The Cosco Scenera has long been a staple of the child passenger safety toolkit, especially for caregivers who travel or are on a budget, or coalitions who need to make their seat dollars count. With an under 40 dollar price point, the Scenera has long stood as an example of how seats are available to keep kids safe in any budget.
The Scenera has had a few rebrandings over the years. The Scenera 40RF was short-lived but dearly loved by advocates until it was replaced by the Cosco Apt 40. Cosco’s sister brand, Safety 1st, markets the Onside Air, which sits on a Scenera shell with a fancier cover and side impact ‘air bags’, but the seat available at box stores today is pretty much the same seat it was 9 years ago.
At 2014 Kidz in Motion Conference, Cosco surprised us all with the announcement that the Scenera was getting quite the makeover. I was lucky enough to get one of my own preceding the official commercial release, and without further ado, here is the new Cosco Scenera NEXT, which is available for around $46 retail.
CSFTL Quick Stats
- Rear-facing weight range: 5-40 lbs
- Rear-facing height range: 19-40″
- Forward facing weight range: 22-40 lbs
- Forward facing height range: 29-43″
- Shell depth: 23″
- Lowest harness position: 5″
- Highest harness position: 13″
- Expiration: 8 years from date of manufacture
- Lower Anchor limits: 40 lbs
- 3 buckle strap positions: 2″, 3″, 4.5″
- No moving parts to adjust between rear and forward facing
- Smoother shell with more rounded edges
- Compact, lightweight, simple to install
Shell Height Clarification
In April 2016, we discovered that recent and current Scenera Next manuals claim that 1″ of the seat shell must be above the child’s head for rear facing use. Dorel Juvenile has confirmed that this error is a typo. No Cosco Scenera Next requires an inch of clearance above the child’s head. The seat may be used rear facing as long as the occupant weighs under 40 lbs, is under 40″ tall and has their head contained fully in the shell. If you are concerned about the wording in your manual contact Dorel Juvenile directly.
Optional Harness Covers
Harness covers are now available for purchase by contacting Dorel.
Usage and Installation
All vehicles manufacturers have required some sort of locking mechanism in passenger seatbelts since after 1996. Lower anchors for installation have been required in vehicles since September of 2002. In the event that your vehicle predates model year 1997, you may need an external mechanism to secure the 3-point vehicle belt into a locking mechanism, called a locking clip. Cosco will no longer be providing locking clips as a standard piece of equipment with the seat. However, you can find a locking clip at many baby product retailers, or by contacting Dorel Juvenile Products directly.
Rear Facing Installation
Weight Restriction: 5-40 lbs
Height Restriction: 19-40″
Fit Restriction: Harness positioned at or below the child’s shoulders, and head below the top of the 23″ shell
Age Restriction: Birth
The buckle may be in either the 1st or 2nd position for rear facing use. The harness may be threaded through any of the provided slots as long as it is placed at or below the child’s shoulders.
Since the Scenera NEXT was released, Cosco has also released an optional longer crotch buckle for use with this seat. They can be ordered directly from Cosco via phone.
Quite frankly, the Scenera NEXT doesn’t need a forward facing belt path. The inclusion of forward facing capability is simply a nod to market research (without the forward facing ‘capacity’, the seat won’t sell). However, Cosco intended from the start to build a new seat that would work for even tiny newborns, and keep them rear facing as long as possible, to at least 3 for most kids, and possibly to 4 for those kids who carry more height in their legs than their waists.
The lower top harness position and the bare minimum of 2 years for forward facing use again emphasize this seat’s suitability for extended rear facing use. In comparison, the original Scenera’s height limit of 36″ for rear facing, got 50th percentile kids to around 2.5 rear facing. This limit wasn’t shoddy in 2005 but certainly doesn’t rate in 2015.
Unlike the original Scenera, the Scenera NEXT does not have a moveable ‘foot’ that must be swung back or forth depending on the direction the seat is installed. Over the years, experienced technicians have learned the ‘tricks’ necessary for placing a Scenera at the required angle. It often involves a pyramid of pool noodles and a bit of maneuvering.
It is unlikely you will need such ‘extras’ with the Scenera NEXT– with the possible exception of extremely sloped vehicle seats. See our tip for installing a seat without using noodles, even in a sloped vehicle seat. Place the seat in the vehicle, apply force where necessary as you tighten, and you will have the correct angle without further intervention.
Remember that whether installing with lower anchors or with the seatbelt, the connector strap or vehicle belt must be routed in front of and not behind the buckle strap.
The seat has a molded recline line on the side of the seat. For newborns, the line must be level with the ground. For babies who can sit unassisted, the seat may be more upright per the manual.
A shallower seatpan, as well as the deletion of the prominent protrusion at the front of the original Scenera means that the new Scenera NEXT takes up a less room in the rear facing position. This means the Scenera NEXT will work well even in smaller cars, and will be a great choice in airplanes. In the image below, the Scenera NEXT has a gap of about 4″ between it and the back of the driver’s seat (in the furthest back position). The original Scenera is actually touching the similarly positioned passenger seat, which is not permitted by the vehicle manufacturer. They are both positioned at the required angle.
This image shows a 2 year 7 month child, who currently weighs 25 lbs and is 34.75″ tall. As you can see she has at least 2″ above her head, and her growth percentiles put her on track for not surpassing 40″ before her 4th birthday. She could use the Scenera NEXT rear facing to four years. She runs in the 20th-30th percentile for height, compared to same-age peers.
The broadest point of the Scenera NEXT flares at just shy of 17.5″. Due to its low profile, you can see it puzzles nicely next to the original Scenera here, in a tight space but with independently tight installations (both seatbelt.)
The broadest point of the Scenera NEXT flares at just shy of 17.5″. Due to its low profile, you can see it puzzles nicely next to the original Scenera here, in a tight space but with independently tight seat belt installations.
Newborn Harness Routing
Cosco faced a unique challenge in the Scenera’s lowest harness position redesign. The original Scenera had a 7″ bottom harness position, which was adequate for most newborns, but didn’t work particularly well for smaller or premature babies. Placing an additional slot at the 5″ mark solved the harness fit position, but created a new problem to solve: the amount of harness needed to work for the whole seat couldn’t be drawn tight enough for a little 5 lb baby. The splitter plate on the back would get hung up on the back of the shell before all the slack was drawn out of the harness.
The solution requires a bit of clever routing for the smallest newborns.
Like the original Scenera, the Scenera NEXT employs a ‘continuous harness’. If your newborn requires the lowest slots (the baby’s shoulders do not reach at least the second harness position from the bottom), you must weave your harness through two additional slots provided in the seat, under the pad where the baby’s bottom will rest. The harness strap will end up effectively UNDER the adjuster strap when looking at the seat from the bottom.
If the baby’s shoulders reach at least the second harness position, the harness maintains the standard position, hovering OVER the adjuster strap when looking at the seat from the bottom.
The Scenera NEXT comes out of the box in the standard position and not the small newborn position. If you are expecting an early delivery, have a history of tiny newborns, or are carrying multiples, it behooves you to adjust the harness prior to delivery.
Forward Facing Installation
- Weight restriction: 22-40 lbs
- Height Restriction: 29-43″
- Fit Restriction: Harness placed at or above the child’s shoulders and ears contained within shell of seat
- Age Restriction: TWO YEARS +
If I had one wish for this seat, it would be that a ‘forward facing installation’ section of the review were not necessary. However, the two-year minimum for forward facing is a sufficiently soothing salve that I won’t hold it against Cosco or their marketing department. In fact, the low top harness position (13″ from the seat pan) means that many children will have outgrown the forward facing capacity of torso height before they’ve even reach the age minimum permitted. Because the seat can be used a lot longer rear facing than forward facing, the parent has the choice of either buying a new seat at that point, or just continuing to use a perfectly serviceable and safe seat for another year or more, rear facing. I know what most budget conscious parents will choose!
Any of the buckle slot positions may be used for forward facing. There are no other fit restrictions — they can be used or not used based on comfort and convenience.
Realistically, the most outward position will be the most reasonable for a forward facing child. Due to the 40 lb harnessed max of this seat and the weight of only 7.59 pounds, lower anchor weight restrictions do not come into play. If your seating position is equipped with lower anchors, you may use them for the life of the seat.
For a forward facing car seat, the tether anchor connector should always be attached to a dedicated tether anchor position.
The seats fit well next to each other forward facing. You can also see here the difference in forward facing torso height capacity between the original and the new seats.
The same toddler is featured here. You see at about 2.5 years she has maxed the torso capacity of the seat forward facing, but could easily fit rear facing in it for another year and a half or more.
Lower Anchor Storage
When installing with a seatbelt, attach the lower anchor connectors to the provided rungs toward the foot of the seat, under the flare.
When installing rear facing, attach the tether connector to the provided spot on the center of the back of the seat.
The detachable cupholder may be attached to either side of the seat, or removed entirely (recommended when attempting to install seats next to each other).
- Fits newborns
- Allows rear facing until at least 2 years for a budget friendly price
- Does not require pool noodles to achieve proper recline
- Will be outgrown forward facing before it is outgrown rear facing
A Tale of Two Sceneras: A Comparison
Important Information: Where to Find
Date of Manufacture: This is found on the label on the right side of the seat, directly in front of the rear facing belt path.
Expiration: This information is molded into the plastic on the middle rear of the seat.
FAA Approval: The FAA certification is found on the label on the left side of the seat, directly in front of the rear facing belt path. It is also printed in the manual.
This seat will fit all kiddos except tiny preemies from birth, and will last almost all kids to 3 years old rear facing, or even longer. It is narrow, compact, lightweight and easy to install. It should work well in subcompact cars, SUVs and airplanes, and when seats need to be installed next to each other. The pricepoint of under fifty dollars (though it can be found on Amazon.com for slightly more) makes it a reasonable option for nearly every parent’s budget, and a great choice for coalitions trying to maximize their purchasing power. We are very pleased to give this seat a Car Seats for the Littles, Inc. seal of approval.
While Cosco provided the seat free of charge to the author, Cosco did not pay for or influence this review. All opinions expressed, as always, are entirely our own.
The Scenera NEXT is currently a Wal-Mart exclusive. Our friends at Cosco were generous enough though to give one away to our readers though before you can buy them! To enter, follow the Rafflecopter instructions below.