2012 BMW X3: Child Safety Seat Fitment Test
June 07, 2012
Since I have two small children, I'm often wrestling child safety seats into various long-term vehicles. This month's test: our BMW X3. How does our petite Bavarian handle the latest supersized safety seats?
BMW versus Britax, read on.
First up was the easy test, the Recaro booster pictured above. It fits in just about every back seat just fine. Other than having to move the head restraint up a little for clearance (which is very normal), there certainly weren't any issues here.
Next was the Britax Marathon seat, which can be installed in either a rear-facing or forward-facing position. I did forward facing first, since that's the lesser challenging of the two. Again, no real problems. The X3's rear head restraints can be removed, making it easy to get a flush fitting against the seat back and connect the tether anchor behind the rear seat.
The X3's seat cushion angle didn't quite align with the seat's; there was a gap at the back of the child seat base, meaning there was extra pressure from the child seat at the front. But this is fairly common and can vary based on safety seat design.
I was using the LATCH anchors here to secure the seat. More than a few cars are trickier than expected due to overly firm padding (makes it hard to push the buckles in) or just hard-to-find anchors. But that wasn't the case with the X3; had no issues connecting the buckle (regular or upside down). As with most vehicles, there are only LATCH points for the outboard positions; you'll need to use the seatbelt for center positioning.*
Next was the Marathon seat, rear facing. How well this works depends purely on rear leg room. Going in, I figured the X3 would have a bit of a problem; after all, our Explorer pretty much failed this test considering how big it is. But to my surprise, the X3 squeaked by, handling the seat without requiring me to adjust the driver seat, which was positioned for me (5-foot 10-inches). (Note that I had the front head restraint moved up for me; lowered, it would have been trickier.)
I also installed my Britax Companion reverse-facing infant seat. It's pretty much the same kind of test as the rear-facing Marathon, but it does contact the front seat in a different place. This was an even tighter fit than the Marathon, but it did again work out -- barely. There wasn't any clearance left, and the driver seat couldn't be moved back any further.
Overall, though, I thought the X3 did quite well here considering it's a small luxury crossover, something not immediately associated with family duty.
*There's been commentary from mmmodem on a couple of my previous posts about installing an infant-oriented (rear-facing) seat in the outboard position, the argument being that the safety seat should be placed in the center position in the interest of maximum safety for the youngest (and most vunerable) occupant. I won't disagree with that. However, for these posts, I'm trying to replicate the way I suspect the typical owner is going to be installing his or her child safety seats and demonstrate any potential fitment issues that might come up.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor