Hooniverse Asks-Rear- or Front-Facing Third Row, What's Your Preference?

Most all of us appreciate the utility and inherent good looks afforded by the longroof editions of our favorite sedans. Another plus for cars that extend weather and wind protection over what would normally be the trunk is the ability to put people back there instead of just cargo. Now, I know what you Mafiosos are thinking; people ride in trunks all the time, what’s the big deal? Well, some of us like to enjoy the view when we’re passengers, even when relegated to the rear-most set of perches.
It seems like almost all of today’s SUVs – and of course Minivans – position the third seat facing forward. That’s fine if you want to see where you’re going, but what if you’ve heard that maxim that hindsight is 20/20 and you want to see what that’s all about? Then you’d need to avail yourself of one of the many mid-size station wagons – especially those hailing from Europe, as many of those offered rear-facing third rows.
That of course makes it easier to get in and out of the seat – just pop the hatch and out you go. It even helps a little if mom pulls the car forward suddenly while you’re stepping out. Keeps you on your toes. On the downside, rear-facing seats can be nausea-inducing for those with weak constitutions, and nobody wants to be trapped back there with a spewin’ Stew. I guess you’ve got to take the good with the bad and today I want your take on which is the better form of third row. What’s your preference: front-facing, or back?
Image: E24

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  1. PotbellyJoe★★★★★ Avatar

    We had a Taurus wagon growing up, like every other American Family that didn’t own a Caravan.
    I love the backwards facing. 1. Leg room is better. 2. You can sit back there and get the trucks to honk.
    The only time it was bad was on the 110° days in Leawood, KS as we would cook back there until everyone else was frozen, then we would just be uncomfortably warm.

    1. David Avatar

      I have that very beast – a 1994 Taurus wagon. When I bought it, the previous owner told me that she liked having a ‘locking storage area’ under the floor in the back. I was quite pleased to find that her storage area was really the rear-facing third seat. Still haven’t ridden back there yet. It’s on my to-do list.

  2. nanoop Avatar

    In station wagons I’d prefer rear-facing. In bigger cars (smaller busses), forward facing is a bit more socially involving, I guess.

    1. neight428 Avatar

      Social isolation has its advantages. With multiple offspring prone to physical confrontation when left wanting for stimulation within an arms reach of each other, installing them in separate rows is a big plus. In this case (mine, if you haven’t guessed) the rear facing option might keep them from thinking about one another for a while, but would enable over the shoulder hair grabbing. Damned if you do/don’t.

      1. nanoop Avatar

        Very valid point indeed. – obviously the junior nanoops are not old enough to entangle like that…. yet.

    2. PotbellyJoe★★★★★ Avatar

      Socially it’s better to have the middle row turn around. Then you can play Jenga.

      1. LEROOOY Avatar

        I like the “tent” formed by rows 1 and 2 where your kid can take a nap (in 1989, of course).

  3. Sjalabais Avatar

    Actually, if the kids throw up, a rear facing seat is a great advantage. They will throw up onto som plastic and on their rubber mats, that’s just about it. Explod-o-spew on a fabric seat back on the other hand…ugh.
    I’ve never had a car with rear facing seats, but if they have headrests, too, I guess they are quite safe, too. Intuitively, I’d prefer them that way, just like I love hoods that are hinged at the front. Rationally…it makes sense to just drive a van as is.

    1. nanoop Avatar

      Even if they were safe one would be targeted by marketing-by-fear: “You really should buy the bigger car, or do you want your children to be leg-less after being rear-ended?”

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        Oh, you’re right. Feet in the crumblezone…but with a proper, modern design opting for rear facing seats, that should be fixed.
        That aside, the new Volvo XC90 is a fullgrown seven seater. Have you seen any of the reviews? They’re enthusiastic. Looking forward to not being able to afford one.

        1. nanoop Avatar

          I take pride in the fact that I can’t afford it already today!
          I personally don’t think those rear facing seats are especially dangerous, btw.

      2. neight428 Avatar

        If you have the moral currency of the electric car to offset the devil may care attitude toward your children’s limbs, it’s all good.

      3. Vairship Avatar

        The obvious reply of course would be: “Would you prefer your kids to be headless instead?:

        1. nanoop Avatar

          I’m still trying to figure out what kind of seating arrangement would result in that on rear-ending. This is the only one I found:

          1. Vairship Avatar

            Cute-utes like the Rav4 often have the third-row passengers sitting in what is essentially the crumple zone, with their heads against the rear glass. Which, upon rear impact, will feel just like that (Gemini?) capsule, if the rocket engines decided to crumple up the fuel tank and enter the capsule itself.

  4. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    I have memories of riding in the rear-facing seats of my grandfather’s Oldsmobile wagon. It’s a bit sad to me that most of today’s youth will never know that joy. My vote goes to rear-facing.
    It’s better for kids who are prone to motion sickness, as well. Looking straight back, in line with the direction of travel, is less likely to induce nausea than watching the scenery pass by through the side windows. Perhaps that’s less of an issue these days, with kids all engrossed in their iPads or watching a DVD in the seat back monitor.

  5. dukeisduke Avatar

    I’ll take those miniature Saabs, thank you. And the wagon.

  6. Maymar Avatar

    I mourn the loss of the rear-facing row (only got to try it out a couple times in a Century wagon, and I can’t even fit in the back of a Benz E-Class), but what about side-facing?

    1. pj134 Avatar

      Jumper seat is best seat. Although it could wind up socially awkward locking legs with a bunch of other dudes.

    1. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

      My first thought was also that side facing was best, especially on Fords with the optional game table.

    2. irishzombieman Avatar

      Problem with these was that they only worked for kids. With Chevy’s rear-facing style, a normal human could at least stick his feet out the window.
      Different view:
      EDIT: Gol durnit. Image in reply.

      1. irishzombieman Avatar

        /not blank

        1. longrooffan Avatar

          I spent a lot of time in those. Same color as well.

          1. irishzombieman Avatar

            They were great fun when I was little, especially having that sort of shelf towards the front–we used to play board games on it. But I still remember the first long trip after I’d gotten big enough that I couldn’t put my legs straight on the opposite seat.

  7. buzzboy7 Avatar

    I like the seating in modern firetrucks. There are 4 across the rear, the two outer seats face rearward and the two inner seats face forward.

    1. danleym Avatar

      In some. Our newest is two rear facing with a single jump seat in the middle. But as a whole we’ve got a mix of front and rear facing. The fronts all suck though, because they squeeze you right next to each other in the middle and you can’t even don an SCBA with hitting each other. I’ll take rear facing any day.

  8. Tanshanomi Avatar

    I’m partial to rear-facing second row seats.

    1. irishzombieman Avatar

      I’ve ridden in those seats, with a guy who thought he was a rally car driver but was really just a jackass. The handgrips were handy.

      1. dukeisduke Avatar

        I went with a friend to the junkyard years ago, and the place had a BRAT with the doors removed. They used it to carry stuff from the yard to the office. We rode in the seats in the back, with the parts (a diff for a ’73 Toronado, IIRC).

    2. someguy Avatar

      Any man with a Brat is a friend of mine. Unfortunately, when I had mine, the suicide seats had already been removed.

  9. Richard M. Nixon Avatar
    Richard M. Nixon

    My old colleagues loved to ride in the back of my Caprice when we’d go out to eat or whatnot. People in traffic liked it, too. It’s a shame; driving it constantly meant I never got a chance to sit in the back.

    1. Stu_Rock Avatar

      I’ve owned two wagons with waybacks. At one extended family gathering, mine was the only car that had seating for everyone. For a restaurant outing, I had my mother drive it so I could experience the wayback firsthand. It was odd, but it could easily get unsettling if you get a tailgater.
      Even so, I think I may have to answer “rear-facing” to the original question, just because I love traditional wagons so much.

  10. FastPatrick Avatar

    FRONT. FRONT-FACING. You are begging to be rewarded with multiple cases of carsickness if you choose backwards-facing seats.

  11. Vavon Avatar

    I prefer all seats front-facing, like in the Peugeot 504 or 505.
    No kids in the crumple-zone and enough space for luggage!