Best practical cars for center-position baby seat

My husband and I each drive a 2-door Hyundai Accent hatchback. Our son is now 15 months old, and we are shopping for at least one newer car. Very interested in the Honda Element, but worried we can’t install teh car seat in the center of the back seat…also worried about reaching him to buckle and unbuckle…enjoyed a rental Nissan Rogue, but it doesn’t come in manual transmission. Good models to consider for a car seat and moderate “stuff” capacity?

How about a CR-V? Or Rav4? If you’re considering awd, the Forester’s also a good choice.

Problem is we can’t afford any of those – hoping for something well under $20K. We were interested in the Element because it is more affordable, but I don’t know about those weird seats. But good suggestions if we can find a good used one…

The Element is about the same $$ as a CRV. You might want to get a Consumer Reports car buyers guide, see what looks attractive. How about a Fit, a Versa, or another compact 4-door hatchback? Hyundai/Kia are typically most car for the $$.

There are lots of intermediate sedans on sale around here for about $18,000, like a Ford Fusion. For safety they get my choice over a smaller car.

Hyundai Sonata – nice 2 - 3 year-old, low-mileage cars for around $10,000. I’d highly recommend a four-door sedan and automatic transmission with a growing kid – easier access and no shifting problems when you turn around and tell him to keep quiet.


The Mazda 5 comes with a manual. My uncle has 2 small children and just got one. He says it’s the perfect car for the growing family. The manual and sporty 4-cylinder make it more fun than one of those CVT equipped Rogues.

Local dealer here in Denver is selling 2009 “program” Grand Marquis, 10K to 20K miles, all the toys, he has 40 of them, (Suss), $15,000…

I love the concept of the Mazda 5, BUT:

  1. There is no center rear seat
  2. When we were looking at buying one recently, we found that there were a LARGE number of complaints of premature tire wear with no clear evidence that the problem was solved… and replacing those tires every 10-15,000 miles (yes, people were reporting wear that fast) at $600+ per set (low profile expensive tires) was a little too much…

Really you have a pretty wide range of selections based on your criteria. Just about any sedan will allow you to put a car seat in the middle in the back, and compared to a 2 dr Accent hatch will have decent space. You certainly do NOT need an SUV or CUV based on your criteria.

A local dealer offered me a 2010 Fusion S with a manual for $14,995 - that has a nice big trunk… And it gets an IIHS top safety pick. A mechanically near-identical Mazda 6 would also have high safety ratings and gobs of space (17 cubic foot trunk - more than your Accent hatch). They’re probably too expensive new (the lowest I’ve found in my search was just over $18,000 new before tax)… but you can pick them up 1 year old for $14-15k…

But really, I’d look at midsize sedans based on your criteria - almost all can put a carseat in the middle, have decent cargo space (some will have less than your Accent), and get decent mpg…

Caddyman actually hit the nail on the head. You need a large flat rear seat, which is getting harder to find. Your best choice will be a domestic sedan. And the best domestic sedans are the Ford Crown Vic/Mercury Marquis/Lincoln Town Car. They’re all the same chassis but different trim levels. They are safe and reliable. You can also pick up very nice examples for under $20k.

You are on the right track. The safest position for a forward facing safety seat is the middle of the rear seat.

For the Crown Vic you might be able to get a good deal since Ford is discontinuing them.

Go to a Honda Dealer. Take the seat out of your car. Put it in the back of an Element to see if you can attach it.