It’s nearly impossible to introduce the Baby Trend PROtect Sport Convertible without mentioning its roots. The new PROtect line of convertibles: Sport, Premiere, and Protect Elite, are versions of a seat that some of us used to know and love: the First Years True Fit.
Baby Trend took many of the features that made the True Fit a good value and added their own flavor to the seat. Lower anchor connectors, crotch buckle and chest clip, splitter plate, clear labelling, and an updated cover that’s a big hit at my house!
CSFTL Quick Stats
- Rear facing weight range: 5-22 without headrest attached; 5-40 lbs with headrest attached
- Rear facing height range without headrest attached: Until the top of the child’s head reaches the max red line on the seat back
- Rear facing height limit with headrest attached: Until the child’s head is within 1 inch of the top of the seat
- Forward facing weight range: 23-65 lbs
- Forward facing height range: 50″ or less
- Lowest harness position: 6″ with insert
- Highest harness position: 16.5″
- Lower anchor weight limit: 45 lbs
- Shell height: 21″ without headrest; 26″ with headrest attached
- Width at widest point: 18.5″
- Seat pan depth: 12″
- 2 crotch buckle positions: the innermost position is for rear facing use; the outermost position is for forward facing mode
- Weight: 15 lbs without headrest attached (for children weighing 22lbs or less)
- Weight: 18 lbs with headrest attached
- Expiration: 7 years
- No-rethread harness
- EZ Off-N-On Cover
The PROtect convertible Sport arrives in two pieces — the shell of the seat and the headrest. When used for children who weigh less than 22 lbs, the headrest can be left off. This makes for a pretty compact rear facing seat when used for the tiniest of passengers. In rear facing mode, the headrest is required for use when the child’s head is above the max red line on the back of the seat. The headrest is always required when the seat is in forward facing mode.
Attaching the headrest is pretty simple — line the metal rods on the headrest up with the holes on the back of the seat. The angle of attachment is a little misleading but once they’re correctly aligned, the headrest will slide in without issue.
The seat features a no rethread harness that works a little differently than the type of harness adjuster we see on other seats. Instead of a handle that squeezes to raise a head rest, or individual slots through which a harness must be threaded, the PROtect Convertible Sport has a bar that holds the harness in place. To adjust, pull the bar up and out from both sides while holding the seat firmly.
The bottom 3 harness positions can be used for rear facing; the top 2 harness positions can be used for forward facing. The label clearly shows these positions and their use.
Installation: Rear Facing
The PROtect Convertible Sport includes Baby Trend’s lower anchor connectors. These can be used with children who weigh 45 lbs or less. Attaching these anchors isn’t difficult, but they aren’t identical to other premium lower anchor connectors we see on other seats.
The PROtect Convertible Sport has one angle for rear facing recline. It took a rolled towel tucked into the seat bight to get a solid install at the correct angle. Unsnapping the cover made access to the belt path easier.
The recline adjuster is a block that flips forward for rear facing mode and back for forward facing mode. The language printed on the block is a little vague.
The PROtect Convertible Sport includes a set of infant padding. The manual we received doesn’t mention this padding at all but Baby Tend shared the following guidelines with us when we asked about it:
1-Never use forward facing.
2-Do not use above 18 lbs.
These guidelines will be reflected in an upcoming version of the manual.
Front to Back Space
Children who weigh less than 22 lbs can use the seat without the headrest. That makes for a pretty compact seat — roughly 27.5 inches front to back. With the headrest attached for children who weigh more than 22 lbs, the seat measures 32 inches front to back.
Like some other Baby Trend seats, the harness features an additional set of loops that are stitched into the harness. Presumably, these loops are for use with the tiniest of passengers since they’d make the harness smaller. However, the manual doesn’t mention them at all.
Baby Trend shared the following information with us about these loops:
The extra set of loops was added in case a consumer needs extra adjustment. The outer loops that are installed splitters from the factory will give the consumers the snuggest fit for their child.
We take this to mean that the loops can be used whenever necessary. They split from the main harness to give the consumer the best fit for their child. One word of caution: the splitter plate on the PROtect Convertible Sport is a bit more complex than traditional splitter plates so we’d suggest keeping the manual handy when switching to these smaller loops.
Fit to Child
Our newborn doll is 7 lbs and 17 inches long. With the harness covers on the straps, the shoulder straps are right at her shoulders and the harness fits her reasonably well. An improvement over the First Years version of this seat is the smaller Baby Trend chest clip, which will help the harness fit newborns quite well in terms of shoulder width.
We did notice that the harness pads made getting the chest clip into the right position a challenge. With work and careful placement and conscious focus by the parent, the chest clip can be positioned properly.
Newborn Doll — No harness covers
Since the harness covers are optional, we removed them to see how the seat would fit our newborn doll. Removing the harness from the splitter plate was a bit tricky — we’d recommend following the manual when making this change. Without the harness covers, the straps are above the doll’s shoulders.
3 Weeks Old
This young model wasn’t too thrilled about testing this seat for us but we’re glad that he did! He’s 3 weeks old, weighs 10 lbs and is 21 inches tall. With the infant padding in the seat, the lowest harness slots were just at his shoulders.
The manual does not address whether or not the harness pads are required. Baby Trend let us know that the harness pads could be removed by disconnecting the harness from the splitter plate for a better fit to child. With both of our newborn models, the chest clip was too low with the harness pads left on.
2 Years Old
This young model just celebrated his 2nd birthday. He had mixed feelings about the seat but his father reported that buckling him in was pretty painless. The only struggle was in finding the buckle tongues — they tended to hide down in the cover a bit. Once he was secured in the seat, it fit him well. He’s got plenty of room to grow in this seat!
When marketed by First Years, this seat had a comparatively low 35 lb rear facing limit. As my youngest daughter reached that 35 lb mark, I lamented more than once that she would outgrow the seat by weight. We’re beyond thrilled to see that the PROtect Convertibles have a 40 lb rear facing weight limit. This increased weight limit means that most children can ride rear facing in this seat until close to their 4th birthdays.
Installation: Forward Facing
Because my primary model is over the 45 lb lower anchor weight limit, my default installation method is with the seat belt. I’m working with a 2016 VW GTI that’s fabulous in almost every way. Except for installing car seats. It’s got a dip in the seat, fixed and recessed buckle stalks, and a nonremovable headrest. This combination makes for a very small number of seats that install without too much trouble.
This issue is definitely the fault of the car, not the car seats I’ve been reviewing!
That disclaimer aside, installing the PROtect Sport in my car went about like I’d expected. It took a little time, but here’s what worked: raising the vehicle headrest to the highest position, then pushing the PROtect Sport back into the seat with all the force my non-dominant hand could muster. I was able to wedge the seat into a good spot and remove the slack from the vehicle belt for a solid install.
The belt path on the Protect Elite model of this seat features a very nice lockoff device that helps keep the seat belt or lower anchors tucked nicely into the belt path. This model of the seat doesn’t have that lockoff so I found the belt slipping out of the belt path a bit. Our contact at Baby Trend assured us that wasn’t an issue.
Fit to Child
4 Years Old
This little cutie is 4.5 years old, weighs 32 lbs and is 38 inches tall. She finds the seat comfy and likes the seat. There’s lots of room for her to grow in this seat.
She’s able to buckle herself in without issue but isn’t able to unbuckle herself. She’s also found that the harness straps tend to twist a bit as she’s getting in and out of the seat.
6 Years Old
This model is 6 years old, 50 lbs, and 45 inches tall. Though she’s 15 lbs below the seat’s max weight of 65 lbs, she’s at the very top of the height limit. The deep headwings offer a lot of side support but did tend to make her a bit cramped in the seat.
She uses up all of the harness length. She’s able to buckle herself in and out of her seats so I left that to her. She struggled with undoing both the chest clip and the buckle on every ride. This could make the PROtect Convertible Sport a nice option for children who like to escape from their car seats.
We’re pleased to see that Baby Trend has taken this seat and made a lot of significant improvements without sacrificing the features that made the True Fit a solid option in well-priced convertible seats.
Our friends at Baby Trend are giving one lucky winner a PROtect Sport Convertible. Enter below for your chance to win! Can’t wait to see if you’ve won? The seat is available at Wal-Mart and from Walmart.com.
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Originally published March 11, 2016. Updated July 25, 2016 with info about the harness straps.