That's one of the reasons why three-row vehicles have become so common. For parents who plan to carry more than two kids in child seats, you need a third row. And over time, minivans have evolved to do this better than most other vehicles.
We just presented our First Drive of the all-new 2011 Honda Odyssey minivan, and were impressed to see that Honda has again reconfigured the interior for even better versatility. This time around, the automaker aimed to give the interior two modes, essentially: three-row adult comfort, and eight-passenger seating. It's not only added an inch of rear legroom and recontoured all the seats; the second row configures to two different widths—one for access, the other for maximum seating comfort, with a difference of about four inches in all—and the third row now even more easily folds down. For the third row, just one pull of a strap will fold the seat then pull it into a well in one smooth motion; going up is almost as easy—without the need for complicated power mechanisms.
Five child seats in a squeeze
Honda claims a class-leading six tether locations and five LATCH locations—the latter are the official clips for child seats. Officially, you can fit four child seats of any kind—two in both outboard positions of the second and third rows. But if they're narrow enough, you can mount three across in the second row and two in the third—for a capacity of five child seats. And that's really two more than most other minivans and SUVs.
Based on a federal government list, Honda checked all the child seats that were currently on the market during the Odyssey's development, and more than 80 percent of them fit three across in the second row, explained Honda's interior engineering lead, Rudy Mayne.
Child seats require a minimum width of 420 mm (about 16.5 inches), according to Honda's interior engineering lead, Rudy Mayne. In reconfiguring the interior, Honda looked at where outboard passengers need to be for the side-curtain airbags, and worked inward from that to maximize space, he said. The new second row configuration was key to allowing enough width without cramping access to the third row.
Easier access to tykes in the third row
Mayne explained that for the Odyssey's two main competitors, the 2011 Toyota Sienna and Chrysler's minivans, the Chrysler Town & Country and the Dodge Grand Caravan, "Their third row child seat is in the center, and that means if you have a child in the center they can't reach the cupholders for example." Having the LATCH positions outboard in the third row makes it all easier, he said.
In the current Odyssey and those other models, the child seats only fit in the outboard positions of the second row, so if you have a child seat there in the third row, you can't easily access the third row from that side. The new setup allows you to mount just one child seat in the middle position of the second row, and perhaps two in the third row, leaving relatively easy access to each. No squeezing past the child seat. The new setup allows you to scoot the middle position forward, basically to the back of the center console, then allowing the second row to go to its narrow mode for better third-row access.
Quite simply, thanks to some new packaging ideas, the 2011 Honda Odyssey should make the child-seat puzzle a lot easier to solve for some families.