The Harmony Defender 360 is a budget friendly addition to the world of combination seats — car seats that convert from a forward facing five point harness into a belt positioning booster. It’s a nice option for tight spaces, let’s take a closer look.
CSFTL Quick Stats
- Forward facing weight limit: 22 – 65 lbs
- Forward facing height limit: 27-57″
- Highest harness position: 18.5″
- High back or backless booster weight limit: 30-110 lbs
- High back or backless booster height limit: 34-57″
- 20″ top high back booster shoulder belt guide
- 10 year expiration
- LATCH allowed in booster mode
- Tether is required in harness mode
- 2015 IIHS Best Bet
- Seat pan depth: 16 inches
- Width: 17.5 inches
In the interest of packaging efficiency, the Defender does not come assembled. The assembly requires some effort and attention to detail – the whole process took me about 45 minutes while taking photographs, so it’s probably a 20-30 minute ordeal and requires two Phillips screwdrivers.
Always, always, always read your manual! While these photos walk through the assembly process, it’s important to refer to the instruction manual for full, detailed instructions.
The first step is to remove the connectors from the armrests where they’re stored.
Next, remove this bar from the backrest. This requires a Phillips screwdriver for this. Unsnap the seat’s cover in order to slide the bar out.
Step three: move the backrest to the upright position, then re-insert the screws into the armrests. Align the grooves on the inner pieces.
Finally, adjust the seat into the fully reclined position using the knob on the front of the car seat. Then re-insert the bar and screw it in place. This final move requires two Phillips screwdrivers simultaneously – one for each side.
Once the seat is assembled, it’s time to adjust the Defender to fit the child.
It took me a minute to find the adjuster for the harness height. Reach under the cover at the head and feel around for this red handle. Pull up on it and the harness easily slides up and down, and it can be moved while the seat is installed. There are 9 options, from 11″ to 18.5″. For children who ride forward facing, always position the harness at or just above the child’s shoulders.
There are two available positions for the crotch buckle, they measure 6″ and 8″ deep. To switch between the two, simply slide the webbing sideways, then through the slot forward to the next position. This can also be done while the seat is installed. One downfall of the Defender is that the crotch strap length is fairly short, and can be uncomfortable for some children’s legs. Harmony does have a longer option available to customers upon request.
Fit to Child
My model is 4.75 years old, weighs 40 lbs and is 42 inches tall. He fit comfortably in the harness, with lots of height room to grow. I didn’t have a larger child to try, but the harness may not be long enough to fully accommodate children at the upper end of the harness weight limit. The crotch buckle was snug and did poke into his thighs a bit, but the buckle didn’t seem to bother him, nor was it difficult to buckle.
Harness Mode Installation with Lower Anchors
Installation was a breeze. The seat has clip style lower anchor connectors that were easy to use, and seat belt installation did not pose any problems. Harmony recommends use of the top tether at all times.
One important quirk of this seat is that it does not allow any of the front edge of the car seat to overhang the vehicle seat. This could be an issue in vehicles with shallow seats. Harmony has updated its instruction manual to permit up to 2 inches overhang. Always use the top tether.
High Back Booster Mode
The booster function provided a great seat belt fit on my son (who does not ride in a booster, but he is within the height and weight minimums for the booster function of the seat). The belt fit perfectly, with the lap belt low on his hips, touching the tops of his thighs, and the shoulder belt even across the torso. The lap belt was a bit difficult to thread under the armrests, but otherwise it was very easy to use.
Original versions of the Defender did not allow lower anchors to be used in booster mode, however, Harmony now allows the use of lower anchors and tether anchor in booster mode.
This is very useful for those who may forget to buckle a booster when the seat is not in use. The Defender also becomes a backless booster once the child has outgrown the high back potion of the seat.
- Easy to install
- Narrow enough for 3-across
- Requires assembly
- Short crotch strap that can be uncomfortable (longer strap is available at no charge from Harmony)
- Cannot use LATCH in booster mode
Important Information: Where to Find
Manual storage: the manual stores on the bottom of the seat. This is a fine location when assembling the seat but makes checking anything while the seat is installed a challenge since the Defender has to be uninstalled to access the manual.
FAA Approval label: the Defender is approved for use on aircraft in harness mode. The indicator label is found on the bottom of the seat.
Like all booster seats, the Defender requires a lap and shoulder belt so it’s not approved for aircraft use in booster mode.
Date of Manufacture: this label is on the bottom of the seat.
Overall, I was pretty impressed with the Defender. There are two main downfalls I found; first, the assembly is a bit involved, and leaves potential for misuse if it is not assembled properly. Second, the crotch buckle length may be uncomfortable for some children. There was a lot that I did love though: the harness height and tightness adjustments are very smooth and easy to use, and installation did not pose any challenges. The slim profile is great for families with multiple kids, and the ten year expiration makes it a seat that would get the average preschooler all the way up to age 10-12 when they are ready to ride without a booster. And the affordable price tag makes it pretty friendly on the wallet, too. You can find the Defender on Amazon.com!
Harmony did not provide a seat or sponsor this review, opinions are all our own!
Originally written by Emma Douglas. Edits maintained by CSFTL.