2014 Mazda 3: Child Safety Seat Installation
June 17, 2014
I have two small children and am constantly wrangling child safety seats in and out of Edmunds long-term cars. Since I really like our 2014 Mazda 3, I was curious to find out how well the 3 would be for family duty and child safety seats. The top photo shows my main setup at this point: a Recaro booster seat and a Britax Marathon reversible child safety seat.
Installing the Recaro in a car is rarely a problem, and that was true here as well. Trying out the Britax seat was also straightforward in its front-facing position. The 3's rear seat bottoms do have some contouring to them, but I was able to use a towel to get the seat's base flat and aligned properly. The 3's rear seatbacks are angled in such a way that the Britax fit just about perfectly. Another bonus is that the rear headrests are easy to remove.
As for installing LATCH anchor buckles, the anchor points are a little buried (some cars make it easier to identify where they are) but there's enough give to the cushions to make the buckling process easy enough. The top (rear) anchor point behind the seatbacks is also easy to get to. Overall, the front-facing install for this seat went very smoothly.
Problems arose, however, when I switched the seat around to test out the rear-facing position. (You typically use the rear-facing position for toddlers who are too big to be in an infant-style safety seat but are still too small to be forward-facing.) Rear-facing always require a lot of rear legroom. And rear legroom is not something the Mazda 3 has in abundance.
I originally had the driver seat positioned for me (I'm 5-foot 10-inches) but it quickly became apparent that I'd have to move it up to fit the safety seat. In fact, I had to move it up so much that there's no way I could comfortably drive the car. If the safety seat was on the passenger side, a normal-sized adult could get by sitting up front in a pinch, but that's about it. The same situation would almost certainly be true for a rear-facing infant safety seat as well. In the Mazda 3's defense, though, it isn't the only car in its class where rear legroom can make installing rear-facing seats difficult.
For me, this isn't problematic since I'm past the rear-facing kid stage. And in that sense, the Mazda 3 is still an ideal daily runabout, even with two kids in back. But if you've got very small children or have some on the way, this is something to note if you're considering a Mazda 3 purchase.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 8,043 miles