Personally, I have never seen anything quite like Volvo Cars’ new car seat configuration. Awesome or out? Come weigh in, all. Some things make me think they designed it just for me (good!), and some things I have concerns about (not so good).
For pictures and the official news release click HERE.
My family has owned a lot of Volvo cars over the years. Their reputation as an anvil of a car is well deserved from my experience and research. They are safe, dependable and practical–making them a natural choice for a lot of parents. In fact, I currently own a 1988 sedan myself–so there you go. They’ve come a long way from my old, faithful car, however. These days Volvo Cars’ models appear to have preserved their trademark safety but with a more luxurious flair. In that vein, their new car seat concept appears to aim at streamlining the process and positioning of baby car seats. What does this have to do with luxury? Cough. Anything that makes car seats easier or more practical is a luxury. Any parent knows that.
WHAT IS IT?
Essentially, they’ve done away with the front passenger seat. Hang in there, I know that sounds drastic–we’ll get to the cons of this in due time. Anyway, the front passenger seat is replaced with a customized baby car seat on a platform. The car seat has the ability to swivel to the side, enabling easy access from the car door. It has built in storage under the seat in what looks like a pull-out compartment from the pictures. Those are the basics. Now onto what’s good and bad about this idea, in my humble opinion.
I have to say that my gut reaction to this was that I liked it in theory. Here’s why:
- It allows easy access and eye contact with my daughter. This configuration acknowledges the reality that I (and a lot of other parents I’ve noticed) usually end up sitting in the back seat anyway because I find that it’s necessary for me (or at least somoene) to be there to make sure all is going well with baby or if she needs something. Does she usually go to sleep? Sure. But on long car trips she will not be sleeping the whole time, and not being able to see her or reach her is a problem. This way, I can keep an eye on her even if I’m the one driving.
- It encourages parents to keep their children in a rear-facing position. Volvo also touts this solution to eye contact as encouraging more parents to keep their children rear-facing longer, which is much safer. Children under the age of 3 must now remain rear-facing in order to avoid neck and head injuries that can occur when a small child is forward-facing during an impact. As I understand it, tiny necks and tiny heads just can’t withstand that kind of whiplash.
- It has all that nice storage. This kind of speaks for itself. Having an actual compartment to stow baby items is just better than having them in various piles around the car. Yes, this can be remedied by putting them in a bag or what have you, but then, of course, the bag has to be put down somewhere as well. I really like how the storage slides under the car seat, saving leg room.
- It swivels towards the door which makes it so much easier to get the baby in and out. The carseat can actually be turned towards the passenger door while strapping the baby in. I love this because stuffing a baby in from the side of a carseat is cumbersome.
I can see the potential of this design, but I do have some issues and questions about it–as do some of the commentators on other articles.
- Is it safe having a baby in the front of the car? This is a deal breaker right here. Generally, babies are relegated to the back seat over concerns over the airbags in the front seat. Granted, the airbags can be deactivated, thus doing away with this problem. However, this isn’t the only issue. Some have expressed dismay because frontal impacts to cars are so common in accidents. Often, the front seat is where the car is really getting crunched when a car runs into something else, making it a very scary spot to position your child. On the other hand, I’ve heard the argument that the dashboard is one of the sturdiest parts of the car and therefore one of the safest spots to be behind. Also, as is generally characteristic of Volvo cars, perhaps this frame is designed to very effectively withstand frontal impacts in that area. After all, Volvo does have a reputation for extremely well-researched and tested safety designs. I don’t know…I just have some serious questions in this area.
- You’re stuck with a carseat for the front passenger. Yes, having the carseat built into the front like that means you cannot use it as a regular front passenger seat. Basically, there will be no one riding “shotgun” except the baby. Again, I just have questions in this area. If the baby car seat is permanently affixed, that’s a bummer. But! If the baby seat can be switched out for a regular seat or something like that when the kid grows up or we just happen to need a front passenger seat, I could see that. Hmm.
- Constant eye contact and baby access may not necessarily be a good (or safe) thing. Myself excluded, some really don’t like the idea of having constant eye contact and therefore stimulation available for the baby. This makes it harder for the baby to fall asleep. It’s also been thrown out there that the ability to maintain contact or reach your baby even while in the driver’s seat will be more distracting for the driver. It’s a legit concern, although–personally–I think a baby you can’t see in the back seat is just as distracting because I’m always craning my neck and trying to figure out what’s going on back there. I guess this one kind of depends on the person.
I really love the concept of this design because it allows me more convenient access and eye contact with my baby whether I’m sitting in the back seat (where I usually am) or sitting in the driver’s seat. I love that I can swivel the seat to get baby in and out and I love the extra built-in storage. I’m basically sold if two things can be accomplished: (1) the baby carseat can be switched out for a regular passenger seat if needs be, and (2) my questions about the safety of putting a baby in the front passenger seat area are answered when it comes to frontal impact accidents. All in all, if I were assured of its safety, I think it makes a lot of practical sense and I would want it in my car.