3 Across Installations: Which Car Seats Fit a BMW 3 Series?

The BMW 3 series is one of the more popular options for mid-sized luxury sedans and hatchbacks available in the United States (along with its newly-named coupe twin the 4 series). Models like the 318d, 316d, 320d, 328d, 330d, 320i, 328i, and 335i compete with fellow mid-sized luxury sedans and hatchbacks like the Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Volvo S60, and Volvo V60 among buyers interested in safe, stylish, and head-turning transportation.

I’ve written about the safety-focused design of BMW’s cars in past car comparisons, and it’s no surprise that many parents in small families turn to the 3 series to keep their loved ones and little ones safe on the road. I was able to borrow a few generations of the 3 series this past weekend to see just how well-engineered they were when it came to fitting 3 car seats (e.g., infant seats, booster seats, convertible seats, and combination seats) across the back row. I’ll be honest with you: it’s very, very hard.

Before reviewing the very few seats that work, though, I always like to talk about when we should have our children in certain kinds of seats while they ride in cars with us.

I always advocate beginning with rear-facing, and continuing to do so with young children for as long as possible (ideally until 4!). After rear-facing, next comes forward-facing in harnessed convertible or combination seats (ideally until 8!). Once kids are too big for forward-facing harnessed seats, booster seats are the next step until they pass the 5-step test for using adult vehicle seats and adult seat belts (which typically happens between 10 and 12). The longer you keep your kids safely restrained, the better their odds of crash survival.

With these ideas in mind, I made it my goal to install as many car seats 3 across in the back of the 3 series as possible. There’s not very much information on the Internet about what’s possible with this car, so I figured this list was long overdue. If you find it 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.

The 3-across guides below apply equally to the 3 series sedan and touring, or “sport wagon” hatchback models.

2017 BMW 3 Series (G20)

Guaranteed 3 across installations: Coming Soon!

f30 3-series - 2014 - publicdomain2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 BMW 3 series
(F30)

Guaranteed 3 across installations:

Clek Fllo (x3).

Clek Foonf (x3).

Combi Coccoro (x3).

Chicco KeyFit 30 (x3).

Chicco KeyFit 30Clek Fllo, Chicco KeyFit 30.

Tips and Tricks:

This generation of the BMW 3 series is 182 inches long and 71 inches wide, meaning it more closely resembles a small (compact) car in its interior and exterior measurements than a mid-sized luxury car. This also means that you’re going to have a tougher time fitting car seats inside it. However, it’s still possible, especially if you use your seat belts instead of the LATCH system, which I always recommend.

As is typical with BMW, the middle seat is a narrow one, which particularly limits the seats you’ll be able to fit there. The angle of the vehicle’s seats can also make it difficult to get the proper amount of recline for a rear-facing seat.

3 series - 2005 - publicdomain2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 BMW 3 series
(E90)

Guaranteed 3 across installations:

Clek Fllo (x3).

Clek Foonf (x3).

Combi Coccoro (x3).

Chicco KeyFit 30 (x3).

Chicco KeyFit 30Clek Fllo, Chicco KeyFit 30.

Tips and Tricks:

The 2006-2011 generation of the BMW 3 series is between 178 and 182 inches long and 70-72 inches wide, meaning it more closely resembles a small (compact) car in its interior and exterior measurements than a mid-sized luxury car. This also means that you’re going to have a tougher time fitting car seats inside it. However, it’s definitely possible, especially if you use your seat belts instead of the LATCH system, which I always recommend. As is typical with BMW, the middle seat is a narrow one, which particularly limits the seats you’ll be able to fit there.

3 series - 1998 - publicdomain1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 BMW 3 series
(E46)

Guaranteed 3 across installations:

Clek Fllo (x3).

Clek Foonf (x3).

Combi Coccoro (x3).

Chicco KeyFit 30 (x3).

Chicco KeyFit 30Clek Fllo, Chicco KeyFit 30.

Tips and Tricks:

The 1998-2005 generation of the BMW 3 series is 176-177 inches long and 69 inches wide, making it significantly shorter than future generations as well as a bit narrower. This also means that it’s going to be all but impossible to make 3 across setups work. However, it is possible with enough time, the right technique, and the right seats. Of course, you’ll be using seat belts; LATCH is absolutely not an option here.

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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