Modern cars offer an incredible selection of equipment and features for maximising passenger comfort and safety, but a vehicle’s smallest human occupants can present the biggest set of challenges when it comes to choosing the right car.
In exactly the same way a household needs adapting for the family’s newest arrival, your car also needs careful consideration to make sure babies are looked after on the road was well as they can be anywhere else.
Here are some features to consider when bearing your smallest passengers in mind.
Infants up to six months old need to be transported in a special rear-facing capsule regardless of the vehicle they are traveling in. Selecting the make and model of capsule is a broad matter that should be independently considered, but the vehicle that the seat is to be installed in requires just as much thought.
Somewhere between 70 and 80 percent of all child and baby seats are installed incorrectly but one feature that can simplify the process and reduce the chance of poor fitting are Isofix anchor points. The solid connection points are built into the vehicle and allow a compatible seat to be simply clipped in. Isofix seats also require a top-tether for maximum safety so make sure a car has these too. If buying a seven-seat SUV check that the top-tether strap doesn’t cross the third row at head height.
Space should also be considered. For the first addition to the family, most cars will easily accommodate one seat, but what if you have one or two other young children that also need a removable seat? Make sure you measure the space required and remember to check how many Isofix-compatible positions are available in the second row.
Good air flow to the second or even third row of seats is often overlooked when choosing a car to carry babies, but your baby can’t tell you when it is feeling the heat or cold so effective ventilation is another way you can closely control the little one’s comfort.
Look for a vehicle that has rear air vents, or three or even four-zone climate control for the best temperature regulation without compromising your own comfort.
Rear window shades
Decent climate control is one feature that will help regulate your baby’s temperature but effective sun shades for the rear windows and sunroof will add to the cause as well as providing protection from the sun.
BMW’s X3 has built-in rear window shades for some variants and many brands offer the feature optionally if not standard. Also look for a substantial sunroof blind as some a thin fabric that can still let some light in.
Ease of loading
Lifting your baby in and out of the car can be made a pleasure or a chore depending on the design of the passenger compartment.
Look for seating at a level similar to your own waist height to avoid bending as you lean toward the car as well as rear doors that open with a wide aperture. Vehicles such as the Holden Equinox and Honda HR-V have rear doors that open to 90-degrees, while the sliding doors fitted to the Kia Carnival are hard to beat for accessibility.
The same applies to the boot which will make your life much simpler if it can accommodate all the extra gear you will need for looking after your baby.
Measure your pram or pusher to make sure it will fit in the boot. Features like keyless opening, gesture opening and automatic closing when you walk away are all more useful than you might imagine.
Volkswagen’s Tiguan has a sensor that detects when you have walked away from the boot and closes it automatically; Volvo’s XC60 has a boot that opens with a swipe of a foot under the rear bumper, while many other brands and models of all specification levels offer power opening and closing boots that can be operated with the electronic key.
It’s not just the boot where you will be looking to find places to stow bottles, nappies, toys and clothing. The more places you can hide the multitude of baby related paraphernalia the tidier and more organised the cabin can be kept. It’s also safer by preventing objects becoming airborne in the event of a collision.
Chilled compartments are also a bonus allowing bottles to be kept cold and many models now offer a glovebox that is cooled by the air conditioning, but vehicles such as the Skoda Superb and Lexus LX570 offers a chilled generous central storage bin.
If refrigerated storage is a must, you might also look for a vehicle that has a 12-volt power socket in the boot that would allow you to run an aftermarket removable fridge.
Last but certainly not least, in fact, probably most important, the overall safety rating of your car should be given a high priority.
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) website offers in-depth information regarding the safety standards and features of almost all new cars for sale in local showrooms. Make sure you look beyond the simple star rating and look at how a potential vehicle protects second-row passengers and infants.
Above all, do your research, decide which features are most important to you and go car shopping with confidence.