The 2014 Subaru Forester and car seat safety

My husband and I were about to buy a 2014 Subaru Forester, because of its great visibility and safety ratings, as well as handling in the snow and relatively good mileage. (We live in New England and have a toddler.) It recently came to our attention that the owner’s manual( strongly recommends installation of the carseat on either side but not the middle. Our understanding is that the middle is the safest place for a child to ride. Does anyone know why they make this recommendation? (The manual is not very clear and perhaps not fully transparent…) Is it better to have a child in a carseat on the side in a car with a top safety rating or in the middle in a perhaps slightly less safe car? Other thoughts? Thank you!

Could it be because of the LATCH locations?

Just about every new car has the Latch system in the back seat, makes it easier to install the seat safely than using just the seat-belts alone. Subaru suggests the outboard seating positions because the cushion in the middle sometimes makes it difficult to belt the seat in snugly although other Subaru owners have found ways to get the seat to fit correctly in the middle.

The middle position has been long favored but some seat designs aren’t flat in the middle and make it harder to install the seat where it won’t move around.

I was always of the belief that having the carseat behind the driver or the passenger seat was the safest place. That’s because either one of those seats would afford a little more protection to hold the infant or child in the vehicle during a crash. The middle of the seat would allow the infant or child to sail through the windshield if the carseat restraints failed.

Agreed, there is no LATCH for the middle seat. Any ideas how other Subaru owners have found a way to get the seat to fit correctly? Any thoughts if it is safe to use one LATCH from each of the sides to attach a seat to the middle?

Thanks for the information!

Do not attach the seat in any way different than specified. And trust NO comment that tells you otherwise. How could they possibly know?

Agree with our TX friend: don’t second guess the design engineer.

The comments that i found about fitting the seat in the middle were that if you could push down on the child-seat and compress the cushion enough to get the seat to sit flat,belted in tightly so that it doesn’t move around (on other subaru forums). The Middle position isn’t always the easiest to install a car seat which is why Subaru says to use the latch anchors which are rarely in the middle.

The manual gives you two options, the car is designed to secure two child-seats with the Latch system and there is a procedure mentioned if the middle position is preferred. If it were possible/advisable to use the Latch mounts from either side in the middle they would have mentioned it in the manual.

I have a 2005 Forester and just like the 2014 manual, it states that the middle is the least desirable location due to the seat cushion and some car seats not being able to be installed securely because of it (the wording almost looks identical!). But we were able to get both of our car seats to install in the middle without any wiggle or problems, using the LATCH system (we had a Chicco infant car seat with a detachable base and we now have a Sunshine Kids/Diono RadianXT). We also have 3 tether hooks (one for each back seat location), so it was clear to us that if the seat were able to be securely installed (less than 1 inch of wiggle) using the LATCH hooks, then it should be fine (because they put the tether hook for that position, as well). Also, both of our car seats had longer straps for the LATCH connections (meaning the LATCH hooks could be spaced a bit further apart – we also only have 2 sets of LATCH hooks and use the two innermost hooks for the middle seat – the same way we do in our Toyota Highlander). I never thought much about the length of the straps, until I recently helped a friend install a booster seat in her car that has really short LATCH straps. And I realized that her booster seat probably wouldn’t work in the middle seat of our car (and she couldn’t get it into the middle of hers, either – even without a cushion issue, the straps just didn’t reach when the seat was in the middle).

For us, the middle seat seemed safer (especially when he was rear facing) because, though the 2005 got great side-impact crash test reviews, it was before the side impact airbags/curtains were standard for the back seats in the Forester and I fear side-impacts a bit more in terms of the car crushing in on us (and hope/assume the car seat won’t fail in a rear or any kind of impact, causing him to get ejected from the seat altogether).

One update, though… Just found this link while surfing:

Basically, it looks like LATCH should not be used in the middle seat, even if the car seat allows for it (and it’s a long list of manufacturers that are listed, too) – so I guess we should have been using the seatbelt to secure it for all those years.