The Harmony Defender 360 is a fairly new addition to the world of combination seats (aka car seats that convert from a forward facing five point harness into a belt positioning booster), and I had the opportunity to take one for a spin this week. Here’s the break down of the important stuff:
CSFTL Quick Stats
- 5 point harness from 22 – 65 lbs
- 18.5″ top harness slot
- High back or backless booster from 30 – 110 lbs
- 20″ top high back belt guide
- 10 year expiration
- LATCH allowed in booster mode
- Tether is required in harness mode
- 2015 IIHS Best Bet
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! These photos walk through the assembly process but it’s important to refer to the instruction manual for full, detailed instructions.
Once you’ve completed the assembly, it’s time to get things adjusted 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″. Remember for 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, you simply slide the webbing sideways, 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, 42″ tall and weighs 40 lbs. He fit comfortably in the harness, with lots of height room to grow. The top right photo has the harness adjusted to the top slot, as well as fully extended in length. 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 somewhat, but was not did not seem to bother him and was not difficult to buckle.
High Back Booster Mode
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 2″ of overhang. Always use the tether connector. The Defender is 19 inches deep, has a 16 inch seatpan, and is 17.5 inches wide with a fairly slim profile, making it very friendly for 3-across scenarios.
The booster function provided a great seat belt fit on my son (who does not ride in a booster, but he is within the 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.
The Defender does not allow lower anchors to be used in booster mode, so it’s important to remember to buckle the booster when the child is not in the vehicle to keep it from becoming a projectile in a crash. Update October 2015: 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 back.
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.