Britax convertible car seats have long been well-respected, easy to use staples of the car seat world. Britax announced that they’re phasing out the G4 series convertibles (Marathon, Boulevard, and Advocate) and replacing them with the Essentials line, which features the Emblem and the Allegiance. We’ll take a look at both the Emblem and the Allegiance in this review.
The Emblem has a head restraint while the Allegiance has a head pad.
CSFTL Quick Stats
- Rear facing weight range: 5-40 pounds
- Rear facing height range: head 1 inch from the top of the headrest/head pad
- Forward facing weight range: 20-65 pounds
- Forward facing height range: up to 49 inches tall
- Lowest harness height: 8 inches; 6 inches with the insert
- Highest harness height: 16.75 inches
- 7 year expiration
- Lower anchor weight limit: 40 pounds
- Safe Cell technology in both the base and Impact Absorbing Chest Pads
- No rethread harness
- Premium lower anchor connectors
- Seat pan depth: 11 inches
- Seat pan width: 11 inches
- Width at shoulders: 13 inches
- Crotch buckle positions: 5 and 7.5 inches from the back of the seat’s shell
- Width at widest point: 18.5 inches near crotch buckle slots
- Weight: 18 pounds (Emblem); 17.5 pounds (Allegiance)
I know this sounds like a small thing, but we work in a world where a clear label on a key part of a car seat can make a huge difference in how safely that car seat is used. So every time we encounter labels that remove any doubt about how to use something, we get pretty excited.
Crotch Buckle Rules
Among the Emblem and Allegiance’s many awesome labels is this petite beauty. It’s right next to the crotch buckle adjustment slot and lists exactly when each position can be used! Inner slot rules: rear facing with the vehicle seat belt, rear facing with the lower anchors, or forward facing for children who weigh under 30 pounds.
Outer slot rules: rear facing with lower anchor connectors or forward facing for children who weigh over 30 pounds.
But don’t just take our word for it, check it out on the label!
Lower Anchor Storage and Top Tether Use
The lower anchors store at the back of the seat’s shell. It’s easy to determine this because there’s a nice, clear label right there! The label also explains how to use the top tether.
Lower Anchor Use
The Emblem and Allegiance also include a label explaining how to attach the lower anchors.
Top Tether Use
There’s also a label explaining how to use the top tether. Since this key piece of the seat is often overlooked, we’re thrilled at anything that calls attention to the top tether! Especially when that something is a clear label.
Handy Carry Handle
Some car seats are ridiculously hard to carry around. While many families leave their car seats installed for long periods of time and are able to forget all about that particular challenge, other families and your trusty team of reviewers find themselves moving car seats around fairly often. The Emblem and Allegiance include a Very Nice handle at the top of the seat’s back that makes moving them between cars a breeze.
If your family falls in the “we move our car seats around all the time” category, the Emblem and Allegiance make that particular task so easy.
Tether Storage Pocket
In my day, our G3 series Boulevard and the series of white-shelled Marathons that kept my oldest daughter safe when she rode in a harnessed car seat all included a reasonably handy storage pocket on the back of the cover. This pocket worked very well to hold the absurdly long tether anchor webbing and (back in the day) a D-ring to connect the rear facing tether that Britax used to allow.
Today’s modern storage pocket is an entirely different story. It’s smaller and made of a firm type of neoprene that serves no other purpose than to spit out the top tether at the most inconvenient times.
Side Impact Protection
Since there are no federal standards around side impact protection yet, it is hard for us to quantify, in terms of safety, the side impact protection of any particular feature. Nevertheless, the Emblem and Allegiance do both include side impact protection and a “stabilizing steel frame.”
Essentials in Canada
Allegiance and Emblems that are sold in Canada require an anti-rebound bar for rear facing installations. That bar is included with the seat and instructions for use are found in the manual for those seats.
Installation: Rear Facing
Installing the Emblem and Allegiance rear facing using lower anchors is pretty darn simple. Adjust the recline so the seat is in position 3 (most reclined), set it on the vehicle seat, pull the lower anchors to the front of the car seat (closest to the vehicle’s back), then attach the lower anchors. These anchors are attached to the outside of the car seat and slide easily between the rear facing and forward facing positions. Once the lower anchors are attached, the seat cover pulls neatly out of the way to make the belt path VERY accessible. I was able to pull the lower anchor webbing straight up while applying pressure in the seating area with my other hand. Britax includes adjusters on both sides of the seat, so it’s a matter of pulling first one side, then the other to remove the slack from the webbing.
Another method is to stand behind the seat, grasp a lower anchor adjustment strap in each hand, lean forward against the seat and pull both straps, rocking side to side and alternating which strap you pull. This is the best method when the seat needs to be reclined more (see below).
Confession: I’ve installed Britax convertibles about a bazillion times so nothing was surprising about this install. The best part was seeing how accessible the belt path is now. I was able to get a solid install on this seat in about 5 seconds flat. Caregivers who are newer to Britax car seats may require more time for a secure install, but hopefully not too much more than that.
A Note about Recline Positions
The manual instructs caregivers to “Recline the unoccupied child seat to position 3” but doesn’t offer an explanation of what position 3 is in the rear facing installation section of the manual. These positions are explained in the Seat Positions section of the manual, but we’d love to see this explanation in the relevant section as well. These positions are also not outlined anywhere on the seat itself.
These recline positions and the lack of labeling have been part of Britax convertibles for quite some time. Our 2006 Marathon (sniff, my 12 year old daughter’s first convertible car seat!!) had but 2 positions and the same lack of label. Since that time, I’ve seen more than a few Britax convertible car seats in the wrong recline position for the direction it was facing. We’d love to see some kind of indicator or explanation added to the seat’s set of clear labels.
Note about Recline Angle
The Emblem and Allegiance include a line on the outside of the seat shell that says “ANGLE GUIDE FOR REAR FACING INSTALLATIONS.” Possibly, the caps lock key was stuck. This line is a bit different from a level line that we’d see on other car seats where the line on the seat represents the only allowable recline angle for rear facing installations. In this case, the GUIDE is a label that explains the guidelines for rear facing angles. On our Emblem, this GUIDE is partially hidden by the rather poofy seat cover so we had to really work to get this picture.
Review dog Leroy didn’t help. He’s getting older but still does his best to contribute to every review photo I take.
In this case, the manual explains that when the line is parallel to the ground, the angle is 37.5 degrees. The manual also provides the following guidelines:
- When installed for children who are unable to maintain head and neck control, the Emblem and Allegiance should be at a 45 degree recline angle.
- When installed for children who can maintain head and neck control, the Emblem and Allegiance can be installed as upright as 30 degrees.
We find that this type of variation between the line on the seat and the text in the manual leaves a little too much up to the caregiver. While many smartphones now include compass apps with a level indicator, we’d prefer that Britax provide a way to gauge the appropriate recline angle without any special tools or estimating.
Vehicle Seat Belt
The Emblem and Allegiance include lockoffs in the rear facing and forward facing belt paths. With the cover pulled down to expose the belt path, accessing the lockoffs is quite easy. Open the lockoff closest to the buckle, then slide the vehicle seat belt through the rear facing belt path, over the now-open lockoff. Pull the slack out of the vehicle seat belt while applying pressure in the seating area with your other hand. I find it easiest to pull the loose webbing closest to the buckle.
Once all of the slack is removed from the vehicle seat belt, close the lockoff closest to the buckle. Fold the bottom section of the lockoff over the vehicle seat belt first, then close the other section and push on the lockoff where it says ‘Push.’ This particular label is a bit confusing — it’s not obvious (to me, anyway, no doubt some smarter people on the internet will claim that it’s so very obvious to them) when exactly in the installation process that the pushing should occur.
I’d prefer that this label read ‘close’ or something that indicates that a caregiver would push the lockoff closed as the final step of the installation.
Fit to Child
Newborn Doll – Emblem
Our newborn Huggable Images doll is 17 inches long and weighs 7 pounds. The infant insert is required for rear facing use with children who weigh less than 22 pounds. With the infant insert in place, I had to move the headrest up a click to fit this doll properly. The headrest seems to push the doll’s head forward a bit.
The infant insert includes these teeny tiny velcro tabs to hold it in place around each side of the harness strap. I spent a lot of time struggling with these little tabs but eventually got them into place.
Newborn – Allegiance
This model is 2 weeks old. She weighs 8 pounds and is 21 inches long. Here we see her in the Allegiance.
The Emblem has EPP foam in the headrest, while the Allegiance does not. This means that the headrest of the Emblem juts out from the seat more than the Allegiance head pad does. Because of this, the Allegiance did not have the same issue of head slump as the Emblem. She has an extremely long torso, and the headrest was positioned two clicks up from the bottom position. Despite this, she fit well in the Allegiance, and her head was not pushed forward.
13 Months Old
This young man is 13 months old. He weighs almost 20 pounds and is 30 inches tall. He was quite displeased with his photo session! Because he weighs less than 22 pounds, he must still use the infant insert. The buckle was very tight in the crotch area on him.
3 Year Old
This child is almost 4 years old and still rides rear facing! He weighs 35 pounds and is 38 inches tall. He found the Allegiance comfortable, though his legs were a bit cramped. While many parents worry that cramped legs are a safety issue, they’re not. He’s perfectly safe riding rear facing in this seat.
Impact Absorbing Chest Pads
The Emblem includes Impact Absorbing Chest Pads (the Chest Pads Formerly Known as HUGS). These large rubber pads are optional for rear facing and recommended for forward facing.
The manual explains this on page 37. Since the rear facing installation section starts on page 6, the placement of this guideline is a little challenging. Recognizing that manual space is in high demand, we still would like to see this instruction placed closer to the rear facing and forward facing installation sections.
Here’s the official language:
IMPORTANT: Impact absorbing chest pads are highly recommended for forward-facing mode. Removal of chest pads is optional for rear-facing mode to ensure a snug fit for small infants.
Forward Facing Installation: Lower Anchors
It’s hard to beat the simplicity of installing these seats with the lower anchors. To move the seat from rear facing to either forward facing position 1 or 2, squeeze the recline adjuster at the front of the seat with one hand, then move the seat shell more upright at the same time.
Note about Recline Positions
These seats include two recline positions for forward facing mode. The manual leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to explaining these positions.
Here’s what it says:
Adjust this child seat to position 1 or 2 and place forward-facing on the vehicle seat (see page 24).
Ensure that no more than 3 in. (7.6 cm) of the base hangs over the edge of the vehicle seat.
IMPORTANT: Use this child seat in position 1 with a child over 40 lbs (18 kg).
These positions are sort of explained in the Seat Positions section of the manual, but we’d love to see this explanation in the relevant section as well. These positions are also not indicated anywhere on the seat itself. From what we can tell, position 2 would be for forward facing use with a child who weighs under 40 pounds. Children who weigh over 40 pounds need to use the most upright reclined position.
Back to Installation….
Before installing the seat or connecting the lower anchors, take the top tether and move it to the front of the car seat or loosely attach it to the tether anchor on the vehicle. That way, it won’t get trapped behind the car seat while it’s being installed.
The lower anchor connectors slide quite easily from the rear facing to the forward facing position via a metal bar on the outside of the seat’s shell. This setup makes it virtually impossible to install these seats with the lower anchor connectors in the wrong belt path. Once the lower anchor connectors are in the right location, attach them to the vehicle’s lower anchors. Pull the cover down to expose the belt path, then pull both sides of the webbing toward the middle of the seat. Apply pressure to the rounded portion of the car seat’s shell (right about where the child’s rear end goes when they’re sitting in the seat) and remove the slack from both sides of the lower anchor webbing until there’s less than one inch of movement in any direction. The final step is to attach the top tether and pull it tight.
Forward Facing Installation: Vehicle Seat Belt
When my youngest daughter rode in a G3 series Britax Boulevard, I drove a Mazda 5. That car featured some pretty flat vehicle seating areas and presented very few installation challenges in the second row. I mention this because I installed that Boulevard in so many places and had so very few challenges along the way so please take what I’m about to say with a giant grain of salt.
Today, I drive a 2016 VW GTI that’s got some rather very recessed seating areas and recessed buckle stalks that present all kinds of installation challenges that I dutifully report back to you in detail. When I installed the Emblem, I noticed that the vehicle seat belt got bunched up around some plastic in the belt path. I had to really work the excess webbing back into the retractor to remove the slack.
Once all of the slack is removed from the vehicle seat belt, close the lockoff closest to the buckle. Fold the bottom section of the lockoff over the vehicle seat belt first, then close the other section and push on the lockoff where it says ‘Push.’ This particular label is a bit confusing — it’s not obvious when exactly in the installation process that the pushing should occur.
As for the rear facing lockoff I’d prefer that this label indicate that closing the lockoff is the final step of the installation.
Fit to Child
3 Year Old
Here is our 3 year old model from above, who still rides rear facing but was happy to show off the Allegiance forward facing. He’s 35 pounds and 38 inches.
4 Year Old
This model is a good friend of the CSFTL family. She’s 4 years old and rides rear facing most of the time. She weighs 35 pounds and is 40 inches tall. She’s got a bit of room left to grow in the Emblem. It offers her a good fit.
We did have some trouble adjusting the headrest around the upper positions. It seems to really stick between the second highest and highest positions. We didn’t have this issue with our older G3 and G4 series Britax convertible seats.
Our friends at Britax suggested that we make sure we’re pulling directly up when squeezing the handle. That seems to help eliminate some of the struggle.
5 Year Old
This little pixie is 5 years old. She weighs 31 pounds and is 41 inches tall. Though she was not thrilled with her photoshoot, she was quite comfortable forward facing in the Allegiance, and she’s got plenty of room to grow in this seat.
Important Information: Where to Find
FAA Approval label: the Allegiance and Emblem are approved for use on aircraft. The label is found on the bottom of the seat’s shell. We traveled with our G3 series convertible for years because they’re not terribly heavy and install like a boss. The changes between our older seat and these seats will only make installation even easier!
Date of Manufacture label: this label is found on the outside of the seat’s shell, behind the child’s left shoulder.
Manual storage: the manual stores in a flap on the cover behind the child’s back.
Here’s what it looks like once it’s stored in that handy flap.
Families who know and love the G4 series of Britax convertible car seats will find everything they know and love in both of these seats. Since the Emblem has the higher top harness position, that flavor of the seat is the longer-lasting option between the two.
These seats install almost anywhere with a minimal struggle and fit every child we put in them well. This makes them a really nice option for families who need to move car seats around a lot or travel. There’s an ease of use and consistent harness fit with Britax that’s hard to beat, and these latest offerings are no exception!