i-size car seats. What do you need to know?

I confess I’d not heard the term either. But rest assured, they’re just talking about updated height based child car seats. i-size makes child car seats safer, easier to buy, fit and use. My babies are growing rapidly so I’ll need new child car seats soon. Read on to see what I found out and save yourself some time on what i-size means for you, what to check and why.

What are the regulations?

The law says that all children must use a child car seat until they’re either 12 years old or 135cm tall. Until we Brexit at least, these must be EU-approved. Wonder where we’ll be after that? A label with a capital ‘E’ in a circle will tell you this. We can select our kids’ car seats based either on their height or their weight.

What’s new about i-size?

I-size car seats are height based and were introduced in July 2013. They were developed to reflect up to date research enabling better head and neck protection for children up to the age of four. You choose a car seat based on the length of your child rather than their weight. At the same time, the 12 month age limit on the use of rear-facing seats for babies was extended to 15 months, and the use of ISOFIX points was introduced. They make it much easier to install a child car seat correctly because you don’t have to guide a seat belt around them.

‘I-size’ will make it easier still as all i-size seats will fit all i-size cars. Whilst the number of i-size is growing, it’s good to know that, for the moment, if your current child car seats conform to the previous regulations, you don’t have to update to i-size. It just gives you another option and is not mandatory.

What to look for

The law says you can only use your child car seats with diagonal seat belts unless they’ve been especially designed for use with a lap seat belt, or can be fitted using ISOFIX anchor points. Virtually all cars have these now but as not all ISOFIX seats will fit quite all cars with ISOFIX points, it’s definitely something to ask your dealer.

Check your child car seats are approved for use with the vehicle you’re considering buying. New cars will have i-size ready car seat positions, making car-buying for families even easier as the number of i-size approved vehicles increases. All i-size seats will fit all such vehicles.

Ask your dealer to show you there are enough ISOFIX or ‘i-size’ points in the car for the number of child seats you expect to be using. Sounds like a no-brainer but a large family of tiddlers is going to need three full seats across the back with corresponding fixing points whereas others may be content with just one or two.

A good option to consider in that case is the Ford S-Max, which has a fantastic five star Euro NCAP rating. In the second row of seats it has i-size points in the two outside positions, and ISOFIX points in all three.

If your family’s larger still, or you’re maybe planning on travelling with family or friends, you need to know you can’t fit child car seats into side-facing seats. Oh, and don’t forget to deactivate the front seat air bag, and move the seat as far back as possible, before putting your rear-facing baby seat in the front. In addition to avoiding the obvious and forceful air bag contact, being further away minimises the chance of any head or chest injuries in a crash.

A smaller car to think about might be the SEAT Ateca, recently awarded five-stars by Euro NCAP. It has ISOFIX / i-size points fitted as standard in the two outside rear seats, though not the rear centre seat or front passenger seat. Your two toddlers can be sitting pretty in the back and you’ll have peace of mind knowing they’re safe and sound.

Many cars also have a third ISOFIX point, providing a tether at the top, to stop the seat tipping forward in an accident. Ask your friendly local dealer about this and other useful safety facts about the cars you’re keen on when you visit. Just give them a ring to arrange a test drive today.