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What is Isofix and how does it work?

You may not be aware if you’ve not had to transport children recently, but the rules governing how they sit in cars have been tightened significantly.

Any child under 12 and under 135cm tall now has to sit in an appropriate booster seat until the they reach the necessary age or height. This means parents will have to get used to using child seats for a lot longer than they used to.

In the bad old days, you secured the child seat by strapping it to the adult seatbelt. This held the seat in place to an extent but wouldn’t provide the best possible protection in the event of an accident. Isofix improves things by providing a standardised hard connection between the car and the child seat, eliminating movement in the event of a crash.

Initially developed between the Volkswagen Group and child seat-makers Britax in 1997, the technology has, since 2006, become standard across the motor industry. Around the world it’s variously called LATCH, Canfix, LUAS or UCSSS.

What is it?

Isofix forms two to three hard connections between the child seat and the car. The two standard fixtures are usually located between the seat back and the seat base and are occasionally obscured by a removable panel. Two metal posts extend from the back of the child seat and slot into the fixtures – once they’ve clicked the seat is locked in place.

This eliminates the difficulty of fitting old-fashioned child seats and means that the seat stays securely in position even if the child isn’t in it. The two points secure the seat but additional protection can be had by using the third point, often called top tether. Here a line runs from the top of the child seat and secures on the back of the car seat. If the car doesn’t have this feature, then a foot prop can be extended to hold the seat against the floor.

How does it work?

Any crash test expert will tell you that having flailing body parts during a crash is always going to be bad news – so, to maximise occupant safety, they have to be restrained. Children, being smaller than adults, are trickier to keep safe because they’re lighter and more liable to be thrown around in a crash. Using a child seat will minimise their injuries, and using Isofix simply increases the level of protection they have.

By stopping the seat from being thrown around and, when using top tether, stopping it from tilting forwards and backwards violently significantly reduces the chances of your child being injured – frankly, it’s both the law and a no-brainer.

Anything else I need to consider?

Be aware that Isofit and Isofix are not the same thing. Isofit seats still makes use of the vehicle’s Isofix anchor points but, unlike Isofix, uses the vehicle’s built-in three-point seatbelt to restrain the child rather than the five-point belt built in to Isofix seats.

Any drawbacks?

Not unless you consider increasing the safety of your child a drawback.

The only downside here is that the new stricter and more extensive rules make it harder for parents to know what the law requires of them, potentially leaving them on the wrong side of it.

Now, what to transport them in?

Need help picking the car you ferry your kids about in? Check out our guide to the 10 best large family cars to show you the way.