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Britax Advocate ClickTight Review

In 2013, Britax shook things up with the introduction of ClickTight technology on the Frontier combination car seat. This technology has made installation simple, to say the least, and we hoped and waited for Britax to add ClickTight to their convertible car seat line. The wait is over, and ClickTight convertible seats are here to stay!
CSFTL Quick Stats: AdvocateCT_rearfacingRear facing weight range:  5-40 lbs

  • Rear facing height range: child’s head 1″ from the top of the fully extended head restraint
  • Forward facing weight range: 20-65 lbs
  • Forward facing height range: up to 49″
  • Shell height: 29″
  • Lowest harness position: 7.5″ with newborn insert
  • Highest harness position: 19″
  • Expiration: 10 years
  • Lower anchor weight limit: 30 lbs rear facing, 35 lbs forward facing

AdvocateCT_forwardfacing Features:

  • ClickTight Installation
  • Two position adjustable crotch strap
  • Seven recline settings for rear and forward facing
  • No re-thread harness
  • Allows use of the tether rear facing

 

 

 

Installation

Installing the Advocate ClickTight is unlike any convertible car seat you’ve ever installed. In fact, forget everything you know about car seat installation. As the name states, the biggest feature of the Advocate ClickTight is the ClickTight installation. Just open the ClickTight, thread the seat belt through the appropriate belt path, and close the ClickTight. There are a few other steps, but it’s basically as simple as that. AdvocateCT_clicktight

Seat Belt

AdvocateCT_beltpathTo open the ClickTight, push with one finger on the dimple of the ClickTight dial. The dial will flip-up and can be rotated 90 degrees, which will open the ClickTight. The belt paths, as well as everything else on the seat, are clearly marked with blue for rear facing and green for forward facing. Thread the seat belt through the appropriate belt path and buckle it; and this is the part where you need to forget everything you know about installing a car seat. Don’t pull the seat belt tight as you would with most car seats, because the ClickTight is going to do the tightening for you. Remove the excess slack, close the ClickTight, and in most cases you’ll have a secure installation with less than 1″ movement at the belt path. The ClickTight functions as a lockoff, so there is no need to engage the seat belt’s locking retractor if using a typical lap/shoulder belt with a sliding latchplate and switchable retractor.

 

Advocate CT installed with a lap-only seat belt.

Advocate CT installed with a lap-only seat belt.

If you are installing in a vehicle with a lap-only belt or a lap/shoulder belt with sewn on latchplates, it is important to make sure the seat belt is locked according to the vehicle manufacturer’s instructions.

Not sure how your seat belts lock? Find more information in our article here. 

 

Lower Anchors

Advocate ClickTight installed with lower anchors.

Advocate ClickTight installed with lower anchors.

The Advocate ClickTight is equipped with lower anchors, which are stored in a compartment in the lower bottom portion of the seat. Because the seat belt installation is so simple, Britax has chosen to use j-hook style connectors rather than the premium push button connectors you may be used to with other Britax seats. To use the lower anchors, remove the strap from the storage compartment and thread through the appropriate belt path after opening the Click Tight. Attach the lower anchors to the lower anchor connectors in the vehicle, remove excess slack, and close the ClickTight. It is important to note that the Advocate ClickTight only allows for lower anchor installation in seating positions with standard 11″ lower anchor spacing, and that the child must weigh less than 30 lbs rear facing or 35 lbs forward facing to install using lower anchors.

 

 

 

 

Tether

Advocate CT using the tether while rear facing.

Advocate CT using the tether while rear facing.

The tether can be used both rear and forward facing, and you can find the tether neatly stored in a panel on the back of the seat. When rear facing, the tether can be attached using the enclosed tether connector strap attached to a fixed location that is bolted to the floor. It is important to note that this strap is different from previous generation “d-ring” tether connector straps, the ClickTight connector strap has a webbing loop on either end, as opposed to the metal ring users of previous generation Britax seats may be familiar with.   Also important to note is that some vehicles may prohibit the use of a tether connector strap in this method, so it is important to consult your vehicle owner’s manual prior to use of the tether while rear facing. A second option for rear facing is to attach the tether to the anchor typically used for forward facing, which means the tether strap will run around the child seat and may make it difficult for loading and unloading the child. If the tether anchor is too short to reach the anchor or the provided rear facing tether connector webbing, Britax can provided an extension.  It is important to note that the tether extenders for forward and rear facing are different, so you must specific which direction you intend to face the seat when you call to request the extender.  Britax recommends, but does not require, use of the tether while rear facing.   An anti-rebound bar is predicted to be available for purchase 1st quarter 2015, which can be used in place of rear facing tethering.

 

 

Advocate CT forward facing tether.

Advocate CT forward facing tether.

Forward facing, the tether should be used at all times and must be attached to a tether anchor that is approved by the vehicle manufacturer. If your vehicle has tether anchors located on the ceiling or floor of your vehicle, you may find the Advocate ClickTight tether strap to be too short to reach your vehicle’s tether anchor. If that is the case, contact Britax and they can provide an extension so that you may utilize the tether anchor. My Honda CRV has ceiling mounted tether anchors, and the tether strap attached with room to spare.

 

 

 

Recline

AdvocateCT_reclineThe Advocate ClickTight features seven recline positions. To adjust the recline, squeeze the handle located at the bottom front portion of the seat. The Advocate ClickTight can be in any of the recline positions provided the indicator reflects the appropriate position for the age and direction of the child. The rear facing zone is clearly labeled in blue, keeping with the blue labels for all the rear facing components of the seat. The light blue zone is required for infants without sufficient head and neck control, while the darker blue can be used for older infants and toddlers that can safely sit more upright. The green zone represents the allowable recline settings for forward facing, any of which can be used if the indicator rests in the green and the Advocate ClickTight does not overhang the vehicle seat more than 3″. I was able to install the Advocate ClickTight forward facing in three of the more upright recline settings without exceeding the overhang requirements and while keeping the indicator in the green zone. This provided a nice recline, which may be particularly useful for children with special needs that require them to sit at a more reclined angle. I would love for there to be an additional indicator that shows which of the seven recline positions the seat is in, as I found it a little difficult to tell whether I had gone one click or several clicks when adjusting the recline. If necessary, a pool noodle or tightly rolled towel may be added to further adjust the recline of the Advocate ClickTight, but with 7 adjustable positions and a generous range of allowable angles, there are very few scenarios in which it would be necessary.

 

Fit to Child

Rear Facing

Advocate ClickTight fully extended

Advocate ClickTight fully extended

The Advocate ClickTight is rated for children from 5-40 lbs, and does not state a standing height limit for rear facing. Unlike previous Britax convertible car seats that only allowed rear facing until 1″ from the top of the shell of the car seat, the Advocate ClickTight has a reinforced head restraint which allows for rear facing until the child’s head is 1″ from the top of the fully extended head restraint. Fully extended, the head restraint of the Advocate ClickTight measures 29″, making it competitive with the tallest rear facing convertible seats currently available. Most children will reach the 40 lb weight limit before ever reaching the maximum height capacity of the Advocate ClickTight rear facing.

With the lowest harness position measuring 7.5″, and the fully extended head restraint measuring 29″, the Advocate ClickTight has the potential to fit a large range of children.

 

 

AdvocateCT_preemiePreemie:

Huggable Images doll Jo is 4 lbs, 17″. She is below the 5 lb weight limit of the Advocate ClickTight, but I wanted to try her in the seat to get an idea of whether or not a 5-6 lb newborn would truly fit in the seat. I was able to get the straps nice and snug, and even had several clicks to go before the harness was at its tightest. Unfortunately, the harness straps were well above her shoulders so she would not be able to ride in this seat. Small or premature newborns that are longer in the torso may fit appropriately, but if you are expecting multiples or a premature birth, it would be a safe bet to have a rear facing only seat available to use from birth.

 

 

 

 

AdvocateCT_newbornNewborn:

Huggable Images doll Fiona is 7 lbs, 17″ and she fit beautifully in the Advocate ClickTight. The straps were just a bit below her shoulders and easily passed the pinch test. The Advocate ClickTight’s seven recline positions came in handy here, I placed it in the most reclined position and it was well reclined enough for a newborn.

The impact absorbing chest pads are a little bit bulky for Fiona, so I removed them along with the comfort pads and found it much easier to tighten the harness on her small body. She is using the infant insert, which can be used or removed at any time provided the child fits correctly in the seat with or without it.

 

 

 

 

AdvocateCT_toddlerToddler:

Grace is 21 months, 23 lbs and 31″. She fits great in the Advocate CT, there is plenty of leg room and she will be able to ride rear facing for years to come.

 

 

 

  AdvocateCT_sleepingI find it very easy to get her in and out of the seat, and I love the multiple recline options that allow her to be comfortable enough to doze off in the car, yet upright enough to see out the window and fit easily behind the driver’s seat. I have moved the crotch buckle to the outer position for her, as I found the inner position to be uncomfortably digging into her thighs.

 

 

 

 

 

AdvocateCT_RF4yAdvocateCT_RF4yoBig Kid:

Lillian just turned 4 and is 30 lbs and 39″. She loved the Limelight pattern on our Advocate ClickTight, and had plenty of room to grow rear facing, both in height and weight. The main downside for her is the length of the crotch buckle, which is rather short and can make it uncomfortable for the child while getting buckled. The Advocate ClickTight doesn’t offer quite as much leg room as some other seats, but still offered plenty of space for her to easily climb in and out of the seat and ride quite comfortably.

Forward Facing

AdvocateCT_forwardfacing

Advocate ClightTight forward facing

Forward facing, the Advocate ClickTight is rated from 20-65 lbs and up to 49″. We at CSFTL commend Britax for recommending several times in the manual that children ride rear facing until a minimum of two years old, ideally until they have reached the maximum rear facing weight or height capacity of the seat before riding forward facing.

Installation of the Advocate ClickTight forward facing is nearly the same as it is rear facing. Open the ClickTight, thread the seat belt through the forward facing slots, close the ClickTight, and then attach the tether.

 

 

 

 

AdvocateCT_6yearoldBig Kid: 6 Years Old

Sam is 6 years old, 43 lbs and 47″ and has lots of room to grow in the Advocate ClickTight. Initially, I had him sit in the seat and was concerned because the harness barely had enough slack to get around his body. I was able to buckle him in but there was no growing room to be had.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Britax Advocate CT has lots of growing room for this 6 year old model

The Britax Advocate CT has lots of growing room for this 6 year old model

Upon further investigation into the manual, I found information that the harness can be lengthened several inches to accommodate older  children. Once I made that adjustment, there was plenty of room for him, and he has several inches of growing room before he will have outgrown the Advocate ClickTight.

 

 

 

 

 

AdvocateCT_outgrownFFBig Kid: 7 Years Old

Zeke is 7 years old, 53 lbs and 51″. As you can see, he has outgrown the Boulevard ClickTight he is sitting in, which features the same limits as the Advocate ClickTight.

This label clearly marks the maximum seated height limit.

This label clearly marks the maximum seated height limit.

I wanted to try a child at the upper end of the limits for this seat, while he is within the 65 lb weight limit, he has exceeded the 49″ height limit and his shoulders are higher than the “maximum seated height” label in the shoulder area of the seat, though the harness straps are right at his shoulders. Zeke is also physically too large for the harness to be buckled. Even after extending the harness straps, they were not long enough to be fastened.

 

 

 

 

  AdvocateCT_harnessTo adjust the harness strap length, open the ClickTight and you will find that the hip portion of the harness is wrapped around the anchor. To lengthen the harness, detach the strap, and slip the sewn on end over the anchor. You can find full instructions from Britax here.  When the ClickTight convertible seats initially became available, some parents found that this portion of the harness was not fully attached from the factory. It is important, with any seat, to check that all components are functioning correctly before use. You can read more about that issue and how to check in our article here.   

 

Features

AdvocateCT_clicknsafeClick & Safe Snug Harness Indicator
The Click & Safe is designed to give an audible “click” when the harness is snug enough on the child’s body. It definitely clicks, but not always when the harness is tight enough. The clicking mechanism is located behind the child’s shoulders, so it’s very easy for it to think there is enough tension if the caregiver hasn’t made sure to remove all the slack from the hip & torso area prior to pulling the tightening strap. It’s a great helper, but it’s still important to make sure all slack is removed from all areas of the harness before travel, don’t just rely on the click.

 

AdvocateCT_norethread
No Rethread Harness
To adjust the harness, simply squeeze the red handle and pull the head restraint up or down to the desired position. Position the harness straps at or below the child’s shoulders for rear facing; at or above for forward facing.

 

AdvocateCT_comfort
Comfort Pillow
The comfort pillow goes underneath the child’s bottom and helps provide a secure fit for newborns and small infants. Britax directs the caregiver to remove the comfort pillow  after the child can sit comfortably in the child seat without additional support.
AdvocateCT_hugs
Impact Absorbing Chest Pads
The impact absorbing chest pads are highly recommended for forward facing, but can be removed when rear facing to ensure a snug fit on infants and smaller children. To remove the impact absorbing chest pads, the harness must be detached from the splitter plate on the back of the seat. Most of the back of the seat is enclosed, and I found it rather difficult to thread and rethread the harness.
AdvocateCT_cbuckle
Adjustable EZ Buckle
The EZ Buckle pad keeps the buckle in the forward position when unbuckled, making it easy to load the child without having to dig the buckle out from underneath them. The buckle has two positions, measuring 5″ and 7″ deep , with the strap measuring 3″ in length. Whichever slot is closest to, but not under the child, may be used for rear facing. Forward facing, Britax requires use of the outer slot. To switch between positions, open the ClickTight, rotate the buckle strap and slide it into the next position.
Advocate_SafeCell
SafeCell Complete Side Impact Protection MAX
If you’re familiar with previous generation Britax car seats, you are probably familiar with this feature under the name SICT, or Side Impact Cushion Technology. Britax has changed the name, and also slightly changed the design of the external cushions, designed to divert energy away from the child in a crash. They are sleeker and less obtrusive than previous models, while still providing the same crash protection to the child.
AdvocateCT_manualstorage
Storage Spots
We love it when a manufacturer thinks about the little things – like where can you stow the instruction manual for easy reference whenever a question comes up? The Advocate ClickTight has a handy little storage pocket underneath the cover for convenient storage and quick access to any question that comes your way. We also love the tidy storage spots for the lower anchors and tether, shown earlier in our review.
Cover Removal and Cleaning
The cover has four separate pieces. The manual directs that it should be hand washed and line dried, not machine washed or dried. Removal of the cover is a little bit time consuming but not overly difficult. You do not have to disconnect the harness in order to remove it. One note that we found, after handwashing the cover, it retained quite a bit of water and had to air dry for a couple of days before it was ready to be used again.

 

AdvocateCT_domlabel
Looking for a label?
You won’t find the label containing the date of manufacture and serial number in its usual spot by the left shoulder, if you’re familiar with Britax restraints. The Advocate ClickTight has hidden this important label underneath the cover near where the child’s knees would be bent if in the seat, a bit of a throwback for those of us who have been car seating for a little while now and shall remain nameless. The great thing about this label though? Add ten years to the date, and that is the Advocate ClickTight expiration. With generous limits AND expiration, this is a seat that can get almost every kid well through birth to the age when they’re ready to move to a belt positioning booster seat.

 

ClickTight Family

The model used in this review is the Advocate ClickTight, with a brief cameo from the Boulevard ClickTight. You can find the ClickTight technology on the Marathon, Boulevard, and Advocate ClickTight models. The Boulevard and Advocate ClickTight share the same specifications, the Boulevard is simply less the external side impact protection cushions. The Marathon ClickTight features the ClickTight technology, but has a somewhat lower height capacity: 16.95″ seated height versus 18.65″ seated height of the Boulevard ClickTight and Advocate ClickTight and lacks the reinforced True Side Impact Protection head restraint that the Boulevard and Advocate ClickTight feature.

 

Overall Thoughts

AdvocateClickTight_stockThe Britax Advocate ClickTight is simple to install, long-lasting, and easy to use. The few minor drawbacks we found were the high price, heavy weight, and tendency for the parent to try to over tighten the seat belt unnecessarily with the ClickTight. The ClickTight family will be a great addition to many back seats, and we hope it keeps kids rear facing longer, and helps more caregivers install their seats correctly with ease. You can find the  Advocate ClickTight on Amazon.com,

Want to win an Advocate ClickTight for your Little? Britax has generously offered to provide one Advocate ClickTight for CSFTL readers, enter using the Rafflecopter widget below! Contest is open to residents of the US only, ages 18 & up. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Eddie Bauer Deluxe Highback 65 Review

Eddie Bauer is a child restraint brand manufactured by Dorel Juvenile Products, which also produces Cosco, Safety1st, and Maxi-Cosi in North America. The Deluxe Highback 65 is a combination seat, meant for forward facing children using a 5pt harness and also to transition into a high backed booster for older children. With a 65lb 49″ forward facing harness limit, and a 100lb 52″ booster limit, this seat promises to last a child for a long time, hopefully until that child is ready for a no back booster. This seat also made it onto the IIHS Booster Rating list as a “Good Bet.” I received a Deluxe Highback 65 in Hunnicut fashion from Dorel for this review.

collage01

CSFTL Quick Stats

  • Forward facing weight range: 22-65lbs (and over one year of age)
  • Forward facing height range: 34″- 49″
  • High back booster weight range: 40-100 lbs (and 4 years or older)
  • High back booster height range: 43-52″
  • Crotch buckle positions: 3.5″, 5″, 6.5″
  • Lowest harness position: 10″
  • Highest harness position: 17″
  • Highest booster guide position: 21″
  • Expiration: December 31st of the 10th year
  • Lower anchor weight limit: 40lb

 

Features

  • 3 position adjustable crotch strap:
  • Adjustable headrest
  • Adjustable belt guide
  • Padded, movable, armrests
  • Cup holder
  • FAA approved in 5pt harness mode
  • Cushioned harness pads

 

Forward Facing

10385377_10152512224361452_1008759964883339727_nThe Deluxe Highback 65 comes out of the box with the harness in the bottom harness setting, and with the kickstand folded in, both of which need to be changed. It is imperative that one reads the manual when preparing to use and install any child restraint, but there are a few details in the manual that will be very important to note when using this seat.  The bottom harness setting is 10″ which is far too low for any forward facing child, so you’ll need to move it up. The kickstand must be out for use in both harness and booster modes. The harness is continuous, which means that there is one harness strap that is threaded under the seat and attached in the back to the splitter plate.

 

 

 

While the headrest adjusts with simple manipulation of a metal bar on the back of the seat, the harness must still be re-threaded when changing from one harness position to another. Adjusting the harness is a little different from other seats, because of the unique routing required by the manual; the harness must be threaded over the bar, but under the plastic on the headrest adjuster mechanism. This can present a bit of a funny looking routing, and could present an opportunity for misuse. I found that the headrest adjuster mechanism was sometimes not very easy to use. It seemed to “stick” a little. 1976928_10152512223841452_5476782659607730991_n

 

 

 

 

 

The cup holder snaps onto the side of the seat. There are no specific instructions for placement of the crotch buckle, other than it should provide a good fit for the child. Since the first setting is very close to the back of the seat, I had to move this as well.  Your mileage may vary on this note, but I found that it was necessary for all three of my children who were put into this restraint. Installing the cup holder was very easy. There are instructions in the manual, and a spot for it on either side of the seat. I found that it sat at an angle, which may put it out of reach for Littles using the harness, and it also may present a problem for heavier bottles or cups. We don’t usually have water bottles in the car, so again your mileage may vary  and you may find that it is a good fit for your needs.

 

 

The "J-hook" tether and lower anchor connectors have designated storage spots on the shell.

The standard “j-hook” lower anchor connectors  come attached to the seat, but not threaded in the belt path, so you’ll need to thread it through. The lower anchor limit for this seat is 40lb child weight only, so after that point, or if you choose to install the restraint with the vehicle belt, you’ll attach the connectors to specific spots on the shell so they don’t become a projectile hazard. In the manual, there are instructions for this and also for storing the tether anchor, however we would always recommend using the tether anchor for any forward facing child. I installed the Deluxe Highback 65 in our Honda Odyssey and Pontiac Grand Am without much difficulty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fit to child

The Eddie Bauer Deluxe Highback 65 is a forward facing only seat with a one year, 22-65lb, and 34-49″ limit  for use. The manual of this seat states that the harness must be at or above the shoulders, and as I’ve mentioned, the bottom harness slots are too low for children of forward facing age. A child with a 10″ torso is going to be an infant, likely not even a year old. For curiosity, I placed my four-month old infant in the seat after I had installed it in my Honda Odyssey. Obviously she cannot legally or safely ride forward facing, and she won’t be forward facing for several years to come, but  she would have outgrown the bottom harness slots already. The other harness slots are 13″, 15″, and 17″ and my models are three, nearly five, and seven, so let’s see how they fare in this seat. I feel that it is important to note that the particular seat I received had an issue with the cover not lining up with the harness slots. At the most, there was around a .5″ space between where the cover’s holes for the harness and the shell’s holes for the harness.

slots

Five Point Harness Mode

 

10525614_10152512222826452_977863953805668240_n

Saoirse is happy to sit in the Eddie Bauer Deluxe Highback 65.

 

Saoirse is three, 37″, and 27.5lb; she’s wearing a size 3T pretty regularly but she’s on the smaller end of the range for her age. Saoirse was using the third harness setting, as her shoulders are above the bottom two settings. Even still, there would be years of growth available in this seat for her.  She felt that the headrest pushed her head forward  but she rides rear facing regularly  and is used to a more reclined angle. CSFTL recommends rear facing until around age 3-4, so she is within the recommendation to forward face.  The harness covers were a good size for her, and she appreciated that they were nicely padded. She loved the armrests and felt that the seat was very comfortable. Since she’s three and also has room to grow in her rear facing seat, that’s where she’s going to stay for now.
E1harnessEibhlin is almost five, 39″, and 34.5lb. She’s wearing a size 4t, and is just about in the 50th percentile for a four-year old; she’s really small for her age and not really representative of an average five-year old. Nevertheless, the third harness setting is just barely above her shoulders, and she’d quickly outgrow it; needing to use the fourth harness setting. In the fourth harness setting, she has room for growth.harness

 

Since she’s under the 40lb lower anchor limit, we could install the Deluxe Highback 65 with either the lower anchor connectors or the vehicle belt. Neither is safer when used properly, though there are limits to the LATCH system that we must be aware of. Thankfully, Dorel provides clear guidance in the manual and on the seat itself about the LATCH limit for this seat. Eibhlin felt that the harness uncomfortably close to her neck on the 4th harness setting, which is probably due to the fact that the setting is so far above her shoulders. She felt that the third harness setting was more comfortable, but it seemed to be very close to being below her shoulders and it has to be at or above for forward facing.

 

1514617_10152512220106452_4003753102840778115_n

Declan has very much outgrown this seat.

 

 

 

Declan is newly seven, around 49″, and about 48.5lb. He’s wearing a size 7-8 shirt and is a little taller for his age, but not overly so. At 49″, Declan is at the maximum limit for the harness mode on the Deluxe Highback 65 and it shows. The top harness slot is well below his shoulders, and would have been outgrown some time ago. He felt that the seat was “cushy” but didn’t like how the headrest fit, which was probably because he had well outgrown the harness already. Declan is seven, so he is now using a highback booster full-time, but still fits by height into many other combination seats, and several convertible seats as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Highback Booster Mode

The Eddie Bauer Highback Deluxe 65 has respectable limits for booster mode; at least age four, 40-100lb, and 43-52″. CSFTL recommends keeping children in harnesses past age four, usually closer to age 5.5-6. In booster mode, you’ll store the lower anchor connectors and the tether anchor to the designated spots on the shell since neither can be used when the seat is being used as a booster. The kickstand still has to remain out in booster mode. There are instructions for removing the harness, which is required for booster mode. Removing the harness and replacing it again is not difficult, so I do not consider that to be a big issue at all. There are six height settings for the belt guide: 16″, 17″, 18″, 19″, 20″, and 21″. While 16″ is low, 21″ is pretty good. PicMonkey Collage6

 

I found that the belt guide adjuster seemed a little difficult to move, but it was not as difficult as the headrest adjustment mechanism. I did not have problems putting the Deluxe Highback 65 in either our Grand Am or Odyssey  in booster mode. However, in both of our vehicles, the vehicle belt bunched at the lap belt guide and wrapped around to the buckle in a way that created some very weird belt geometry.  In our Odyssey, the vehicle belt kept rolling in the shoulder belt guide, causing a twist.

 

 

E belt fitEibhlin does NOT meet the limits to use this seat as a booster. Yes, she’s four. NO, she is not 43″ or 40lb. An average five-year old would meet the limits to use this seat as a booster, though. I did put her into Deluxe Highback in booster mode because I was curious about the belt fit.Unfortunately, she did not get a good belt fit. The lap portion of the belt was acceptable, right across her thighs, but no matter what belt guide position I used, the shoulder belt was not actually touching (or near to touching) her shoulder. There was a large gap there, which is not a good thing. As you can see, it was a pretty significant gap.  Since she does not meet the limits to use the booster, I thought that perhaps the belt fit would be significantly better with my older child.   Eibhlin could not buckle herself into the booster, but she is not using a booster yet, and she has not had much practice buckling her self up using the vehicle belt.

 

 

PicMonkey Collage3Declan also did not get a good belt fit, unfortunately. He is well within the limits to use the booster properly, is mature enough to use a booster seat, and physically fits into the seat, although the headrest could not move up any further and, I believe, would have become uncomfortable in that position for him eventually.  Because of the width and shape of the bottom of the Deluxe Highback 65 and the way the belt had to wrap around it to reach the buckle, it was difficult for him to buckle himself and even more so to unbuckle. As a pretty independent seven-year old, this was a problem for him.

 

oneboosterThe lap portion of the belt was also  acceptable for Declan but, once again, the shoulder portion was not touching his shoulder. I tried each of the settings, and only one was close, but there was still no contact there. On page 47 of the manual, it states “The shoulder belt should lay snugly across the center of the child’s shoulder and across the chest (not the face or neck).” This could not happen, so Declan could not properly use this seat.

 

 

 

 

 

Features

Adjustable Headrest And Adjustable Belt Guides

PicMonkey CollageThe headrest moves up and down, accommodating a growing child. It provides support and comfort, which my children definitely liked. The adjuster mechanism for the headrest is on the back of the seat and adjusts independently from the harness itself, though the harness does route over the bar of the adjuster mechanism. It wasn’t particularly easy to use while I had the seat, but it could get easier to use over time. Declan is especially picky about headrests and head support because of sensory issues, and he felt it was very nice because it was not too overwhelming and still padded just enough for him. The belt guide is also adjustable, and has six positions.

 

 

 

Resilient, Removable Cover

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Padded and soft, but durable.

In a few steps, the cover can be removed for hand-washing. This is one of those things that we all need to do sometime, because kids can be messy little monsters. Being able to remove the cover and I really liked that there were fewer crevices for “stuff” to get into. Even the cup holder was minimalistic and could easily be cleaned. My own little minions got dirt, sand, and crumbs on the  Deluxe Highback 65  in the two days we took photos for this review. Everything brushed right off. Even the baby spit up from our tiniest little wiped right off. One isn’t likely to have spit-up on this seat, since it isn’t for newborns, but weird things can happen if your baby has really good aim like my baby does. I could see the cover standing up to LOTS of abuse. There was just the right amount of cushion under the bum for my three, whose car seat cushion preferences run the gambit. It seemed like a Goldilocks zone of cushion.

Padded, Movable Armrests

armrestsFit for a king or queen, the armrests are soft and give a high-end feel to the Deluxe Highback 65. We could all agree that everyone loved them, and finding something that three children ALL enjoy is very difficult, so having two universally liked features on the same seat was a big plus. We liked that they could move so that getting in or out wouldn’t be hindered. For Saoirse, the big bonus of movable armrests was that they were fun to play with. If the three-year old is occupied and happy, Mama is happy.

 

 

 

Overall Thoughts

The Eddie Bauer Deluxe Highback 65 combination seat seemed very appealing on paper. When we got down to the meat of it there were just too many drawbacks. For a smaller child, this seat would be fine for  forward facing harness use. I have two smaller children, and they would have years of room for growth. The seat is 19″ wide on the outside and has a depth of 16″; it is not a compact seat. The inside is pretty roomy and has a 12″ seat pan on the inside which tapers to around 11″ up at the shoulders. There’s plenty of room for Littles and not so Littles inside the seat. We found that the harness was really not especially roomy, though. When Declan was fully buckled, there was a very small amount of harness slack left even though he’s 17lb less than the harness maximum weight limit. I don’t think that there would be much room for a heftier child.

In booster mode, we saw issues with the shoulder belt fit. While all seats are safe when used properly, I can see that there will be fit issues with this seat. It is very important to read the manual of any seat you have so you can be aware of the requirements for use. Since we did not get the proper belt fit as specified by the manual, there was no way for us to use the booster function of this seat. Many parents purchase a combination seat hoping for years of use. The 10 year expiration range is very generous, but average children will probably not get many years of use in this seat. At $119, the seat is in a budget friendly price range.

Dorel provided a restraint for this review. As always, this review reflects my own opinions and does not represent that of Eddie Bauer or its parent company Dorel. This review and the content within do not take the place of a seat check with a CPST. Please have your installation checked by a CPST and, when in doubt, contact the manufacturer of your restraint with any questions you may have.

RECARO Performance Coupe Review

PerformanceCoupeFans of RECARO child seats have long-awaited a rear facing only car seat to join their Performance line up of convertible, combination, and booster seats. Wait no longer, because the Performance Coupe is here.

CSFTL Quick Stats:

Weight range: 4-35 lbs

Height range: up to 32″

Shell height: 21″

Lowest harness position: 6.5″

Expiration: 6 years

Handle position: Rebound position required in vehicle

 

Features:

2 Position adjustable crotch strap: 3″, 5.5″

Adjustable recline foot with Quick Flip

Euro belt routing

No re-thread harness with five harness positions

Push button lower anchor connectors

Safety Stripe System

 

Installation

With the Base

PerformanceCoupe_baseThe Performance Coupe base allows for installation using either lower anchors or seat belt. The lower anchor connectors are premium, push-button style with a single tail to pull the strap tight. There is a tidy little storage slot for the connectors when they are not in use. Unlike many premium rear facing only seats, the Performance Coupe does not have a seat belt lockoff. This is a disadvantage for many families who may want to install their newborn’s seat in the middle of their vehicle, where many vehicles do not have lower anchors.

PerformanceCoupe_overhang

The Performance Coupe base is not a small one – measuring at 20.5″ long. This may cause the seat to be incompatible in vehicles with shallow vehicle seats if too much of the base hangs over the edge. The manual doesn’t specifically address overhang, but upon my inquiry, RECARO has stated to follow the industry standard of no more than 20% of the car seat base overhanging the vehicle seat.

 

 

 

 

PerformanceCoupe_reclineThe recline indicator is a bubble that must fall in between two black lines for a successful installation. The Performance Coupe has a vast array of recline adjustments, making it a snap to achieve the correct recline in just about any vehicle. There is a knob on top of the base, referred to as the “micro adjuster knob” which extends and retracts the foot with a twist of the knob. If that isn’t enough, the quick flip foot extends the recline foot even further.

 

 

 

 

Without the Base

Performance Coupe baseless with standard routing

Performance Coupe baseless with standard routing

PerformanceCoupe_eurorouted

Performance Coupe baseless Euro routing

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Performance Coupe can be installed without the base, and offers two methods for installation: standard belt routing and European belt routing. The manual recommends using the European belt routing if possible, however I found two things difficult. First, the carrier is large and my seat belt was only just barely long enough to successfully route the shoulder belt around the carrier, a problem I have not experienced with other Euro-routed seats installed in this vehicle. Second, the shoulder belt has to be routed underneath the release handle to unlock the carrier from the base. In order to do this, one must route the seat belt around the head of the car seat, lift up that release handle in order to slide the shoulder belt underneath it, all while using every inch of seat belt available and trying to keep the seat at the correct angle. It was cumbersome to say the least, and I could’ve used another set of hands.

 

Using the Carrier

PerformanceCoupe_installedThe Performance Coupe has four handle positions and requires that the forward rebound position be used at all times during travel. The carrier snaps easily into the  base, and removes by pulling a handle at the head of the seat.

The no re-thread harness has five positions which adjust using a squeeze-handle on the back of the seat. The crotch buckle  has two positions that can be adjusted by threading the retainer through the slot on the bottom of the carrier. The manual does not state a specification on when to change the buckle position.

The carrier does sit a little ways back in the base, which is great for leg room for an older infant, but contributes to the large amount of front to back space that is required to use this seat correctly.

 

Fit to Child

The Performance Coupe states it can  be used from 4-35 lbs, up to 32″ as long as the straps are at or below the child’s shoulders and the child has at least 1″ of shell above their head. There are two newborn inserts: a body insert and a head insert. The manual says they can be used from 4-12 lbs and can be removed earlier if desired, as long as the child fits correctly.

PerformanceCoupe_preemie

4 lbs, 17″ Preemie

Preemie

With a substantial newborn body insert and bottom harness slots measuring a respectable 6.5″ with that insert, I had high hopes for the Huggable Images Preemie doll to fit in the Performance Coupe. The 17″, 4 lb doll, sadly, did not fit properly. The straps were right at her shoulders, but the harness left far too much slack around her small body.

PerformanceCoupe_newborn

7 lbs, 17″ Newborn

Newborn

The Huggable Images Newborn doll fit perfectly in the Performance Coupe. He measures 17″, 7 lbs and had a nice, snug fit using both newborn inserts, the lowest harness position and inner buckle slot with the straps snug enough to pass the pinch test.

Toddler

PerformanceCoupe_toddlerGrace is near the upper limits of the Performance Coupe. She is 21 months old, weighs 22 lbs and is 31″ tall. she is well under the weight limit, but just slightly under the 32″ height limit. She fit with just over 1″ from her head to the top of the shell, but her shoulders were very cramped in the seat. Grace is small for her age, but I appreciated that the Performance Coupe offers a long life span for those who prefer the convenience of an infant seat for as long as possible.

 

 Features

PerformanceCoupe_nakedThe Performance Coupe carries over the Safety Stripe and Hero harness system from the rest of its Performance line. The Safety Stripe system features stitching on the side of the harness straps to make it easily visible for the caregiver if the straps have become twisted. The Hero harness pads are somewhat fixed into the back of the seat and also help keep the straps free of twists while providing comfort around the child’s neck. One downfall I noticed with the Hero straps is that with an older child, they sit so far back in the seat that they don’t really protect the child’s neck from the edges of the straps, which may not  be comfortable. It was also a little difficult to make sure the Hero pad stayed in the proper position when moving between harness positions.

The main cover can be easily removed without un-threading any of the harness, but must be hand washed if soiled. The harness must be un-threaded to remove the Hero harness cover portion. Under the cover, the Performance Coupe is fully lined with EPS foam. around the head and torso area and features memory foam in the seating area. It comes in several bright colors and neutral options as well.

 

 

Overall Thoughts

Performance CoupeThe Performance Coupe has a suggested retail price of $269.99, placing it in line with other premium rear facing only car seats. It packs a lot of features, but a few disappointments as well with its lack of a seat belt lockoff and not providing a secure fit for a premature child. The large footprint of the seat also may not fit in many small vehicles correctly. The wide variety of recline adjustments and clear labeling on the base made for an easy installation, and the generous weight and height capacity make it a long-lasting option. If the Performance Coupe might be right for your Little, you can find it on Amazon.com.

No compensation was provided for this review, opinions, as always, are all our own!

Cosco Scenera NEXT Review

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 Kidz in Motion Conference, Cosco surprised at 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 will be available for around $46 retail price.

SceneraNext1CSFTL 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

 

 

 

Features

  • 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

INSTALLATION

Rear-facing Cosco Scenera Next

Rear-facing Cosco Scenera NEXT

Rear Facing:

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scenera Next buckle position 1

Scenera NEXT buckle position 1

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.  Read our tips 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.

 

10860956_10152441898906447_7594420464240145218_o

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

10687420_10152441908821447_5843472664626248963_oThe 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.

10847234_10152441899046447_120736338326832500_o

Scenera NEXT:  2 years 7 months,  2y 7m, 34.75", 25 lbs

Cosco Scenera NEXT: Model is 2 years 7 months, 34.75″, 25 lbs

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.

 

Scenera NEXT: side-by-side installation

Scenera NEXT: side-by-side installation

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.)

 

Newborn Routing for the Harness:

Scenera NEXT with a newborn model

Scenera NEXT with a newborn model

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.

Scenera NEXT: Standard routing on the left; Newborn routing on the right

Scenera NEXT: Standard routing on the left; Newborn routing on the right

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:

Cosco Scenera Next: forward facing installation

Cosco Scenera Next: 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.   And 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!

 

Cosco Scenera Next: She will outgrow the forward facing mode within the next few months, but has several years left rear facing

Cosco Scenera NEXT: She will outgrow the forward facing mode within the next few months, but has several years left rear facing

 

 

Cosco Scenera Next: 3rd buckle position

Cosco Scenera Next: 3rd buckle position

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Cosco Scenera Next: tether anchor connector

Cosco Scenera Next: tether anchor connector

Remember that for a forward facing seat, the tether anchor connector should always be attached to a dedicated tether anchor position.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cosco Scenera NEXT left and Cosco Scenera, rightThe 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 Cosco Scenera NEXT has room to grow for this 2.5 year old model

The Cosco Scenera NEXT has room to grow for this 2.5 year old model

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LATCH STORAGE:

Cosco Scenera NEXT: LATCH storage

Cosco Scenera NEXT: LATCH 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CUPHOLDER:

Cosco Scenera NEXT cup holder

Cosco Scenera NEXT cup holder

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).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOCKING THE BELT:

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.

A TALE OF TWO SCENERAS

FEATURE SCENERA10446023_10152442061081447_6020436184266841410_o SCENERA NEXT10848811_10152442061076447_4308694740757905229_o
REAR FACING WEIGHT RESTRICTION 5-35 LBS 5-40 LBS
REAR FACING HEIGHT RESTRICTION 19-36″ 19-40″
REAR FACING FIT RESTRICTION Head even with the top of the shell Head even with the top of the shell
FORWARD FACING WEIGHT RESTRICTION 22-40 LBS 22-40 LBS
FORWARD FACING HEIGHT RESTRICTION 34-43″ 29-43″
FORWARD FACING FIT RESTRICTION EARS CONTAINED WITHIN THE SHELL EARS CONTAINED WITHIN THE SHELL
HARNESS POSITIONS 4 positions: 7.5″, 10″, 12″ 14.5″ 5 positions:5″, 7″, 9″, 11″, 13″
BUCKLE STRAP POSITIONS 3 positions:4″, 5.5″, 7″ 3 positions: 2″, 3″ 4″
WIDEST FLARE 17″ 17.5″
SHELL DEPTH 23″ 23″
SHELL SIDE DEPTH AT SHOULDERS 6″ 8″
SHELL SIDE DEPTH AT HIPS 6″ 8″
SEAT PAN: 11.5″ 10″

 

WHERE TO FIND IMPORTANT INFORMATION:

Cosco Scenera Next date of manufactureThe date of manufacture is found on the label on the right side of the seat, directly in front of the rear facing belt path

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cosco Scenera NEXT expirationThe expiration information is molded into the plastic on the middle rear of the seat.

 

Cosco Scenera NEXT:  FAA approval sticker

Cosco Scenera NEXT: FAA approval sticker

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE TAKEAWAY:

This seat will fit all but tiny preemies from birth, and will last almost all kids to 3 rearfacing, 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 50 dollars 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 slated to hit stores next month sometime. 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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Diono Rainier Review

Since the first Radians were introduced, Diono has developed a legacy of narrow convertible car seats that work well for some specific situations. Their newest entries into the market, the Olympia, Pacifica,and Ranier, continue that trend while offering additional features that build on the well known Radian.

Diono Rainier installedCSFTL Quick Stats

  • Rear facing weight range: 5-50 lbs
  • Rear facing height range: 44″ or less, or head 1.5″ from the top of the head to the top of the shell
  • Forward facing weight range: 20-90lbs
  • Forward facing height range: 57″ or less
  • High back booster weight range: 50-120 lbs
  • High back booster height range: 40″ and taller, and child’s shoulders at or above 4th harness position
  • Shell height: 24.5″
  • Lowest harness position: 8″
  • Highest harness position: 16.5″
  • Highest booster guide position: 16.5″
  • Expiration: 8 years (harness), 12 years (booster)
  • Lower anchor weight limit: rear facing 35 lbs, forward facing 40 lbs

 

 

 

 

Features

  • 3 position adjustable crotch strap: 4″, 6″, 8″
  • 2 adjustable recline positions in forward facing position
  • Push button lower anchor connectors
  • Allows use of lower anchors in booster position
  • SuperLATCH system
  • Folds flat for travel and is FAA certified
  • Rear-facing tether capability

Special Ease of Travel Features

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

 

One of the biggest pros to the Rainier is how easy traveling can be with it.  Diono makes the only convertibles on the market that can fold flat and be worn for easy transportation through an airport and used on a plane.

Diono Radian, folded with Diono carry straps.

Diono Radian, folded with Diono carry straps.

 

Although the seat weighs around 30lbs, carry straps can be bought separately.  You can attach one for a single shoulder carry or 2 for a backpack style carry.  It is also FAA approved.  One thing you will need if installing rear facing on a plane is a seat belt extender.  These can be attained via your flight attendant.  To find out more about air travel with children check out our article ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’ and On The Road Again — Another Look at Travel with Littles

 

Installation

The Rainier has several special requirements when installing that differ from other car seats on the market.

Rear Facing
Diono Rainier rear facing boot

Detachable Boot 

In rear facing position, the detachable boot is required for any install.  To install this, start with making sure the built-in forward facing recline is pushed into the seat.  The forward facing installation section will help you with this step.

To attach the boot, slide the posts into the hole, then push it towards the front of the seat where the child’s feet sit.  This allows the seat to be reclined enough for rear facing.  Once it is in place, the metal latch needs to be pushed in to lock it into place.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Then place the seat on the vehicle seat, sliding the feet of the base into the seat bight.  Thread either the lower anchor strap or seat belt through the rear facing belt path and either buckle or attach the lower anchor connectors.  If installing with lower anchors make sure the arrows point up on the connectors.

Diono Rainier Angle Adjuster

 

Angle Adjuster

Due to the base having only one recline level, Diono sells an angle adjuster to help make the seat more upright, if needed.  It can only be used with children who can sit unassisted and have good head control.

Diono Rainier angle adjuster comparisonThis can help with front to back space as the child gets older and allows the seat to be at a more upright recline.  To install the angle adjuster, loosely install the car seat and then slide the adjuster between the car seat and vehicle seat bottom.  It should rest against the back of the recline boot, but not under it.  Then tighten using whichever install method you choose.

 

Appropriate Newborn Angle

Newborns have special requirements in the car.   A too upright seated position may lead to oxygen desaturation (lessening of the oxygen supply in the blood), as a newborn has poor head control.   Diono convertibles are unique in that their recline is extremely dependent to the slope of the vehicle seats on which they are installed.

Some very sloped vehicle seats may lead to a too upright position for your Diono convertible for a newborn.  If your baby’s head is slumping forward and can’t be safely positioned with the included infant insert, you may need to either move your seat to another seat in the vehicle and try again, or consider a different seat option until baby has better head control and can sit up safely.

If your seat is too upright you can install putting your weight where the baby’s bum sits when tightening.  If it’s too reclined, you can put your weight into where the baby’s feet sit when tightening.  These techniques have limited effectiveness in Diono convertibles, but may be enough to solve the problem in your vehicle.

Diono Rainier rear face tether

 

Rear Face Tethering 

Once the seat is installed, Diono allows the use of rear face tethering via tether connecting strap.  This strap connects to an immovable part of the vehicle, usually consisting of a front seat rail.  The tether is then attached to the D-ring on the strap.  I’ve found the tether anchor can sometimes be difficult to attach to the d-ring.  The tether should be tightened to the point where all the slack is pulled out.

Before performing this step, make sure to check your vehicle manual to find if there are any restrictions when attaching it to the front seat rail.  Rear face tethering is optional, so if your vehicle doesn’t allow it, you can still properly install the seat without it.

 

 

 

Forward facing

Diono Rainier forward facing recline

Forward facing recline

Diono requires the vehicle seat to be in its fully upright position when installing the Rainier forward facing.  Diono provides a forward facing recline foot to help to properly install on different types of vehicle seats.  To engage the built-in recline squeeze the 2 metal bars together on the underside of the seat and pull out.

 

Diono Rainier SafeStop SafeStop

The SafeStop is required for children under 40 lbs in the forward facing position.  Do NOT use it rear facing.  To install, detach the harness straps from the splitter plate, slip the loop on the SafeStop over the splitter plate, and attach the harness loops to the hook on the SafeStop.  While you have the harness straps off, you will want to adjust the harness to the correct position.  For forward facing, the harness needs to be at or above the child’s shoulders.  Only the 4th harness slot and above are allowed for forward facing use.  If the child is over 65 lbs, the larger harness pads will need to be used.  Please see the forward facing child fit section for more information on this.

 

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Easy reach installation path

The Rainier incorporates a ‘trick’ that all Diono convertible seats have had.  They provide a nice slit on each side of the cover for easy access to the seat belt or lower anchor connector strap.  To tighten either the connector strap or belt, just reach through the cover and tighten.

Diono Rainier forward facing seat belt bunch

 

I had an extremely difficult time installing the Rainier via seat belt in forward facing mode.  My van (2012 Nissan Quest) has rigid belt stalks which can be cumbersome with some seat belt installs.  The Rainier was no exception.  I was able to get it nice and tight when it was pushed all the way back into the back of the vehicle seat, but every time I would pull the harness adjuster, it pulled the front of the car seat out and loosened the install.  The belt was also very bunched in the latchplate.  So I enlisted the help of some other Diono knowledgable techs and it was suggested I pull the built-in recline out and pull it away from the vehicle seat back a bit.  Using this method I was able to get a good tight install without the tip forward, but I would still be concerned if an active child jumped into the seat quickly, it would push back into the vehicle seat back and become loose again.  Overall, I just wasn’t pleased with the forward facing seat belt install in my van and would be afraid of misuse by an everyday parent with no Diono experience.

Booster

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESConverting the seat to booster mode is a bit more labor intensive.  Overall the installation in the vehicle will be the same as the forward facing LATCH installation.  The Rainier allows you to install it with LATCH while being used as a booster as long as the lower anchor connectors don’t interfere with the seat belt.  This allows the seat to not have to be buckled when unoccupied.
Before installing in the vehicle the harness needs to be removed.  This is not an easy feat, unfortunately.  I’ll walk you through step by step on how to do this.  You will need a Phillips head screwdriver.

Diono Rainier harness removalStep 1

Buckle the harness and chest clip and remove the harness pads.  Then disconnect the harness loops from the splitter plate on the back of the car seat.  If the over 65 lb pads are being used, those will need to be removed at this time as well.

Step 2

Slide the harness straps through the front of the seat and slide the chest clip and buckle tongues off each strap.  Keep in a safe place.

Step 3

Detach the buckle.  Use the same method to remove this as you do to adjust the position for the child.  You will either need to slide the plate through by sliding your hand into the rear facing belt path or folding the seat bottom up and sliding your hand through space that provides.  The only part of the harness left on the seat at this point should be just the actual straps.

Diono Rainier harness removal 2

Step 4

Unscrew the 2 screws holding on the plastic piece on the side of the seat.  Under this piece, you’ll find the plate where the harness is attached to the bottom of the seat.

Step 5

Maneuver the plate through the hole on both sides.  They don’t leave much room for this step, so you may need to do some precise maneuvers.

Step 6

Using the harness plate attachment piece,  pull the harness straps through the bottom of the seat to remove, then screw the plastic pieces back on to cover holes.  I highly recommend keeping all the harness parts in a large bag to keep it all together.

 

 

To reattach the harness, follow these steps in reverse order.  Making sure everything lies flat and untwisted once finished.  Pulling the harness all the way back through can be a bit of a hassle.    The seam where the harness plate is easily gets caught up on the hole to slide the harness through on the seat bottom.

As you can tell, this is not something you will want to do often and has potential for misuse due to not getting everything threaded back through correctly.

Child Fit

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESDiono Rainier side bolsters

Support Inserts

It comes with both toddler and infant support cushions which helps with smaller child fit (can be used with any height or weight of child) as well as adjustable side bolsters for larger children.  These adjust by pulling out on the bolsters.  They feel sturdy but I am a bit concerned about how long they’ll hold up and not become damaged from kids getting in and out of the seat.

 

 

 

 

 

Diono Rainier headwing positionsHead wings & Low Profile Sides

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe low profile sides and adjustable head wings are nice features.  The biggest downfall with them is that the headwings cannot be used until the child in on the 3rd harness slot.  Before then, they need to be all the way up.  Although not a safety issue for kids with head control and the ability to sit unassisted, there is still considerable head slump, which can become a comfort issue.  The headwings can also be difficult to adjust as well.

 

 

Diono Rainier harness pads

 Harness Comfort Pads

The Rainier comes with 2 sets of harness comfort pads.  The seat is always required to have one set of harness pads on at all times.  The pads it ships with have attachment points both above and below the chest clip.  These are to be used until 65 lbs.  Once the child reaches 65 lbs, they need to be switched out with the larger pads.  These pads have a grippy material on the back of them, along with being attached to a clip that slides into the harness slots at the back of the seat.  These will most likely not be used by many children due to an overinflated harness weight limit in combination with the headwings, as will be discussed in the forward facing child fit section.

 

Diono Rainier harness pad instructions

The instructions for use with both sets of pads are on a tag on the inside of each.  The manual doesn’t say anything about the installation of the larger pads.
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Crotch Buckle Positions

There are also 3 crotch buckle positions that can be used to help with child fit measuring 4″, 6″, and 8″.  The outermost position must be used with children over 30 lbs.  Changing the buckle position can be a bit difficult.  With it being in the closed belt path you can either remove and adjust it by reaching into the side of the belt path or folding the bottom of the seat up and reaching through that area.  Make sure you are threading it through the corresponding slot in the shell, comfort foam (under the cover), and the cover.  I found that mine don’t match up well, so I really had to double-check to make sure its was in the correct position on all three.

 

 

Harness Tightener

The Rainier (like all Diono convertible seats) has a ratcheting harness tightener.  This means that it pulls smoothly until it’s just about tight enough, then you use a tug, tug motion to get the last bit of slack out of the harness.  I’ve found that I also need to pull from the back of the seat to get it nice and tight.  This can be a misuse issue due to parents/caregivers believing the harness is tight since it won’t pull smoothly anymore, whereas it still needs a few tugs to get that last little bit tight.

Rear Facing

  • Rear facing weight range: 5-50 lbs
  • Rear facing height range: 44″ or less, or head 1.5″ from the top of the head to the top of the shell
  • Lower anchor weight limit: rear facing 35 lbs

As stated before due to the Rainier’s taller shell and upper rear facing limits, this makes for a great extended rear facing car seat.  With the low sides it makes it easy for children to climb into the seat by themselves, which we know most toddlers and preschoolers would like to do to show their independence.

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Fiona – Huggable Images doll -newborn, 7lbs, 17″

Fiona fits well with the newborn and toddler insert.  The was right above the bottom harness slot. The harness was tightened to the end of its length with just barely passing the pinch test.  I would be concerned with getting the harness tight enough for babies any smaller than her.  The large chest clip in conjuncture with the large harness pads made tightening the harness a bit of a struggle with her.  The extra padding in the harness pads also had me second guessing whether the harness was tight enough with her.  Since she was only on the bottom harness slot, the headwings were in the highest position.

 

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Anders – 8 months, 20 lbs, 27″

He had a very good fit in the Rainier without the toddler and infant support.  As with Fiona, the large chest clip and large pads made me second guess fit as well as tightness.  My other concern was the harness possibly sliding off her shoulders due to the wide distance between the harness straps.  His shoulders were slightly above the 2nd harness position, so the headwings were left at their top position.  He definitely had a head slump issue, as you can see in this photo.  The infant head support would help with smaller children, but his head is too big to fit inside of the support.  This side to side head slump isn’t an issue with older children with head control and can sit unassisted, but as a parent I don’t like to see this.  Due to the lower profile and wider seat of the Rainier I also needed to make sure he was centered well in the seat before adjusting anything on every ride.  Overall, he seemed comfortable and has fallen asleep several times in it with no complaints.

 

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Freya – 2.5 yrs, 23 lbs, 33″

Freya also fit well in the Rainier sans inserts.  She is right at the 3rd harness position so the headwings were adjusted down for her to the lowest position so that her head fit nicely between the headwings.  I had the same issue with judging the tightness of the straps with her.  She’s also so narrow that I worry about her being able to wiggle her shoulders out of the harness.  The openness of the seat allowed for her to have much more leg room that other seats as well.  She was able to throw her feet over the sides and put her feet in many different positions so she could sit comfortably.  Remember lack of legroom does not equal a seat being outgrown rear facing or that she will be uncomfortable.  It just means she has more options.  She also seemed very comfortable with no complaints.

 

 

 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESKenzie – 4 yrs, 34 lbs, 39″
Kenzie is right at the limits of most convertible seats available, but has plenty of growing room in the Rainier still.  She consistently asks to ride like her little sister  does (rear facing), but she is too big for most seats.  With this seat she would be able to ride rear facing for quite a bit longer.  She is on the 3rd harness slot, so like Freya, the headwings have been adjusted down to the lowest position for her.  The crotch buckle has been moved to the outer most position since she is over 30 lbs.  The lower anchor limits for the Rainier is 35 lbs rear facing, so the seat can be installed with lower anchors for another pound before switching to a seat belt installation.  She was really excited to be rear facing and was comfortable in this seat.

 

Forward Facing

  • Forward facing weight range: 20-90lbs
  • Forward facing height range: 57″ or less
  • Lower anchor weight limit: forward facing 40 lbs

I actually had a hard time finding a child that fit forward facing in the Rainier.  The combination of the tall shell height, tall maximum height limit rear facing, and the high maximum rear facing weight limit, most children can rear face until they fit the booster.  One of my models would actually still fit rear facing, but is showing what he looks like forward facing in it.

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Landon – 4 yrs, 40 lbs, 36″

*Disclaimer- the headwings are too high on him.  The pink line on the photo shows where it should be.  I had him harnessed in the seat and ready for the photo before realizing they weren’t adjusted correctly.  The headwings are extremely difficult to adjust with a child in the seat.*

Landon fit well in the Rainier with plenty of growing room until he reaches 50lbs and is mature enough for booster use.  Since he is 40 lbs, the SafeStop is not being used and the seat is installed via seat belt.  His shoulders were just barely over the 2nd to top harness slot, so he is on the top harness slot in this photo.

 

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Chloe – Huggable Images Doll – 6 yrs, 46 lbs, 48″
Chloe is still too light to use the Rainier as a booster, but as you can tell, she is right at the limits of the harness.  Diono allows the use of the harness with the child’s shoulders over the top harness slot, but the headwings pose a pratical impedence to this extended use.  The child’s shoulders will bump into the bottom of the headwings before the max height of 57″ or restriction of ears at the top of the shell are reached.  So she will technically reach the limit of the harness the same time as the booster, height wise, but may not even reach the minimum booster weight before outgrowing it.  Her overall fit is good in the harness though.

 

Booster

  • High back booster weight range: 50-120 lbs
  • High back booster height range: 40″ and taller, and child’s shoulders at or above 4th harness position

Once the parent/caregiver has removed the harness and used LATCH to attach the car seat to the vehicle seat, the seat belt needs to be routed through the shoulder belt clip behind the headwings.  This is no easy feat and can cause the belt to bind up in it.

Diono Rainier Adam

 

Adam – 7 yrs, 57 lbs, 52″

Adam has the perfect fit for the Rainier in booster mode.  His shoulder is below the headwings, yet above the top harness slot.  The belt sits nicely across his upper thighs as well as squarely on his shoulder.  He was comfortable with not much wiggle room.

Diono Rainier Brenna

 

Brenna – 9 yrs, 64 lbs, 55″

Although Brenna is quite a way from outgrowing the stated limits in booster mode, she didn’t fit as well as Adam.  The headwings pushed down on her shoulders causing her to have to keep from slouching down to get comfortable.  The belt fit was great though, similar to Adam.  Legally, Brenna is old enough to be in the adult belt only, but still doesn’t safely fit with no booster.  So she would need another booster before moving on to adult belt alone.

Diono Rainier Leif

 

Leif – 9 yrs, 115 lbs, 52″

I was very interested to see how my child would fit with being only 5 lbs away from the weight limit of the seat.  He also has a taller torso than both Adam and Brenna, even though his overall height is shorter.  He was extremely uncomfortable and had an unsafe fit.  His shoulders were above the bottom of the headwings.  The lap belt also kept slipping off the red belt guides at his hips.  Like Brenna, he is also legally able to ride without a booster, but cannot safely do it.  So he would also need another booster until he’s ready for the adult belt alone.

Diono Rainier Thomas

 

 

Thomas – Huggable Images doll - 8 yrs, 80 lbs, 57″

Thomas is right at the top height limit of the Rainier in booster mode.  As you can see, there’s no way that he would fit correctly at his height, even though he’s 40 lbs under the weight limit.  This is also an unsafe fit.  Like Leif and Brenna, even though he’s at the legal age and size to use the adult belt, he still doesn’t fit it properly.  So he would also need a different booster before he’s ready to move up.

 

Important Information: Where to find

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Date of Manufacture can be found on the side of the seat’s left hand side.  It states the model and manufacture date.

 

 

 

Diono Rainier Expiration

 

Expiration is only listed in the Rainier instruction manual on page 7.

 

 

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FAA approval sticker can be found on the back of the seat towards the top where the strap storage compartments are located.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diono Convertible Seat Comparisons

Diono currently has 6 convertible car seats on the market each with very slight variations.  Check out this chart to find out how each differs.  Also check out the following real life comparisons of the Diono Radian RXT, Diono Rainier, and Diono Pacifica.

Radian R100OlympiaRadian R120PacificaRadian RXTRainier
Specifications
RF Limits5-40 lbs
Up to 44"
5-45 lbs
Up to 44"
5-45 lbs
Up to 44"
5-50 lbs
Up to 44"
5-45 lbs
Up to 44"
5-50 lbs.
Up to 44"
FF Limits20-65 lbs
Up to 57"
20-70 lbs
Up to 57"
20-80 lbs
Up to 57"
20-90 lbs
Up to 57"
20-80 lbs
Up to 57"
20-90 lbs
Up to 57"
Booster Limits50-100 lbs
Up to 57"
50-110 lbs
40"-57"
50-120 lbs
40"-57"
50-120 lbs
40"-57"
50-120 lbs
40"-57"
50-120 lbs
40"-57"
Features
Headwings
Width (at widest point)17"18.5"17"18.5"17"18.5"
Depth (at top of seat)7"9.5"7"9.5"7"9.5"
IIHS Booster RatingBest BetNot RecommendedBest BetNot RecommendedBest BetGood Bet

Diono Rainier vs. Diono Radian RXT

Diono Rainier Radian RXT comparisonDiono Rainier is the updated version of the Diono Radian RXT.  The Rainier being the newer model has updated deeper and wider sides behind the headwings, as well as adding 5lbs to the rear facing weight limit, and 10 lbs to the forward facing weight limit .  Everything else about the 2 are the same.

The Rainier is 9.5″ from front to back at the deepest point (not including the headwings) compared to the RXT at 7″.  That 2.5″ doesn’t sound like much, but you can definitely see the difference.  What does this mean to the parent?  Not much besides making parents feel like it has a bit more side impact protection.  At this point, there are no side impact standards in the US though, so we don’t know how they compare in tests.

The Rainier measures 18.5″ from side to side at the widest point.  The RXT comes in at 17″.  The Radian has always been a great seat for those looking for a narrow seat for 3 car seats across a back seat.  This is where the side to side measurement makes a difference.  This 1.5″ can mean the difference between being able to fit 3 across versus not being able to.

So depending on your needs, make sure you look at these measurements as well as weight limits.

 

Booster Fit: Diono Rainier vs. Diono Pacifica

The Diono Pacifica is part of their newest line up of convertible seats along with the Rainier.  The Pacifica is the updated model of the Radian R120 and like the Rainier, adds 5 lbs to the rear facing weight limit and 10 lbs to the forward facing weight limit.  As well as adding deeper and wider sides.  The only difference between the Rainier and Pacifica is the headwings and how the seat belt is routed in booster mode.  The Rainier’s booster guide is behind the headwings and the Pacifica’s is at the top of the shell.  I wasn’t very pleased with the belt guide on the Rainier due to the extra effort it takes to get it threaded and it has to be threaded back up after releasing the buckle.  I was thinking the Pacifica would have better booster fit due to the belt guide being less encumbered.  So it surprised me that the 2014 IIHS booster ratings put the Rainier in the good bet category and the Pacifica in the not recommended category.  I was able to get my hands on a Pacifica to test the difference and it was pretty surprising.

Diono rainier Pacifica Adam

 

Adam

As we saw earlier, Adam had perfect booster fit in the Rainier with the lap belt positioned over his upper thighs/hips and the shoulder belt centered on his shoulder.  The Pacifica definitely had a worse fit with him.  The lap belt was still positioned correctly, but the shoulder belt isn’t on his shoulder at all and it cuts into his chin/neck.  Not a good fit at all.

 

Diono Rainier Pacifica Brenna

 

Brenna

Brenna was  a bit squished under the headwings of the Rainier so I thought the lack of headwings would help on the Pacifica.  She’s leaning forward a bit in the Pacifica and it still is pulled away from her shoulder and too high on her neck/chin.

 

Diono Rainier Pacifica Leif

 

Leif

Leif, like Brenna, has the issue with his shoulders being pushed down by the headwings.  The Pacifica solved this problem, but his shoulders were still very tight inside the sides of the Pacifica.  He also had the issue of the shoulder belt sitting too far forward.  With Leif being only 5 lbs away from the weight limit of the seat, this shows me that both the Rainier and Pacifica have a overinflated booster maximum weight limit.

 

Diono Rainier Pacifica Thomas

 

Thomas

Thomas had outgrown the Rainier already due to his shoulders going over shoulder belt guide.  He fits in the Pacifica, but like the other models, the belt sits too far forward from his shoulder.

 

 

Overall Impressions

Pros

  • Tall seat shell  and high rear facing height maximum for a long-lasting rear facing seat
  • High weight limits in all modes
  • Narrow to fit small spaces
  • Deep and low sided seat pan leaves lots of leg room
  • Headwings for extra head support when sleeping
  • Good booster fit for children within the lower limits of booster mode

Cons

  • Over inflated limits – Most children will not be able to fit to the high weight limits, thus giving parents a false sense of longevity.
  • Cumbersome to switch between modes, especially booster
  • Although it has good booster fit, the booster is outgrown by height about the same time as the harness in forward facing mode.
  • Ease of use – too many steps and directions to follow thus increasing the likelihood of misuse
  • Booster won’t last until a child is ready to move to an adult belt.

Interested in a Diono Rainier for your little (or big) one?  Diono is graciously offering to give a Rainier away to a lucky reader.  This giveaway is open to both US and Canadian residents!  Follow the Rafflecopter instructions below to enter for a chance to win!

Can’t wait and need one now?  The Diono Rainier can be found on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca

Diono graciously provided the Rainier car seat used in this review.  As always, the opinions are our own.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Review

The Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 is an update to the well-loved Pria 70 convertible car seat. The Pria 85 takes many cues from its European counterpart, incorporating plush fabrics and little details like the no re-thread harness, easy to remove cover , and harness holders to make buckling the child easier.

Pria 85 Rear FacingCSFTL Quick Stats:

  • Rear facing weight range: 14-40 lbs
  • Rear facing height range: 40″ or less
  • Forward facing weight range: 22-85 lbs
  • Forward facing height range: 29-52″
  • Shell height: 26″ (headrest fully extended)
  • Lowest harness position: 9″
  • Highest harness position: 17″
  • Expiration: 10 years
  • Lower anchor weight limit: 40 lbs

 Features:

  • 3 position crotch strap
  • 3 recline settings
  • Push button lower anchor connectors
  • No re-thread harness with 9 positions
  • Easy remove cover

 

Rear Facing

Pria 85 RF angle 2The Pria 85 requires a little bit of extra attention to detail when it comes to installation. The first essential step to installing any car seat is, of course, to read the manual. It’s especially important with the Pria 85 to ensure that none of the details have been overlooked. The Pria 85 features three recline settings: either position 2 or 3 can be used while rear facing, so long as the single level line is level to the ground after installation. The recline foot is clearly labeled, making it easy to tell which recline setting you have selected. In my vehicle, the more upright recline position 2 put the indicator nicely level with the ground.

Pria 85 Belt GuidesNext, thread the seat belt or lower anchor strap through the belt path. There are guides on both sides of the rear facing belt path, the lower anchor strap or lap belt of the seat belt must be threaded in those guides on both sides. The edges of the guides are a little bit sharp, and I was very careful about threading the seat belt through. If the seat belt were resting on the edge of the guide while pulling tight, it could result in damage to the seat belt.

Pria RF LineThe cover easily pulls up to access the belt path, but I found myself wishing for a couple of slots in the cover to be able to access the belt path without partially removing the cover around the path. It was painless to get a secure installation with either lower anchors or seat belt in each of the vehicles I tried. The Pria has a single line that must be level to the ground for rear facing, I found it to be a nice angle for the my rear facing toddler, and it fit comfortably behind the driver’s seat in my Honda CRV with plenty of room for the average adult to drive comfortably.

Fit to Child

The Pria allows rear facing from 14-40 lbs, up to 40″, as long as the child’s head does not exceed the top of the fully extended headrest (which measures 26″ in height). With a 14 lb starting weight and 9″ bottom harness position, this seat is designed for infants who are ready to transition out of their rear facing only car seat and are around 6 months old. There are three crotch buckle settings at 4″, 5″ and 6″ deep; Maxi-Cosi permits use of the inner and middle position when rear facing and recommends using the setting that provides a snug fit for the child.

Rear facing, the Pria 85 is limited to when the child is 40 lbs, 40″, or their head reaches the top of the fully extended headrest. This stated height limit is unfortunate, as CSFTL recommends rear facing until 3-4 years old and some taller kids may hit 40″ before then.

Pria_Anders

Anders – 8 months, 20 lbs, 27″

Anders is 8 months, 20 lbs and 27″ and is just moving into the Pria 85 from his rear facing only seat. The straps are just below his shoulders on the lowest setting and he is using the inner crotch buckle position. The strap covers are fairly large and a bit bulky on him so he is using the Pria 85 without the harness covers, which are easily removable with velcro along the sides.

 

Pria 85 RF 1 year old

Grace – 19 months, 22 lbs, 31″

Grace is 19 months and fairly small for her age, at 22 lbs and 31″ she is on the second headrest position. The Pria 85 gave her tons of leg room rear facing and gave a comfortable fit with the crotch buckle on the innermost setting. I did find the harness rather difficult to tighten. The Pria 85 does not have a continuous harness, like many of its Dorel Juvenile Group cousins, but the tightening strap requires a firm tug to pull snug and careful attention to ensure the straps are not twisted. I employed the method of pulling the slack through the shell from the back of the seat, and then pulling the front adjusting strap to tighten.

 

 

Pria_85_RF_3yo

Maverick – 3 years, 30 lbs, 36″

 

Maverick is 3.25 years old, weighs 30 lbs and is 36″ tall. He was very comfortable riding in the Pria 85 rear facing and his mom knows that he still is safest rear facing and loves that the Pria gives him plenty of room to grow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forward Facing

Installation of the Pria 85 was just as easy as rear facing, but did, again, require some attention to detail. There are several methods for forward facing installation, and all have specific rules that depend on the child’s weight:

  • Pria 85 FF upright v recline

    Left: Recline position 1. Right: Recline position 2

    If the child is between 22-40 lbs, 29-43″, install the Pria 85 in recline position 2 using either LATCH or seat belt with tether.

  • If the child is between 40-85 lbs, 43-52″, install the Pria 85 in recline position 1 using the seat belt with tether.

This requirement could prove problematic – there is no overlap in the weight and height requirements for using position 1 versus position 2, so if a child is in the weight range for position 1 but the height range for position 2, the manual is unclear which position should be used for that child.

Installation in both recline positions was simple; there are no belt guides for the forward facing belt path and the cover easily unsnaps in the back to allow access to the belt path to achieve a tight installation without a lot of effort.

I appreciated Maxi-Cosi’s advisement to always use the tether when the Pria 85 is installed in the forward facing position to greatly improve the performance of the child restraint in a crash.

 

 

Fit to Child

Pria 85 Forward FacingThe Pria allows forward facing from 22-85 lbs and up to 52″, as long as the child fits with the harness at or above the shoulders and the midpoint of the head below the top of the fully extended headrest. The top harness position measures 17″, which unfortunately means the vast majority of children are going to outgrow the Pria 85 with their shoulders exceeding the top harness position long before ever reaching the height or weight maximum. Maxi-Cosi boasts that the Pria 85 is the only convertible car seat rated up to 85 lbs, and while that may be true, there just aren’t many children of that size that will truly be able to use the seat.

Maxi-Cosi permits use of any of the three crotch buckle slots when forward facing, and recommends using the position that will provide a snug fit for the child.

Pria 85 Harness Covers

Top: standard harness covers. Bottom: grippy covers required for over 65 lbs with no tether available.

The Pria comes with two sets of harness covers, one for comfort, and a second that is a requirement if the child is over 65 lbs and there is not a tether anchor available. The second, larger pair look the same upon initial inspection, but have a thick, grippy material on the back. They are stored in a storage pocket on the outside of the cover, where the manual may also be stored.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pria forward facing 6 year oldPria 85 AsleepSam is 6 years old, tall and skinny for his age at 43 lbs and 47″. He is on the second to the top harness position on the Pria 85 and on the 3rd crotch buckle setting. He found the Pria 85 to be very comfortable; he is quite leggy and appreciated the leg support, cupholder and soft fabrics. On his second ride in the seat, he actually fell asleep which is rather uncommon for him.

Sam’s only complaint with the Pria 85 was that the buckle is very difficult to open. He regularly buckles and unbuckles himself in his other seats, but he couldn’t do the Pria. The strap material is also rather thin and tended to twist, he had a tough time getting in and out without twisting the straps. With two kids, it’s a real time saver to have my oldest buckle himself so it was frustrating for both of us that he needed my assistance each time we got in and out of the car. Similar to Grace, I had a difficult time tightening the harness the first time I adjusted it for him as well.

 

 

Pria_85_FF

Kenzie is 5.5 and tall for her age – 48.5″ and weighs 53 lbs. Despite being well within the stated limits of the Pria 85, she outgrew the seat some time ago. Her shoulders are above the top harness position, and the harness was only just long enough to get her buckled in, it was not comfortable for her at all.

Pria_8yoI also tested our Huggable Images doll, Thomas, is 8 years old, 80 lbs and 57″. He is well over the stated 52″ height limit for the Pria 85 forward facing, but at 80 lbs he is within the weight limit. I tried him in the seat to see if the straps were long enough to fit around his body, and they weren’t even close. Unfortunately, neither the length nor height of the straps were built to accommodate a child at the upper ranges Maxi-Cosi has placed on the Pria 85.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Features

Maxi-Cosi came up with a lot of fun details in the design of the Pria 85, here are a few:

Pria_norethreadNo Re-thread Harness

The Pria 85 no re-thread harness features 9 positions, which makes it easy to get a proper fit on just about any sized child. For rear facing, position the straps at or below the shoulders; for forward facing, position the straps at or above the shoulders. The headrest design places the headwings right around the child’s head without squashing their shoulders or awkward positioning like some other seats tend to do. To adjust the harness, squeeze the handle in the headrest and pull up or down. I found the adjustment a little sticky the first few times, but it did get easier as I moved it several times. The very top position was the most difficult to get the headrest to, I had to pull on the headrest as well as the adjuster on the back to get it all the way up.

 

 

Pria 85 cover removedEasy Remove Cover

Let’s face it: kids are gross. No matter how clean you try to keep your car, they will always find a way to make a mess. Whether it’s *ahem* organic fluids, goldfish crackers, apple juice, or some mystery substance that only a toddler can conjure, the bottom line is that you will have to wash the cover at some point. The Pria 85 features an easy remove cover that comes off without having to uninstall the seat or undo the harness. I was a little bit skeptical upon first reading about this feature, so I decided to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised when it was just as easy as promised. It only took a few minutes and undoing a few snaps to completely remove the cover without uninstalling the seat. Plus, there aren’t any of those pesky little elastics with corresponding posts to find that secure the cover, it simply slips around the edges and then has a few snaps on the inner portion that keep it secured. I even washed the cover after a few weeks of use, and found the cleaning instructions in the manual easy to follow, and that the material washed nicely.

 

Pria 85Comfy Fabrics

The gray material of the Pria 85 looks and feels just like a comfy pair of sweatpants. It contrasts with sleek, navy fabric and the result is a handsome seat that combines comfort and style. Sam told me several times that his favorite thing about the Pria 85 is the soft fabric.

The seat featured in this review is Brilliant Blue; with a couple cameos from a Devoted Black model. The Pria 85 is also available in Passionate Pink.

 

Pria 85 Harness HoldersHarness Holders

Having to dig harness straps out from underneath a wiggly kid is, simply, the worst. The Pria 85 has these handy little clips on the side of the seat to hold the straps out-of-the-way. My kids have ridden in several other seats that have this feature and to be honest, I’ve never actually used it with any regularity. I always find that getting the straps into the little holders is more cumbersome than digging them out from under the child is to begin with. The Pria 85 changed that for me, however. The harness holders are in the perfect position to easily tuck the straps in

Overall Thoughts

mx-518_1zThe Pria 85 carries a lot of nice features and will last the average child a long time. I appreciated the plush fabrics, comfortable fit, and easy remove cover. I would love to see the rear facing height limit extended, and the forward facing limits set to a range more likely to be achieved by the size constraints of the seat. With a suggested retail of $299.99, the Pria 85 won’t fit all budgets, but the ease of use features make it a nice choice for many families. Would you like to win a Pria 85 for your Little? Maxi-Cosi would like to give one away to one of our readers, enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. You can also find the Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 on Amazon.com.

Maxi-Cosi generously provided the Brilliant Blue seat used in this review, however, we were not otherwise compensated and opinions, as always, are all our own.

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Maxi-Cosi RodiAP Review

Though booster seats don’t have as many moving parts as a harnessed car seat, there’s a large range of features and fit on the market.  Choosing the right one can be a real challenge!  For my booster rider, we need a booster that’s fairly padded and has a high top shoulder belt guide position since my kiddo is fairly tall and quite slim.

The Maxi-Cosi RodiAP is a mid-priced booster seat with a lot to offer.  Though it shares part of a name with the RodiFix, it’s got a number of differences that have quickly made the RodiAP one of my favorite boosters!

Maxi-Cosi RodiAP

Maxi-Cosi RodiAP

 

CSFTL Quick Stats

  • High back booster weight range: 30-120 lbs.
  • High back booster height range: 34-57”
  • Backless booster weight range: 30-120 lbs.
  • Backless booster height range: 34-57″
  • Highest belt guide position: 21.5″
  • Expiration: 6 years

 Additional Features

  • Hooks to keep the high-backed portion  connected to the backless portion of the booster
  • Lightweight, easy to move between vehicles
  • 2014 IIHS Best Bet in high back mode

 

 

 

High Back Booster Mode

Box and Assembly

RodiAP Comes In Two Pieces

RodiAP Comes In Two Pieces

 

The box for the RodiAP is quite a bit smaller than the RodiFix’s box.   This is because the RodiAP converts to a backless booster in addition to being a high back booster, where the RodiFix does not.

Assembling the RodiAP  was fairly painless — I had to tilt the high back portion down below being level with the openings on the backless portion, line up the hooks, then just sit the headrest upright and it all clicked into place.  This is easier than it sounds, I promise!

 

 

 

Those Hooks!

RodiAP stays connected

RodiAP stays connected

Sometimes, the smallest things are the biggest things.  The RodiAP has an ingenious set of hooks to keep the high back portion connected to the backless portion.  If you’ve ever attempted to carry almost any other kind of high back booster around, you’ll know how helpful this feature is!  No more thinking that the seat is fully assembled, only to have the bottom come loose and start flopping around or worse, fall off, while you’re taking it to the car.

For this feature alone, the RodiAP is one of my new best friends.

Thanks to these little hooks, I can carry the RodiAP around with one hand — the seat is very lightweight and it’s small footprint makes it easy to maneuver into and out of the car.  I was able to get the RodiAP into and out of my car’s third row through the hatch without the seat coming apart or banging around because it was too bulky.

 

 Fit to Child: High Back Mode

RodiAP is a great option for this kiddo!

RodiAP is a great option for this kiddo!

 

The RodiAP has a weight range of 30-100 pounds and height range of 34-57 inches tall, and AT LEAST 4 years old. Regular readers of CSFTL probably know that we don’t recommend a booster until the child is at least 5 years old; here’s more information about booster readiness.

My booster rider is 8 years old, she’s 50 pounds and stands 49 inches tall.  She’s also quite slim and this has made finding a booster that fits her well, while being padded enough for her needs quite a challenge.  The RodiAP features a fairly plush cover that was an instant hit with my kiddo.  This is no small feat!

The RodiAP fits my slender child very well.  It would likely fit slender to medium-sized children well.  Though it is rated to 120 pounds, a child that size would be unlikely to fit in the RodiAP.

 

 

 

 

Belt Guide Access and Retraction

RodiAP Shoulder Belt Guide

RodiAP Shoulder Belt Guide

 

The shoulder belt guide is fairly easy to access and threading the belt through was pretty easy.  The belt didn’t catch on any parts of the seat shell and it’s stayed in place.  The belt retracts without issue in my Mazda 5’s second row.

Because the belt guide is closed, once the seat belt is threaded through the guide, it’s kind of tricky to get it back out. The upside to this? It’s very unlikely that the belt will just slide out of place when you don’t want it to.

We’ve tried a number of different boosters and combination seats that convert to boosters over the years.   I was pleased to see that the RodiAP’s belt guide is among the easiest to use from our family’s sample data.

The top shoulder height on the RodiAP is an impressive 21.5 inches, making it one of the taller (and therefore, longer-lasting) dedicated boosters on the market.  For our family, this means that my booster rider can ride comfortably in a high back booster for a while yet.

 

 

AirProtect

RodiAP

RodiAP

The RodiAP includes AirProtect Side Impact Protection in the headrest.  The manual states that the “midpoint of the child’s head should be in the center of the headrest.”  This aligns the AirProtect with the correct location on the child’s head.  We struggled a bit with this requirement — moving the headrest up that high also moved up the shoulder belt to a place where it didn’t fit quite as close to my daughter’s shoulder as I would’ve liked but it still offered a good belt fit.

Cupholder

The RodiAP includes a detachable cupholder.  It’s sort of giant in comparison to the sleekness of the seat itself.  It’s not actually in the shape of a cup so it’s not well-suited to carrying the sorts of objects that often make their way into our cupholders. My kids are more fond of bringing craft items, acorns, pieces of halloween costumes, and random bits of paper in their cupholders than they are beverages so for us, the cupholder was kind of a bust.

I suspect that for families who actually carry drink-shaped objects in the cupholders, this one would work just fine.

 

Backless Mode

Converting to Backless Mode

RodiAP Backless Mode

RodiAP Backless Mode

 

 

The manual instructs to lay the high back portion of the seat on a table, then flip the bottom portion over the edge.  This will release the hooks and allow the back to be removed.  This process was pretty simple — it took a little more force to separate the pieces than on other high back boosters but that’s a fair trade for the convenience that those hooks connecting the pieces offers.

 

 

 

 

http://csftl.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/rodiap_backless.jpg

RodiAP Lap Belt Guide

 

 

The belt guides on the lap portion of the seat are generously sized and allow the belt to pass through easily.  The edges of the RodiAP’s seat pan are curved up.  This provides a little extra support for my child’s legs — she found this quite comfortable.

 

 

 

 

Portability

One key feature of backless boosters for us is portability.  If my booster rider needs to hitch a ride after school, we send a backless booster with her.  The RodiAP is lightweight enough that she could carry it around but the shape of the seat makes it a little less suited for this part of the job.  For this purpose, she  prefers a booster with more defined armrests — those are easier to carry around.

 

Fit to Child: Backless Mode

RodiAP in backless mode

RodiAP in backless mode

 

Statistically, children can be just as safe in a backless booster as they are in a high back booster, provided that they sit properly for the entire ride and have a good belt fit.

In this case, the RodiAP places the lap portion across the top of my model’s thighs and the shoulder belt across the midpoint of her shoulder. As this seat does not come with a seat belt adjuster strap for use with the backless booster, the IIHS gave it a Check Fit rating. In high back mode it was given a Best Bet.

While the belt fit is just fine for her in both backless and high back mode, for this child, she tends to stay in the right position more consistently when she has a little extra support around her head and back.

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts From A Booster Rider

My child finds the RodiAP quite comfortable. In my Mazda 5’s second row, she struggled a bit to get it buckled. Since the RodiAP doesn’t have LATCH or ISOFIX connectors to keep it affixed to the seat, it slides around as she’s getting settled. She had to scoot the seat away from the buckle a bit in order to get herself secured. Once she was settled, she found the seat quite comfortable in both modes.

We’ve also tried the RodiAP in our other car, a 2014 Prius V. The backseat in that car is a bench seat with a slightly different seat belt geometry than I have in my Mazda 5. This setup made it easier for her to get buckled so from a convenience standpoint, the RodiAP works better in that car for us.

 

Overall Thoughts From Mom
61hTwHZKxSL._SL1440_

There are a few key features that make the RodiAP a big hit for my family.  The high 21.5″ max shoulder height, the ingenious hooks keeping the seat together when I’m moving it around, and the solid belt fit in both high back and backless modes.  The main drawback is merely that it’s a little tough for my kiddo to carry around as a carpool booster and the cupholder didn’t really work for us.  Given everything else that is good about this seat, I am pleased to say that the RodiAP is a winner for us!

Ready to buy a RodiAP for your booster rider?  They’re available at Amazon.com.  Maxi-Cosi was kind enough to provide the booster in this review and they’ve partnered with us to give one away to a lucky winner!  Enter below for your chance to win!

*As always, our opinions are our own.*

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Phil & Teds Alpha Review

Phil & Ted’s isn’t a new name in the baby gear scene.  They have been a well known name in the stroller world for several years now and have just released a rear facing only seat that is compatible with a wide array of their strollers.  They have given us the opportunity to try it out and share our thoughts with our readers.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESCSFTL Quick Stats

  • Weight range: 4-35 lbs
  • Height range: up to 32″ or head 1” from the top of the seat shell
  • Shell height 19.5″
  • Lowest harness position: 5.5″
  • Weight (carrier only): 8.3 lbs
  • Expiration: 6 years
  • Handle must be fully up when traveling

Features

  • Integrated seat belt lock off on base
  • 2 position adjustable crotch strap: 4.5″ and 6.5″
  • Adjustable recline foot
  • Euro belt routing
  • Clip on lower anchor connectors
  • 2 position hip harness positions
  • Infant insert for infants and Preemie pillow insert for infants under 6 lbs

Installation

Phil & Ted's base installWith base:
The Alpha installs easily with either lower anchors or seat belt.  When installing with the base the seat belt or lower anchor connector strap is threaded under the blue lock off, tightened, then the lock off is closed.  The lock off is easy to use and allows for a very tight seat belt installation.

Phil & Ted's Alpha level ball

 

 

The base also has a ball level to show if the base is correctly reclined for the weight of the child.  There are 3 sections to the level; blue is 4-20 lbs, grey is 20-35 lbs, and red is not allowed.

 

 

 

Phil & Ted's Alpha recline foot

 

The base has an adjustable recline foot that can be either up or down to adjust help achieve the correct recline level for the child.  If the correct recline cannot be achieved with the foot, you may place a tightly rolled towel at the seat bight while leaving the recline foot up in the base.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

 

A unique feature of the base is that the release is located on the base rather than the infant seat.  This allows the seat to be lighter to carry when out of the vehicle.  This also means that 2 hands are required to release the seat.

 

 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESBaseless:
Baseless installation is also simple.  The carrier is equipped with a clip on the back of the seat that allows for Euro belt routing.  Most rear facing only car seats are now allowing for this convenient feature that helps in getting a stable installation without the base.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

 

Euro belt routing consists of installing the carrier on the vehicle seat with the lap belt threaded through the seat belt guides on the carrier and the shoulder belt routed behind the back of the carrier.

There is one issue with Euro routing and the Alpha though.  According to the manual it is only allowed to be installed with Euro belt routing baseless, so it is incompatible with lap only belts or shoulder/lap belts that are too short to route around the back.  The stickers on both the seat and the base show a graphic of a lap belt installation.  After contacting Phil & Ted’s they stated that installing it using the standard installation (not Euro routing) is okay.  Follow the instructions on the side of the seat to install this way.


Child Fit

The Alpha is very versatile in that it will fit a wide age/size range.  It includes a newborn liner as well as a preemie pillow which is used in conjunction with the newborn liner.  The preemie pillow is required for newborns who weigh less than 6 lbs.  The newborn liner can be used at the bottom two harness slots, then must be removed.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The harness, like many other rear facing only seats has incorporated 2 loops for different sized children.  The longer loop for larger children and the smaller for smaller children.  One of the unique features of the Alpha is the velcro on the end of the harness straps to store the excess strap length for smaller children.  This is both a pro and con to the seat.  The pro is that you don’t have excess straps hanging from the back of the seat, possibly snagging on items.  The con is that as a child grows and moves to the larger harness loop, the velcro can get caught on the harness slots.
Phil & Ted's Alpha hip slots

 

Another unique feature is the dual hip harness slots.  The inner slot is to be used for children under 12 lbs.  The outer is for children over 12 lbs.  This really helps keep small infants in position.  The Alpha has a continuous harness, so in order to change the hip strap position, the whole harness needs to be removed from one side, which can cause some issues with rethreading correctly.  The outer straps also need to be threaded through the seat bottom twice.  All this rethreading increases the instances of misuse, so make sure to follow the instructions in the manual.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

 

Jo – Preemie Huggable Images doll – 4 lbs, 17″

Jo used both the preemie pillow with the newborn liner due to her weight.  She was also required to use the inner hip harness slots.  Her shoulders were right at the lowest harness position.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESMy only complaint with her fit was the liner wrapped around her hips.  It’s shaped as such that there aren’t any indentations or slits in the liner where the inner hip slots are.  This caused a lot of slack in the harness straps around her hips.

 

 

 

 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

 

Fiona - Newborn Huggable Images doll – 7 lbs, 17″

The infant liner was left in for Fiona, but the preemie pillow was removed due to her being over the 6 lb limit.  Her shoulders were right at the 2nd set of harness slots.  Due to her wider hips/thighs, the newborn liner didn’t wrap around the hip harness like it did on Jo.

 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Anders – 7 months – 19lbs, 26″

Anders is at the upper limits of the Alpha for his height. He is right at the 2nd to top set of harness slots with about 2″ from the top of his head to the top of the shell.  He fits well in the seat, with no complaints.  The seat is on the narrower side, so he doesn’t have much wiggle room.

 

Overall Impressions

Although it doesn’t carry some of the extra ease of use features many rear facing only seats in this price range do, it’s a nice basic car seat that works well with a wide variety of children.

Pros:

  • I love how lightweight it is.  Makes carrying my larger baby much easier.
  • The harness is easy to adjust without much effort, except when the velcro hinders it.
  • The infant liner and preemie pillow do an amazing job of keeping small infants in place.
  • The Euro belt routing makes for an easy baseless installation.
  • Ability to change the recline depending on the child’s weight.
  • Seat belt lock off for an easy seat belt base installation.

Cons:

  • The carry handle is required to be up when traveling.
  • The Velcro on the harness straps can get caught up on the harness slots
  • Euro belt routing is the only allowed baseless install method, according to the manual.
  • Only 2 recline positions.
  • The fit and finish seems to be a bit thrown together.  A few examples of this includes the ball level sticker is stuck over another sticker, the carry handle gets caught up on the canopy, and the discrepancy between the stickers and manual for the baseless install methods.

Interested in one for yourself?  Phil & Ted’s is graciously giving away one Alpha rear facing only car seat to one of our lucky readers.  To enter, please follow the Rafflecopter instructions below.
***Giveaway is now CLOSED.  Congrats to our winner Robyn M!***

Can’t wait and need one now?  You can find it on Amazon.com

Phil & Ted’s graciously provided the Alpha rear facing only car seat used in this review.  As always, the opinions are our own.

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Graco Argos 80 Elite 3-in-1 Review

argos_80_not_in_box

Argos 80 out of the box

 

For the last several years Graco has had two combination seats available for purchase,  the Argos 65 and the Nautilus. Both models have two modes: forward-facing harnessed mode and a booster mode that fits most children well.  These seats have been around for a while and are two very popular options at CSFTL because they fit a range of children well and have a lot of great ease-of-use features.

The range of Graco’s offerings in this category has expanded with the addition of the Argos 80.  It’s based on the shell and design of the Argos 65, but has a few added features that allow it to be rated for children weighing up to 80 pounds.

So… what makes the Argos 80 Elite 3-in-1 car seat different from the Argos 65?  The obvious answer is 15 lbs, but there is more to it than that.  Let’s take a closer look.

 

 

 

CSFTL Quick Stats

argos_80_manual

  • Forward facing weight range: 20-80 lbs
  • Forward facing height range: 27”- 52″
  • High back booster weight range:  30-100 lbs
  • High back booster height range: 38-57″
  • Backless booster weight range: 40-120 lbs
  • Backless booster height range: 40-57”
  • Highest harness position: 18”
  • Highest booster guide position: 19.5″
  • Expiration: 10 years
  • Lower anchor weight limit: 45 lbs

 

Features:

  • Seat belt lockoff
  • Adjustable crotch strap (6″, 7.25″, and 8.5″ from the back of the seat)Argos80unassembled
  • Three recline settings
  • Body support cushion
  • No re-thread harness
  • Allows use of lower anchors in booster mode
  • Cupholder and cubby holes
  • 2014 IIHS Best Bet in both highback and backless mode

 

Assembly

Graco Argos 80 Seat Pan

Graco Argos 80 Seat Pan

 

 

The Argos 80 Elite comes out of the box in a prone position. The back portion needs to be rotated up perpendicular to the bottom portion. Even though that sounds tricky, the directions are clear and easy to follow. The only part to note is that the hip straps must be threaded through the slits in the padding. They can easily get caught in the crease when assembling.

 

 

 

 

Explanation of Features

Argos80harnessandrecline

Argos 80 Features

The no-rethread harness allows this seat to be easily adjusted for correct fit when used by different children, without uninstalling the seat from the vehicle.  It also means that you don’t need to uninstall the seat to adjust the harness height as your child grows. Simply squeeze the red handle to raise or lower the headrest. The harness straps travel with the headrest. Graco states to have the straps “even with or just above the shoulders” – this will place the headrest in the correct position.

 

A body support cushion is included in the box. It is required with a child from 20 to 22 lbs., and optional up to 30 lbs (it cannot be used over 30 lbs). Please note: A 10.5 month child in the 50th percentile would weigh 22 lbs. A child that young needs to be rear facing for safety. CSFTL recommends (along with the AAP and NHTSA) rear facing until a minimum of 2 and as close to age 4 as possible.

 

Three available recline positions serve primarily to assist in fitting the seat to different vehicle seats, but also can be adjusted to a position most comfortable for the child.   The most upright position MUST be used for children weighing over 65 lbs OR over 49 inches tall (this applies to both harness and booster mode).

 

Children will love the covered armrest with inside cubby holes, outer pockets and convenient cupholder.

 

Installation

Argos80LockOff

Argos 80 Lock Off

argos_80_child_harnessed

Argos 80: cat ears not included.

The Argos 80 Elite comes with a lock-off for use with seat belt installation. This is a new feature of the Argos 80 and we’re pretty excited about it.  The Argos has a fairly high belt path so installing previous versions of this seat in some wider captain’s chairs with a seat belt was a bit of a challenge.

We’re pleased to share that the lock-off made a big difference in how easy it was to install the Argos with a seat belt.  Just thread the vehicle belt through the belt path, and close the lock-off over the shoulder portion of the belt (on the retractor side). The lock-off snaps closed very easily even with the belt threaded. The resulting installation was secure and held the belt firmly in place.

Graco allows the use of the lower anchors until 45 lbs of child weight in accordance with the 2014 LATCH changes. The lower anchor connectors are the “hook on” style.  They clip onto the lower anchors.  Removing them can be difficult, especially with a very firm install.  One trick to remove these anchors is to put some pressure on the Argos while loosening the lower anchor strap.

 Don’t forget the last part of the install: always use your tether.

 

Fit to Child: Harnessed Mode

 

Argos80harnessmode7

Taking the Argos 80 for a spin!

The Argos 80 Elite offers four different harness positions for growing children (note: there is a 5th headrest position that is only allowed in booster mode).  It also has rather wide harness covers that are required at all times.  These covers have rubberized backs and enable this seat to be used to 80 lbs.  The wide covers may provide an awkward fit on a smaller child.    The chest clip must sit on the pads and when positioned properly, the rounded top corners on the pads push into either side of the neck.  If you have a child that is sensitive to fabrics, materials or has sensory issues, you would want to consider this when purchasing.

 

Our three harnessed models ranged in weight from 36-38 lbs and 41″-42.5″ height.  They all liked the cupholder and “secret” compartments.  Two of them found the seat to be comfortable and enjoyed riding in it.  The 3rd child did not find the harness covers comfortable and claimed they hurt her neck.

The Argos Elite 80 does an excellent job keeping most children harnessed until they are ready for boosters.   It will last most children to age 6-7 in harnessed mode.

Argos80crotchbuckle

Argos 80 Crotch Buckle Settings

 

Crotch Buckle Adjustment and Use

In a small but important update, Graco has added a third position for the buckle, creating more room as children grow.  Use the one closest to, but not under your child.  To move the crotch buckle, thread the metal part through the slot and re-thread in the new slot.  We were excited to find the buckle easier to move than on previous Graco combination models.  

Fit to Child: Booster

argos_80_booster

High back booster mode

Simply remove the harness straps and crotch buckle, and you are ready for the high back booster mode.  Graco allows you to use the lower anchor connectors and tether to secure the booster to prevent it becoming a projectile when not in use.

 

The Argos 80 Elite does NOT allow any overhang when used in booster mode.  The entire bottom must be on the vehicle seat.  In addition some vehicle headrests may tilt forward causing the back of the Argos 80 Elite to not make contact with the seat.  Graco does not allow a gap behind the Argos 80 Elite.  Remove the vehicle headrest, if possible, to eliminate the gap.

 

Any recline position may be used in booster mode, but if the lap belt is not positioned correctly, adjusting the recline may help.  NOTE: The most upright position MUST be used for children weighing over 65 lbs OR over 49 inches tall (this applies to both harness and booster mode).

 

Thread the lap belt in front of the red guide.

Thread the lap belt in front of the red guide.

The shoulder belt goes through the red belt guide and the lap portion will thread in the vehicle belt guide behind the armrests.  The belt will actually be positioned vertically, not horizontally in front of this belt guide (see picture).  As always, check for a proper belt fit in booster mode: lap belt low and snug across the hips, and shoulder belt crossing mid-shoulder.  Adjust the head support (5 available settings) to improve shoulder belt fit.  The red belt guides should be even with or just above the child’s shoulders.

 

Backless booster mode

Backless booster mode

 

As a true 3-in-1 seat, the Argos 80 Elite also can be used as a backless booster.  Simple lift the seat pad on the base of the seat and slide the red buttons to release.  Once this lowers the back, you will see another set of red buttons.  Pinch them together to remove the back.

 

When using as a backless booster, there is an optional shoulder positioning clip.  This was shipped in a plastic bag and not attached to the seat.  In order to use, it attach it to the slot on the bottom of the seat.

 

 

 

 

OVERALL THOUGHTS

 

argos_80_claire_pouty

The Graco Argos 80 Elite 3-in-1 will do all three modes – harness, high back booster, and backless booster- well for most children.  With its high weight limit, it allows parents to harness their children longer until they are mature enough for boosters.  Most children will enjoy the features and comfort of the seat, but if you have a child with sensory issues or that is sensitive to touch or materials, the harness covers may be an issue.

 

Currently the Graco Argos 80 Elite 3-in-1 is available in two color choices.  Gatlin, which is dark grey and black, is available at a variety of retailers.  Astro, which is black and cream, is exclusive to Babies R Us. Would you like to win one for your Little? Graco is giving away one Argos 80 Elite, enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

 

Graco graciously provided the Argos 80 Elite used in this review.  As always, the opinions are our own.
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Jané Montecarlo R1 Review

For those who have been around the car seat world long enough, Jané is a familiar name. In 2003, Jané brought boosters with lower anchor capability to the US. Jané has been quiet for a while in the car seat world though, in the US anyways. They introduced the Montecarlo R1 to their European market and just now brought it here to the US. Let’s see what this new seat has to offer.

Jane Monte Carlo

CSFTL Quick Stats: 

  • High back booster weight range: 30-100 lbs.
  • High back booster height range: under 57″
  • Highest belt guide position: 20″
  • Expiration: 7 years
  • Does not become a backless booster

Features:

  • One recline position
  • Three position adjustable arm rests
  • Rigid lower anchor connectors
  • Aluminum Integral Adjustment System
  • Torso wings and head wings adjust in width
  • EPS foam in head and torso areas
  • Comes with lower anchor attachment guides

 

The Montecarlo comes out of the box preassembled. I was so excited to see the Flame color in person, it’s much prettier than the pictures online show. Yale or Klein are also available color choices. All are very mature colors for older kids, which is nice. The cover on the Montecarlo is nicely padded and would be a good choice for even the most discerning booster users. The cover is also easily removed for cleaning. It’s held on to the booster with a series of snaps built on to the seat and velcro straps around the head support. The snaps have unsnapped a few times on the bottom front from regular use, but they’re super easy to resnap. The cover is made from a soft polyester blend that is meant to breathe in the summer and help retain heat in the winter. There are vent holes all along the back of the seat and on the side bolsters to help with breathability. Not something you see in most boosters.

compare2

 

The storage spot for the manual is very clearly marked so there are no excuses to not read it! Manage to lose it even with a specially marked spot? No worries. There is a handy QR code on the side of the seat that takes you to the manual online.

qrcode

 

While going through the manual, one of the first things I found was the age limit was listed as approximately 1.5-12 years old for the Montecarlo.

Yay on the 12! Our booster seat science post goes over all the whys of using a booster that long. On the flip side, a child should be rear facing until two to four years old and should not be in a booster until at least five. Our harness or booster post goes over what to look for when thinking about switching to a booster.

 

If you’ve never used rigid lower anchor connectors, trust me, you’ll love them. We don’t know that having them on boosters add any safety benefit, but they are great for those kids who forget to buckle the seat belt over the booster when they get out of the vehicle. Unoccupied boosters can be a projectile in the vehicle like anything else that is loose; lower anchor connectors fix that. Rigid connectors make it that much easier for caregiver to use over the traditional ones. The Montecarlo does come with covers on the connectors to protect them (and the vehicle) if they are not in use. Remove those, slide out the lower connectors, attach to anchor bars, and push booster into the seat. The sliding out of the lower anchors is not an easy task. I find having it done it a few times now that the buttons you push have loosened up some making it easier, but it’s something you’ll need to read the manual for as it’s not necessarily self explanatory.
latch

 

Another feature is the aluminum integrated into the back support and head support. It gives it structure while still keeping it lightweight. The head support has five positions to fit a variety of children. When positioned correctly, the belt guide needs to be as close to even with the shoulder as possible, but never below. It also has three position adjustable arm rests. Having it in the highest position seems to help make buckling a little easier. The Montecarlo also features a mechanical recline position, which can only be engaged without the child in the seat, so you must adjust prior to the child climbing in. I didn’t see a big difference between the positions but it might be nice if you know you’ll be going on a longer trip and you tend to have a noodle kid when they fall asleep. The torso and head support should do a good job at keeping most kids positioned well though.
Jane Monte Carlo

 

The biggest feature of the Montecarlo is the fully adjustable torso and head support; both are lined with energy absorbing foam. This foam is meant to absorb some of the energy from the crash meaning less crash forces are transferred to the child. There are two knobs on the side of the seat, one makes the torso support adjust wider and more narrow and one controls the head support. This makes it a great seat for children of all sizes and can customize the fit to them. I found even with it fully open, this booster is more suited to children with a narrower frame. Also, the torso knob sticks out an odd angle in vehicles with side bolsters. You can see how above it is running into the side of my captain’s chair. This has made the knob loose and hard to use when the seat is installed in this vehicle. If you recline the vehicle seat, you will have better access to the knob. Be sure to put the seat back upright again before moving the vehicle.

compare

 

Olivia

This is Olivia showing off the most narrow and the most open head support positions. She’s just over 5.5 years old and right at 50 lbs. and 46″. Her favorite feature was the adjustable head wings. She liked them tight on her head to ‘squish’ her. She fit great in the seat and was on the fourth position (barely) of five with some growing room before she’d need the highest position.

 

Addison2This is Addison, she’s 6.5 years old, 41 lbs. and 45″. She is right on the cusp of being too tall for the bottom position, so the second seems to fit her a little bit better. She had great leg support even though she has such long legs for her height. You can see how torso height can change the length of time a booster can be used when you compare her to Olivia above. Olivia is only 1″ taller but needs the fourth guide position.

 

 

IlanaIlana will be 8 in less than a month and still uses a high back booster. She’s 67 lbs. and 49.75″ and using the highest belt guide position with little growing room. You can see it’s a bit shallow for her and I feel kind of pushes her forward. She didn’t complain though and seemed to find it comfortable and chose to use it over her regular booster when given the chance. She did mention she felt a bit squished in the shoulder and arm region because of the torso support but at the same time found it cozy. Eight year old girls might not be the best source of solid information. Unfortunately she has little room left height wise anyways and it does not become a no back booster.

 

Evan

 

Evan will be 10 in less than two months and still uses a high back booster as well most of the time. He’s 63 lbs. and 51″ and is also using the highest belt guide position. His torso isn’t quite as long so he has a little bit more room to grow than his younger sister. He liked being able to adjust the head wings himself and he too likes the seat to ‘squish’ his head. Silly kids! Again, it’s rather shallow for his legs but with more narrow build, it doesn’t seem as noticeable. He’s also not feeling as tight in the torso area because of his narrow build.

 

My favorite activity (maybe not favorite) is finding more seats that work in my three across in my third row. With five kids, all in some kind of seat, it’s like a game! We tried the Montecarlo in the back with an Evenflo Sureride and Harmony Folding booster. With its narrow frame (when the torso protection is adjusted inward) and adjustable arm rests, I thought we might have a winner. I was kind of right. It fit nicely and could get buckled, but because of the head wings it could only get to position four of the five settings which meant it did not work for either of the older kids back there. If it were next to a rear facing seat, you would have more flexibility in the torso protection position.

three

latch

 

A feature I didn’t have much use for in my vehicle, were the lower anchor attachment guides. My lower anchors are right there, plain sight, you won’t miss them. I’ve worked with some parents in vehicles that where I almost gave up on lower anchors completely and just went to seat belt because the anchors were so hard to access. That’s where these little guys can come in handy. You simply attach them to your lower anchors and it helps guide the rigid connectors onto the bars. Releasing the connectors isn’t a concern, it’s just getting them attached in some vehicles that can be tricky.

 

Overall the kids give it a thumbs up with it probably being most suited to our younger booster user. It really grew on me as we used it. They loved the head wings and the cover was really nice and soft, much more than our other seats. The lower anchors make it easy to install and keep in place when unoccupied and it also seems it would work in a three across situation. It also kept the booster in place nicely. We tried it in our older Cavalier and it was a bit tippy for our newest booster rider. She had a hard time keeping upright, but it would probably be fine for an older, more experienced rider. For the price point though, I was hoping it would be a little deeper and the head support would adjust higher as it does not become a no back booster. The Montecarlo should get most children to around 8 years old, but as kids need boosters for 3-4 years after that, it’s disappointing it would be outgrown so soon. Now if you have a petite child like Evan above, or a smaller torsoed child like Addison, the price may work out better in the end. It also doesn’t have a cup holder. Not a big deal as I find most cup holders on boosters don’t do a good job at holding drinks, but my kids like having a little place to put things when we’re in the vehicle.

 

montecarloJané was generous enough to provide a Montecarlo for giveaway to one of our readers. Be sure to enter below. Can’t wait to win one? Buy it now! You can find the Jané Montecarlo R1 on Amazon.com. While Jané did provide the Montecarlo for review, no other compensation was provided. As always, opinions were all my own.

 

 

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