Best Rear Facing Car Seat for Small Cars

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If you’re in a hurry and just want to find out what the best infant car seat for small cars is, I’d recommend the Graco Snugride SnugLock 35 XT.

When you drive a small car, space is at a premium. This is especially true once you have a baby, since there is no shortage of baby related gear that you will need to take with you whenever you go out. In order to save as much space as possible, you will want to find a good car seat for a compact car.

In this article, I am breaking down the best rear facing car seats for small cars, and in the end, I’ll choose the winner.

Here are the rear facing car seats for small cars I will be reviewing:

Benefits Of Rear Facing Car Seats

When you’re shopping for your first car seat, you have a couple of options. You can get a convertible car seat or you can get a rear facing car seat. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few of the benefits of rear facing car seats.

Safest Way For Young Children To Ride

The safest way for infants to ride in the car is in a rear facing car seat (this includes convertible car seats in rear facing mode). In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ride in a rear facing car seat until they reach age 2.

Travel Systems Are Quite Convenient

Infant car seats are often compatible with strollers, which allows them to become a part of a travel system. This means that whenever you arrive at your destination, you can simply take the entire car seat out of the car and attach it to your stroller instead of having to take your little one out. While this might not sound like a big deal, it really is. Having the ability to transition from car seat to stroller without waking up or disturbing your baby keeps everyone happier.

Ease Of Installation

Generally speaking, rear facing car seats are easier to install than convertibles. The main reason is that they come with a base. So, instead of installing the whole car seat, you just install the base. Then, you attach the car seat to the base.

Designed For Young Infants

The nice thing about convertible car seats is that they let your little one ride in several different ways and accommodate children across a wide range of sizes. However, specialization can be a virtue. While infant car seats only do one thing, they do it exceptionally well.

Things To Consider When Buying An Infant Car Seat For A Small Car

Here are a few things to pay close attention to when you’re shopping for an infant car seat for a small car.

Width, Depth, And Height

The dimensions of the car seat are a top consideration if you have a compact car. If you are going to try to fit 3 car seats across the back, width will have the biggest impact.

That said, car seat depth is also important, particularly if you have passengers in the front seat. If a car seat is too long from front to back, it might be necessary to adjust the seat directly in front of the car seat in order to make room. This can potentially leave front seat riders feeling a little cramped.

Weight And Height Limits

If you have a small car, chances are that you are going to be looking for a compact car seat. However, some of these smaller car seats have fairly low weight and height limits. I recommend trying to get a car seat with high limit if possible, so that your little one can continue riding in rear facing mode until at least age 2.

Stroller Compatibility

As mentioned above, it’s a good idea to get a stroller that is compatible with your car seat. However, when you have a small car, you likely also have a small trunk. So, you will want to make sure that there is a fairly compact stroller that is compatible with the car seat that you end up choosing.

My Top Infant Car Seat Reviews For Small Cars

I have narrowed down the universe of infant car seats, and reviewed my top 5 picks for small cars below. While any one of these car seats would make a great option, I have also picked my favorite.

Britax B-Safe 35

The Britax B-Safe is a solid option, though it does have a couple of drawbacks.

Depth: 26.5″  Width: 17.75″  Height: 25″

This car seat is compatible with Britax strollers. So, you can purchase it on its own or make it part of a travel system. It’s also compatible with BOB single and BOB Duallie strollers with an adapter if you’re the type of person that plans to take it off road.

It’s easy to install. So, it makes a good first impression, and can easily be switched between vehicles if you like.

Your baby will be comfortable from the beginning thanks to a removable newborn body pad. It also has a canopy that provides great protection from the sun.

It’s designed for babies that are between 4 and 35 pounds, and up to 32 inches tall. However, some parents report that the seat can be a little narrow for older babies. So, your little one might outgrow it before too long. The car seat itself is also a little on the heavy side.

In addition, some parents report that the fabric is not very breathable. As a result, babies sometimes get a little sweaty when it’s warm out.

Pros

  • Compatible with Britax strollers
  • Includes removable newborn body pad
  • Canopy provides great coverage
  • Easy to install

Cons

  • A little heavy
  • Seat is a little narrow for older babies
  • Fabric is not very breathable

Graco Snugride SnugLock 35 XT

This car seat has a lot of impressive features and a remarkably small footprint. In my opinion, it’s the best rear facing car seat for small cars.

Depth: 18″  Width: 16″  Height: 28″

It’s compatible with Graco strollers. Since Graco makes excellent car seats and strollers, this can be a nice combination.

It’s lightweight as well. So, moving it between your car and your stroller is easy. This is one of those features that seems more and more important over time, especially as your little one grows.

Installation is a breeze, and it comes with an easy to read level indicator. So, you will feel confident knowing that it’s installed correctly.

With 4 recline positions and a removable head and body pillow, your little passenger should be comfortable right from the start.

It’s designed for babies that are between 4 and 35 pounds, and up to 32 inches tall. However, some parents note that even with the removable head and body pillow, it would be nice if newborns had more head support.

One other more minor issue is that the canopy is a little small. So, it doesn’t provide as much protection from the sun as some parents would like.

Pros

  • Compatible with Graco strollers
  • 4 recline positions
  • Easy to read level indicator confirms angle is right
  • Affordably priced and a great value
  • Really small footprint means it fits well in small cars
  • Lightweight
  • Removable head and body support helps keep newborns snug and secure
  • Easy installation

Cons

  • Canopy is a little small
  • Some parents would like to see more head support for smaller newborns

Chicco KeyFit 30

The Chicco KeyFit is a wildly popular infant car seat, and for good reason.

Depth: 27.5″  Width: 17″  Height: 24″

Installation is one area where this car seat really shines. It just doesn’t get much easier. The Recline Sure spring loaded leveling foot and RideRight bubble level indicators also help ensure that you get the angle right. So, you know that you’re little one will be safe.

The underside on this car seat is smooth, which helps protect your vehicle. A lot of other car seats have hard, rigid edges which can leave indentations behind unless you put down a car seat protector.

It’s compatible with Chicco strollers. So, you can make this a part of a travel system if you like.

Removable head and body support helps ensure that your newborn will be secure and comfortable. This one is designed for babies that are between 4 and 30 pounds, and up to 30 inches tall. While you will still get plenty of use out of this car seat, it’s maximum height and weight limits are a bit lower than the others in this post.

Some parents also note that the canopy doesn’t always stay in place or provide great coverage. This one is a little on the heavy side. It’s not super heavy, but it’s not light either.

Pros

  • Recline Sure spring loaded leveling foot and RideRight bubble level indicators help ensure proper installation angle
  • Easy installation
  • Compatible with Chicco strollers
  • Removable newborn head and body support
  • Smooth underside helps protect vehicle seats

Cons

  • Canopy doesn’t stay in one place or provide good coverage
  • A little heavy
  • Lower height and weight capacity than others

UPPAbaby MESA

Of any car seat in this post, this one probably has the most impressive feature set. However, it’s priced accordingly. So, if you’re on a tight budget, you might want to look at other options.

Depth: 28″  Width: 17″  Height: 25″

There are a lot of features that make this one particularly comfortable for babies of all sizes. It has a removable infant insert to keep newborns comfortable. In addition, an adjustable headrest means that as your little one gets taller, their head will continue to be well supported. Finally, a no re-thread harness makes it easy to get the straps to just the right height for comfort and safety. It’s designed for babies that are between 4 and 35 pounds, and up to 32 inches tall.

Installing this car seat is quite easy. It also has an indicator window that changes from red to green to provide you with visual confirmation that the base has been installed correctly.

It’s compatible with the UPPAbaby VISTA and UPPAbaby CRUZ strollers. So, you can make this car seat part of a travel system. The car seat is a little on the heavy side though, so moving it from your car seat to your stroller takes a little effort.

The fabric is breathable and moisture wicking. It’s also easy to remove for cleaning. However, the seat straps are not able to be removed. This is a minor inconvenience since you may need to clean the straps from time to time.

Pros

  • Compatible with UPPAbaby VISTA and UPPAbaby CRUZ strollers
  • Indicator changes color to confirm proper installation
  • Adjustable headrest
  • No re-thread harness
  • Easy to install
  • Removable infant insert for newborns

Cons

  • Priced on the high end of the range
  • Straps can’t be removed for cleaning
  • A little heavy

Evenflo LiteMax 35

The Evenflo LiteMax is an affordable option that stacks up really well against higher priced competition. If you’re on a tight budget, this might be the infant car seat for you.

Depth: 28.5″  Width: 19″  Height: 24″

With some car seats, getting your little one in and out of the car can be an ordeal. This is particularly true in small cars where things can be a big cramped. This car seat has an innovative feature to make things just a bit easier. Specifically, it comes with buckle pockets so your buckles will be out of the way when you’re putting your little one in. This also has the advantage of keeping the metal part of the bucket from touching your child’s skin. Since metal can get hot in the summer, this can help prevent inadvertent burns.

Installation is easy with this one. It also comes with a level indicator to help ensure that you get the angle right.

There are 4 recline options, so you’re little one should be comfortable. It comes with removable head and body pillows as well to keep newborns secure.

The biggest issue with this one is that while it’s a little on the wider side in terms of the space it takes up in your car, the seating area itself is actually a bit narrow. So, while you will still get plenty of use out of it, older babies will start to outgrow it after a while. It’s designed for babies that are between 4 and 35 pounds, and up to 32 inches tall.

It’s compatible with Evenflo strollers, so it can be part of a travel system.

Some parents do note that the material feels a little cheap. Perhaps that’s not surprising since this one is priced on the low end of the range.

Pros

  • Priced affordably
  • 4 recline options
  • Lightweight
  • Buckle pockets make it easier to get child in and out without touching (potentially hot) buckle
  • Level indicator helps ensure proper angle
  • Compatible with Evenflo strollers
  • Easy to install
  • Removable head and body pillows

Cons

  • Can be a little narrow for older babies
  • Material feels a little cheap

Final Thoughts

In my opinion, the Graco Snugride SnugLock 35 XT is the best infant car seat for small cars. In addition to being a very high quality car seat with more features than drawbacks, this one also has a very small footprint. That said, I think that any of the car seats in this post would make a great choice. So, if you have a stroller that is compatible with one of the others, or if you simply like a different one better, they are all quality options.

Howard is a co-founder of Smart Parent Advice. When he isn't spending time with his wife, Kristin, or his two children, he can often be found running around on the tennis court.