Infant and Child Car Seats in a MINI Cooper
After posting an article in which I mentioned going from a 4 door sedan to a 2 door MINI Cooper right around the time when we had our first baby I received a few inquiries about living with such a small car. I decided to put together a quick article with pictures to show how infant and child seats fit in a MINI Cooper known by its R56 chassis designation in production since 2006.
First up we have Graco Snugride 35 infant car seat (ours is in a different color as you’ll see in pictures below). We used this car seat to bring our baby home from the hospital and all the way to around 14 months old when our son got too big for it. We installed it in my wife’s 4 door sedan with a base secured with a LATCH system. In the MINI the base did not fit so I just used the seat by itself in a rear-facing position strapped with a seat belt instead of the LATCH system. The process worked was as follows: slide the passenger front seat all the way forward, recline the seat back, put my son in the car seat and buckle him up, put the car seat in the rear passenger seat and secure it with a seat belt, recline the seat back and lock it in place. Not bad really, but definitely not as easy as simply clicking the seat into the base in my wife’s car. I would say about an extra minute each time in the MINI compared to the sedan. Below a couple of pictures to show the fit of Graco Snugride 35 installed in the MINI Cooper.
Front passenger seat is moved all the way forward and reclined. Car seat is in place and ready to be secured with a belt.
Passenger seat is still all the way forward and the seat back is locked in place. There is very little legroom for the passenger and with a 32″ inseam I had to have my knees angled to barely fit. I doubt I could ride in like that for more than 20 minutes.
Closer look showing that there is no room to move the passenger seat back even one click from its all the way forward position.
View through the hatch with the passenger seat all the way up still. Once my kid started walking he had fun climbing out of the seat through the folded back seat and out of the hatch and into my arms!
After our son outgrew his Graco Snugride we got two Britax Marathon car seats and installed one in my wife’s car and another in the MINI Cooper.
In the beginning I installed it rear-facing in the Cooper. It worked OK but our son didn’t have much room for his long legs. In addition there was no easy way to get him in and buckled through the passenger door. No problem – flip the rear seat back down and get him in the seat through the hatch. Bonus points for all the perplexed looks you get in a parking lot while loading and unloading your kid through the trunk!
Pictures below show a Britax Marathon child seat installed on the rear passenger seat using the built-in LATCH system provided as a standard feature in every MINI. Britax uses a different LATCH attachment system than Graco and it works GREAT with recessed LATCH hooks in a MINI, almost as if custom designed. I took the plastic covers off the MINI hooks and stored them in a safe place. Otherwise it seems that they could easily break at some point.
Here is a Britax Marathon child seat installed in a rear-facing position with the rear passenger seat back down to let you get your kid in the seat through the hatch opening. Not ideal but it works.
In a picture below the front passenger seat is moved back about an inch away from the child seat and there is enough space to fit a 6 foot person.
Our son grew so fast that we flipped the Britax Marathon seat forward right around 13-14 months. It became MUCH easier getting him in and out of the seat since we could now do it through the front passenger door. It didn’t take long for him to start climbing in and out of the seat all by himself. As soon as he was able to climb in and out himself the only thing left for me was to wait and then strap him in. Shortly after, he discovered how to flip the passenger seat forward as soon as we’d come to a stop so all I had to do was unbuckle the belt and he was off to the races.
Lets take a closer look at a forward-facing Britax Marathon child seat in a Mini Cooper.
Note: you must remove one headrest for a proper fit! It took me a while to realize that the seat will fit but only if the headrest is taken out. Simply recline the seat forward, pull out the headrest and lock the seat back in place.
Front passenger seat in this picture is still all the way forward but there is plenty of room to move it back. Seat backs in a MINI Cooper are scooped out adding some leg room for the little ones.
Here the front passenger seat is moved back enough to comfortably seat a 6 foot person for any road trip. There is still lots of space for the kids feet.
Britax Marathon has a tether that securely straps the seat to one of the metal anchors in the boot of the MINI Cooper. It is not going anywhere! Passenger rear seat can be reclined for cargo or locked back in its upright position.
Does any of this make MINI Cooper a great family car? Not by a long shot. Fortunately we have a comfortable 4 door sedan for those packed long road trips to see the family. Yet the MINI is versatile enough to be a fun to drive gas-sipping commuter which can also easily transport an infant in a rear-facing seat or a child in a front-facing seat as needed. It works really well for us and I have zero regrets about deciding to downsize my car when we started a family.
5 Year Update – They Grow Up So Quick!
Time flies when you have a kid! Our son is in kindergarten now. We still have the same MINI Cooper and I still see no need to buy a bigger car. As a matter of fact, our MINI can haul more than any SUV out there! How? Check it out.
We sold the two car seats mentioned in this post and bought a booster seat that we absolutely love! It is this model made by Graco.
It was important to us to get a high back seat that still has the LATCH system that works so well with a MINI Cooper. This Graco model fit the bill perfectly. Our son loves the cup holder and the hidden compartment where he keeps his treasure.
The seat is light, compact and comfortable. It’s super easy to install and our kid can finally buckle himself in all by himself. We’ve taken several 7-hour long trips with our son in the back with minimal complaining. Due to the way the MINI Cooper seats are steeply sloped we do use a rolled up towel behind the bottom of the booster seat and the back rest to push the booster seat out and recline it a bit more.
Overall, we are very happy with the Graco Affix seat. If you are looking for something that will definitely work in your MINI Cooper check it out!