PhotoWhat a difference a year makes.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says it's now a lot easier to secure your child in a late-model vehicle than it was just 12 months ago.

In the institute's LATCH ease-of-use ratings of child seat installation hardware in vehicles for June 2015, the majority of the 102 vehicles rated were poor or marginal. This year, a total of 170 current models were evaluated, and most were good or acceptable. In fact, three models -- the Audi Q7, the Lexus RX, and the Toyota Prius -- earn the top rating of good+, a distinction that no vehicle achieved last year.

LATCH, which stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, is intended to make it easier for caregivers to install child restraints properly. Child restraints installed with LATCH are more likely to be put in correctly than restraints installed using the vehicle safety belt, IIHS research has shown. A properly installed, age-appropriate child restraint can protect a child much better in a crash than a safety belt alone.

"Frustrating child seat installations have become a familiar rite of parenthood," said Jessica Jermakian, an IIHS senior research engineer. "Unfortunately, these frustrations lead to mistakes that can have real consequences in the event of a crash. We're pleased to see automakers taking this issue seriously and making improvements in response to our ratings."

The ratings

In the IIHS ratings system, LATCH hardware is considered good if it meets the following criteria:

  • The lower anchors are no more than ¾ inch deep within the seat bight or slightly deeper if there is open access around them.
  • The lower anchors are easy to maneuver around. This is defined as having a clearance angle greater than 54 degrees.
  • The force required to attach a standardized tool representing a child seat connector to the lower anchors is less than 40 pounds.
  • Tether anchors are on the vehicle's rear deck or on the top 85 percent of the seatback. They shouldn't be at the very bottom of the seatback, under the seat, on the ceiling, or on the floor.
  • The area where the tether anchor is found doesn't have any other hardware that could be confused for the tether anchor. If other hardware is present, then the tether anchor must have a clear label located within 3 inches of it.

To earn a good rating, two LATCH positions in the second row must meet all five criteria, and a third tether anchor must meet both tether criteria. The good+ rating is for vehicles that meet the criteria for a good rating and provide additional LATCH-equipped seating positions.

The good+ designation is intended to encourage manufacturers to give parents greater flexibility when seating children in a vehicle.

Vehicle ratings

Here's how the vehicles that were tested are rated:

2017 Audi Q7Lexus RXToyota Prius
2017 Audi A4BMW 5 seriesMercedes-Benz GL-Class
Audi A6Mercedes-Benz C-ClassMercedes-Benz GLE-Class
BMW 2 seriesMercedes-Benz E-ClassVolkswagen Passat
Acura ILXFord FlexLexus GX 460
Acura MDXFord Focus hatchbackLincoln MKX
Acura RDXFord Focus sedan Lincoln MKZ
Audi A3Ford TaurusMazda 3 hatchback
Audi Q3GMC TerrainMazda 3 sedan 
BMW X1GMC Yukon XLMazda CX-3
Buick EnclaveHonda Accord sedan Mazda CX-5
Buick EncoreHonda Civic sedanMazda CX-9
2017 Cadillac XT5Honda Civic coupeMini Cooper Countryman
Chevrolet Cruze LimitedHonda OdysseyMitsubishi Outlander
Chevrolet EquinoxHonda PilotMitsubishi Outlander Sport
Chevrolet Impala2017 Hyundai ElantraNissan Juke
Chevrolet Malibu Limited2017 Hyundai Santa FeNissan Maxima
Chevrolet Spark2017 Hyundai Santa Fe SportNissan Murano
Chevrolet TahoeHyundai TucsonNissan Pathfinder
Chevrolet TraverseHyundai VelosterNissan Versa
Chevrolet TraxJeep CherokeeToyota Avalon
Chrysler 300Jeep CompassToyota Camry
Chrysler Town & CountryJeep PatriotToyota Corolla
Dodge ChallengerKia ForteToyota Sienna 
built after 3/16
Dodge DartKia OptimaVolkswagen Golf
Dodge DurangoKia SedonaVolkswagen Tiguan
Dodge Grand Caravan2017 Kia SorentoVolvo S60
Ford EdgeKia SoulVolvo V60
Ford Expedition2017 Kia SportageVolvo XC90
Ford ExplorerLexus ES 350 
built after 8/15
Acura TLX2017 Ford FusionNissan Quest
Audi Q5Ford MustangNissan Rogue
BMW 3 seriesGMC AcadiaNissan Sentra
BMW X3Honda Accord coupe Ram 1500 crew cab
BMW X5Honda CR-VRam 1500 extended cab
Buick EnvisionHonda HR-VScion FR-S
Buick LaCrosseHyundai Accent sedan Scion iA
Cadillac CTSHyundai GenesisSubaru Crosstrek
Cadillac Escalade ESVHyundai SonataSubaru Forester
Cadillac SRXInfiniti QX60Subaru Impreza
Chevrolet CamaroJeep Grand CherokeeSubaru Legacy
Chevrolet MalibuJeep RenegadeSubaru Outback
Chevrolet Silverado 1500 ext. cabJeep Wrangler 2-doorSubaru WRX
Chevrolet SonicJeep Wrangler 4-doorToyota 4Runner
Chevrolet SuburbanKia RioToyota Highlander
2017 Chevrolet VoltLexus CT 200hToyota Prius c
Chrysler 200Lexus ISToyota Prius v 
built after 1/16
2017 Chrysler Pacifica 
built after 8/2016
Lexus NXToyota RAV4
Dodge ChargerLexus RCToyota Tundra crew cab 
built after 4/2016
Dodge JourneyLincoln NavigatorToyota Tundra extended cab 
built after 2/2016
Fiat 500XMazda 6Volkswagen CC
Ford C-Max HybridMini CooperVolkswagen Jetta
2017 Ford EscapeNissan AltimaVolvo XC60
Ford F-150 crew cabNissan Frontier crew cab 
Ford F-150 extended cabNissan Leaf 
Chevrolet Silverado 1500 crew cabGMC Sierra 1500 crew cabInfiniti QX50
Ford Fiesta hatchbackHyundai Accent hatchback Subaru BRZ
Ford Fiesta sedanInfiniti Q70



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