3 Across Installations: Which Car Seats Fit in a Mazda CX-5?

The Mazda CX-5 is one of the hottest entries to the small SUV / crossover market in the United States in recent years. It competes directly with luminaries such as the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Subaru Forester, Jeep Patriot, and Jeep Compass among families interested in the raised height of an SUV while retaining the fuel economy of a mid-sized car. The CX-5 is also a strong contender in my personal list of small, safe vehicles, with good small overlap, moderate overlap, side impact, and roof scores, as well as with ESC and side airbags.

In other words, the CX-5 is a solid little SUV, and it makes sense that families around the country are increasingly turning to it to transport their kids. I borrowed one this weekend in effort to find out just how good of a crossover it is when it comes to fitting 3 car seats across the back seat. The bad news is that while it’s a great vehicle on paper, the middle seat will make 3 across installations just about impossible. However, it’s worth taking a look at some best practice principles before checking out which seats will at least work in 2-across outboard installations.

The safest configuration we know of when it comes to vehicle safety is rear-facing. This goes for adults as well, but it’s uncommon to find rear-facing seats for adults outside of trains. That said, rear-face your infants, toddlers, and preschoolers for as long as possible (ideally until 4!), before forward-facing them in harnessed convertible or combination seats (ideally until 8!). Once they outgrow their harnessed seats, it’s best to keep them restrained in high-back boosters until they’re physically and psychologically ready to use adult seat belt systems (which typically happens between 10 and 12). We want our little ones in the safest positions we know of for as long as possible to give them the greatest advantages in a collision.

Keeping these ideas in mind, I set to work to find which infant, convertible, combination, and booster seats would work best in 3 across combinations in the Mazda CX-5. It’s my goal to make this list the most thorough on the Internet. If you find the list helpful when shopping for car seats, you can shop through my Amazon link below. I’ll add more seats as I test them over time.

You can access the complete 3 across guide for every vehicle here and the complete list of recommended seats here. The Canadian car seat guide is here. 3 across car seat images are courtesy of Wikipedia.

2017 Mazda CX-5

Guaranteed 3 across installations:

(coming soon)

cx-5 - 2013 - publicdomain2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 Mazda CX-5

Guaranteed 3 across installations:

Diono Radian R100 (x2), Chicco KeyFit 30.

Diono Radian R120 (x2), Chicco KeyFit 30.

Diono Radian RXT (x2), Chicco KeyFit 30.

Evenflo Tribute LX, Diono Radian R100, Chicco KeyFit 30.

Evenflo Tribute LX, Diono Radian R120, Chicco KeyFit 30.

Evenflo Tribute LX, Diono Radian RXT, Chicco KeyFit 30.

Evenflo Tribute LX, Diono Radian RXT, Graco Snugride Classic Connect 30.

Special notes:

The R100/R100/KeyFit 30 installation is courtesy of a reader named Rob; he sent it in with notes that he installed the KeyFit with LATCH passenger outboard (with a pool noodle between the base and the R100 in the center to make removing the carrier easier, although it was unnecessary for the installation), one R100 FF driver outboard with LATCH, and one R100 RF center with the lock off plate (because the shoulder belt retractor alone wouldn’t work). The RF R100 was used with an angle adjuster and he also top tethered it to a bar beneath the center seat.

I tried the above installation with a pair of R120s and was able to replicate it, although it was a challenge. As Rob noted, all seats were independently tight.

If you’re not using those seats…

The current generation Mazda CX-5 is unfortunately almost completely not a 3-across compatible vehicle due to the extremely narrow and oddly-designed center seat. Because the seat is split in a 40/20/40 way in order to make room for additional cargo in the rear, the center “20” section is too narrow to be usable in a vehicle of this width. On top of that, the buckle for the seat is also oddly-designed.

I’ve included 2 car seat arrangements that will work easily given the available space in the CX-5, but until Mazda corrects this, the CX-5 will remain a primarily 2-across vehicle.

Clek Fllo (x2).

Clek Foonf (x2).

Graco Size4Me 65 (x2).

Graco Contender (x2).

Diono Radian / RXT (x2).

Combi Coccoro (x2).

Tips and Tricks:

The first generation of the Mazda CX-5 is 179 inches long and 72 inches wide, or about the width of the typical mid-sized sedan. As a result, you’d expect there to be fair amount of different seats you could make work within the CX-5. However, it’s a no-go due to the middle seat. It’s too narrow, and makes the CX-5 primarily a 4-person vehicle, which is very unfortunate.

I’d definitely recommend using your seat belts instead of your LATCH anchors to give you a few precious extra inches when dealing with particularly wide outboard-placed seats.

If you find the information on car safety, recommended car seats, and car seat reviews on this car seat blog helpful, you can bookmark and shop through this Amazon link. Canadians can bookmark and shop through this link.

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