The Cosco Easy Elite multimode car seat is a cross between the long-lamented Alpha Omega/Alpha Omega Elite/ 3-in-1 car seat and the new, largely fantastic Grow and Go. This budget option retails for around $100 and has a lot of nice features as well as a few shortcomings.
Safety 1st has a number of convertible and multimode seats. We’ve created a handy comparison chart to detail the differences between models.
CSFTL Quick Stats
- Rear facing weight range: 5-40 lbs
- Rear facing height range: 19-40″ or head even with the top of the shell
- Forward facing weight range: 22-50 lbs
- Forward facing height range: up to 45″
- High back booster weight range: 40-80 lbs
- High back booster height range: up to 57″
- Lowest harness position: 10″
- Highest harness position: 16.75″
- Highest booster belt guide: 18″
- Expiration: December of the 10th year after manufacture
- Lower anchor weight limit: 40 lbs
- No rethread harness
- Smooth cover
- Padded headrest
- Infant insert
- Shell height: 26″
- Three position adjustable crotch strap: 4, 5, and 6 inches
- Width at widest point: 18″
Large, clear, easy to read labels on the seat show how to install the Easy Elite. The belt paths on the seat are color-coded. There are even QR codes on the seat that connect users to installation instructions.
I installed the Easy Elite in two vehicles. I found it fairly easy to use.
The lower anchor connectors are shipped on the inside of the seat in a blue package and users must remove them from the package before installing or using the seat. Either the lower anchors or vehicle belt can be used to install the Easy Elite; the lower anchors may be used until the child weighs 40 lbs.
According to the manual, the tether is always required for forward facing use.The tether is essential safety equipment for any forward facing seat because properly used, it can help reduce forward head movement during a crash; using the tether is also required by law in Canada. The Easy Elite has a 2 year minimum for forward facing, which CSFTL applauds.
Installation with the Lower Anchor Connectors
The Easy Elite has standard hook-style lower anchor connectors, and although they’re considered basic, I found them easy to use. In this vehicle, a 2003 Grand Prix with cloth seats, I could easily use the noodless installation method as demonstrated in our Safety 1st Guide 65 review and stand behind the seat to gain leverage when installing it in rear facing mode. Remember to only check for movement at the belt path, where the seat should move no more than 1″ side to side or front to back.
Alternatively, a rolled towel or pool noodles can be used to achieve the appropriate recline. In the photo below, a rolled towel helps achieve the proper recline for a child weighing 22 to 40 lbs.
In forward facing mode, installing the Easy Elite with the lower anchors is straightforward- clip them on and tighten. The anchors can be used until the child’s weight is 40 lbs.
Installation with the vehicle belt
When installing with the vehicle belt, and not with the lower anchors, the manual directs the user to store the lower anchors on the sides of seat. There are very visible spots for storage of the lower anchors on the shell.
The rear facing installation in a 2010 Honda Odyssey with leather seats required a large tightly rolled towel to achieve both recline settings.
The manual states to pull the cover up and pull the vehicle belt from the inside of the car seat.
This is a helpful trick for rear facing installations with the Easy Elite. The vehicle belt must be locked whenever installing a car seat in your vehicle. Want to read more about how to lock your vehicle belt? Our Lock it Up article can help with that!
The Easy Elite was a cinch to install both forward facing in the middle of a Pontiac Grand Am with a lap only belt and in the third row of this Honda Odyssey. It’s nice to see that a “basic seat” can be very easy to use.
Fit to Child
Newborn – Jo, 7 lbs, 19 inches tall
Despite its 5 pound and 19 inch minimum limits, the Easy Elite multimode seat does not have a low enough bottom harness setting to accommodate our newborn doll, Jo.
According to the manual, the harness must be at or below baby Jo’s shoulders, and as the photo clearly shows, the 10″ lowest harness slot is several inches above the shoulders of our Huggable Images doll. Unfortunately, this means that she cannot safely ride in this seat and that this seat is not likely to fit human newborns well either. There are other convertible seats that will fit newborns at birth.
Toddler: 18 months old, 18 lbs, 29 inches tall
Maeve is on the small side for 18 months old. She easily fits within the limits for using the Easy Elite in rear facing mode. The harness is just below her shoulders, which means that if she were much smaller she may not fit the minimum height limit.Since the seat’s listed minimum height and weight limits should accommodate a much smaller baby, it is a little disappointing that many babies would not actually fit the seat until closer to 9-12 months of age. The good news is that a toddler of Maeve’s size can remain rear facing for a long time in this seat.
Preschooler: 4 years old, 34 lbs, 39 inches tall
Saoirse is just under the rear facing limits for the Easy Elite. At four, she’s safe to ride forward facing, but we do suggest that children ride rear facing until they’ve outgrown the height or weight limits of their car seat.
The Easy Elite should allow most kids to ride rear facing until around 3-3.5 years old, if not later, since that’s when average children reach 40″.
Saoirse has plenty of legroom and felt comfortable in the Easy Elite, but she prefers to ride forward facing in her regular car seat. Still, she was very happy to model the Easy Elite for us.
Forward Facing Harness Mode
Preschooler: 4 years old, 34 lbs, 39 inches tall
Saoirse is back in the Easy Elite, but now she’s riding forward facing. She was happy that the Easy Elite’s headrest was soft and padded, and liked that she had room to cross her legs in front of her if she wanted. A common complaint of newly forward facing children is that their legs dangle, and the open, low profile, seat pan on the Easy Elite can help to accommodate Littles who prefer to cross their legs while in the vehicle. It may also be a nice option, provided the child fits, for parents who have children with braces or splits on their legs who need a wider pan with low sides to accommodate club shoes, leg casts, or similar.
Kindergartner: 5.5 years old, 40 lbs, 42″ tall
Eibhlin is on the small size for her age — she’s got more room to grow in the Easy Elite in forward facing harness mode than some larger children may have.
The top harness position is around 16.75″, which means that smaller kids will be able to use the harness until they’re ready to use a belt positioning booster. The angle of the seat when in forward facing mode meant that it wasn’t too upright, and Eibhlin felt relaxed and secure.
At 5.5, some kids are ready to start using a belt positioning booster, but Eibhlin is still riding in a 5 point harness in the car most of the time. She’ll learn what is expected of her while using a booster in the car slowly, and doesn’t mind being in a 5 point harness since she knows it is a safer option for her right now. Learn more about when to switch your Littles from harness to booster.
Kindergartner: 5.5 years old, 40 lbs, 42 inches tall
Since the booster mode on the Easy Elite has a 40 pound minimum for use, Eibhlin only meets the limits by weight. However, the seat also has a 43″ height minimum for use in booster mode, so she’s not quite tall enough to use it yet.
Before switching modes on any car seat, make sure that your Little meets all of the requirements for using the seat in that next step.
The shoulder belt crosses appropriately over her chest and shoulder. The seat belt does fit her across her hips, but since she doesn’t meet the minimum height limit for using this seat in booster mode, I believe the belt fit would appear better if she were a little taller. When Eibhlin gains another inch, she could safely use the Easy Elite in belt positioning booster mode.
The lower anchors and tether anchor cannot be used to secure the seat to the vehicle in booster mode, so this seat needs to be buckled in when there isn’t a child in the seat.
School Aged Child: 8 years old, 50 lbs, 52 inches tall
At eight, Declan is a pro at using a booster in the car. He is well within the stated height and weight limits of the Easy Elite, but has just about outgrown it by shoulder height.
The shoulder belt doesn’t have to be in the shoulder belt guide for use in booster mode. In order for this model to fit in the seat, the headrest is raised to the tallest setting. He feels a little cramped in the Easy Elite and would need another booster option for long-term use.
Even though he’s a big kid and has outgrown the Easy Elite by shoulder height, he still needs a booster to ride safety in the car. Boosters are for big kids! A child Declan’s size could use a backless belt positioning booster if he got a good belt fit and could sit properly for the entire ride.
No Rethread Harness
The Easy Elite’s movable headrest easily adjusts up or down for quick adjustments. It is a smooth mechanism to operate and has several settings.
The sides of the headrest are very plush and padded, but the cover is actually rather smooth. Even though these sides offered lots of soft cushioning, it still felt very open to our models.
For kids who have sensory concerns, a smooth cover and a soft, but open, headrest can make car rides much more enjoyable.
This padding can be used for extra support in rear facing mode, but will not improve the fit for smaller babies.
Important Information: Where to Find
FAA Approval: A sticker on the left hand side shows a helpful image of an airplane, situated next to the FAA approval notice. The Easy Elite is allowed on airplanes in harness mode only, but may not fit well in rear facing mode, especially for children under 22 lbs because of the required recline for children of that size.
Expiration: The Easy Elite’s expiration date is stamped on the back of the seat, over the spot where a locking clip would be stored (a locking clip does not come with the Easy Elite).
Manual: The manual is stored inside the kickstand. It tucks in tidily to this perfect spot for keeping the manual handy.
Manufacturer information: The sticker on the right side of the seat shows the date of manufacture, model number information, and contact information for the manufacturer.
At under $100, the Easy Elite multimode seat is a budget-friendly option for families with toddlers who have outgrown their rear facing only car seats. It may be more difficult to fit the seat in some vehicles at the reclined level required for children who weigh less than 22 lbs.
While we’re thrilled to see a harnessed seat with a 2 year minimum for forward facing use, the fact that it does not fit babies at the smaller end of the stated limits is disappointing. The belt fit of the Easy Elite in booster mode is much improved over its predecessor, the Alpha Omega Elite/3-in-1 multimode seat, but it seems that that most kids will outgrow the Easy Elite well before the stated height and weight limits.