This is a pretty regular question from our customers and the quick answer is that car seats, when rear-facing, are the same depth. Yesterday, I helped install a Clek foonf into a Kia Forte and noticed that by using the “infant-thingy” from Clek for a newborn, the foonf is actually quite a bit shorter than any infant or rear-facing convertible seat.
The Kia Forte is particularly short in the back seat, much like the BMW X3 and all Audis. All of them are great cars, they are just not the greatest for rear-facing car seats.
Here is why:
A rear facing car seat has to be (1) properly secured; (2) properly angled to 45 degrees (so the baby’s head does not flop forward); and (3) have space to react in a crash.
The back seat of any car or SUV is not flat, but rather inclined backwards towards the seat back. The car seats on display in our store are on a flat surface.
All infant only seats that we sell (the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio, the Maxi-Cosi Max30, and the UPPAbaby Mesa) all have a “bolster” built into their bases to allow the base to be properly angled to achieve the 45 degrees required. This makes getting the angle right easier, although in rare cases an additional bolster is needed. Our rear-facing “convertible” seats also have to be positioned so that baby is laying at a 45 degree angle. With the Britax convertible car seats, there are 7 different recline positions which generally achieves the purpose. With Clek seats, their rigid rebound bar combined with a tight latch belt fit allows you to put the seat at the proper angle. The Peg convertible invariably needs extra bolsters to get into the proper rear-facing position for infants.
The key point here about the angle is that it makes the rear-facing car seat longer, leaving less room for the front passenger seat. When I am assisting people to put in their rear-facing car seat, I always put the front passenger seat as far forward as possible. Once the seat is installed at the proper angle and tightness, I then have the front passenger moved back so that there are 2 fingers thickness between the rear-facing seat and the front passenger seat.
The reason for the space between the car seat and the front seat is to allow the car seat to react freely and DIRECT CRASH FORCES AWAY FROM YOUR BABY. So many people with good intentions ram the front seat back into the rear-facing car seat, thinking they are doing a smart thing. No, the car seat has to be able to move downwards in a crash and then back in a rebound, thus directing crash forces along the bottom of the car seat rather than into the cockpit where your baby is.
You can see in the picture above that the car seat is at the proper angle and that there is a space between the front passenger seat and the rear-facing car seat of about 1 inch (2 fingers).
What is interesting about the Clek foonf and Clek fllo is that when using the “infant thingy” (for babies up to about 6 months old), you remove the head rest, thus making the length of the rear-facing car seat slightly less than a standard infant only seat at the proper angle.
Check out our Car Seat selection at Crocodile Baby Store.