When the Car Seats for the Littles team first saw the Evenflo Spectrum booster seat at the ABC Show in Las Vegas in October 2016, I think we must have all looked like a group of puppies. Heads cocked, ears up, eyes forward, looking at what looked like something new. Sure, it was a booster seat, but it looked like a booster seat from the future!
Finally! We’ve had a chance use the Spectrum in real life! One of the regular booster riders from our Littles team has had a chance to use it and share her thoughts. She’s used it in high back mode, she’s used it in backless mode, and she’s even had a chance to take it on a field trip — she’s put the Spectrum through the full range of booster use!
I’ll save you the suspense. She loves it.
CSFTL Quick Stats:
- High back booster weight range: 40-110 pounds
- High back booster height range: 44-57 inches
- Backless booster weight range: 40-110 pounds
- Backless booster height range: 44-57 inches
- Highest booster guide position: 21.5 inches (no head restraint from the car necessary)
- Expiration: Six years
- Width: 18 inches at the armrests and shoulders
- Width: 21.5 inches at the headrest
- Weight: 11 pounds
The Spectrum has a couple of unique features that we’ve come to love. The first are the armrests. They’re unlike others in that they’re in front of the belt guides, not the top part of the belt guides. These armrests make for easy buckling by the kiddo and their placement means no confusion about where the seat belt goes.
The seat also has a feature that we’re seeing more and more — side impact protection. Evenflo has included their side impact cushions at the head area of the booster, called the LYF+Guard Advanced Compression Technology™.
The Spectrum has cupholders on either side of the booster. While both my model and I found them a little difficult to get out at first, they’re very tall and roomy. My Little couldn’t get them out at all when she was sitting in the Spectrum, but if they were slightly extended as she got into the seat, she could slide them out the rest of the way while she was seated. My 32 ounce Powerade water bottle was very comfortably supported, and fit well. I was impressed by that.
No Padding Gap!!!
When the Spectrum’s headrest is raised, it does not have a gap in padding like other previous Evenflo boosters or like many, many other boosters on the market. Some of the models who help us review booster seats have a significant struggle with this padding gap, so this feature thrilled us most of all!
At 11 pounds, The Spectrum is light enough for kids to carry themselves. The bottom portion of the seat remains attached to the high back portion so young travellers and caregivers don’t have to worry about the back falling off while it’s in transit.
We like to pretend that we’re not swayed by bright colors or pretty car seats, but sometimes, we are. While the Spectrum that we reviewed has a fairly sedate color palate, the other colors are pretty robust! Check out some of the options available!
Assembling the Spectrum is unlike a lot of other boosters where you have to lay the seat flat, then attach the back to assemble. The final step in this type of assembly is to fold the booster back up and hope the back portion of the seat stays on. With the Spectrum you slide a large Tab A into Slot B and the seat connects without a lot of struggle. It has an audible click that is remarkably satisfying. To undo, push up on the tabs and pull the tab back out.
High Back Booster Installation
The only downside to the Spectrum is the lack of lower anchors. I can understand why Evenflo did not include them, since the booster is unbelievably well priced, but it’s still something to keep in mind. So as a high back booster, or backless, when it’s not in use it should be buckled in to prevent it being a projectile in case of a crash. For a high back booster, simply route the shoulder belt through the belt guide. Make sure it’s completely into the belt guide and moving freely. I caught the belt in the guide once or twice thinking it fully threaded when it wasn’t completely in the guide. That was 100% user error, I admit it. It’s far easier to get a belt in a belt guide from the shoulder belt side of the car than leaning across. But because the belt guide looks like a curly Q, make sure it’s all the way in.
Town & Country! Caravan! Routan Goodness*!
Among all the things that make the Spectrum a new favorite is the exciting news for Chrysler Town & Country/Dodge Caravan or Grand Caravan/VW Routan owners! This booster fits with the headrest all the way up in the outer seats of the third row and while allowing the seat belt to retract with ease. The massive benefit to the curly Q shaped shoulder belt guide is that it really holds the shoulder belt in. The shoulder belt guide is also large enough to let the vehicle belt slide freely, no matter how awkward the angle of where the seat belt fits into the booster is. Those pesky and annoying outer seats in the third row are no match for this booster. This scenario is kind of the Holy Grail in booster placement. Combine that awesome placement with a 21. 5 inch top belt guide height and the fantastic price point, and the Spectrum is a solid, long-lasting choice in that hard-to-fit outer seating positions.
*Unfortunately, this finding isn’t 100%, though we’d very much like it to be. Some caregivers report that the vehicle seat belt doesn’t retract particularly well if the child leans too far forward. We’d suggest using Spectrum in this seating position if the child is able to sit properly and not lean too far forward.
At the armrests and shoulders this booster is 18 inches across, which is fairly narrow. At the headrest, it’s 21.5 inches due to the added LYF+Guard cushions. My Little says three children were in the second row of a van for her field trip, and all three boosters fit well. She generally knows proper booster use, and would tell me if something was glaringly wrong, but I wasn’t there to see it myself. But it’s encouraging to have her tell me about sitting with her two classmates for a field trip. Because of the lack of armrests in the way, I didn’t need to worry about her remembering if the shoulder belt goes over or under the armrest.
Backless Booster Installation
As a backless booster the Spectrum is even easier to use. Simply put the booster on the seat, have the child sit in it, and buckle themselves in. In both modes the lap and shoulder portion of the belt goes under the little lip for the belt guide at the hip. With the back it simply just happens, nearly by accident. But backless it takes a little more effort. Very little, though. Without instruction, my Little booster rider simply did it. It may be intuitive for your child, or it may not. I double checked the first time she rode in it backless, just to make sure.
The Spectrum comes with a separate shoulder belt clip for backless mode. It’s threaded through a slot at the middle back of the backless booster and can be used for a shoulder belt on either side from there. I found the belt fit was good in the cars in which I used it without the clip, so as per Evenflo’s instructions in the manual, I didn’t use it (they say to use it IF necessary, it’s not required).
Fit to Child
High Back Mode
5 Years Old
This model is 5 years old. She weights 40 pounds and is 44 inches tall. She found the Spectrum quite comfortable. She’s able to buckle herself in with ease. She did find the cupholders hard to pull out on her own.
She has fallen asleep in the Spectrum and was able to remain in the proper seating position — she didn’t slump over at all. She’s brand new to booster riding, her Mom is confident that the deep headrest will be a nice reminder for her to sit properly as she learns to ride in a booster full time.
6 Years Old
This model is 6 years old, weighs 68 pounds, and is 45 inches tall. He’s got plenty of room to grow and he was thrilled to have some space between the sides of his legs and the side of the booster. He reports that the Spectrum is quite comfortable. (Because of the way his shirt is lying, it might look like the belt is on his stomach, but it is actually on his lap where it should be.)
7 Years Old
The high back mode fit is fantastic. At nearly 7.5 years old, 58 pounds, and 49″, wearing a 7/8 shirt, this Little is on the third to highest click of the headrest. She’d still have probably two to three years in this as a high back booster. The belt on her hips was spot on, and since the high back belt guide is adjustable to several levels, the shoulder fit was also perfect with only some slight adjusting the first time I put her in it.
In backless mode the belt fit was just as good as the high back mode. The shoulder belt was solidly across my little Little’s collarbone and the lap belt sat low on her hips. Without armrests in the way of the lower belt guide, our model had no trouble buckling herself in properly.
Important Information: Where to Find
FAA Approval: Since this is a booster seat, it is not aircraft approved. With a 21. 5 inch top belt guide height, it would be a great booster for travel because it will fit most kids to a solid 8/10 size shirt, if not a bit taller, with the back on. That way whatever car you’re using is an option as long as it has a shoulder belt. It’s not heavy, and can be broken down into two pieces to fit in the overhead bin, or under the seat in front (for the backless) and in the overhead (for the back).
Thoughts from our Little
The only downside my Little had with this seat was that she couldn’t cross her legs (which is fine in a booster IF it doesn’t change the belt fit, or cause the legs to be shoved against the back of a front seat that doesn’t allow such contact). She could put an ankle on a knee and put one up, but not bring both knees up at the same time. She mentioned this two or three times, so it’s definitely something that was on her mind as she rode in it, but she said how much she loved the seat far more often. She found it exceedingly comfortable, and I like for how long the high back portion of the booster can be used.
I found two downsides with the Spectrum. The first is the lack of lower anchors. They’re not an increased safety feature as far as we know for the child, but they mean the seat does need to be buckled in when not in use. At the price point, though, I can definitely understand why they’re not there, and I love the height and longevity this booster gives for the price.
The second was the cupholders. If they’re bumped out a bit they can be opened and closed by the child, but fresh out of the box they’re stiff and harder to open. It took me getting them out for the first time for them to work. They also have some corners within them, and they’re not removable, so cleaning required using a baby wipe to try to get into the corners. They did clean up very well, as did the armrests. This was definitely a real life test, so naturally without prompting she got the booster dirty.
Overall, my daughter and I are absolutely thrilled with this booster. We love the ease of assembly, installation, use, lightness, and I think the patterns for the covers are great fun. This seat is available for purchase in Canada as well, starting just under the $100 CAD price point.
To celebrate Child Passenger Safety Week, our friends at Evenflo are giving one Spectrum away to a lucky reader in the United States. Please read our terms and conditions before entering. Enter below for your chance to win!
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