Family transport a balance of safety, practicality

By Liz Dobson

Liz Dobson tells how to pick right vehicle for baby

SUVs such as Honda's CRV are popular with new parents as they have high rear seats and space in the back.
SUVs such as Honda's CRV are popular with new parents as they have high rear seats and space in the back.

Becoming a parent for the first time is a life-changing event: there are the tears, sleepless nights and tantrums - and that's just from the thought of having to buy a family wagon.

As you are saying hello to baby, you are usually saying goodbye to your coupe, convertible or three-door hatchback in favour of sensible transportation.

When my second child arrived, the Chrysler Valiant was traded in for a car that actually had seatbelts and working brakes, while a friend recently had to say goodbye to her beloved Mini as she found it too difficult to clamber into the back seat to install her newborn's car seat.

Of course, some couples are financially lucky enough to keep the baby-unfriendly car and also buy a more suitable transportation for kiddies. A family friend kept her Triumph Spitfire and her toddler son loved sitting in his car seat in the passenger side with the roof off.

Having been a motoring writer for 18 years, I've manoeuvred my two children and their car seats into nearly every vehicle launched in that time so here are my top tips for buying a family vehicle.

1. Safety first: Check out the Australasian New Car Assessment Programme (Ancap) website www.ancap.com.au for an extensive list of vehicles and their crash test results. You'd want the minimum of two airbags and ABS - with electronic stability control and curtain airbags a strong Family car needs to be practical consideration. And remember, don't place babies, kids or even small adults in front seats with airbags.

2. Be practical: A five-door hatchback or wagon may be the choice if you have one child as they provide easy access to the rear seat plus room in the boot for the paraphernalia. Make sure the car has enough storage space to accommodate your stroller or pushchair.

3. Take it for a test drive: Some sedans and coupes have deeply-sloped rear windows that allow sunlight to stream down on a rear-facing child seat, which could cause sunburn, heatstroke, or other heat-related injuries. Sometimes you may need to ride next to baby, so part of your test drive should include a ride in the back seat next to the strapped-in child seat. Get in, close the door, and stay there for a while to make sure it's comfortable.

Baby on board

Here are some family vehicles that have recently been launched in New Zealand:

Kia Carens: The seven-seater is a wonderfully thought out family car, and people certainly agree as you'll be waiting at least 2 months to get one.

Chrysler Grand Voyager: The middle aisle makes accessing the car simple and the electronic doors are not only practical but amusing for the kids.

Ford Kuga Titanium: The height makes it easy to put car seats in or strap children in while the boot opens if you swipe your foot under it, helpful when your arms are loaded.

VW Golf: Not only does it look great, it has plenty of space.

- NZ Herald

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