When the Cosco Scenera NEXT convertible car seat was released in 2015, we were eager to meet this low priced, lightweight convertible car seat. Since that first meeting, the Scenera NEXT has become a mainstay of the car seat world and a popular budget-friendly travel car seat.
CSFTL Quick Stats
- Rear facing weight range: 5-40 pounds
- Rear facing height range: 19-40 inches
- Forward facing weight range: 22-40 pounds
- Forward facing height range: 29-43 inches
- Shell height: 23 inches
- Lowest harness position: 5 inches
- Highest harness position: 13 inches
- Expiration: 8 years from date of manufacture
- 3 crotch buckle strap positions: 2, 3, and 4.5 inches from the back of the seat
- Width at widest point (by the child’s hips): 17 inches
- Seat Weight: 6.8 pounds
At first glance, the NEXT appears to be a bare-bones car seat. However, it’s got some very important features. The Cosco Scenera NEXT is:
- Incredibly light, just 6.8 pounds!
- Well suited for travel
Not only that, it:
- Fits tiny infants well
- Is narrow
- Is fairly compact
In addition, it’s available in many different and very cute patterns. It’s the perfect car seat for many situations. And it includes a cupholder!
When the Scenera NEXT was first released, the rules around how upright the seat can be installed were pretty loose. Since that time, Cosco has clarified exactly how upright the Scenera NEXT can be installed.
When it’s installed rear facing for a child who can sit unassisted, the grommets located on the bottom of the shell MUST make contact with the vehicle seat.
UPDATE: Newer versions of the Scenera NEXT (mid 2019 date of manufacture) do not allow the seat to be installed more upright than the level line when rear facing. Be sure to follow the manual that came with your seat.
At current writing, the NEXT is manufactured in at least 20 different colors and patterns. Though not all may be available at the same time, there is sure to be a pattern to fit everyone’s taste!
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).
Optional Harness Covers
Harness covers are now available for purchase by contacting Cosco.
Installation: Lower Anchors
It’s a bold claim but we’re happy to make it: the Cosco Scenera NEXT is among the easiest of any to install rear facing.
To install rear facing with the lower anchors, make sure the lower anchor strap is in the rear facing belt path. Look on your seat for the label indicating the rear facing belt path.
Hook the lower anchor connectors on the car seat onto the lower anchors in the vehicle. The easiest way to tighten the lower anchor strap is to peel back the cover on the side with the adjuster. Pull the adjuster strap through the hole in the plastic shell, as shown in the photo.
Installation: Vehicle Seat Belt
To install rear facing with the vehicle seat belt, route the belt through the rear facing belt path and buckle it in. Remove all slack from the lap portion of the vehicle seat belt by pressing down into the car seat right where the child’s bottom will go.
Once all of the slack is removed from the seat belt, lock the vehicle seat belt into child seat mode. In most cars, this is done by pulling the seat belt out all the way until it doesn’t go anymore, then slowly feeding it back into the vehicle. You’ll hear a clicking noise that confirms the seat belt is now in child seat mode.
From that point, feed the seat belt back into the vehicle while maintaining pressure on the car seat until there’s less than one inch of movement at the belt path. In some cars, you may need to pull back the NEXT cover to tighten the shoulder belt. In other cars, you can pull the belt out to the side as shown in the photo, then feed the slack back into the retractor.
Newborn Harness Routing – Some Good News
The Scenera NEXT offers newborn harness routing for its smallest occupants. This alternate strap routing on the underside of the seat must be used when the straps are in the lowest slots; otherwise, the harness would not be able to get tight enough to pass the pinch test.
The manual directs us that for rear facing, we should always use the shoulder slot at or below the child’s shoulders. The second slot up on the Scenera NEXT would be the appropriate slot for some newborns and small infants with a longer torso.
According to the manual, the newborn routing is not allowed to be used for this slot, but on some thinner infants, the straps cannot be tightened enough without the newborn routing. Dorel has confirmed that if this is the case, the newborn routing can be used on the second slot. The manufacturer will be changing the manual to reflect this update. This change will ensure a snug fit on all of the seat’s tiniest occupants.
Follow the instructions in the manual carefully to change the straps to newborn routing. The crotch buckle must be rerouted as well. Taking phone pictures along the way helps!
Shell Height… and a History Lesson
If your Scenera NEXT was made in May 2016 or later, then it’s outgrown rear facing by torso height if the child’s head is less than 1 inch from the top. And you can move on to the next section of this review! But if your seat was made prior to May 2016, keep reading.
Seats made prior to May 2016 do not have this 1 inch rule. That is, they are outgrown by torso height when the child’s head reaches the top of the seat. We appreciated this fact! For some kids, this can mean even another year’s use of the seat, as long as the other limits have not been met. However, Dorel (the parent company of Cosco) changed this rule to standardize the Scenera NEXT with most other rear facing seats on the market.
For some Scenera NEXTs made prior to May 2016, the manual does indicate that a “1 inch rule” is in effect. Dorel confirmed this was a typo for these seats only.
Fit to Child
This little cutie (she’s not a doll!) was 7 pounds and 20 inches when we tried her in the Scenera NEXT with newborn routing. The seat fit her beautifully. The straps were below the shoulders and snug.
5 Month Old
This little is 5 months old, 16 pounds and 26 inches. The Scenera NEXT fits her like a glove. She was so happy in the seat, posing for the camera!
One Year Old
This is my son; he just turned one, and he’s 19 pounds and 29.5 inches. He has a long torso, so here we begin to see the limitations of the Scenera NEXT rear facing. Although he’s only one, it may not be much more than a year before he outgrows the seat by torso height, which happens when his head is less than an inch below the top of the seat.
Two Year Old
Three Year Old
This little is three years old, is 37 inches tall and weighs 29 pounds. Her torso is not that much taller than our one year old model’s! As always, this shows that kids come in all shapes and sizes. She still fits in the NEXT, and in fact it’s her regular seat, although her family also takes it on plane trips. (See below!)
Lower Anchor Weight Limit
There is in effect no lower anchor weight limit for this seat because the forward facing weight limit is 40 pounds, and the seat itself weighs about 7 pounds. That combined is well below the 65 pound maximum for the lower anchors.
Installing the Scenera NEXT forward facing can be a little tricky because it’s not always clear which part of the bottom of the Scenera NEXT should be touching the vehicle seat. We’re including the illustration from the manual to make this more clear.
Installation: Lower Anchors
To install with the lower anchors, move them to the forward facing belt path. Hook the lower anchor connectors on and tighten. As was the case with the rear facing installation, I found the vehicle seat belt to be easier than lower anchors.
Be sure to use the top tether for all forward facing installations, whether they’re with the lower anchors or the vehicle seat belt.
Installation: Vehicle Seat Belt
To install with the vehicle seat belt, thread the vehicle seat belt through the forward facing belt path, lock the belt and tighten. It may be necessary to pull back the cover to get the correct leverage to tighten.
Fit to Child
This seat is often outgrown forward facing before it’s outgrown rear facing, and here’s why: The straps must be above the shoulders for forward facing. However, the highest strap slot is lower than the shoulders of most three year olds! Truly, there is no reason to use the Scenera NEXT forward facing, especially given the 40 pound weight limit. However, if it does fit your child, meaning the straps are above the shoulders, and the child is over 2 years old, then it is safe.
Three Year Old
I had to search far and wide – ok, among my son’s preschool class – to find a 3 year old who fit in this seat forward facing. But then, I located one! She’s 3 years old, weighs 30 pounds and is 36 inches tall. The harness straps are above her shoulders, and she’s got just a bit of room to grow in the seat.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t include a section on travel in this review. The Scenera NEXT is an incredible travel seat. It’s lightweight, it fits under larger strollers, and it can be hung on the handle of a smaller stroller using the top tether strap. It can be placed inside an umbrella stroller, or it can be toted in the extra seat of a double stroller. It installs at any angle for a child who can sit up, enabling it to fit in even the smallest airplane seats. (One note of caution: it may not fit on an airplane at the full recline needed for newborns and small infants.) Seat belt installation is quick and easy, which is so important for those airport curbside installations.
One drawback – perhaps the only one – is that the Scenera NEXT does not come with a locking clip, which is necessary for installation in many cars outside the US and Canada. A locking clip can be taken from another car seat – they’re interchangeable – or ordered from Cosco.
Because the Scenera NEXT is only 17 inches wide, it can fit in some tight spots where other seats cannot. It’s a great choice for many three across situations.
Important Information: Where to Find
Expiration: Etched into the back of the NEXT is the fact that it expires 8 years after the date of manufacture. The date of manufacture can be found on a label on the right side of the seat, near the rear facing belt path.
Manual Storage: The Scenera NEXT features three tabs to hold the manual on the top of the back of the seat.
FAA Approval: The FAA approval can be found on a label on the left side of the seat near the rear facing belt path. The Scenera NEXT is a great car seat to take on an airplane!
The Scenera NEXT is a terrific lightweight seat which fits most children well in rear facing mode from birth to age 2.5 or 3. At $40 or less, that’s worth it! It makes an excellent travel seat as well since it’s so lightweight. We recommend it for some or all of the rear facing portion of your child’s car seat career.