between 2011-2017 is affected.

The second row seat may not anchor fully to the floor and tip forward during hard braking.

You can see where the latch of the seat connects to the bar on the floor. Visit Honda’s website for full instructions on how to ensure the seat is latched properly.

 

To check if your vehicle is affected, please visit Honda’s website to put in your VIN number, or call (800) 999-1009. More information should be forthcoming.

 

NHTSA Campaign Number: 17V725000

Manufacturer Honda (American Honda Motor Co.)

Components SEATS

Potential Number of Units Affected 806,936

2017 Graco Sequel 65 Convertible Carseat Review

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2017 Graco Sequel Convertible Carseat Review and Comparison to Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Carseat

The Graco Sequel 65 is a mid-priced convertible seat with easy-to-use features such as a smooth harness adjuster and an open forward-facing belt path. It’s a tall seat—great for tall kiddos—and is similar to the Graco Extend2Fit, but doesn’t have the E2F’s higher rear-facing weight limit or leg extension tray. It’s compact front to back, which makes it a great option for tight spaces.

Weight and Height Limits:
  • Rear-facing 4-40 lbs. AND child’s head is 1” below gray harness height adjustment handle
  • Forward-facing 22-65 lbs., 49″ or less, at least 1 year old*

*We recommend following the American Academy of Pediatrics minimum guidelines of rear-facing to at least age 2 before turning your child forward-facing. It’s safest to rear-face past the minimum of age 2 and with a seat that has a high rear-facing weight and height limit, why not?

 

Sequel 65 Overview:
  • 10-position headrest with no re-thread harness
  • 2 crotch strap/buckle positions
  • 6-position recline
  • Steel reinforced frame
  • EPS foam
  • Two cup holders
  • Machine-washable cover
  • FAA-approved for use on aircraft
  • 10 yr lifespan before seat expires
Sequel Measurements:

Harness height: 7”-18”
External widest point: 19.625”
Shell height with headrest: 27”
Shoulder width: 13.75”
Crotch strap depth: 3.5”, 5.5”
Seat depth: 11”
Seat weight: 16.4 lbs.

Comparing the Sequel to the Extend2Fit Convertible

UnbuckleMe Review: May the Force be with You

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We sometimes get requests from caregivers looking for easy-to-unbuckle seats. While some might be a bit easier than others, federal standards require buckles to withstand at least 9 lbs of force…or in laypersons’ terms: All buckles are sort of difficult. (Afterall, you wouldn’t want babies or toddlers to be able to accidentally unbuckle themselves.)

Buckles can be tough for caregivers in general, but especially for people with arthritis or other dexterity issues. Plus, there are times parents want older, responsible kids to be able to unbuckle on their own, but they struggle to do so.

The UnbuckleMe is a great new tool that makes it easier for caregivers (and those responsible kids) to undo carseat buckles. We first saw the UnbuckleMe in early prototype stages at the 2016 ABC Kids Expo, and we were happy to see that they had moved into production by this year’s show.

Some other unbuckling tools simply provide a larger surface area to push on, but the UnbuckleMe’s design actually reduces the amount of force needed by more than 50%.

I recently moved my 6-year-old into a booster seat because he needed to be able to get in and out of the car quickly in the school dropoff line, but he couldn’t unbuckle his harnessed seat fast enough–or at all, in some instances. The UnbuckleMe made it much easier. How easy? See for yourself:

I don’t love having him in a booster yet, so the UnbuckleMe might be the solution I need to get him back in a harness and keep traffic flowing in the dropoff line.

You can store the UnbuckleMe in a cupholder or console for easy access, or you can use the built-in loop to attach it to a keychain.

The UnbuckleMe is available from their website for $14.99, but CarseatBlog readers can use the code carseat15 for a 15% discount.

UnbuckleMe provided CarseatBlog with a sample, but we did not receive compensation for this review, and all opinions are our own.