3 Across Installations: Which Car Seats Fit in a Toyota RAV4?

The Toyota RAV4 is one of the most popular small SUVs sold today in the United States. It competes directly with crossovers like the Honda CR-VJeep Patriot, Jeep Compass, Nissan Rogue, Mazda CX-5, Subaru Forester, and Ford Escape. The newest generation of the RAV4 includes a range of great safety scores in the small overlap, moderate overlap, side, and roof strength domains, as well as ESC and side airbags. The next step for Toyota will be to add front crash prevention systems now that they’ve worked out their small overlap issues with it.

Because it’s such a reliable, affordable, fuel-friendly, and attractive little SUV, it’s no surprise lots of parents would turn to it as a way of keeping their children safe. Unfortunately, due to the overlapping seat belt setup Toyota keeps building into the back seat of the Rav4, it is essentially a 5-seat vehicle capable of seating 4-persons, and has been for several years now. This is part of why it’s taken me so long to review it for 3 across compatibility; I didn’t want to take the trouble of borrowing one when I was sure of what the conclusions would be. But I’ve got a bit of free time now so let’s take a look together. Before that, however, here are some basics in car seat safety selection:

Car seat safety starts with rear-facing our little ones; it’s best for their soft spines and disproportionally large heads. I recommend you 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). These suggestions may take a bit of extra work, but they provide a lot of extra safety.

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 Toyota RAV4. It’s my goal to make this list the most thorough on the Internet and my hope that Toyota will soon return to a sensible back seat design for the Rav4. 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.

rav4 - 2013 - publicdomain - cc02013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 Toyota RAV4

Guaranteed 3 across installations: None!

The current generation Toyota Rav4 continues an unfortunate step backwards in car seat compatibility, due to the ridiculously overlapping seat belts in the back seat. This was the case with the previous generation as well, and all signs point to this continuing to be a “feature” of the Rav4, despite Toyota’s continued insistence that it is a 5-person vehicle.

While overlapping seat belts in and of themselves don’t automatically exclude a vehicle from 3 across capabilities (the Highlander has overlapping belts but is still a decent 3 across vehicle, for example), when the belts overlap to a significant degree (as in the current generation Corolla, Rogue, or CX-5), 3 across becomes an impossibility for safety reasons. I’ve included 2 car seat arrangements that will work easily given the available space in the Rav4, but until Toyota corrects this, the Rav4 will remain a 2-across vehicle.

Clek Fllo (x2).

Clek Foonf (x2).

Chicco KeyFit 30 (x2).

Graco Size4Me 65 (x2).

Graco Contender (x2).

Diono Radian / RXT (x2).

Combi Coccoro (x2).

Tips and Tricks:

The current generation of the Toyota Rav4 is 180 inches long and 73 inches wide, which means you’ll have a good amount of space for any 2 car seats, though not 3 (see above).

rav4 - 2006 - publicdomain2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 Toyota Rav4

Guaranteed 3 across installations: None!

The 2007-2012 generation Toyota Rav4 began an unfortunate step backwards in car seat compatibility in this generation, due to the ridiculously overlapping seat belts in the back seat. This is the case with the current (2013+_ generation as well, and all signs point to this continuing to be a “feature” of the Rav4, despite Toyota’s continued insistence that it is a 5-person vehicle.

While overlapping seat belts in and of themselves don’t automatically exclude a vehicle from 3 across capabilities (the Highlander has overlapping belts but is still a decent 3 across vehicle, for example), when the belts overlap to a significant degree (as in the current generation Corolla, Rogue, or CX-5), 3 across becomes an impossibility for safety reasons. I’ve included 2 car seat arrangements that will work easily given the available space in the Rav4, but until Toyota corrects this, the Rav4 will remain a 2-across vehicle.

Clek Fllo (x2).

Clek Foonf (x2).

Chicco KeyFit 30 (x2).

Graco Size4Me 65 (x2).

Graco Contender (x2).

Diono Radian / RXT (x2).

Combi Coccoro (x2).

Tips and Tricks:

The 2007-2012 generation of the Toyota Rav4 is 181 inches long and 71 inches wide, which gives you slightly less room for 2 across than in the current generation. However, due to to the overlapping seat belt issue again, you’re still dealing with 2 across, so there’ll be room for just about whatever you’re interested in fitting, as long as you only want 2 of them.

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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