Is Isofix safer than a seatbelt?

T3 explains the difference between seat belts and Isofix when it comes to securing your baby seat

Best car seat
(Image credit: Getty)

When it comes to fitting a child seat to your car, Isofix is the near-universal way to go. This wasn’t always the case, and in the timeline of the motorcar, Isofix is a relatively new invention, but one that has quickly accelerated to a point where almost every new vehicle sold today is Isofix-compatible.

In this article, we will explain what Isofix is and how it works, briefly outline which vehicles have Isofix, and discuss whether the technology is safer than a traditional three-point seatbelt.

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What is Isofix?

Isofix is the name given to an international standard for attaching a child seat to the seat of a car. It was created by the International Organisation for Standardisation and is known as LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) in the US, and UCSSS (Universal Child Safety Seat System) in Canada.

The standard outlines how anchoring points for a child seat should be installed in a vehicle. These points are usually found between the squab of the seat (the bit you sit on) and the backrest, at the apex of the seat. A pair of mounting points attach to a child seat, instead of it being secured by the car’s three-point seatbelt.

Isofix logo

Which cars have Isofix?

Isofix first appeared on cars back in the late-Nineties, and is now fitted to just about every new car sold worldwide. Some two-seat cars miss out on Isofix, but popular models like the Mazda MX-5 and Porsche Boxster have an Isofix mount on their single front passenger seat. So even young children get to enjoy an open-top sports car.

A more useful question here is, which cars have three or more Isofix points? This is because it is often the case that a car has a pair of Isofix mounts on their second row, with the smaller middle seat missing out. If a couple has three small children, they’ll need to pick their car carefully. 

Is Isofix safer than a seatbelt?

There are several benefits to using an Isofix child seat over one that connects using the three-point belt. The primary benefit is simplicity and a greatly reduced chance of fitting the seat incorrectly. Before Isofix became the norm, it was found that parents would often fit child seats incorrectly. Doing so could potentially make the seat less safe, offering the child less restraint and protection in a crash.

By contrast, child seats with Isofix are far simpler to install, and often come with red and green components to show when they are fitted correctly or incorrectly. In most cases, they simply slot into the anchor points at the base of the seat, locking into place with a reassuring click.

As well as simpler installation, Isofix also provides a stiffer connection with the car seat, holding the child more securely in place during a collision, especially if the vehicle is struck from the side. In such an incident, an Isofix will stay in place and not move left or right in the way a seat belt-restrained seat might.

Parents can still use a child seat that attaches using the seat belt, but with Isofix offering a more reliable connection and greater stability and protection in a side-on collision, it makes sense to go for a seat (and car) with Isofix.

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Alistair Charlton
Alistair Charlton

Alistair is a freelance automotive and technology journalist. He has bylines on esteemed sites such as the BBC, Forbes, TechRadar, and of best of all, T3.