A common theme of our visits to the ABC Kids Expo is meals at odd times of the day. We saw no exception to that this year. Today, we started with salad at 10 a.m., then moved on to lunch at 3. In between times, we fortified ourselves on little candies that benevolent manufacturers leave on their booths.
Our day started early with a visit to the Britax booth. We walked through an exciting change to some ClickTight convertible car seats – Britax will now ship the ARB (anti-rebound bar) with some Boulevards and Advocates. The models with the bar included will retail for $30 more than their current anti rebound bar-free counterparts. The bar can also be purchased separately for $40 if parents desire it: it is compatible with the Marathon Clicktight as well.
We saw some lovely new fabrics on some current seat models, then headed on to our next stop.
A stop by the Diono booth revealed an exciting new offering: the Radius rear facing only car seat. This premium seat was inspired by the Radian and boasts some unusual features. With a 35 lbs and 35″ weight and height capacity, it will be one of the longest lasting rear facing only seats on the market. The carrier itself weighs only just over 10 lb, but the base is solid, with rigid lower anchor connectors and an anti-rebound bar that extends into steel reinforcement through the entire length. While the seat itself is still a prototype, we got a close up look at the design for the canopy, which will include an extension to the foot of the seat and the recline mechanism, which can be adjusted while the seat is installed from the greatest recline for a newborn to quite upright for an older toddler. The predicted price point is $329. We will take a closer look when it’s released July 2017.
Diono has updated the much-loved Monterey by swapping the bottom portion of the booster seat for the wider bottom portion of the Cambria, which allows them to now market it at a $99 price point! Now the Monterey XT, this booster is headed to market early next year.
Baby Trend has listened to almost every challenge you’ve asked us to share with them! I am not kidding. They have improved the angle on the lower connectors for the SecureSnap Fit 35 and the SecureSnap Tech 32. These connectors now pull straight up to tighten and can reach into some tight spaces. The Baby Trend lower anchors are designed to go into the seat bite sideways, then turn to click onto the lower anchor. We got to put hands on their redesigned harness clips as well: they’re more rigid then the current version, which we anticipate will please some readers.
We got to see a new foam insert which will ship with new Baby Trend rear facing only seats. We were able to see a 3-D printed mock up of the insert, which will be manufactured with EPP foam. This unassuming foam accessory will give smaller infants a boost of 1-1.5″ and lower the weight limit to 4 lbs in Baby Trend rear facing only seats. Surely we set a record for grown professionals being wowed by a piece of foam: we’re very excited to see how this will help newborns fit Baby Trend seats.
Baby Trend’s Yumi booster, which we have reviewed in the past, is going backless! We’re pleased to see another mode of use added to this already convenient booster. Folding and converting to a backless booster makes the Yumi a yummy option for travelers.
Aidia had some of their boosters on display, which we’ve reviewed in the past. They’re also introducing a very large seat mat approved for use with their high back and backless boosters. Here’s one of our ladies holding it up (or rather, her feet), to give you an idea of just how long this thing is!
On our way to lunch we spotted something new. Sentry is introducing a low cost character oriented 3 in 1 forward facing only seat, called the “Guardimal.” Sentry has several characters in the works, including a puppy, a tiger and a panda, all non licensed characters, allowing them introduce the seat at the end of this coming November at a $99 price point. It will feature a 17″ top harness position, a 50 lb weight limit, an adjustable head restraint for the high back booster portion, and a backless booster portion that will allow the parent or caregiver to remove any indication of a character theme, which may be more in keeping of the interests of a backless booster aged child.
With a widest point at the armrests of 17.5″, then 16.5″ at the shoulders, and 16″ at the front of the base, the new Sentry Guardimals will make a nice addition to our typical recommendations for narrow seats when installing three across or directly next to each other. Sentry also has plans in the works for a 65 lb weight limit and a price point of $119 on later models.
We expressed concern that the 3D nature of the faces on the Guardimals might introduce head slump. Sentry had all ready noted this during fitment testing, and had redesigned the cover to be less obtrusive and allowed the head restraint itself to angle back slightly.
They are also working on a new, as yet unnamed combination seat with a more traditional cover featuring an 18″ top harness position and a 65 lb weight limit.
Sentry was receptive to some concerns we expressed with the aesthetics of the cover of their “bear” Guardimal and they are considering options to make it more child friendly.
Our last stop of the day was with our friends at Cybex. Big news has been buzzing around the convention: Cybex is bring its acclaimed European seat, the Sirona, to the US market. We found a convertible seat that featured a rear facing 40 lb weight limit, with a 65 lb forward facing limit and a 16.5″ top harness position. The seat has 10 discreet leveling positions, and lockoffs for the seat belt both rear and forward facing. As with other Cybex products, it features a side impact energy management system designed to route crash forces uniformly through the shell rather than directly into the child. Unlike the European version, the seat coming to market in the US will not include a load leg, an anti rebound bar, rigid lower anchor connectors, or the turning feature for loading access that makes it such a popular seat in its continent of origin. We did express during our meeting that those features would have garnered significant interest, even if it raised the MSRP of the seat, currently at $349.
We were then ushered into Evenflo’s private room where we took a quick look at some old favorites, as well as some new surprises. The Sonus, which we just reviewed will be updated with a 65 lbs version. In addition, we will see the Stratos, a 40/65 lbs seat, with a 17″ top harness position. It has a rethread harness, an adjustable head restraint, and a rear facing foot with two unique positions that should limit or even eliminate the need for a noodle or towel to achieve the correct rear facing angle. This particular seat *may* also feature two allowed recline angles for older and younger children.
Evenflo is also introducing a brand new belt positioning booster to the market, with a consumer friendly price point of $59. While the model available was a prototype, we believe the top shoulder belt position will be taller than that of its current boosters. The base is also designed with more ergonomic forward anchored armrests, an open belt path for the lap belt to eliminate user error, and a wider seat pan to allow larger children to ride comfortably.
This wraps up all the major information from ABC; tomorrow our intrepid team will return to ABC Kids Expo to try to corner some engineers and reps and clear up a few last minute questions.