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We are in a tricky situation where we have a toddler in a car seat and occasional visits from parents who need to be in the rear as well. We would like to find a five-seater SUV that can accommodate two adults in the rear comfortably with a car seat. It’s always 2.5 seats, with the middle being for a fold-out cup-holder armrest attachment, and there is usually a hump in the middle or the floor or hitting your knees if you are in the middle. The last option, which we are trying to avoid, is for seven seats. – Ankur

Gentile: Ankur, that’s such a common complaint – finding comfortable and spacious rear-seats for three adults in a SUV with two rows is tough. Adding a car seat to the equation makes it even trickier.

Richardson: On the one hand, buyers want a small and manageable vehicle on the road. On the other, they want enough space inside for all their needs, and often, something has to give.

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Gentile: Exactly. And Ankur wants to avoid a bigger and more spacious three-row SUV that would meet all of his needs for a growing family and the occasional in-law.

Richardson: There has to be a compromise, unless they can find Doctor Who’s Tardis. That’s the only thing I know that’s small on the outside, huge on the inside.

Gentile: HA! And that’s not going to happen. But there are a few options, like the Lexus RX, which you can buy with two rows of seats or a long-wheel-base version, the RXL, that has three rows of seats, in case you need them in a pinch. That might be worth considering.

The Lexus RX350.

Courtesy of manufacturer

Richardson: I don’t think that three rows is really an option, anyway, because the car seat shouldn’t go right in the back. If one of the adults goes in the third row, he or she will have cramped leg room unless it’s a full-size SUV, or a minivan. Ankur needs the widest SUV on the market.

Gentile: Well, if he goes with the standard Lexus RX, the rear seats are pretty wide and spacious. While we don’t know Ankur’s budget, it might be worth looking at a cheaper vehicle from the same family, like a Toyota RAV4. He could fit a car seat on the left or right side – I always prefer that over the middle rear-seat spot.

Richardson: If Ankur’s budget is tight, the 2012 RAV4 had a third row of seats as an option. It won’t be that expensive if he can find one still in decent shape. But Toyota scrapped the extra seats because there really wasn’t the space for them. There’s no way a parent is going to be happy back there.

Gentile: But one vehicle that might work is the Honda CR-V. If you break down the rear-seat space, it’s not too bad. There’s 996 mm of headroom, 1025 mm of legroom, and 1412 mm of shoulder room in the rear seats.

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Richardson: It’s the shoulder room and the hip room that makes all the difference for space across the seats. They’re easy to check: just go to Google and tap in the name of any vehicle and “rear hip room." You’ll see straight away which are the widest. I was surprised the new RAV4 is one of the smallest, at just 1,219 mm of rear hip room.

Gentile: Yes, the CR-V is wider, with 1,257 mm of hip room back there.

Richardson: You’re right the Lexus RX is broader across the seats. It has 1,425 mm of rear hip room. But for me, the impressive one is the Hyundai Tucson. It’s in the same class as the RAV4 and CR-V, but has 1,384 mm of rear hip room, with almost the same shoulder room as the Honda at 1,410 mm.

The Hyundai Tuscon.

The Canadian Press

Gentile: I checked out some of the biggest vehicles on the road, and the Cadillac Escalade has 1,636 mm of rear hip room. But that’s just as a comparison.

Richardson: The Tucson’s looking good for Ankur! Strangely, I couldn’t find a measurement for the Kia Sportage, built on the same platform.

Gentile: Ankur should also consider the cargo space, too, since he’ll be lugging around strollers, diaper bags, toys and suitcases occasionally. The Tucson has 877 litres of cargo space, while the Honda CR-V has a whopping 1,110 litres when the rear seats are in use.

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Richardson: Ultimately, I think Ankur needs a “mid-size” SUV for the space he wants, like your Lexus. The Chevrolet Blazer, which is a really well put-together SUV, has 1,376 mm of rear hip room. But I think the prizewinner is the Ford Edge, at 1,460 mm across the rear seats. They’re both pretty spacious for cargo, too.

The Ford Edge.

Handout

Gentile: Ankur has many good options and a tough decision ahead. But my top pick for him, if it’s within his budget, is the Lexus RX.

Richardson: These are all good vehicles, but Ankur, when you go to the dealership to check out whatever interests you, remember to take a car seat along. Put it in the rear seat, then sit in there with the salesperson and let that help you decide.

What car should you buy? Write to Petrina and Mark at globedrive@globeandmail.com

Shopping for a new car? Check out the new Globe Drive Build and Price Tool to see the latest discounts, rebates and rates on new cars, trucks and SUVs. Click here to get your price.

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