Owning a Mini Cooper S, Honda Civic, Mazda 3, Nissan Juke or any compact car or SUV comes with a bunch of advantages including fuel economy and a money-saving price tag. They fit in really small parking spaces, too, but not every car seat fits safely in small vehicles. So, which are the best car seats for compact cars?
In this post, I present 5 car seats that fit small cars and SUVs, including the best infant car seat for a Mini Cooper S. So that you and your front-seat passenger can sit without tilting your seats too far forward. And none of my recommendations are obscenely expensive.
Tiny Cars and Car Seats Aren’t the Best of Friends
Do you own a compact car, a sporty car, a two-door small car, or any kind of vehicle that doesn’t offer much headroom? If yes, you need to think through the car seat buying decision before ordering.
The problem with smaller cars is that they tend to have shallow back seats, which means there isn’t much legroom at all. Fitting a car like this can get a tad problematic. The same goes for fitting a smaller vehicle with little headroom.
Owners of smaller cars often find that they can’t position the driver’s and passenger’s seats in a way that makes for comfortable sitting. The car seat gobbles up tons of available backseat space, making it impossible to push the cabin’s seats as far back as needed. If you or your passenger are rather tall, chances are there won’t be enough space out front for your long feet.
Most car seats with tons of padding and a car base have a really hard time fitting in smaller-sized vehicles. Because they have lots of padding, which means they need to be pretty wide to accommodate tiny passengers.
Then there’s car seats that recline too far back. Since smaller cars are starved of space in the back, car seats that recline too far back find there isn’t enough room for all possible recline angles.
And the biggest problem of all? It’s that the backseat is often small sized. And there aren’t many car seats that fit properly.
Once you understand what your small car/car seat fit issue looks like, you’re better placed to choose a product that best meets your needs.
Fortunately, there’s a whole bunch of car seats designed to fit smaller cars better than most. But which is the best small-vehicle car seat on the market today?
It’s not easy to say which the “best” car seat for tiny cars is, but many drivers of compact cars and SUVs have found the Diono Radian 3XRT to be a great bet.
Who Came Out on Top?
Diono car seats are known for one key thing: their slim silhouette. And the Diono Radian 3RXT Convertible Car Seat is no exception.
Fits 3 across in most compact cars: It’s 17″ wide, one of the narrowest convertible car seats ever, and you can fit 3 across in most backseat space situations. And when traveling on a skimpy plane seat on one of those budget airlines, you’ll love how narrow it is (it’s FAA-approved). Check out: Best aircraft car seats.
It’s not the most lightweight at 28.1 pounds, but it’s not the heaviest or bulkiest either. And convertible car seats are by design heavy and bulky anyways. Unless you intend to ruck march with this thing each day, weight shouldn’t be a problem.
You want to install it and leave it in the car most of the time, except when traveling by plane. And yes, it’s plane-approved, but NOT in the booster seating mode. Boosters aren’t allowed on aircraft, you know.
Extended rear-facing: This is perhaps the most attractive feature. With a rear-facing weight limit of 5-50 pounds, you’ll be lucky to find a better bet, and the American Academy of Pediatrics highly recommends extended rear-facing.
Forward-facing & High-back Booster Mode: It also converts to high-back booster mode and accommodates kids up to 120 pounds and 57″.
Easy Install: This is hands-down the easiest install. Its belt path is super wide, and putting your hand in when guiding the seat belt won’t harm your hand.
An extremely long lifespan: Made from a steel core, the seat lasts at least 10 years, and it offers lots of protection (including side-protection) for little passengers.
Infant body and head wedge/insert: It’s removable, and it positions baby higher up in the seat, which promotes safety and keeps airways open.
The fabric could be better quality and thicker though, but it’s still comfortable and washable. And if you’re not ready to splurge on a car seat, keep looking. Also, the maximum harness shoulder height could be higher (it’s 16.5″ versus up to 19″ in some options).
- A super narrow seat that supports most seat 3 across situations
- Removable Infant body and head wedge to accommodate newborns
- Not too heavy, nor oversized or too bulky
- Extended rear-facing
- Padding plush, comfy, and washable
- Offer booster seat mode up to 120 pounds
- Side-impact protection
- A wide belt-path for easy installs
- Made of a steel alloy core: lasts 10 years!
- A little heavy and not easy to switch between cars
- Max harness height could be higher
- Car seat cover OK, but not as plush or high-quality as earlier models
The Budget Pick
And if the price of my best pick sort of terrifies you, why not check out the substantially cheaper option, the Maxi Cosi MightyFit 65 DX.
The only thing I dislike about the Maxi Cosi is that it’s a hard to install, but watching YT videos definitely helps. Plus, threading the harness straps can be a twisty affair.
Reason for Decision (for best pick): If you’re looking for a reasonably heavy, long-lasting, easy-to-install, nice-looking, and easy-to-clean convertible car seat that supports extended rear-facing seating and works for most fit 3 across scenarios, the Diono Radian 3XRT it is.
Which is the Narrowest Convertible Car Seat Out There?
It’s the Combi Coccoro Streamlined Lightweight Convertible Car Seat (Not in stock on Amazon at time of writing). It weighs just 14.3 pounds, making it easily the lightest convertible car seat that can be had.
Related: FAA-approved car seats
But it gets even better: the Combi Coccoro Streamlined is certified for safe aircraft use: it’s FAA-approved.
Compact-Car Seat Buying Guide: How to Choose
You can trade in your small car for a bigger, more expensive, and costlier-to-maintain car just so you can fit in a baby car seat. Or you can keep the car you have (and save tons of money in the process) and find a car seat that works with the amount of space you have in the back seat.
Unless you’d decided to upgrade to a bigger car, option 2 seems like the smarter decision. Below is a list of little stuff and really important things you need to be know before handing over the cash.
Choose the Right Small Car Seat Type
When it comes to smaller vehicles, there are two main kinds of car seats to look at namely:
- Infant-only car seats for newborns and infants
- Booster seats for older kids
Infant-only Car Seats
What’s an infant car seat? An infant-only seat is designed to keeps infants safe in a car during travel. These seats are designed specifically to carry and protect babies right from birth to about 22-35 pounds according to Kids Health Org. Each car seat model comes with its own weight limit. And the little passenger sits in the rear-facing position ONLY. The CDC says to always carry 2-4 year olds in the rear-facing position.
Why rear-facing? It’s because car seat safety studies have consistently found that the rear-facing position is the safest position for carrying an infant in a car.
The law in the US requires the use of car seats during the first few years of a child’s life. It’s critical to check the specific requirements concerning car seats in your state as you don’t want to find yourself on the bad side of the law.
For the most part, an infant car seat comes with a stated weight limit, and carrying a child who’s heavier than the stated weight limit is unwise because it compromises child safety. Some infant car seats may also have a height limit.
You don’t get much adjustability from an infant car seat though. However, you can customize safety straps position to your LO.
This type of car seat often features a detachable base. Having a detachable base makes it possible to remove the car seat with the baby still strapped in without waking them up. That’s cool!
To attach the seat to the base, you can either use the LATCH system or use the seat belt in a specific way. The LATCH system is a mechanism that lets you secure a car seat to a vehicle by using connectors or straps (on the seat itself) that connect to specially designed metal anchors built into the car.
Pros of Infant Car Seats
- Safest car seat type because it keeps babies facing rearward
- Protects newborns and infants until they reach 22-35 pounds
- Lets you to remove sleeping baby from the vehicle without disturbing them
Cons of Infant Car Seats
- Are designed for newborns and infants and must be abandoned when the kid outgrows them
When your child outgrows an infant car seat, you’re going to need to invest in a good booster seat. But what’s a booster seat?
Booster Seats (for Older Children)
A booster is a kind of seat that carries children who’ve outgrown an infant car seat. This seats helps change the child’s sitting position or the position of the seat belt, enabling the little passenger to benefit from the safety features a car provides. It essentially boosts a child’s height so they can safely and securely use a car’s seat belt.
Without a booster seat, the car’s lap-shoulder belt positions across the hips and chest instead of across the neck and belly. In the event of a car crash, a booster seat keeps 4-8 year-olds safe by making sure impact energies don’t affect the weakest parts of the child’s body (that is, the belly and neck).
4 Popular Kinds of Booster Seats
- Convertible booster seats
- Back-less booster seats
- High-back booster seats
- Portable booster seats
When is a kid old enough to use a booster seat? Boost seats are for kids in the 4-8 range. When many kids reach age 4, they weigh around 40 pounds. They’re heavy and tall enough to use a booster seat safely. When your child outgrows the forward-facing position, chances are that they’re ready for a booster seat.
Let’s now look at each booster seat type so that you can know what each kind looks like and works.
1.Convertible Booster Seats (Great for Smaller Vehicles)
If you want a car seat that’ll evolve as your child does, something that’ll adequately and safely serve your little one from infant-hood through elementary school, go with a convertible car seat.
Convertible car seats are super popular with parents because they’re the most versatile of all three booster seat types. They fit small cars, but they also fit larger vehicles.
This kind of seat allows you to transport your kiddo facing rearward as well as facing forward. It also lets you use it as a booster seat. That’s why almost all of my recommendations are convertible.
Some convertible seats are pretty comfortable, which means they offer tons of padding, which then means they can be a tad bulky. Still, there’s a bunch of them out there that aren’t too heavy. Some come with nice features such as cup holders, making them the perfect choice for long trips.
2.Backless Booster Seats
Backless seats focus on one thing: lifting the small passenger up so they can properly use the car’s seat belt. As the name suggests, they provide zero back support and neck/head support. Not surprisingly, backless booster seats are designed for older children who can keep their back, neck, and head up without support.
They’re the least comfortable because the child gets no support. Most backless options are compact and lightweight because their design lacks head support and backrest. This makes them less comfortable compared with high-back booster seats.
Some may offer extra features such as cup holders. But while many are low-footprint booster seats, they aren’t the best option for the longest trips.
3.High-back Booster Seats
A high-backed booster seat looks pretty similar to a regular car seat. It provides younger booster-age kiddos with tons of neck, head, and back support, because younger children may need a bit of support.
This seat design features slots situated on either side of the headrest. When threading the seat belt, it goes through these side slots.
They can be a little bulky, at least bulkier than their backless counterparts. But they’re more comfortable in comparison, making them a good long-distance-travel companion. Another disadvantage is that some full-back booster seats can be tricky to install properly.
4.Portable Booster Seats
These are no-bells-and-whistles booster seats designed to make travel easier and more convenient. They’re lightweight and compact, and they fit a variety of vehicles.
However, they tend not to be very comfortable, which means they’re not a great choice for long-distance travel. Nor are they the best option for daily use.
Pros of Booster Seats
- Some like convertible seats can be used for long
- Some styles offer lots of back and neck support (high-back options)
- Some like convertible options are highly versatile
- Fits older babies in the 4-8 range
- Make it possible for children to use the car’s seat belt securely and safely
Cons of Booster Seats
- Convertible options tend to be pricey
- Some can be pretty bulky
- Some offer no neck or back support (backless booster seats)
Car Design/Type, Dimensions, and Shape of the Back Seat
Certain kinds of cars have a hard time accommodating car seats. Fitting a many sporty cars and the most compact cars with a car seat can give you a headache. Fortunately, there are car seats designed with the needs of small-car owners in mind.
Design: It’s pretty much impossible to get a car seat into and out of a 2-door small car. You want a 4-door car instead.
If the vehicle’s backseat is pretty shallow, doesn’t have ample legroom, and the car’s design offers little headroom, fitting a car seat can be challenging.
If you can test out the car seat you’re eyeing at the store, that’d be a great idea. Some places such as Buy Buy Baby will let you install different sized car seats in your car to see how well each option fits your vehicle.
But what if you can’t test out car seats in person? In this case, be sure to check the actual dimensions of your car versus the size of the seat you’re looking at.
Don’t ignore the shape of your car’s back seat. It’s possible for a certain car seat to fit a given vehicle properly yet be challenging to get baby in and out the car seat.
Do You Want to Buy One Car Seat and Use It for Long?
The best infant car seats are comfortable and super protective, but they’re not designed for use by older children. Once the child hits 35 pounds, you’re going to need to get a good booster seat for them.
If you go with a great convertible booster seat with a decent lower and upper weight limits, you can use it right from the newborn stage all the way through age 8.
Convertible options grow with your baby and can be used until the child is old enough to use a seat belt without needing any kind of height-boosting.
What’s Your Small-car Seat Budget Look Like?
Some small-vehicle car seats cost under $100 while others cost over $500. If money isn’t tight and you want your baby to enjoy the finest features a car seat can offer, focus on fit and comfort (and of course safety).
The good thing is that there’s a wide array of car seat models at every price range. As a result, everyone can afford to transport their little angels safely and securely. Did you check out the pocket-friendly smaller-car car seat on my list?
Here’s one little fact you should know: car seats designed to fit smaller cars tend to be pricier than others. They’re a kind of specialty car seat, and someone’s got to pay for that.
Ease of Use and Maintenance
Small-car owners tend to get the car seat out more often than owners of larger vehicles. For this reason, choose a car seat that installs easily and fast. If you have to read the manual each time you need to get the seat out or in, definitely get something else.
Related: How to Clean a Car Seat
Babies are messy naturally, and all sorts of dry and wet stuff gets spilled onto the seat. Before long, the car seat looks dirty and might even stink. Get a car seat that cleans easily so you won’t have to hire a professional cleaner every time your baby spills delicious yogurt or throws up on it.
How Will You Mostly Use the Car Seat?
Think about how you’ll mostly use the car seat. If you travel a lot with your LO, get something that’s really easy to install and get out of the car. Get a lightweight model that’s a breeze to carry from house to the car or from the car to the house or stroller.
Related: How to Fly With a Car Seat
If you seek something that’ll serve as a good backup, get a basic seat that does the job without costing an arm and a leg. But if needing a car seat for daily use, make sure to get the most compact, most comfortable, and safest choice you can afford.
Car Seat Safety: Choose a Brand That Prioritizes Child Safety
Safety should be the #1 consideration when choosing any kind of baby gear, but it becomes even more critical when shopping for a baby car seat. Before a car seat can get approved for sale in the United States must pass a whole battery of safety tests.
It’s best to go with a car seat brand that takes child safety very seriously. Luckily, there’s tons of great brands that parents trust. Reading small-car seat reviews on Amazon and elsewhere online should reveal how different models have performed in real-world car crash situations.
Be sure to read about each product’s safety information before buying. All car seats in the United States are supposed to fully meet Federal Safety Standards. To be specific, car seats sold in the US market MUST comply with the requirements of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213.
But how do you know that a car seat complies with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213? Read the safety label on the seat. A safety-certified car seat should have the following exact words on the label:
This restraint system conforms to all applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards. This restraint is certified for use in all motor vehicles and aircraft.
You won’t see the use on aircraft part on a booster seat though. Planes have no shoulder belts, which makes it unsafe to use a booster seat on a plane.
Other information to watch out for when reading the seat safety labels:
- The name of the car seat manufacturer or authorized distributor
- Contact information of the manufacturer or distributor
- The actual date that the car seat was manufactured
According to Consumer Reports, it’s not uncommon to find non-compliant car seats online these days. These options tend to be irresistibly cheap. If a seat sold online seems too cheap, chances are that it may not meet US safety standards and may have been designed for sale overseas and not the US market.
5 Best Car Seats for Small Cars
Each of the car seats below is reversible, a quality many parents like in a car seat. While some aren’t exactly cheap, all of them are reasonably priced, and none costs above $350 as of this writing. Please click each link to check out the current price as prices keep changing.
How I Chose the 5 Best Small Car Seats
I spent tons of hours researching around the web for the perfect small-car car seat. I read lots of comments from real parents on Reddit as well as other parenting communities online.
While researching for this resource, I bumped into a really useful website known as the carseatblog, and I learned a whole lot about the problem I was trying to solve.
Also, I scoured through Amazon car seat reviews and spent a decent amount of my time weighing and analyzing comments, forming what I believe to be a balanced option about each pick.
And as a parent myself, I know a thing or two about small cars and the car seats that best fit in them. I also happen to know folks in my social circles who drive tiny cars, and I asked them to tell me which car seats worked for them
I own a Honda Civic, and so does my husband. And we too had trouble getting car seats that’d fit in these cars.
But this was before we learned which the best options were. I’m here to share with fellow moms and dads what I gleaned from my research and testing to save you the agony of having too little backseat space and no car seat small or narrow enough to fit there.
Now, let’s dive right in.
There’s a bunch of good reasons why I believe the Diono Radian 3RXT is the best car seat for tiny cars such as the Toyota Prius.
First off, this seat features a really narrow design; it’s probably the narrowest car seat that can be had. It measures just 17″ in width, which makes it a good fit for space-poor vehicles and airlines with the skimpiest passenger seats. And yes, it’s approved for use on planes as long as you’re not using the seat in the booster mode.
Do you know why you need a compact car seat that’s 17″ wide? It’s because you can fit 3 seats like this one on the backseat. If you have 3 kids to carry, the Diono Radian 3RXT would be a good choice for your family.
Another way this compact car seat stands head and shoulder above the competition is how long it serves kids. While many similar seats out there have 6 years before expiration date, the Diono Radian 3RXT stays safe for up to 10 years. Yes, I said 10 years!
Combine this longevity aspect with the fact that this car seat carries kids from when they’re 5 pounds all the way to 120 pounds. And you’ll see that this is the only car seat your baby will ever need.
One great thing about this tiny-vehicle car seat is how long it keeps your child rear facing. Experts advise parents to transport their little ones rear facing for as long as possible since this is the safest carrying position. And the Diono Radian 3RXT allows you to strap in your LO in rear facing until 50 pounds or age 4. If nothing else convinces you to take the plunge, let it be this option’s extended rear-facing carries.
The padding on the seat is plush, and you can be sure that your little one will travel in comfort whether the distance is short or long. The 5-point harness adjusts without problems, and there’s adequate cushioning on it.
It’s easy for little ones to climb onto this car seat as well as crawl out of it. I like this. Plus, there’s tons of legroom for the passengers on the backseat regardless of whether they’re small or big.
And when sitting in the driver’s cabin out front or when riding shotgun, you don’t need to be the world’s best contortionist to fit in there. Whether you’re 5’3″ or 6’4″, there’s enough room in the front.
Here’s what I didn’t like: At 30 pounds, this car seat is pretty heavy. If you’re looking for a lightweight option you can uproot from one car and install in another quickly, buy two of them. Alternatively, choose something else.
While this is supposed to be an upgrade, fabric quality was lacking in some way. And the padding while adequately thick could be a tad thicker.
Overall, the Diono Radian 3RXT is the best-for-the-money car seat for a Toyota Prius, Honda Civic, and other compact sized vehicles.
- Extended rear facing: up to 50 pounds or 4 years
- Enough room in the front for the driver and passenger
- A space-saving car seat that remains useful for 10 years
- Comfortably seats 3 kids without squeezing the driver against the dashboard
- Easy to crawl into and get out of
- A comfortable and safe car seat for younger and older kids
- Its small cars such as a Toyota Prius well
- It’s super easy to install
- Heavy: moving it from car to car can be a hassle
- The padding could be thicker
- Fabric could be better quality
Being heavy isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It shows that the seat is sturdy and made to last. Small wonder it remains safe and secure for a whole decade compared to just 6 years for many options out there.
2. Combi Coccora Convertible: Best for Honda Odyssey
Convertible car seats tend to be heavy since the base and the car seat itself form one unit and aren’t detachable. This design-related reality makes switching this kind of car seat between cars a real hassle especially for not-so-strong parents or those with a weak back.
The seat is nicely padded, and the harness adjusts as well as any. Plus, the seat pad is removable and machine washable, which saves time for busy parents.
Fortunately, the Combi Coccora Convertible Car seat Seat is really light. Weighing in at just 14.3 pounds, I challenge you to find a similarly priced competitor that’s this light. You won’t find any. Carrying 14.3 pounds of car seat for short distances should be a breeze for even the feeblest of moms.
But the most attractive feature of this car seat is how narrow it is. Tell me, do you know of any convertible car seats with a width of just 15.5″? Me neither. This is the narrowest it gets, which makes the Combi Coccora Convertible 15.5″ Car Seat one of the most heavily sought after.
Whether you drive a Nissan Xterra, a Honda Odyssey, a Nissan Versa hatchback, a Chevrolet Volt, or any other compact vehicle, the Combi Coccora should work for you.
My sister-in-law couldn’t find any car seat that could fit in the small backseat of her Chevrolet Volt and still allow her 6″ dad to sit in front of it (the old man needs to see his doctor from time to time and can’t drive). But she was lucky with this convertible option.
You might think that this ultra-lightweight convertible car seat with a really slim width skimps on quality, but that’s not true at all. Quite the contrary: this is a solid, very narrow, well-made reversible car seat for rear-facing tots as well as toddlers.
Forward facing install of this car seat is pretty straightforward, but you can’t say the same about installing it rear-facing. Well, installing via the push-on LATCH system is easy to do, but there’s a bit of a learning curve figuring out how to install through the vehicle’s belt system.
People who end up buying this item often need to watch a few YT videos to learn how to do the rear-facing install correctly with the seat belt.
Here’s one aspect that makes the Combi Coccora Conertible Car Seat one of the safest options in the rear-facing mode: the seat tethers to the front seat rail. And I love that the 5-point harness features a color-coded indicator that makes it hard to secure this safety device incorrectly.
In case you didn’t know, this is how the Swedes install their car seats rear facing. Add in the fact that Swedes typically keep kids rear facing up to 4 years, and it’s easy to see why the country sees fewer infant deaths overall.
Depending on where your kiddo is height-wise, they’ll use this car seat for about 2.5 years, which isn’t as generous as it gets with the typical convertible car seat.
With the provided newborn head and neck support insert, you get to carry tots as tiny as 3 pounds, and you get to transport them rear facing up to 33 pounds. As for the forward facing mode, this seat is rated for 20-40 pounds. In terms of height limits, it ranges from 19″ to 40″.
And this is the main gripe I have about this super narrow car seat. To be fair, it’s not sinfully expensive. But there are quite a few similarly priced deals that offer more generous weight limits.
- The narrowest convertible car seat available for compact cars
- One of the lightest convertible car seats out there, ideal for air travel (FAA approved)
- A color-coded indicator that makes sure you fasten the harness correctly each time
- Fits 3 across in the vast majority of vehicles
- Designs include a rear-facing tether
- Machine washable for an easier time with messes
- Nicely padded for a good fit and comfortable carries
- Rear-facing installs can be challenging, especially when using vehicle’s safety belt system
- Low weight limits rear facing and forward facing
3. Graco SlimFit3 LX 3 in 1 Car Seat, Katrina: Best for Compact Suvs and Vans
The Graco SlimFit LX 3-in-1 car seat is the slimmest car seat I’m aware of. At 16.7″ wide, the Graco SlimFit LX is pretty narrow, even narrower than the Diono Radian 3RXT.
However, many who’ve tested it say it may not be the best fit for very tiny cars. But it works great for compact SUVs and vans.
It weighs about 10 pounds less than the Diono, which makes it easier to switch between cars. Not that you want to do it that often.
You can easily fit 3 car seats across, which is great for large families. But being a slim design doesn’t make the seat any less protective. But how well does this car seat fit tiny cars?
A friend owns the 2016 Honda Civic, and this works well for her. And we were able to use it comfortably in a rental 2018 Jeep Compass.
It may not fit in the tiniest of cars, but it should work well in most if not all small/compact SUVs and vans. Whether you drive a 2015 Subaru Crosstrek, a Honda Civic, a Honda CRV, a Jeep Compass, or a 2010 Toyota Prius III, you should be fine. And the best part? It doesn’t cost a small fortune as many small-car car seats typically do.
Plus, it’s sold in a variety of colors so that you can pick one that works best with the interiors of your tiny car. It’s available in these colors: Darcie, Katrina, Kunningham, Redmond, and Annabelle. The seat I’m reviewing here is the Katrina color one.
Small wonder that the Graco SlimFit LX is one of the most popular car seats with parents. At time of writing, this product had garnered a staggering 37,800+ reviews with an impressive 4.9 out of 5 stars.
One great thing about this seat is its protective ability. It’s ProtectPlus-engineered, which is Graco speak for a seat that’s undergone a battery of rigorous crash tests and passed all of them. It’s designed to protect against side, rollover, rear, and frontal impacts.
Its frame is made from reinforced steel, which makes it strong and durable. Can you believe this seat boasts a lifespan of up to 10 years?
This incredible longevity makes me all the more enamored of the Graco SlimFit LX 3-in-1 car seat. Many costlier options out there expire after only 6 years from the date of manufacture. That’s why parents can’t stop heaping praises on this one.
Also, this thing is versatile. As long as your child weighs between 5 and 40 pounds, you can strap them in rear facing. Well, the rear-facing limit may not be as extended as that of the Diono Radian 3RXT, but it’s still decent.
You can also carry your little one forward facing from 22 pounds until they’re 65 pounds. But be sure to keep that kiddo rear-facing for as long as you can for safety reasons. Finally, the seat can be used as a high-back booster for older kids from 40-100 pounds or until the kid attains 57″ in height.
What’s more, this car seat grows with your kid. While its maximum weight limit is 20 pounds lower than that of the Diono Radian, 100 pounds is still a nice number. You definitely won’t need to purchase another seat down the road unless you want to.
The install is brain-dead-easy, too. This versatile compact car seat is LATCH system-equipped. Simply press a button and the connectors click into place. That the seat reclines through 4 positions makes the install even easier while keeping the little passenger super comfy.
Speaking of comfort, the padding is good, plus it’s removable and washable for easy care. And the shoulder straps easily adjust as does the headrest, making it an option that evolves with your LO.
It comes with an easy-to-use 5-point safety harness. And the buckle is reasonably easy to adjust, which makes fitting it to a chunky or smaller bottom that much easier.
Oh, I almost forgot to tell you about the double cup holders. These cup holders flip out, making for an even slimmer fit. What’s more, there’s no armrests. And this creates room on either side of the seat, especially when installed in the middle of the backseat.
Listen, buy this car seat if you own a small SUV. Because it works well for cars in this size range.
- Removable and washable padding
- Easier than most to transfer between vehicles
- 10-year lifespan
- Easy to install via LATCH system
- A good budget car seat for compact/small SUVs and vans
- Flip-out double cup holders save space
- Lacks armrest, which makes for a slimmer fit
- Easy-adjust harness straps and buckle
- Versatile: rear-facing, forward-facing, and backless booster
- Not a great fit for super tiny cars such as the mini cooper
4. CYBEX Aton 2 Newborn & Infant Car Seat: Best for Mini Cooper S
If there’s one category of small-car drivers who have trouble finding a small sized car seat for their space-poor backseats, it’s the owners of the Mini Cooper S. This 2-door girly car is pretty small, and it’s extremely hard to find a car seat of any kind that fits safely on its small backseat.
I spent tons of hours researching the best car seat for a Mini Cooper. And I couldn’t find a better option anywhere. But here’s good news: The CYBEX Aton 2 fits in the Mini Cooper S.
So how do I know this? A mom I bumped into online while reading tiny car seat reviews showed how it fits in her Mini Cooper S. She was able to fit this car seat alongside a forward-facing car seat that an older child sat in. And if you’re wondering how wide the CYBEX Aton 2 is, it measures just 17.25″.
This newborn and infant car seat should also fit most tiny cars. Surely, if it can fit in the Mini Cooper S, it can fit in your Mazda 3, Nissan Juke, Honda Civic, or any other small car.
And at 9.5 pounds, this infant car seat is quite light, as light as most detachable infant car seats. You’ll realize that unlike the convertible picks on my list, this one comes with a base that stays in the car. And the car seat/carrier clicks into the base so you can safely carry your little one.
If you’re looking for a forever car seat so that you won’t have to spend money on a future upgrade, the CYBEX Aton 2 isn’t it. This is a rear-facing ONLY car seat, and it’s specifically designed for infants and newborns.
The seller includes a removable newborn insert that makes it possible to strap in tiny kids (newborns) from 4 pounds to 11 pounds. The maximum rear-facing capacity of this car seat is 35 pounds or roughly 30″.
However, I wish it offered a much higher weight limit rear facing. For the price, you can easily find convertible car seats that rear-face until 50 pounds such as the Diono Radian 3RXT.
Installation isn’t complicated thanks to it being LATCH-equipped. In terms of protection, you have nothing to worry about. This seat boasts an extended linear side-impact protection system (L.S.P) that supposedly dampens up to 25 percent more impact forces compared to when the same seat is without this system.
I don’t want to over-think its safety credentials: I believe it’s as safe as any approved car seat in the US and not necessarily better in this respect. But then there’s the height-adjustable load leg, a feature that stays underneath the base to stabilize the car seat and supposedly cuts crash impacts by up to 50 percent. I don’t know how true this extra-protection claim is, but the seat has great crash-test ratings.
Here’s one more thing: If you use a CYBEX car seat adapter, you can use the car seat with ANY CYBEX baby stroller to create a travel system. But with the seat costing this much, it’d mostly likely not be a budget travel system.
What I didn’t like about the CYBEX Aton 2: The fabric isn’t anything like what I expected for an infant car seat this pricey. It’s made from some synthetic material and seems to be a determined dirt magnet.
Fortunately, it’s removable and machine-washable in cold water. Just don’t put it in the dryer. Instead, dry it flat and you’ll be fine.
Another design improvement suggestion I’d like CYBEX to incorporate into a future version of this infant car seat is the crotch strap. This strap seems rather short, and it places the buckle between the legs.
Small wonder some parents reported noticing little red marks due to the crotch strap being too short and the buckle positioning between the legs. For this reason, I’d not recommend using this infant car seat for long trips.
- A narrow-width infant car seat that fits in a Mini Cooper S
- Seat cover removable and machine washable with cold water
- Features a height-adjustable load leg that fits under the base
- A versatile car seat that works with all CYBEX strollers if you use an adapter
- Rear faces up to 35 pounds/31″, which is OK
- Light enough to move between multi-family cars and between stroller and car
- Works for newborns thanks to the provided newborn insert
- Crotch strap low to the base and can cause discomfort or marks on tender baby skin
- Pretty expensive for what it is
- Rear-facing weight and height limit quite low
- Fabric quality wanting
- ONLY rear faces: doesn’t grow with kids
5. Cosco MightyFit 65 DX Convertible Car Seat: Best fit for Chevy Spark
If you’re looking for a car seat that fits 3 across, the Cosco Mighty Fit 65 DX Convertible Car Seat is a good bet. It’s a basic convertible car seat without all the bells and whistles, but it does the job. Most importantly, it meets in its entirety the Federal Regulation FMVSS 213 — it’s safe.
Even though it’s cheap, it features a cup holder and the headrest is height adjustable. However, the cup holder doesn’t clip in securely. And this makes it easy to knock it off. Also, it’s an easy install via LATCH, but the same can’t be said about installing it rear-facing via the seatbelt. Watching a few YT videos should solve this problem though.
I like the modern look of this budget car seat. The padding is decent, and the fabric looks velvety cool, and nothing feels cheap about it. Furthermore, the cover is detachable and machine washable, which makes for hassle-free care after messes
Do you own a 2015 Kia Soul and are wondering if there’s any car seat that’ll allow you to fit 3 across? The Cosco Mighty Fit 65 DX it is. Admittedly, the 2015 Kia Soul isn’t the smallest car there is, but no one denies it’s compact. Owners of the Chevy Trailbrazer also said it fits 3 car seats across.
It’s also small enough to fit in a Chevy Spark, one of the smallest cars ever. You won’t be able to fit three across in the Chevy Spark though.
However, if you’re tall, you won’t be very comfortable driving with the car seat rear facing. Because you’ll have to move your seat or passenger’s seat too far forward in the rear facing mode. This seat works best for short owners of compact automobiles.
Weighing in at about 13 pounds, this is about as lightweight as it gets. You won’t break your back lifting it off to install in another car.
It’s a lightweight car seat, which makes it a great traveling companion. And yes, it is FAA approved for aircraft use. Most car seats nowadays have the FAA approval so it’s nothing unique to this seat.
Being lightweight doesn’t compromise safety in anyway. Your kid will be safe in this car seat since it’s made by a highly reputable brand and is FMVSS 213-compliant.
Aside from that, the seat complies with both the ASTM and JPMA safety standards. And if it gives you peace of mind, I’ve read quite a few stories where this car seat really stepped up to the plate and protected little passengers from crash impacts.
One pro of the Cosco Mighty Fit 65 DX is that it provides decent height and weight limits rear facing. Rear facing starts from 5 pounds and extends all the way to 40 pounds. Well, there are tons of better deals out there as far as rear-facing carries, but 40 pounds isn’t bad at all.
As for the forward-facing limit, it maxes out at 65 pounds, and this is way higher than the 40-pound limit its sibling the Cosco Scenera offers.
A high weight limit forward-facing means you’ll haul your kiddo around in this position for longer. You’ll be able to transport your kiddo forward-facing until they’re big enough for the booster car seat. And I like that.
This seat comes in a sub-$100 price point at time of writing, and it’s easy to question material quality and the overall integrity of the design. But here’s something a car seat safety technician told me: all car seats designed for use in the United States are safe. And it doesn’t matter whether the seat is cheap or pricey.
One thing parents appreciate about the Cosco MightyFit 65DX is that in the rear-facing mode, it occupies less room back-to-front compared to most similar options. When sitting on the driver’s seat in a compact car such as the 2015 Kia Soul, you and you front seat passenger will have enough legroom.
- A lightweight, reasonably narrow car seat
- Comes in at a very attractive price point
- Machine washable cover
- Easy install via LATCH
- Adjustable headrest
- Perfect for travel
- Removable cup holder
- A basic but safe option
- Easy to knock cup holder off: it doesn’t clip in securely
- Installing rear-facing can be tricky especially if there’s a car seat protector
Final Thoughts on Best Compact-car Seats
One of the toughest shopping assignments ever is getting a car seat that fits safely and securely in a small-sized car. It seems strange that car seat manufacturers would ever want to design products that don’t work with tiny cars when it seems like lots of parents out there own small cars.
To make the shopping easier for you and your loved ones, I spent tons of time compiling a nice little list of car seats that fit in compact vehicles including the Mini Cooper S.
If you like any of the recommendations above, click through the link and grab the seat for your sprog. I’d also like for you to comment below if you have the time about any other compact-car car seats you’ve heard of for the benefit of other moms and dads.
As a medical professional practicing in the United States, Joe Waweru medically reviews every piece of relevant content at kiddofreddom.com, but nothing he says here should be construed as medical advice of any kind.