By Mark Atkinson for MSN Autos
The general trend towards rising beltlines in new car designs has taken its toll. My daughter, who turns four this July, finds seeing out the rear windows while strapped into her car seat extremely challenging. She's not the biggest child at her age, but eight times out of ten, she won't be able to see things off to the side that we're pointing at from the front seat.
Excuse my poor skills at photo editing and cropping, but you get the general idea. The top photo is of the current Kia Rondo, a design that's been out since 2007 or so, while the bottom shows the new Rondo that'll be coming as a 2014 model. Much less glass in the new one, a higher window line, all in the name of following Kia's corporate design themes.
(Watch for a first-drive of the new Rondo coming early May...)
Don't get me wrong - I like the styling of the new Rondo much more than the old, so I understand why Kia's doing it. But it's once more a case of function following form and one less car that kids are more able to see their surroundings. I suppose it's safer in a collision, putting more body structure between them and whatever's trying to invade the passenger compartment, but surely there are better ways of accomplishing that goal?
When I was younger, staring out the window and watching the world go by was one of my favourite things to do. Sure, I'd read a book if I got bored, but otherwise just feeling curious about seeing new places to visit or the cars on the road. Maybe because kids can't see what's going on outside the vehicle is why all these in-car entertainment systems are becoming so popular. I'd imagine I'd get cranky if all I could see was the interior door trim, a little bit of sky and not much else for hours on end.
And don't think I'm picking on Kia. Other recent comments in a Mazda CX-5, a new Lexus ES 350, Hyundai Sonata, and plenty more, show it's an industry-wide phenomenon. The only two I can think of off the top of my head where she had nice things to say include the aforementioned original Rondo, and a pair of Fords: a Flex and F-150. But Ford's not excused either since a recent Fusion rental while on vacation suffered the same fate.
What do you think? Is it better to have the children more protected and cocooned by new vehicles or should they try and accommodate rear passengers as nicely as those up front? Let us know in the comments.