Car Talk: When it comes down to it, do automakers "get" moms?
Kristin: It's shocking to me that auto manufacturers don't use the same testing process that we do at Mother Proof when they are doing their own research and development. How is it possible that some of these cars are so not functional? For example, take LATCH connectors for car seats. Some are easily accessible, so you can quickly move a car seat from mom's car to dad's car. But, some latches are so difficult to access that I end up using seat belts and not the LATCH. That's insane!
The entire Volvo line up has LATCH systems that are impossible to use. You can't reach them. It's shocking, when you consider Volvo's attention to safety. I sliced my fingertips open once trying to install a car seat in a BMW a couple of years ago (that system has since been improved). Booster seats are another example where some manufacturers simply don't get moms. Some companies are starting to sink the seat belt buckle receptor into the seat. That's great from an aesthetic point of view, but it's a disaster if you're an older child, who can buckle himself in. Here's the problem: he won't be able to get his hands all the way down into the seat to secure the seat belt. Now, mom or dad has to help buckle him in.
Car Talk: Form over function. They never learn, do they?
Kristin: No kidding. Who are the most overworked, stressed out people on the planet? Parents trying to get kids out the door and into the car seat in the morning. It's so frustrating when cars are not user-friendly. It's all those minute details that make a car really great or awful.
Car Talk: What's your take on the Great American Minivan? Painfully unsexy kid hauler... or the best thing to come along since disposable diapers?
Kristin: From a style standpoint, minivans couldn't be more unsexy. It's not just how they look but how it makes you feel while you drive it - plain terrible!
But, I have to confess, every time I drive one I'm almost ready to convert. Minivans are so functional-the flexible seating arrangements and ability to access the back seats can't be beat.
Car Talk: Is feeling hot while you drive a kid-friendly car an unrealistic goal?
Kristin: Not necessarily. The great news is this is the 21st Century! There is the right car out there for every family. Now, we've got "crossovers" which can make you feel hot while driving a family-friendly car.
Car Talk: Which crossovers get your thumbs up?
Kristin: I like the Buick Enclave. I was sort of shocked. I mean it's a Buick after all-and when I think of a Buick, I think of my grandpa!
I really love that car. It's beautiful on the outside. When I see it on the highway, it makes me look twice. It offers a lot of the functionality of a minivan, like an automatic liftgate and a super quiet interior environment. You can have a conversation with your child in the third row seat while driving on the highway with a semi next to you. But, you're missing the big, sliding doors.
I also like the Mazda CX7 and CX9, and the Toyota Highlander, which has an optional stowing center seat in the middle row that allows walk-through access to the third row.
Car Talk: Who's the moron who thought it was a good idea to put cloth seats in a minivan?
Kristin: If I could give parents one piece of advice it would be NEVER BUY CLOTH SEATS! Get leather or pleather. The nasty grimy stickiness that builds up after having your kids' snacks spilled all over the seats wipes right off. Manufacturers are also coming out with stain resistant and odor resistant seat coverings. A company called YES Essentials is now in Chrysler, Jeep, and Dodge products. I've even gotten permanent marker off of YES Essentials fabric seats using a baby wipe. We should see them in more cars in 2009.
Car Talk: Do you think we can file criminal charges against the guy who put cloth fabric over car seats?
Kristin: Let's put them away for life!
Car Talk: What are other things you hate to see?
Kristin: Can I keep harping on the LATCH connectors?
Car Talk: Sure. Go for it!
Kristin: Good. Because, it drives me insane when a manufacturer can't make something that's supposed to make your life easier - actually make your life easier!
Take the Audi RS4, for example. It's a great car, but there was this very strange thing going on with the parking brake, arm rest and the cup holder. They were fighting the whole time. You couldn't easily use all three.