Hello, I will be picking up a rental car in Calais, France later this month. It has been several years since I rented/drove in France and I don't remember much about the smaller budget vehicles. The car company lists: Chevrolet Spark,Peugeot 207, or Ford Focus as the possible models. Does anyone know if these have passenger side airbags? I will be traveling with my son. He is old enough to ride in front, but I am uncomfortable if there is an air bag. Thanks!
Easter, 2012, we rented a Ford Fiesta in Florence, and it had airbags. European cars are now modern, but they're just not quite as nice inside as their counterparts in the U.S. But they really get great fuel mileage--pushing 50 mpg.
Firstly, you need confirmation of the law - I recall that in France, under 11s must go in the rear if there is space/seatbelts. It would be a rare modern car that did not have passenger airbags - all those you list do. When you say "I am uncomfortable if there is an air bag" was there a missing "not" or do you mean you want to use a rear facing child seat, assuming that is legally allowed? Some cars do have a switch (often requiring the key to use), to deactivate the passenger airbag for this situation but it depends on the car and age - the old Focus only had it as an optional extra (it might be standard on the new version), it is standard on (the latest at least) Peugeot 207 and on VWs. I don't know about Chevrolet - I don't think I've ever seen one let alone been inside. The trouble is you probably don't know what car you will actually get - but given that a fairly low end car like Peugeot 207 has a deactivate switch as standard it might be pretty common (even a legal requirement perhaps?). Despite the above, the usual advice is that putting the car seat in the rear is safest, especially if you can use the in-built fixing.
The new 207s do have side airbags. Now sure about the others. Beware of different regulations about minimum age/height required to ride the front seat.
Thanks everyone so far, To clarify, he is 8. so beyond the legal requirements (and physical limit) for even a booster (so they told us). I wouldn't be surprised about having to be in the back seat, that is the way it is is in the US too. :( Just wanted to look out with him, but of course we want to be safe too.
The Ford Focus you might drive in the US was designed and developed in Europe. That does not guarantee that the rental car will have exactly the same features in every country, but you can certainly look up car specifications on the manufacturers' various country pages. The Spark is certainly a much smaller car than the Focus, another factor you might consider in making your choice. That Peugot model falls somewhere in between.
The agency may be offering diesel models, since that kind of engine is much more common in Europe (meaning the fuel is widely available.)
Even the tiniest car in Europe has got several airbags. It's the law. And of course you can switch passenger seats airbags off, e.g. if you want to place a toddler there... The three cars you mentioned are of completely different size. The Chevy Spark is tiny and hardly accommodates any luggage. The 207 might be sufficient for two people with moderate luggage. The Focus in Europe comes with a hatch back and is ok for two with regular size luggage - even for four with moderate baggage.
From the AA, the British equivalent to the AAA. Passengers/Children in cars: Under French law, children up to the age of 10 must travel in an approved child seat or restraint, adapted to their age and size. Children under the age of 10 are not allowed to travel on the front seats of vehicles unless there is no rear seat in the vehicle, or the rear seat is already occupied with children under 10, or there are no seat belts. The French highway code does not specify a minimum height that a child has to be in order to not use a child seat/restraint, because of this we would advise that you apply the minimum height as set by the European Directive which is 150cm. Taxis are exempt but in other vehicles, a fine is levied if a child is not restrained. It is the driver's responsibility to ensure all passengers under 18 are appropriately restrained. Source: http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/touring_tips/france-monaco.pdf 150 cm is 4 foot 11 and a bit. Under 5 feet is probably a good gauge.