Our day at the Expo started with a visit to the Graco booth. Graco has added some really exciting new products lately — namely the 4Ever and the Milestone. We couldn’t wait to see what they had to show us!
On a personal note, I (Liz. Hello, friends!!) have been reviewing the Graco Milestone. We’ll be publishing our review as part of next week’s CPS week so stay tuned for that. Spoiler: in just a few weeks, the Milestone has become a highly valued member of our car seat collection so the chance to talk at length with the engineer behind it was an experience I won’t forget.
Our tour started with the rear facing only seats. The big news here is that the Classic Connect line is going away and the Click Connect line will remain. The entry seat, the SnugRide Click Connect 30 has 5″ lowest harness slots, which would likely fit newborns well. It still features a rear adjust harness, which we’re not huge fans of, but for a lower price, it’s great to have an option that would work for the tiniest passengers. The SnugRide Click Connect 30 Frontadjust model features a new recline adjustment base that’s not attached to the seat. While this piece will help with achieving the proper recline angle, we worry that since it’s not attached, it could easily be misplaced when not in use. Graco did say that caregivers could call for a replacement should that occur.
In other news, Click Connect bases are now interchangeable so caregivers wanting some of the features found on a higher end base can use that base with a lower end model, or caregivers wanting a more economical extra base can purchase the less featured model for use with the higher end seats. Note: this doesn’t change the limits of a particular seat, but offers a new level of flexibility.
We moved on to the convertible seats. The big news here is the MyRide will only have one lower anchor strap and the addition of a bar on the side of the seat that connects it to the seat. While this seems like a small thing, it’s kind of big deal. Why? Because it’s one more way to make the seat easier to use — the anchor straps remain fixed to the seat so they can’t be misplaced — and it lowers the price by about $20!
Another small, yet huge, thing that Graco has done is to make the lower anchor straps on the convertibles *just* long enough to reach each belt path. This is by design — it is physically impossible to use the lower anchor for the wrong belt path. It’s just one more thing that Graco is doing to eliminate misuse and keep our Littles safe.
We also had a chance to get up close with the Contender. The Contender is the less expensive version of the Size4Me (aka Fit4Me, MySize, and the Safety Surround version, Headwise). It offers the same long-lasting rear facing specifications and fit. The difference is the Contender’s standard hook-on lower anchor connectors and a two position recline. It is also no longer an exclusive to Wal-Mart and will soon be available at other retailers.
We are all familiar with the Argos 65 (which is still in production) but we also now have the Argos 80 — this indicates that it passed NHTSA testing with the 10-year-old dummy so while other seats on the market are decreasing their weight limits due to this new regulation, the Argos is increasing. Part of the reason for the increased weight limit is new grippy harness covers that will be required at all times in harness mode. They’ve also added some lovely fabrics and a lock off to the belt path for easier seat belt installation.
We finished our tour of the Graco booth with a visit to the secret back room with all the retailer-exclusive merchandise. For us, the big stars of this portion of the tour were the 4Ever and the Milestone. These multimode seats are quickly changing the face of the car seat world with their ease of use and ability to fit children well from birth to booster age. There simply aren’t words enough to describe how excited we are about these seats entering the market.
Chicco is introducing a new addition to the NextFit convertible line. The Nextfit CX incorporates features of both the NextFit and NextFit Zip. It boasts the same premium features and long-lasting limits of the Nextfit with the additional comfort padding of the Zip (but without the zip off cover).
Important clarification for the NextFit! The harness can be used at any height when rear facing. There is no restriction around a particular height adjustment as long as the harness is at or below their shoulders.
The KeyFit, Chicco’s immensely popular and easy-to-use rear facing only seat, will also have a KeyFit Zip version coming out in the future. Another great update to the Keyfit is an extension of the canopy. We also await the release of the KidFit booster and it’s Zip version, which were not present at ABC.
Our next stop was the Doona booth, where we got to see this new combination stroller/car seat. This sleek rear facing only seat could be a great option for urban parents on the go.
A new entrant into the booster seat market, LilFan has college licensed high back and backless boosters. They’ll be released in October.
We had a chance to sit down with the Cybex representative and chat about what we do here at CSFTL. After that, we walked through the product line, checking out the Cybex lineup and the latest incarnation of the popular Aton rear facing only car seat: the Cloud Q. The Cloud Q has all the same great features of the Aton Q, including the linear side impact protection and load leg, but adds an extended recline feature. This feature allows the child to lay completely flat while the car seat is being used in the stroller. The Plus line of fashions has also recently been added, incorporating high-end materials for a sleek, upscale look.
The star of our visit to the RECARO booth was the new infant seat: the Coupe. It’s rated from 4-35 pounds. The base has an extra bit of plastic that sits flush against the seat back — this is designed to give the child a place to put their feet and also to make the harness adjuster easier to access. The downside is that this makes the seat fairly large front-to-back so it’s not likely to fit in smaller cars.
Adjusting the base’s recline is done via a knob, then if a greater angle is needed, a little foot (which is attached to the seat) flips down, removing the need for noodles/towels to achieve the correct newborn angle.
Our friends at BubbleBum were hilariously funny and displaying a jaunty pink chevron pattern to their inflatable booster.
Next door to BubbleBum, the Noggle was showing off the product that we’re such big fans of. It was great to see some of their new fashions in action!
– Safety. Company after company stressed how many choices they were making to their seats in order to make them as safe as possible. From RECARO, who does very little advertising, choosing to put their earnings back into seat development and improvement, to Graco making a large number of small changes that enhance the ease of use and to Britax adding the Click Tight System to convertible seats — all of these things add up to so many seats on the market today being easier to use properly.
– Recline angles on infant seats are, across the board, becoming easier to adjust without the use of pool noodles.
– Euro routing of infant seats. More and more of these seats are adding a clip on the back that allows for the shoulder belt to be routed through there in addition to the 2 anchor points of the lap belt guide.
That’s our day in a nutshell, stay tuned for more excitement on Day Three or check out ABC Kids Expo 2014 Day One!