Volvo safety???



Hi. Thanks for this great website. I have learned alot here, but still have a question.

We have a 2006 Volvo XC90 V8 SUV. We purchased it about a year ago because we thought it was the best choice to protect our three young children as we drive around Wisconsin visiting family and taking classes. Some of the manufacturer material and independent reviews made us think that Volvo has a reinforced cage that would better protect us in a rollover, etc.

We spend something like 9 hours a week on interstates and rural highways plus lots of local driving. Our hazards include cell phone users, tailgaters, deer, and snowdrifts. The XC90 did an amazing job of getting through snowdrifts on rural highways last year and we love the car. So far, we haven't hit a deer with it!

Our problem: I was researching car seats and read in a supplement to the owner's manual (mailed to us months after we purchased the car) that only backless booster seats can be used in the third row. I called Volvo and was transferred around, until a representative finally told me that Volvo recommends only large children in the third row because young children may not survive a rear impact. We have two small children in the third row.

The representative recommended that our 6 month infant (19 lbs, about to outgrow Britax companion) ride in the middle of the second row as the infant is most vulnerable to injury. He suggested that our 2.5 year old (32 lbs, old carseat now, Britax soon) ride in the outer middle seat. He said our five year old (50 lbs, Britax bodyguard booster) could use her Britax booster in the third row but emphasized that the second row would be safer.

I do not think we can fit three seats of any kind across the second row. If we are going to use the third row, we need an open seat in the second row to access it. A wide car seat (Britax!) in the center of the second row also prevents us from accessing the third row. If we can find carseats that work for the younger kids in the second row, our 5 year old could squeeze her way into the third row.

So--for anyone considering this-- I'd like to make the point that it is difficult to work with two car seats and a booster in the Volvo SUV. Three car seats would be even harder. When we purchased the car, we talked with the dealer about our carseat dimensions, etc., and he never told us that the third row is recommended for large children only. (Of note, the LATCH system is available in the outer middle seats only). We realized that third row passengers in vans and SUVs are too close to the back for comfort, but the Volvo seats get a good rating for safety in rear collisions and we didn't see any better alternatives.

My question: Is Volvo just being more upfront about rear crash risks? My understanding is that other manufacturers outfit and advertise their third row for small children. We also considered the Honda Pilot and Honda Odyssey. Are small children safer in the third row of those vehicles for some reason?

I apologize for the long post. Any replies would be appreciated--we are having late night conversations about trading in the Volvo.



CPSDarren - Admin
Staff member
Overall, I would contend your XC90 is one of the safest vehicles available with a 3rd row.

There is no type of crash testing done for rear impacts that rates vehicles for intrusion. The IIHS rear test is strictly for vehicle seats and it is done on a test sled to assess potential whiplash-type injuries. The mandatory federal test for rear impacts is pass/fail only and is used to determine fuel system integrity. Given that, there is really no way to compare vehicles for rear crash safety. Some vehicles may have a more reinforced structure, but we rely on the word of the manufacturer for that. Others certainly have more distance from the occupant to the rear of the vehicle, but even that is not a reliable guide.

A few things should be considered, though. While rear impacts are common, most are at low speeds with only one vehicle moving. Severe/fatal rear crashes are relatively uncommon; they are only about 5-10% of all such crashes depending on the study. Also, occupants in a 3rd row seat have a lot more protection from the chassis and vehicle seat than they usually do for side impacts. Based on the logic used by the representative, they should also not recommend the second row outboard seats for small children. I am surprised a little at their recommendations, since the main risk to 3rd row passengers in most vehicles is to heavy adults, especially in other models that lack head restraints and/or shoulder belts. In general, children in restraints with a 5-point harness should be very safe in factory 3rd row seats unless otherwise specified in an owner's manual (or supplement).

Also, their advice on where to place your children is somewhat contrary to the best practice advice given by child passenger safety technicians. Really, any arrangement in rear rows of seating is very safe, assuming the children can be properly restrained there according to the owner's manual. There may be a slight advantage to putting the least protected child in the most protected position. Rear-facing infant seats provide the greatest protection and backless boosters the least, so we'd usually try the infant seat outboard and put a child in a backless booster in that second row center seat, first. Even so, the differences are probably minimal and not backed by any statistics that I know.

I would be very interested in a scan of the owner's manual supplement. Feel free to attach it to a reply here or email it to darren "at" car-safety "dot" org . Thank you!

A bit more information can be found on our webpage at


Senior Community Member
My husband and I are planning on buying a 2007 XC90 as soon as one with the options we want and in the color combo we want arrives at one of our local dealerships. When we were test driving the XC90 (2006 model) I tested out all my seats to make sure everything would work with three carseats I would be using. I have a 2 week old, an almost 2 year old, and a big 5 year old. My plan was to have my 5 year old use the built in booster in the middle, second row and occasionally have her use her booster in the third row when needed. Do y'all have the built in booster in your XC90? I think all V8's have the booster...using that might solve your problem if you still don't feel comfortable using the third row with children. With that built in booster in use I was able to fit my son's Britax Decathlon (same as Boulevard and Marathon size wise) on either side and my Peg Perego Primo Viaggio SIP infant seat on either side as well. Then I put my son's Britax in the middle seat, put the infant seat behind the driver, and flipped the seat behind the passenger down so my 5 year old could access the third row. Every combination I tried worked fine with my seats. I don't think you would have much of a problem getting two of your carseats next to each other allowing you to flip the empty seat forward for access to the third row. The only carseat that was too wide to allow for use of the built in booster or allow the seat next to it to flip forward was our Britax Regent which is a LARGE seat so I wasn't holding my breath anyway.
Good luck and HTH a little bit!


Thank you

Hi Darren and Danielle--

It is nice to get some reassurance about the Volvo. We really like the car and the response from Volvo surprised us. Darren, your objective analysis of the situation is what we needed. Thank you! I'm having trouble attaching a scan of the owner's manual supplement to this post. I will email you separately, Darren.

We've ordered Britax Boulevards for the 2.5 and 6 month old. We will try some of the seating combinations you mention, Danielle. One issue with our current rear facing seat in the second row is adequate leg room for the front and third row seats directly in front/behind. My husband is tall and likes plenty of leg room. It is not a problem if I am directly in front of the baby. Have you read the Volvo XC90 discussion site? There are major mechanical problems reported by some owners. Again, we've had no problems with our car. It is fun to drive. And safe too! We hope you have fun with your XC90 also, Danielle!



CPSDarren - Admin
Staff member
Thank you very much for the scans. The longtime child passenger safety expert I knew at Ford retired a year or two ago. I've forwarded your question to a mailing list for technicial issues. Perhaps I can find someone at Ford or Volvo to comment further. In the mean time, I certainly can not recommend that you ignore the recommendation in the supplement. It's there for a reason, even though I have no idea what the basis for it would be compared to other vehicles- even some made by Ford.

Thanks again!


Moderator - CPST Instructor
In the 2.5 years I have had my XC90, I have had zero (O) mechanical problems with my car. It has been great. The built in booster works well for us. If the driver and front passenger want lots of leg room, it is a problem with this car. It just isn't that big.

The supplement to the owner's manual is an improvement over what Volvo told me when I bought the car. They said then that you couldn't use any child seat (including boosters) in the third row. There are no tether anchors for the third row. At least you can use boosters now. I was told originally by Volvo that the third row was intended for large children, teenagers and small adults. Thank goodness that has changed.

I've been very happy with my car, but I have one child. We take his friends places now in their boosters too, but I think the configuration of the second row with two carseats makes access to the third row nearly impossible. If you have two or more kids, I'd say that, as much as I love my car, it might not work for you!


CPSDarren - Admin
Staff member
I didn't realize there were no tether anchors for the third row. That would certainly make it less safe for forward facing restraints with a harness. It may also explain why the recommendation for the XC90 would vary from other models with third row seats that do have LATCH or top-tether anchors available.


More Volvo Info

Good Morning All – Kristin Varela here from (‘A Quest for the Quintessential Mom-Mobile’). I spoke to the kind folks at Volvo who have this to say …

“We have heard that question before from consumers. The language in the supplement is not very clear and in the process of being clarified.

1) Since the XC90 does not have tether anchors in the third row and for convenience, I have been told that VCC recommends that children in a traditional child restraint (car seat) be seated in the second row. They felt that placing a child (0-4 years) so far away from the driver is not practical. Additionally there is a lack of tether anchors.

However a childseat can be installed in the third row using the seatbelts. Given this, children seated in booster seats can sit in the third row but without the booster backrest. Having them sit on the bottom cushion is sufficient for proper seatbelt alignment and that the backrest may inhibit this. We also state this for the auxiliary row for the XC70 and V70.

2) VCNA is taking VCCs position that children should be rearward facing as long as possible.....up until the age of 4. There are some car seats in the US that can accommodate this. For example, the Britax Marathon can face rearwards for children 5lbs to 33 lbs. Forward facing up to 65 lbs.”

I recently had the great opportunity to see a live crash test of a Volvo (not the XC90, but the new S80) as well as tour the crash test dummy workshop, where dummies representing children ages newborn up to 10 years old are prepped. I’m thoroughly impressed with Volvo’s commitment to safety. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

-Kristin Varela
Cheif Executive Mother


CPSDarren - Admin
Staff member
Thank you for the information! Please feel free to visit us again, experts on kid-friendly vehicles are always welcome;-)

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