Best Car Seat For Small Cars

Struggling to fit the family in your small car? We’ve rounded up the best compact car seats for small cars, to save space without sacrificing safety or comfort.

If you’ve ever played Tetris, then you should have a good idea of what it’s like to get a baby seat into a small car.

Fitting all the pieces together becomes a case of if this goes there, then this can go there, and then maybe we’ll all fit!

This is a frustrating way to start any trip, but it often seems unavoidable when you take a look at the standard infant car seat. Bulky but essential, the infant car seat can take up half of the back seat if you aren’t a savvy shopper.

To help you travel with a little more breathing room, we’ve rounded up the best compact car seats to be used in small cars. These can save time, effort, and space, so the entire family can travel comfortably.

And if you love this guide on the best car seat for compact car, then make sure to check out these guides on the best narrow car seat, best lightweight car seat, and best stroller car seat combos.

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Our Top Pick
Diono Radian 3R, 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat
$199.99 $189.99

This slim fit, all in one convertible car seat is perfect for small cars.

Designed to fit 3 across in most vehicles without compromising child safety or passenger comfort, this car seat can protect from baby to booster seat (5 - 120 lbs) so you can expect 10 years of safety from just one car seat!

You can also keep it rear facing longer up to 50 pounds for extra safety.

Dimensions: ‎16 x 17 x 28.5 inches


01/29/2023 06:01 am GMT

List of The 5 Best Car Seats For Small Cars

Best Car Seat For Small Cars

1. Diono Radian 3R 3-In-1 Convertible Car Seat

Best Overall Car Seat For Small Cars

The Diono Radian 3R offers an exceptional performance in a slim package, making it our top choice of car seat for small cars.

The external width measures just 16.9 inches, and it folds down when not in use. It’s so small, the Diono Radian 3R is approved for air travel!

The Diono Radian 3R is a convertible car seat, providing 10 years of performance in just one design. It can be used from 5 lbs all the way to 120 lbs, with an adapting design to ensure safety at every step.

At the heart of the Diono Radian 3R is a steel frame, designed to shield and protect your little one in the event of an accident. 

And let’s not overlook the price. The Diono Radian 3R is hardly a budget purchase, but it is well priced for a seat you can get so many years of use out of.

Or consider investing in the Diono Radian 3RXT. This hugely popular car seat is a premium pick, and comes with an easier installation and adjustment.

Pros

  • 10 Years Of Performance – The adaptable car seat can be used from birth through to childhood.
  • Slim Build – Even a small car can fit three Diono Radian 3R seats side-by-side.
  • Reinforced Steel Frame – Excellent protection in case of an accident.

Cons

  • Height – When in rear-facing mode, the Diono Radian 3R is quite long. 

Also available for purchase from Diono.

Our Top Pick
Diono Radian 3R, 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat
$199.99 $189.99

This slim fit, all in one convertible car seat is perfect for small cars.

Designed to fit 3 across in most vehicles without compromising child safety or passenger comfort, this car seat can protect from baby to booster seat (5 - 120 lbs) so you can expect 10 years of safety from just one car seat!

You can also keep it rear facing longer up to 50 pounds for extra safety.

Dimensions: ‎16 x 17 x 28.5 inches


01/29/2023 06:01 am GMT

2. Graco SlimFit 3-In-1 Car Seat

Best Convertible Car Seat For Small Cars

The Graco SlimFit 3-in-1 convertible car seat has been engineered to provide safety and longevity, without the bulk of similar styles. Suitable from birth through to childhood, this convertible car seat adapts to suit your needs. 

A space saving design, the Graco SlimFit uses integrated cup holders to cut down on width. These can rotate away, making the seat 10% slimmer, and giving back valuable space.

The 4-position recline and 10-position headrest ensures the seat provides the safety and comfort you need, without compromising space.

The Graco SlimFit uses the InRight LATCH system for installation. This offers secure attachment quickly, so you don’t have to struggle with a complicated installation in a small backseat.

The SlimFit also uses a no-rethread safety harness. Again, this allows you to make quick adjustments, for improved safety, without the hassle.

Protection Plus engineered to provide front, side, and rear support, and with a reinforced steel frame, the Graco SlimFit is a durable car seat that uses smart features to cut size without losing safety.

Pros

  • Rotating Cup Holders – Make the design 10% slimmer by simply moving the cup holders.
  • InRight LATCH Installation – The Graco SlimFit installs quickly.
  • ProtectPlus Engineered – Designed to protect from front, side, rear, and rollover crashes.

Cons

  • Hard To Clean – The light colors show stains, and the covers are hard to remove.
01/29/2023 06:06 am GMT

3. Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat And Base

Best Car Seat For Use With Stroller

If you’re looking for a car seat that can be used with a stroller, you’ll undoubtedly be aware of the Chicco KeyFit 30.

This ubiquitous car seat is known for its superb secure installation features, versatile adaptations, and all-round protection. But is it worth the investment if you have a small car?

The Chicco KeyFit 30 might not be the most compact design on the market, but for small car owners building a travel system, it’s an excellent choice. With a 17” inch width, the Chicco KeyFit 30 can fit comfortably into small vehicles.

Moms love the safe and secure installation of the KeyFit 30. Premium LATCH connectors, bubble-level indicators, and a spring-loaded leveling foot all work together for safe attachment that you can trust.

And you can install and remove the car seat fast, moving from stroller to car with ease.

Finally, we can’t mention the Chicco KeyFit 30 without mentioning its adaptability. The seat works with (nearly) all your favorite strollers, for the most convenient travel system.

Pros

  • Secure Installation – The KeyFit 30 installs quickly, with safety features that provide peace of mind.
  • EPS Energy Absorbing Foam – Impact absorbing protection in case of a crash.
  • Newborn Positioner – The KeyFit 30 can be used from day one, thanks to the removable padding.

Cons

  • The harness is awkward to adjust, and a little bulky. 

You may also like our full Chicco Keyfit 30 infant car seat review and strollers compatible with Chicco KeyFit 30.

Our Top Pick
Chicco KeyFit 30
$189.99 $179.99

With a width of 16.75 inches the Chicco KeyFit 30 is our top choice when it comes to a narrow infant car seat!

Chicco is easy to install with it's spring-loaded leveling foot to ensure the base angle is just right, with two bubble-level indicators providing visual confirmation that the seat is in place. 

The material is also easy to wash and breathable, with a machine washable seat pad. 

The Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat is designed for babies between 4-30 lbs. and up to 30” tall.


01/29/2023 06:06 pm GMT

4. Cybex Aton 2 Convertible Car Seat

Best Lightweight Car Seat For Small Cars

Weighing just 9 lbs and containing some surprising smart features, the Cybex Aton 2 is a top choice for parents with small cars. 

Weight might not seem like the most important feature when choosing a car seat for a small car, but going lightweight does have benefits.

When there isn’t much room in the car, the last thing you want to be doing is struggling with a heavy seat. Thanks to the light build of the Cybex Aton 2, it’s much easier to transfer between cars and strollers!

The Cybex Aton 2 isn’t known for its narrow frame, but it does have a shallow build. There’s less bulk at the head and the rear.

In a small car, that makes it easier to maneuver, and less likely to push against the seats in front or behind.

One final bonus of the Cybex Aton 2 is the SensorSafe system. This is built into the chest clip, and alerts you via an app when the harness is unbuckled, it’s too hot or too cold, or if the child has been in the seat for too long!

Pros

  • 9 lbs – A lightweight car seat that can be transferred easily from vehicle to stroller.
  • L.S.P. System – Linear Side Protection absorbs more impact force, for a safer seat.
  • SensorSafe – receive alerts when your child might be in danger, or uncomfortable.

Cons

  • Width – The Cybex Aton 2 might be slightly too wide for some cars.
01/29/2023 05:16 pm GMT

5. Maxi-Cosi Mico 30 Infant Car Seat

Best Car Seat For Small Cars For Newborns

Compact and lightweight, the Maxi-Cosi Mico car seat can make those first few months of parenting a little bit easier.

Able to fit securely into small cars, and with a LATCH system for easy installation, we love the Maxi-Cosi Mico as a newborn car seat.

The Maxi-Cosi Mico measures just 36” x 18” x 16”, and weighs less than 9 lbs. It’s no effort to move from stroller to car, even with your little one tucked up in the padded and comfortable seat!

A LATCH system and stay-in-car adjustable base ensures a safe and secure fit.

Compatible with multiple strollers (including the Maxi-Cosi range), the Mico is a good choice for parents looking to build a travel system.

An ergonomic carry handle adds to the easy use, while removable and machine washable fabrics are perfect for life with a newborn.

The Maxi-Cosi car seat range offers many fantastic options for the smaller car, but we like the compact build of the Mico best of them all.

Pros

  • Lightweight – Easy to transfer from car to stroller, and back again.
  • Removable Fabrics – Life’s little messes can be dealt with quickly and efficiently.
  • Self-Wicking Fabrics – Keep your little one comfortable and dry, even during long journeys.

Cons

  • Base – The car seat can sometimes get stuck in the adjustable base, requiring a push to remove.
Our Top Pick
Maxi-Cosi Mico 30 Infant Car Seat
$219.99

Fully compatible with Maxi-Cosi and many other premium-brand strollers like the Bob Stroller, this lightweight car seat is a great choice!

Fully cushioned, this car seat offers maximum comfort and is soft to touch and is made from superior and premium PureCosi fabric. 

This car seat also consists of additional features such as an adjustable latch car seat base, a 5-point harness to ensure a secure fit, and an adjustable canopy for protection from the elements.


01/29/2023 12:21 am GMT

Buyer’s Guide on How To Choose Car Seat For Small Car

By the time you’ve got a standard car seat in your small car, it might not feel like there’s enough room for the driver!

Add on the baby bag and the diapers, the baby itself, and any other passengers, and the car is full to bursting!

Car seats are pretty much a necessity if you have a baby and a car, but they can be bulky. That doesn’t mean you have to abandon your compact vehicle for something with more seat room!

Instead, we’ve put together this guide to help you choose the right car seat for your small car.

Width

A car seat with a smaller width will give more room in the back seat, leaving space for other passengers.

If you need multiple car seats in one car, then a reduced width is essential. Otherwise, you won’t be able to securely attach each seat.

When considering width, make sure to measure the absolute widest point on the car seat. This is generally at the arms, but some car seats will be wider in other places. Measure in multiple points if necessary, so you have an accurate impression of width.

Length

The length of the car seat refers to the distance from front to back. This is generally measured on the diagonal, to show how far the car seat stretches from the head to the foot.

The car seat is often at its longest when angled to accommodate newborns and younger babies.

If the car seat is too long, it will start to push against the front seats. This might leave other passengers with no legroom. In some cases, it can prevent the seat from fitting into the car at all. 

If an infant seat has a car handle, this can add extra inches to the car seat length. If legroom is likely to cause an issue, check what position the handle needs to be in when the seat is in the car. 

Weight

Weight isn’t exactly the most important feature when choosing a car seat for a small car, but it is worth consideration.

When there isn’t much room in a car, the last thing you want is a heavy car seat that’s difficult to move.

The lightest car seats typically weigh around 9 to 13 lbs. Incredibly lightweight car seats can even weigh less than this. Convertible car seats are heavier, because of the inherent complexity of the design.

Weight and size are generally linked. Compact car seats tend to weigh less than bigger models.

Installation

Small cars don’t have much room to move around in, so easy installation is an essential feature of your chosen car seat. If it’s hard to install the seat, you’re more likely to make an error, and compromise safety.

Thankfully, car seats are getting easier to install securely. The LATCH system is a popular method for quicker and safer installation.

Designs such as the Chicco KeyFit 30 use indicators to help parents see when the car seat is correctly in place.

If you use your car for different things (not always involving the baby), easy installation is even more important. 

Type Of Car Seat

Before choosing your car seat, you have to consider the exact type of seat you need. Types of car seats include:

  • Rear-facing infant seats. Rear-facing seats are intended for newborns and younger babies. These are bucket style seats, and they keep your little one reclined in padded comfort. A rear-facing infant seat has a limited use, and can generally only support babies up to 12 months. Many of these seats can be installed in strollers, to make a travel system.
  • Forward-facing infant seats. Forward-facing seats are for toddlers and older children who are able to sit up on their own for longer periods of time. These aren’t suitable for younger children, as it’s safer to keep kids in rear-facing seats until they’re at least 15 months.
  • Convertible seats. Convertible seats can change position to accommodate different ages and weights. Some convertible seats can be used from birth to early childhood, but others have more limited options. 
  • Booster seats. Booster seats are only for older children, providing protection (and a more comfortable place to sit). 

Age Range

We’ve touched on age range with type of seat, but it’s such an important feature that it’s worth further discussion.

The age range of the car seat is essential for safety. If your little one doesn’t fit in the seat properly, they won’t be getting the support they need.

Convertible car seats offer the largest age range, and they can save you some money. But they can also be bulky.

If you have a smaller car, you may prefer to start with a rear-facing seat, and switch to a forward-facing seat when your child is ready.

Safety Features

No matter the size of the car, correct safety features need to be a top priority when choosing a car seat. The car seat must offer impact protection in case of a crash. For younger children, the car seat must offer support at the head, neck, shoulders, and spine.

FAQs on infant car seat for small cars

Can You Fit 3 Car Seats In The Back Of A Car?

Big families can fit three car seats in the back of a small car, there just might not be room to stretch out!
Make sure to check the width of the car seat if you’re shopping for three. Models such as the Diono Radian 3R are excellent for accommodating multiple children.
If you have three kids of different ages, it’s often best to choose three different types of car seats. These will have width in different places, so there’s less chance of knocking and rubbing!
It’s recommended that the most vulnerable passenger uses the middle seat. 

Are Rear-Facing Infant Car Seats Smaller Than Convertible Car Seats?

Rear-facing car seats are generally smaller than convertible car seats because they’re designed to hold younger children.
Convertible car seats are suitable for toddlers and even older children, adding bulk to the design. 

What Is The Best Car Seat For A Small Car?

The best car seat for a small car must be narrow, easy to install, and lightweight. It also must have all the safety features necessary for a car seat.
We recommend the Diono Radian 3R and Graco SlimFit convertible car seats. If you’re looking for a seat for a newborn, try the Chicco KeyFit 30, the Cybex Aton 2, or the Maxi-Cosi Mico.

Final Thoughts Best Car Seat For Compact Car

No parent wants to feel pushed out of their own car by an infant car seat! If you have a small car, make sure to check the dimensions of your car seat before making a purchase.

Otherwise, you might find you’re left with very little room to stretch out!

We hope this guide has helped you find the right car seat for your smaller car. Safe travels!

And if you’re still looking for more great baby guides, try these guides on do car seats and bases expire?, how to keep baby cool in car seathow to keep baby warm in car seatcar seats compatible with Uppababy Vista, and car seats compatible with Uppababy Cruz for more inspiration!

best infant car seat for small cars