Infant and Child Car Seats in a MINI Cooper

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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.

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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.

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Closer look showing that there is no room to move the passenger seat back even one click from its all the way forward position.

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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!

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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 our car right after getting it out from the mobile auto detailing in Louisville KY, it shows 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

22 thoughts on “Infant and Child Car Seats in a MINI Cooper

  1. I had a mini and got it for a song because the seller was having a baby and couldn’t imagine fitting a car seat in it. That said, be careful… my mini cooper basically started falling apart around 85-90K miles even though it had been meticulously cared for. I warn everyone I know considering them about it now since I was so burned by the experience.

  2. What year was yours? A lot of the issues in the original model (up to 2006) were addressed in the newer R56 generation. Also, was yours a regular or an S version? I got a non-S with a manual transmission since the turbo S ones tend to have more issues and are harder to maintain. A lot of the issues that develop in these cars at high mileage can also be attributed to following MINI recommended scheduled maintenance, such as oil changes at 15K miles, never changing “lifetime” fluids and stuff like that. It’s designed to make sure that your car will last through the warranty period but not much longer after that. It took me a long time to find this MINI because most that I saw while searching did not even get their first oil change until 15K miles; this one had the first oil change done at around 3K miles,

    In any case, I had a high mileage BMW before which was supposed to be a “nightmare” as well, but it turned out just fine. If and when something does come up in this Cooper (as in any other car) – I feel confident about being able to handle all the work myself. Still have less than 30K miles on it so hopefully that will be waaay in the future!

    • 2002 manual transmission, not S. absolutely adorable and a ton of fun…

      The design of the auxiliary fan was such that it needed to be replaced 3 times starting at 85K since the replacements kept failing in the same way, the AC compeessor died at 95K, and the final straw was when the clutch died at 99K and when our mechanic replaced it he said there were so many metal shavings inside the transmission he did not feel good about telling me to do anything other than get rid of it since he thought there was a good chance the entire transmission wouldn’t last long. All this with more maintenance type things that were also pricey – replacing all the rubber/plastic molding around windows and doors because it leaked in rain, replacing a power window motor, replacing all the wheel bushings, new brakes and rotors… It was just like everything had been engineered to make it to about 80K and start failing.

      • No wonder you ran from that! I can’t even imagine having to fix all of it at the dealer or even a regular mechanic prices! I’ve read about the problems with the early models and that was one of the reasons I got what I got. A good forum for anyone researching specific years and models for a MINI is http://www.northamericanmotoring.com. I was reading up on that site for a year before jumping ship from BMW to MINI and hopefully this due diligence will pay off.

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  4. I’m so glad one will fit! I was worried because I love my car! I have a 2007 mini s special edition and it’s amazing! I never have issues with it and the last thing I wanted to do was give it up!

    • I had an ’07 (non-S) and recently lost it in an accident (we were both fine). Crushed because we never ever had a single issue with it. No problem with carseats either… we had an Orbit infant (can’t recommend it enough! worth every penny!!) & a Britax Advocate – widest one they make & it fit both RF & FF just great.

  5. That’s why the Clubman was such a great design for MINI. I had 2 car seats in the back of my Clubman, 1 rear facing for the infant on the passenger and and a forward facing one for my 2 year old on the driver’s side. This configuration provided enough leg room for everyone and I could even fit my Caboose double stoller in the back of the car. If you have children in car seats and really want a MINI, opt for the Clubman, best all around designed MINI.

    • I really like the Clubman and seriously considered it over the Hardtop 2 door. In the end I went with the hardtop because it IS smaller. It gives me just the right amount of extra space in the garage that I wanted. I also felt like it was just a bit sportier than the Clubman during the test drive and a few mpg more along with a slightly lower price didn’t hurt either. I do agree that the Clubman is a much better choice for a family with kids – it’s just that I had my heart set on the hardtop and that’s what I got!

  6. Do you have any suggestions on how to access the backseat when your baby and the infant car seat carrier get too heavy to remove completely each time? My son is 8 months and sitting up, but he’s still too young and too small to go into a forward facing like the Marathon. We have the Britax B-Safe rear-facing infant car seat carrier, which he’ll be in for another 10 lbs or so, but I’m having a hard time lugging the whole thing out to get him out. I’d like to be able to just reach in and get him and carry him in places or deposit him in his stroller. No need to be carting the whole carrier around any more, and with him in it, it’s like 30 lbs! I do NOT want to have to drive my husband’s ancient Jetta around all the time now just because it’s 4-doors and more accessible. I LOVE my MINI Cooper 2006. Will be 10 years old this December, and it’s still zipping along like a dream! I currently have it placed behind the passenger seat like you do in your picture.

    • Have you tried flipping the back of the unoccupied seat next to your son down and getting him out through the hatch? Depending on your infant seat that might actually work. I’ve tried that a few times myself with a rear-facing seat and even now that my son is running around he sometimes like to climb in and out through the hatch. Plus it’s always fun to watch people’s expressions when they see you putting your baby in the “trunk”!

      • I’m really glad I found this post! I have a 2010 mini and we’re currently using the Graco Snugride click connect 35 (infant car seat). I’m still able to carry the seat in and out and the base makes clicking it in super easy. Unfortunately, he’s about an inch away from outgrowing it and we need to move on to the next size. I’m still hesitant to use a car seat forward facing since he’s only 13 months. Did you ever use the marathon rear-facing?

        • Hi AJ,

          I did install the Britax Marathon rear-facing in the Cooper first. I added my thoughts on that and a couple of pictures to the post above. Let me know if you have any other questions!

  7. I have twin 18 month olds and a Mini Cooper. We have two Graco Snugride Classic Connect 30 infant car seats now. We are in the process of looking for front facing harness booster seats and having a hard time finding something that is going to fit in the car. Do you have any suggestions?
    FYI – I also get the double stroller in the front seat. It’s a full car, but I make it work. I am not ready to trade in my car since it’s paid off. So helpful not having more than one car payment in the household with two little ones.

    • Props on not running out and financing a Suburban for your twins, Erin! It’s awesome to know that you are making it work with a paid off Mini Cooper. As far as the booster seats – I haven’t looked into those yet. We went from a Graco SnugRide straight to a Britax Marathon which is rated up to 70 lbs. Our 3-year old is about 34 lbs so I feel like we definitely have some time before we’ll need to think about what’s next. I’ll be sure to update this post once we get there.

      Meanwhile, if you find something that works please come back and post it up! This thread gets a lot of views and I’m sure it would be helpful to all other parents that want to keep their Mini Cooper!

      • I found a high back booster car seat that fits in a Mini Cooper for my twins. Cosco Windmill (I’m not sure if the other fabric options are the same size, but this one works). Cosco gave me dimensions as follows, “This car seat is 26″ tall, 17″ wide and 17″ deep (front to back).” I wish I could post you a picture to show the girls sitting in quite comfortably. The car seat is less than $50 too, so great deal. We did remove the adjustable headrest so the top of the car seat fit better.

        • Good to know! We just purchased a pair of Graco booster seats and so far they’ve been great in the Cooper and in my wife’s Mercedes C320. I will add a quick review to this post soon.

  8. I was told that the Cosco Scenera is great for small cars like Minis… it seems to have mixed reviews, but we are going to try it in a couple months when my LO is just a bit bigger. We have an SUV as our other car but we do end up in the Mini a lot.

    • Nice! If you don’t mind maybe you could post a quick note about compatibility after trying it out so that others can learn about another potential option.

  9. I have a 2003- R53. I love my Cooper- S. She has over 135 thousand miles on her and has super charger before they swapped out to the turbo, and a few other upgrades. Regular maintenance is key, and she’s been great. I’ve had a few things over the years to replace, but nothing crazy. Anyway about the car seat, I have a kiddo and we do great in her, and have made some road trips; but now we now need to upgrade to a forward facing, so this article has been great. Thank you!

    • Great to hear from someone with a high mileage Mini who’s still happy with the car. I’m a firm believer that most cars can easily last 200k+ as long as they are properly maintained. Our son just graduated to a booster seat and the Mini Cooper still fits our family very well.

      BTW if you type “Mini Cooper” in the search box on this site you will see other posts that you might find interesting.

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