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2019 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid/PHEV Video Review: Kids, Carseats & Safety

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The 2019 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid Vehicles are safe choices for small families on a budget.  Starting with street prices below $23,000 after incentives, the Hybrid SEL trim offers good IIHS crash test ratings and many active crash avoidance features, like automatic emergency braking.  Ioniq is also a competent driver, but doesn’t stand out in terms of handling, braking, acceleration or ride within the class.  Hybrid or Plug-in variant, fuel economy is also a big plus.  Both models provide good value all around, with the major disadvantage being that base trim levels don’t offer automatic emergency braking like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight.

Like the Prius, Insight and any compact car or SUV, there are compromises when it comes to installing carseats.  The middle seat is not very carseat friendly, with a narrow width and longish buckle stalks that can make it challenging to use a carseat or booster there. Pre-teens and small teens would be the most likely candidates for the center seat, as there is also a small floor hump that may reduce the limited legroom even further.  Fortunately, the outboard seats should work fine with most carseats and boosters.  The head restraints are all adjustable/removable and there is minimal crossover of seatbelts and LATCH anchors.

With the narrow width and center seat issues, installing adjacent or three-across carseats will be very difficult.  Like the Toyota Prius, legroom is limited and a rear-facing carseat is likely to require the front seat to be moved forward somewhat.  With the center seat hump and lower head restraint, taller occupants may not get adequate head support in the middle seat.

 

Likes:

  • Good IIHS crash test results, Top Safety Pick Award on Limited/Ultimate trim
  • SEL trim great value with standard crash avoidance features
  • Reasonably priced plug-in model gets ~25 miles all electric
  • Once charge is down, you still get over 50 mpg in PHEV hybrid mode
  • PHEV model has good cargo space compared to Prius Prime
  • Hybrid version gets 55+ mpg combined EPA rating
  • Dash is well designed with nicely integrated display
  • Infotainment and displays are intuitive to use with nice knobs
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard on all trims
  • Floor mounted shifter instead of buttons or joystick on dash
  • Excellent warranty, 5/60 everything, 10/100 powertrain, lifetime hybrid battery failure
  • Driver 10-way power seat with lumbar adjustment and memory on Limited trim
  • Ventilated seat option on Limited+Ultimate trim is unusual in compact economy car segment

 

Dislikes:

  • No NHTSA crash test ratings (as of 6/2019)
  • Center rear seat is narrow and may not work with some carseats
  • Base PHEV and Hybrid Blue trims do not have standard active crash avoidance features
  • Base/SEL cloth seat material feels cheap with a very dated pattern
  • Marginal/Poor headlights on all trims except Limited with Ultimate Package
  • Ride comfort and noise levels are not as good as the competition
  • 6-speed transmission is efficient, but dual-clutch system sometimes suffers from delays in shifting

 

Conclusion:

The 2019 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid and PHEV are targeted squarely at the Toyota Prius and Prius Prime, but usually sell for much less.  We recommend the Hybrid SEL trim that is a great value for safety at under $25,000 MSRP with street prices that are usually a thousand or two lower than the Prius LE, depending on incentives.  Unfortunately, on the Plug-in model, you are forced to upgrade to the PHEV Limited trim to get automatic emergency braking, making it somewhat less of a value in terms of safety.  While it doesn’t stand out as special in any area, it’s a very competent compact car overall with great fuel economy and an excellent warranty package.

 

Thank you to Hyundai USA and DriveShop for the loan of the 2019 Hyundai Ioniq PHEV Limited used in this review.  No other compensation was provided, and all opinions are my own.

LATCH Is Getting Easier to Use: 2019 IIHS Vehicle LATCH Ratings

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We all know that many carseats are difficult to use, even for those who take on the daunting task of reading the manual first. Manufacturers do make advances over the years with new and improved designs that make carseats easier to install and use. One such innovation is LATCH, Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren, which has now been around for almost 20 years.

Original designs on both carseats and vehicles made LATCH difficult to install, and often even more difficult to uninstall. In particular, automobile manufacturers often did little to improve the location and visibility of their lower anchors and top tethers. Deeply hidden and angled lower anchors were common, and top tether anchors were sometimes too close, too far or extended to odd placements in the roof of an SUV or wagon.

  

In 2015, the IIHS added a rating system for LATCH to their automobile safety evaluations.  This simple addition has provided motivation for automakers to improve their designs.  According to the 2019 LATCH Ratings from IIHS:

Nearly three-quarters of 2019 vehicles have LATCH hardware that rates good or acceptable for ease of use, as automakers continue making improvements that help parents and caregivers properly install child restraints.

The results mark a shift from 2015, when IIHS launched its LATCH ease-of-use ratings. At that time, a majority of new vehicles rated poor or marginal.

Today, 21 vehicles earn the top rating of good+, 33 are rated good, and 88 rate acceptable. Forty-nine vehicles are marginal, and only four earn a poor rating. Among automakers, Toyota and Subaru are standouts for LATCH ease of use, while U.S. automakers lag behind. Installation in pickups remains tricky, compared with other types of vehicles.

We applaud the IIHS and automobile companies for improving the state of LATCH to make carseats easier to install!

Photo Credit: IIHS

For the technically inclined, in the IIHS rating system, LATCH hardware is rated “Good” if it meets the following criteria:

  • The lower anchors are no more than ¾ inch deep within the seat bight — the place where the seatback meets the bottom seat cushion — or slightly deeper if there is open access around them.
  • 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 representing a child seat connector to the lower anchors is less than 40 pounds.
  • Tether anchors are on the vehicle’s rear deck or in the middle 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.

To earn a Good rating, two LATCH positions in the second row must meet all five criteria, and a third tether anchor must meet both tether criteria.

The Good+ rating is for vehicles that meet the criteria for a good rating and provide additional LATCH-equipped seating positions! For a two-row vehicle, that means having a 3rd Good or Acceptable LATCH seating position. The third position may use either dedicated anchors or anchors borrowed from other positions. In many vehicles that have lower anchors in the second-row outboard seating positions, LATCH can be used in the center position by “borrowing” one anchor from each side. Some vehicles have one dedicated anchor for the center seat and rely on a borrowed anchor for the other side.

Good+ Rating for 2018-19 Subaru Legacy

For a three-row vehicle to earn a Good+ rating, it must have one additional good or acceptable LATCH position (without borrowing) and tether anchors in ALL rear seating positions! The additional tether anchors must meet at least one of the two tether anchor criteria. If the vehicle has a second-row center seating position, it must have good or acceptable LATCH there (with or without borrowing).

Unfortunately, pickup trucks continue to be problematic. Currently, there are no pickups that earn a good rating. Only a few pickups earn an acceptable rating, and most are rated marginal. The problem is the tether anchors. In most pickups, the carseat’s tether strap must be routed through a loop behind the head restraint and then attached to another loop or anchor, typically in an adjacent seating position. It’s VERY confusing!

Tethering single carseat in Ram 1500 Crew Cab

“When we’ve done studies observing people installing child restraints, we’ve seen that the tether anchors in pickups are a real point of confusion,” Jermakian says. “We’re continuing to work with manufacturers to come up with solutions to this issue.”

Here at CarseatBlog, we would welcome any improvement to the current tether strap routing systems in most pickup trucks. There HAS to be a better way to overcome the challenge of creating more distance between the top of the carseat and the tether anchor attachment point in the vehicle. In the meantime, we do applaud Toyota for adding a diagram to the loop of webbing, so at least it draws attention to itself and provides a clue that it’s supposed to be used for something!

Tether loop in 2017 Toyota Tundra

 

2019 Toyota RAV4 Review: Kids, Carseats & Safety

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2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Gets Rugged Looks with More Green Cred

The 2019 Toyota RAV4 is an all-new update to the very popular outgoing model that was the #4 best-selling vehicle in the USA, behind the full-size Chevy, Ford and Dodge pickup trucks.  Gone is the cute, stylish exterior that is so common in the compact utility market.  Thankfully, rather than go with the “gaping maw” design of other Toyota and Lexus vehicles, the RAV4 instead has a take on the off-road capable 4WD 4Runner.  Though the emphasis with the RAV4 Hybrid is fuel economy rather than off-road prowess, it still looks more rugged than before, especially in the exclusive XSE trim with blue accents along with a black roof, trim and wheels.

In terms of crash avoidance, the RAV4 has all the essentials standard.  Toyota has been the leader including systems like automatic emergency braking on even the lowest trim levels of almost every model.  Some other brands still only include these features on top trim levels and then make you buy a pricey technology package on top of that, making them expensive if you can even find them on dealer’s lots.  Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are optional on the base LE trim, but standard on other trims.  Have a problem on the road?  Toyota’s Entune 3.0 includes a 3-year subscription to Safety Connect on all trims, allowing for calls for emergencies, roadside assistance and automatic crash notification in case of airbag deployment.

As for crashworthiness, the RAV4 AWD did quite well.  It aced every crash test from the IIHS, with “Good” overall and Good sub-category results in each one, including the newer passenger-side small overlap crash test.  Its forward collision warning and autobrake system earned the top “Superior” rating.  The only blemish is a “Marginal” headlight rating, mainly due to inadequate illumination in gradual curves.  Unfortunately, this kept it from receiving a “Top Safety Pick” award, which is a shame given its excellent performance in all the actual crash tests and front crash avoidance system evaluation.  RAV4 Hybrid received a 5-star overall rating in the NHTSA safety evaluation.  The 4-star frontal crash test driver-side rating was the only blemish there.

In terms of carseats, the second row is a big improvement from the previous RAV4.  There is now minimal “crossover” of seatbelts that often prevented the middle and outboard seats from being used simultaneously for adjacent or “3-across” car seats.  The middle seat is still relatively narrow, but just wide enough to fit a narrow car seat like a Britax Emblem, Clek Fllo, BubbleBum or Harmony Youth Booster.  The seatbelt anchor for the center seat is just behind the buckle stalk of the passenger side seat, so it is technically possible to install adjacent seats if you can find two that will fit properly next to each other.

Passenger Side Seatbelt Arrangement

Getting three carseats in the back will be possible, but also challenging compared to a midsize or larger vehicle.  The LATCH anchors are readily accessible, and Toyota does allow “borrowing” in this vehicle of the innermost anchors from the outboard seats to install a child safety seat in the narrow middle seat, but only if permitted by the child seat manufacturer.  Rigid LATCH carseats are not allowed to use LATCH in the middle seat in this manner. In the RAV4, seatbelt installation is still preferred for the center seat, however, because using the LATCH anchors for the middle seat may conflict with having a car seat or passenger on either side.

2019 RAV4 Seatbelt Layout

The seatbelt buckle stalks are relatively short/flexible, and the head restraints are all removable in all three rear seats, so there are no major obstacles to good carseat installation in most situations. The seat cushion bolsters and center seat “bump” are not so pronounced to cause issues for most carseats.  Toyota does require that the vehicle seat backs for both sides must be reclined to the same setting when installing a car seat in the middle seat.  The only real challenge will be finding carseats that fit the narrow middle seating position to allow for installation of adjacent or three-across carseats.  For example, a narrow booster can be used in the center, like a BubbleBum shown below between a Graco Nautilus SnugLock and Britax Emblem.  While it fits, the narrow middle seat may make it difficult for a younger booster rider to buckle themselves.

2019 Toyota RAV4 3-Across Carseats

2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e Quick Review: Kids, Carseats & Safety

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2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e Offers Traction on Slippery Roads with Amazing Fuel Economy

Quick Look:

Fundamentally unchanged since the 2016 model was introduced, the 2019 Toyota Prius receives a minor refresh this year.  The front and rear styling is updated somewhat and perhaps not quite as futuristic as before.  That may be good news for those who don’t care for the new Corolla Hybrid’s styling.  There is a new AWD version, notable with its standard fog lights, two tone wheel covers and AWD badge on the rear hatch.  The interior is basically unchanged from 2018.

  

The AWD system brings with it a new Nickel Metal Hydride battery that Toyota claims will perform better in cold climates.  The rear axle has a separate electric motor that kicks in at low speeds only.  There’s only 7 hp in the back, so just enough to help with grip on slippery roads.  There is no off-road capability here.  I did not have the opportunity to test the AWD system in snow, but it performed admirably in heavy rain and standing water.  That small rear motor is always working up to 6 mph in all conditions, but only when necessary beyond that until 43 mph.  Overall performance is otherwise similar to the FWD trims.

There’s barely a fuel economy penalty, as the AWD model is rated at 50 mpg combined vs. 52 mpg combined for the same trim in the FWD version.  That’s only the equivalent of less than one extra tankful of 11.3 gallons each year for someone who drives 12,000 miles annually.  I obtained a very respectable 64 mpg for over 200 miles around suburban Chicago.  Of course, I do not expect those kinds of results year round, particularly in winter when cold temps and use of the heater reduce fuel economy considerably.  The only real drawback seems to be the premium of $1400 on the LE trim or $1000 on XLE models.

As for car seats, like any small car, it has some challenges. There’s limited room in back, so an infant or rear-facing only carseat will likely reduce front seat legroom, as is the case in almost every compact sedan and utility vehicle.  Also common among small cars, the center seat is quite narrow, and it will be difficult to find a car seat that fits there.  In the Prius, the middle spot is likely only usable by a slender teen or pre-teen; many carseats will simply not work with the narrow seatbelt system attachments there.  Three across carseats will be a major challenge, as I could not find a combination that worked well, though it may be possible.

Fortunately, I had no issues fitting two carseats in the outboard seating positions.