According to the law, children must use a car seat until they’re 12-years-old or 135cm tall, whichever comes first. Most five-seater cars are perfectly fine for transporting three children after they’ve reached this point but fitting three child car seats plus prams, toys, books and bags in is another story. We’ve compiled the best family cars for the job, whether you’re after an SUV or a hatchback.
Car highlight: a spacious interior
The Audi Q7 was designed for large families, as it’s a big SUV with seven seats. As you’d expect there’s plenty of space inside with six ISOFIX mounting points. ISOFIX is an international standard to make installing a child’s car seat quick, easy and secure, with connectors on the car seat that lock into these points. This means that three child car seats can fit comfortably and securely in the middle row of the Q7 and you can fold down the rear row for extra boot space if needed.
As a large Audi, it’s not the most affordable in our list but you could spread the payments using car finance. With a 3.0-litre diesel automatic it’s powerful and economical for a vehicle of this size, delivering between 40 and 50mpg. There’s also an e-tron plug-in hybrid available. Another positive for parents is that leather upholstery comes as standard from the SE trim upwards, offering you a little touch of luxury that’s also wipe clean.
Car highlight: sliding rear doors for accessibility
The punchy 2.0-litre diesel engine of the SEAT Alhambra delivers decent fuel economy of around 50 to 55 mpg, and what it might lack in terms of style, it makes up for in price, as it’s cheaper than many MPV alternatives and mechanically identical to the Volkswagen Sharan. Power-operated sliding rear doors make life easier when you’re struggling to strap in three restless kids to their seats.
There are also three ISOFIX points in the middle, making this MPV highly practical for fitting in three child car seats. Plus, there’ll still be room for another two passengers on the back row. Equally, you can fold these seats down to create extra space when loading up to go on a family road trip or holiday.
Citroën Grand C4 Picasso
Car highlight: style and practicality
As well as being one of the most stylish MPVs on the market, the latest Citroën Grand C4 Picasso models are also incredibly spacious, easily fitting three car seats. Separate seats in the middle and the removable back row can also create more room in the rear, expanding it from 632 to 793 litres. That’s ideal for transporting compact pushchairs, with models by brands like Baby Jogger and Silver Cross fitting comfortably into the boot.
Fuel economy ranges from around 50 to an impressive 70mpg, with a wide variety of both petrol and diesel engines. The newest model – the Citroën Grand C4 SpaceTourer – also offers a quiet and comfortable drive, ideal for long journeys when you want your kids to drift off to sleep. The top trims include Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity, so you can play your kids’ favourite songs or audio books and keep them entertained.
Car highlight: compact and easy to park
Not everyone wants an SUV or MPV but there aren’t many other options when choosing cars for three children. A Renault Twingo offers a great solution if you choose the ‘Seats Pack’. This adds a third ISOFIX point in the front passenger seat (plus heated front seats for your own comfort in winter), alongside the other two ISOFIX points in the back. Please note that if there’s an active airbag on the passenger side, you must never fit a rearward-facing baby seat in the front. A forward-facing CRS will be ok but you should set the passenger seat as far back as possible on its runners.
The downside to having three ISOFIX points in the Twingo is that there’s no room for anyone else and the boot space is a lot smaller than the others in this list – although you can probably squeeze in a more compact fold-up pushchair in the boot, like a Britax Holiday. On the flipside, you shouldn’t have any difficulties parking, which can be a problem with a bigger family SUV.
Car highlight: sporty look and feel with plenty of practicality
A sporty MPV, the Ford S-Max has sharp steering and comfortable suspension. There’s plenty of choice if you’re happy with a diesel engine, including an automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive – a useful additional safety feature when driving the family around in bad weather.
Its middle row has three ISOFIX points, with another two regular seats in the back. With the back seats folded down the boot space increases to 700 litres, giving plenty of room for storing larger pushchairs. The top of the range Titanium and ST trims include keyless entry, which is helpful when you’ve got your hands full. It’s also practical and spacious, with the reliability you’d expect from Ford.
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Image courtesy of iStock.