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Third-row seat safety becoming a hot topic

Car buyers wanted smaller SUVs, but did not want to give up the cherished third-row seats. But there are questions -- and no easy answers -- when it comes to safety.
ROYAL FORD
The Boston Globe

Sometimes, a look in the rearview mirror at how American families once traveled in automobiles can be frightening.

Big family. Seven kids. Not a lot of money.

Which is why it was not uncommon for the Ford family, in an old Chevrolet, to have a packed front bench seat, a packed rear seat -- no seat belts -- and one of the smaller kids in a favorite spot, stretched across the ledge beneath the rear window. Did we worry much about rear-seat safety back then? Not likely.

It is a topic today -- and readers send plenty of questions about it -- because of the boom in demand for third-row seating. It began, of course, with the minivan. Yet because minivan third-row seats usually had plenty of room between them and the rear hatch, safety was not questioned much.

Then came the SUV, and the bigger SUVs -- Chevrolet Suburbans, Ford Expeditions -- did not raise many eyebrows with their third rows because, again, there was good space back there and they were behemoths.

But then, in response to customer demand, came a move to tuck third rows into smaller SUVs. Some people did not want to drive behemoths, but they still wanted their SUVs. They also did not want to give up that third row for the occasions when they would be hauling their kids and the neighbors' kids (and kids are usually the ones put back there).

So manufacturers responded, leaving sometimes a foot or more of space between seat back and hatch -- and sometimes less.

Is it safe? Depends on who you ask and what you buy.

And answers backed by independent crash testing are virtually impossible to come by because the government has not pushed for rear-end crash testing.

Volvo, billed as one of the world's safest cars, has offered third-row seating in its station wagons since 1972.

And when it introduced its first SUV -- not a behemoth -- a couple of years ago, the XC90 offered third-row seating.

The reason, said Dan Johnston, Volvo spokesman, is that Volvo accepted the idea that, at times, the rear cargo areas of wagons and SUVs would inevitably end up as a quick solution in a crowded car, whether there was a seat back there or not.

'You go to pick up grandma and one of the kids will say, `I'll ride in the back,' '' said Johnston.

I wouldn't buy a vehicle that has less than a foot of space between the back of the rear seat and the hatch.

Ask if the rear cargo area is reinforced, stiffer than the crumple zone up front, which is meant to collapse and absorb energy. But in the front, it has more room to collapse.

Look for a relatively stiff, heavy seat with full, firm headrests. In a rear-end crash, this seat may cause the head to snap back harder even as it cushions the full torso, but the headrest is there to absorb the blow.

A poorly constructed rear seat runs the danger, particularly with heavier adults, of bending backward in a rear-end crash and possibly letting the passenger be flung rearward.

Full Article Here

 

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The third row seat has turned into one of those options like a towing package or 4x4. Most people don't even use them. They think maybe one day they might so they spend the money. Now manufacturers think everybody wants it so they start shoving them into vehicles that shouldn't have them.

They should do crash testing if they are going to shove them in all of these vehicles. I personaly wouldm't use one unless it was in a full size SUV or van.
 

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ugh. i'm going to guess that these smaller 3rd row seats are a result of the push to move away from larger vehicles and into smaller, more effieicnt ones. some people still need (or want) the extra seating room though. now we see that this rush to jam seats in the trunk of a smaller SUV might not be ideal. can't win these days!
 

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the third row seat is something that has been looked at before as a safety issue, just in a different light. i remember my dad's Torino wagon from when i was a kid, and it had rear facing third row seats. notice that you can't get those these days? it was a safety issue, and they eliminated it. i predict that it won't be long before the third rows in smaller SUVs (XC-90, SRX, etc.) will be looked upon as a safety hazard, and possibly become a thing of the past. i've often wondered myself what would happen if someone were to smash the back up on one of those. there isn't enough room for crunching there, and i could see it becoming a serious problem. there may come a time where we see these 3rd rows in small SUVs disappear, and the only options left are full-size SUVs or minivans if you need room for more than 5 or 6. that's my thought, anyway....
 

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Don't they still offer the third row in the Taurus/Sable wagons?
 

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Yes, that's just about the only major feature that differentiates the Taurus/Sable wagon from the sedan, other then that God-awful look that wagons often have compared to their sedan counterparts.

Ford is going to change things around a bit this fall when the Five Hundred and the Freestyle both come out. The Five Hundred will be exclusively a sedan while the Freestyle will be exclusively a wagon thus resulting in two separate vehicles to satisfy two separate niche consumer groups. In spite of their different appearance, beyond the fact that one's a sedan and the other's a wagon, there will still be a considerable amount of part sharing: they'll share the same chassis, engines, transmissions, all-wheel drive system (on models equipped), and other parts.

By the time those vehicles come out, the only vehicle that'll have sedan/wagon (and in this case hatchback) configurations under one nameplate from Ford will be the Focus, which was intended to be this versatile in the first place.

Also by that time, the Taurus will be relegated to fleet-only sales for the next few years before finally being eliminated. The Mercury Sable, on ther other hand, will be terminated immediately.
 

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Whatabout people who ride in the back of Echo hatchbacks and Minis, even a Golf... not much more than a foot between the seat and the hatch there. How does this space even affect the rear-end safety?

a Golf isn't THAT small, there's still quite a bit of crumple room. there is no Echo hatchback. as far as a Mini goes, if you expect to have the greatest safety anywhere in that tiny car, you're sadly mistaken. people buy those because of what they are (cute and fun to drive) not 'cause they're safe.
 

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Originally posted by Smaart Aas Saabr@Jun 10 2004, 08:49 PM
Whatabout people who ride in the back of Echo hatchbacks and Minis, even a Golf... not much more than a foot between the seat and the hatch there. How does this space even affect the rear-end safety?
Smart arse Saabr,

That's a good point! :eek:

All Minivans have 3rd row seats. Fact.

Models based on minivan platforms...with 3rd row seats.
Acura MDX
Buick Rendezvous
Honda Pilot

Models based on car platforms...with 3rd row seats.
Cadillac SRX
Ford Taurus Wagon
Mercury Sable Wagon
Toyota Highlander
Volvo V70
Volvo XC70 (Cross Country)

Models based on SUV/Truck platforms...with 3rd row seats.
Cadillac Escalade
Cadillac Escalade ESV
Chevrolet Suburban
Chevrolet Tahoe
Chevrolet Trailblazer EXT
Dodge Durango
Ford Excursion
Ford Expedition
Ford Explorer
GMC Envoy XL
GMC Yukon
GMC Yukon XL
Infiniti QX56
Isuzu Ascender
Land Rover Discovery
Lexus GX470
Lexus LX 470
Lincoln Aviator
Lincoln Navigator
Mercedes Benz M Class
Mercedes Benz E Class
Mercury Mountaineer
Mitsubishi Montero
Nissan Pathfinder Armada
Suzuki XL-7
Toyota 4Runner
Toyota Land Cruiser
Toyota Sequoia
 

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Originally posted by Tiger+Jun 10 2004, 09:32 PM--></div><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (Tiger @ Jun 10 2004, 09:32 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> <!--QuoteBegin-Smaart Aas Saabr@Jun 10 2004, 08:49 PM
Whatabout people who ride in the back of Echo hatchbacks and Minis, even a Golf... not much more than a foot between the seat and the hatch there. How does this space even affect the rear-end safety?
Smart arse Saabr,

That's a good point! :eek:

All Minivans have 3rd row seats. Fact.

Models based on minivan platforms...with 3rd row seats.
Acura MDX
Buick Rendezvous
Honda Pilot

Models based on car platforms...with 3rd row seats.
Cadillac SRX
Ford Taurus Wagon
Mercury Sable Wagon
Toyota Highlander
Volvo V70
Volvo XC70 (Cross Country)

Models based on SUV/Truck platforms...with 3rd row seats.
Cadillac Escalade
Cadillac Escalade ESV
Chevrolet Suburban
Chevrolet Tahoe
Chevrolet Trailblazer EXT
Dodge Durango
Ford Excursion
Ford Expedition
Ford Explorer
GMC Envoy XL
GMC Yukon
GMC Yukon XL
Infiniti QX56
Isuzu Ascender
Land Rover Discovery
Lexus GX470
Lexus LX 470
Lincoln Aviator
Lincoln Navigator
Mercedes Benz M Class
Mercedes Benz E Class
Mercury Mountaineer
Mitsubishi Montero
Nissan Pathfinder Armada
Suzuki XL-7
Toyota 4Runner
Toyota Land Cruiser
Toyota Sequoia [/b][/quote]
What other cras does the Explorer/Mounatainer/Aviator playform share with?
 

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Originally posted by Smaart Aas Saabr@Jun 10 2004, 08:49 PM
Whatabout people who ride in the back of Echo hatchbacks and Minis, even a Golf... not much more than a foot between the seat and the hatch there. How does this space even affect the rear-end safety?
Echo hatchbacks are probably lethal to the people in the front seats, let alone the back. I have never seen such an unsafe-looking little roller skate. The fact that it's ugly just adds to my revulsion.
 

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:(

I have been in the third row seat of the SRX and it is no picnic! It is horrible back there. There is absolutely no leg room what so ever. I would buy a vehicle with a 3rd row, BUT would need for it to be safe if this was the case.
 

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Canada has Echo hatchbacks, in 3-door and 5-door versions:
oh, ok. that's a Vitz in Japan.... thought it was elsewhere, too. my bad. why they don't sell that instead of the ugly sedan in the U.S. is beyond me. it's actually kinda cool looking.... in a strange way. the sedan is ugly no matter how you look at it.
 

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Originally posted by MN12Fan@Jun 10 2004, 08:49 PM
Yes, that's just about the only major feature that differentiates the Taurus/Sable wagon from the sedan, other then that God-awful look that wagons often have compared to their sedan counterparts.

Ford is going to change things around a bit this fall when the Five Hundred and the Freestyle both come out. The Five Hundred will be exclusively a sedan while the Freestyle will be exclusively a wagon thus resulting in two separate vehicles to satisfy two separate niche consumer groups. In spite of their different appearance, beyond the fact that one's a sedan and the other's a wagon, there will still be a considerable amount of part sharing: they'll share the same chassis, engines, transmissions, all-wheel drive system (on models equipped), and other parts.

By the time those vehicles come out, the only vehicle that'll have sedan/wagon (and in this case hatchback) configurations under one nameplate from Ford will be the Focus, which was intended to be this versatile in the first place.

Also by that time, the Taurus will be relegated to fleet-only sales for the next few years before finally being eliminated. The Mercury Sable, on ther other hand, will be terminated immediately.
I also found it strange that the Freestyle is the only cross over\wagon with a third row side-curtain air bags, called safety canopy
 
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