The Fiat 500L is one of the most distinctive small cars you can buy today in the United States, and also one of the safest cars for surviving side impact collisions. It competes with a bevy of small cars currently sold throughout the US, including the Mini Cooper Countryman, Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus, Nissan Sentra, Kia Soul, Kia Forte, Dodge Dart, Chevrolet Cruze, Mazda 3, Toyota Prius, Scion xB, Volkswagen Golf, and Subaru Crosstrek. It’s the larger version of its smaller cousin, the Fiat 500.
It’s a crowded market, but the 500L is slowly carving out a niche for itself. Besides its great side impact performance, it also features ESC, side airbags, a good roof, and a good moderate overlap score. Its greatest weakness as of 2015 is its poor small overlap front score, which Fiat Chrysler America needs to address, and soon. That said, it’s an increasingly popular choice among families interested in a peppy hatchback that stands out in a crowd. I wanted to find out how good of a choice it would be for families hoping to install 3 car seats across the back row. The bad news is that the fit is a tight one. The good news is that it’s possible with a surprising number of seats, particularly when you use your seat belts for the installations.
Before going into those details, though, I always like to briefly review some of what I consider to be the basics of car seat safety. It doesn’t matter what you’re driving if you don’t safely restrain your children, and the best practices of safe restraints change with the kind of seat used and the age of your child.
For me, car seat safety starts with rear-facing your kids as long as you can (ideally until 4!). That’s the safest position and is worth doing as long as possible before forward-facing your little ones in harnessed convertible or combination seats (ideally until 8!). Once they outgrow their harnessed seats, I suggest keeping children in high-back boosters until they’re physically and psychologically ready to use adult seat belt systems (which typically happens between 10 and 12). The goal is to keep kids as safely restrained for as long as possible, as it’s far too late to do anything for your child’s safety in the moment before 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 Fiat 500L. I found several good options and a few great ones. 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.
2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 Fiat 500L
Guaranteed 3 across installations:
Clek Fllo (x3).
Clek Foonf (x3).
Chicco KeyFit 30 (x3).
Diono Radian RXT (x3).
Diono Radian R120 (x3).
Diono Radian R100 (x3).
Combi Coccoro (x3).
Tips and Tricks:
The current generation of the Fiat 500L is a scant 163 inches long and just over 70 inches wide, which places it on the narrower end of compact / small cars available today in the US. What this means is that your interior space will limit the range of car seats you can install in the 500L, although you’ll still be able to choose between a few as long as they’re narrow ones.
Given the shorter length of the 500L, you will need to watch your front-to-back space when dealing with tall seats. If you’re using the Radians, you’ll definitely want to make use of the angle adjuster to get as much extra room between the car seat and the vehicle’s front seats as possible; this will give you extra leg room as a driver or front seat passenger.
Given the width of the 500L, something I frequently recommend is to use your seat belts instead of your LATCH anchors to make the most of that side-to-side space. Remember that seat belts are as safe as LATCH anchors and are more versatile in a number of situations.
If you find the information on car safety, recommended car seats, and car seat reviews on this car seat blog helpful, you can shop through this Amazon link for any purchases, car seat-related or not. Canadians can shop through this link for Canadian purchases.