Evenflo Symphony Review

(Last Updated On: December 1, 2017)
Evenflo Symphony

Evenflo Symphony

Evenflo offers a wide range of car seats and booster seats.  In the middle of their lineup of convertible and multimode car seats is the well-featured Symphony.  This plush car seat isn’t particularly long lasting or easy to move between vehicles but it has plenty of interesting features to offer.

CSFTL Quick Stats

  • Rear facing weight limit: 5-40 pounds
  • Rear facing height limit: less than 40 inches tall, bottom 3 headrest positions only
  • Forward facing weight range: 22-65 pounds
  • Forward facing height limit: less than 50 inches tall
  • High back booster mode weight range: 40-110 pounds
  • High back booster mode height range: 43.3-57 inches tall
  • 8 year expiration
  • Lowest harness position: 6 inches (with infant insert)
  • Highest harness position: 16 inches. The Infinite Slide makes this measurement a bit challenging — your mileage may vary.
  • Highest booster shoulder belt guide position: 19 inches

Features

  • SURELATCH self ratcheting lower anchor connectors
  • Infinite Slide harness
  • Steel-reinforced frame
  • Lower anchor compatible in booster mode

Measurements

  • Fit restrictions: Top of child’s head must be at least 1 inch below the top of the child restraint headrest in any of its three lowest positions
  • Crotch buckle depth: 6 inches with insert
  • Width at widest point: 20 inches at the cupholders
  • Width at narrowest point: 15.5 inches at the top of the seat
  • Weight: 21 pounds

Features

Infinite Slide Harness/Adjustable Headrest

Evenflo Symphony harness

Evenflo Symphony harness

This type of harness positions the harness in the right place for the child by adjusting up and down as the harness is tightened.  Just position the red tabs on the harness at the child’s shoulder, then tighten the harness until the straps pass the pinch test.

If the harness is too high, it will slide down to the correct position when properly tightened to fit the child.

The Infinite Slide harness is separate from the headrest and the headrest has a specific rule around where it needs to be in relation to the harness.  In both rear and forward facing modes, the headrest must be on the position closest to the red tabs on the harness.

SURELATCH Lower Anchor Connectors

Evenflo Symphony SureLATCH

Evenflo Symphony SureLATCH

The DLX model of the Symphony includes SURELATCH connectors for lower anchor installations. They can be used to install the seat for children who weigh less than 40 pounds. The ratcheting mechanism inside the SURELATCH connectors makes lower anchor installations in many vehicles fairly simple.

Evenflo Symphony SureLATCH rear facing

Evenflo Symphony SureLATCH rear facing

To install the Symphony using these anchor connectors, set the Symphony in the correct direction on the vehicle seat, attach the SURELATCH connectors to the vehicle’s lower anchors, then grab the seat with both hands — one on each side of the car seat for even pressure — then push the Symphony into the vehicle seat.

Evenflo Symphony SureLATCH forward facing

Evenflo Symphony SureLATCH forward facing

SURELATCH is an easy to use option in many vehicles but it’s not as effective in vehicles with very deep-set lower anchors, or a high seat bight.  The lower anchor connectors are clearly labeled for rear and forward facing positions but they can get entangled in the harness when they’re switched between rear and forward facing modes.

Evenflo SureLATCH storage

Evenflo SureLATCH storage

When the SURELATCH connectors are not in use, they’re stored in either the rear facing or forward facing settings on the provided d-rings on the outside of the seat’s cover.  There is also a storage ring for the tether, which must be stored when the seat is installed in rear facing mode.

SureSafe Installation

SureSafe In late 2014, Evenflo released a new set of features called SureSafe Installation on the Symphony exclusive to Walmart stores and Walmart.com.  These features include new quick release lower anchor connectors, lower anchor attachment guides, and a buckle pocket to store the buckle tongues while loading the child into the seat.

3 Modes

The Symphony offers rear facing and forward facing modes with a five point harness, plus a third mode — a high back belt positioning booster mode.

Three Car Seats Across

The Symphony is 20 inches at its widest point, the dual cup holders. This rather wide width means that the Symphony is likely not an option for three car seats across.

Seat Weight

Coming in at a solid 21 pounds, the Symphony isn’t lightweight, but that also means it isn’t as prone to tilting side to side like some lighter weight car seats.

Infant Insert

Included is a two piece comfort insert that can be used in rear facing mode only.  The head padding is secured via hidden velcro, and the body insert simply lays in the seat.

Recline Settings

Evenflo Symphony reclne positions

Evenflo Symphony reclne positions

There are three recline settings. Setting 1 is the required setting for rear facing.  Settings 2 and 3 can be used forward facing with the harness, and setting 3 is required for booster mode.

Rear Facing Recline Angle

Evenflo Symphony rear facing

Evenflo Symphony rear facing

In rear facing mode, the Symphony has a sizeable front to back footprint because the seat has a single required recline.

Evenflo Symphony rear facing recline line

Evenflo Symphony rear facing recline line

The recline angle is defined by a line on the side of the seat: the Symphony must be installed at an angle that makes that line level to the ground.

Rear Facing Height Limit

Evenflo Symphony 3 year old doll rear facing

Evenflo Symphony 3 year old doll rear facing

Current versions of the Symphony can only be used rear facing with the headrest in one of the three lowest positions. The headrest needs to stay above the child’s shoulders, so this limitation may mean that children outgrow the Symphony rear facing before they’re old enough to ride forward facing. Our 3 year old doll has the headrest on the 3rd position in order to have enough room for the harness to fit comfortably.

Manuals for older versions of this seat had a lower height limit and could only use the lowest 2 headrest positions. Evenflo made a retroactive change to a 40 inch rear facing height limit and to allow the 3 lowest headrest positions for rear facing use.

Fit to Child: Rear Facing

Newborn Doll

Evenflo Symphony: Newborn doll, 7 pounds, 17 inches long

Evenflo Symphony: Newborn doll, 7 pounds, 17 inches long

This newborn Huggable Images model weighs 7 pounds and is 17 inches long.   With the insert, the Symphony fit our model well with the harness at the lowest position. The insert was a bit awkward to position behind her and pushed her head forward a bit, but mostly offered a good harness fit.

6 Months Old

Evenflo Symphony: 6 months old, 18 pounds, 26 inches long

Evenflo Symphony: 6 months old, 18 pounds, 26 inches long

This model is 6 months old, weighs 18 pounds, and is 26 inches long.  The harness fit him better without the insert.  The harness is right at or below his shoulders when in the second to lowest position.

2.5 Years Old

Evenflo Symphony: 2.5 years old, 21 pounds and is 32 inches tall

Evenflo Symphony: 2.5 years old, 21 pounds and is 32 inches tall

Our toddler model is 2.5 years old, weighs 21 pounds, and is 32 inches tall.  The Symphony fit her well and the harness was just a hair below her shoulders. The headrest was on the second position.

Forward Facing Installation: Lower Anchors and Top Tether

The lower anchor weight limit for current models of this seat in forward facing mode is 45 pounds.  This number has changed a few times as regulations have changed; please check your seat’s manual and labels to confirm.

Switching the lower anchors between rear facing and forward facing modes has a few challenges. The Symphony has clear labeling and well written instructions in the manual but the actual moving of the anchors can take some time.  Pull the cover down to expose the belt path, then pull the lower anchor connectors from the rear facing belt path into the forward facing belt path.

The SureLATCH lower anchor connectors clip into the vehicle’s lower anchors.  Once they’re attached, grab the Symphony’s shell with both hands, then press the seat back into the vehicle’s seat back.  Keep pressing evenly until the SureLATCH has installed the Symphony securely into the vehicle.

Pro tip: in forward facing mode, stand in the back seat and push the car seat with a knee (do NOT kneel in the seat!) to remove more slack from the webbing and achieve a tighter install.

Forward Facing Installation: Vehicle Seat Belt

SymphonyFFInstall

Installing the Symphony using the vehicle seat belt is fairly simple.  Adjust the recline to positions 2 or 3, depending on the child’s weight. Children who weigh between 22-40 pounds need position 2; children who weigh between 22-65 pounds need recline position 3. Once the correct angle is set, place the Symphony on the vehicle seat and loosely attach the top tether to the tether anchor.

Lift the cover to expose the belt path, then thread the vehicle seat belt through the forward facing belt path.  Lock the vehicle seat belt, then press the Symphony back into the vehicle seat back while removing slack from the belt until the seat moves less than an inch in any direction.

Fit to Child

Three Year Old Doll

Evenflo Symphony 3 year old doll

Evenflo Symphony 3 year old doll

Our Huggable Images doll represents a 3 year old who weighs 38 pounds. Our doll’s shoulders are close to the top end of the harness slots.

Evenflo Symphony headrest harness slot

Evenflo Symphony headrest harness slot

The top harness slots measure roughly 16 inches but we’ve found that having a child in the seat results in something closer to a 15 inch top harness slot, which is pretty short-lived.

Converting to Booster Mode

The process for converting the Symphony to booster mode was pretty challenging and a bit frustrating at times.  It’s also the same process as converting the Evenflo SafeMax to booster mode so we’re borrowing our description of that process here.

The good news is that converting the Symphony to booster mode is something families are likely to do only once but I’d suggest keeping the manual handy during the process.

First, remove the seat pad (aka cover).  This part of the process got easier the second and third times I tried it but the first time tried my patience.  The clips that hold the seat pad in place are amply sized. Once I figured out which direction to pull each one, removing them was pretty simple.

After the seat pad is removed and the seat is pretty much naked, it’s time to remove the lower anchor from the forward facing belt path and set it into the seat pan so you can access the belt path.

Evenflo SafeMax Harness Storage

Evenflo SafeMax harness storage: the back side

Then, let all of the slack out of the harness and wrap it behind the shell of the seat.  Buckle the chest clip behind the seat, down at the base.  There are little plastic feet on the back of the seat that hold the harness in place.  The buckle tongues sort of hang out underneath the chest clip, remaining attached to the harness.

The last step is to tuck the top of the harness and permanently affixed harness pad covers into the harness slots.  This sounds so easy. It was not.

Eventually, I sort of figured out that twisting the very top of the harness strap just so, then tucking it into the harness slot at just the right angle allows it to almost lay flat.

The manual reminds caregivers that failure to tuck these harness pads completely into the seat could make a child uncomfortable. That was on my mind as I struggled to tuck them in.

Evenflo SafeMax harness storage

Evenflo SafeMax harness storage

We reached out to Evenflo for suggestions on how to find that sweet spot and get them stored comfortably out of the way. They suggested that we turn the harness tab so it is vertical and then insert from the top of the harness tab first towards the bottom of the track, pushing up. There is a larger bunch of webbing that is gathered at the top of the tab — inserting that first helps the rest lay flat in the track.

Despite all of my efforts, I never did get them quite flat.

Evenflo SafeMax crotch buckle storage

Evenflo SafeMax crotch buckle storage

The manual then instructs caregivers to put the seat in recline 1, the most reclined position, and remove the crotch buckle from the bottom of the seat. I found that the harness that was now wrapped around the back of the seat prevented the base from locking into place on recline 1.  So as I was attempting to remove the crotch buckle from the bottom of the reclined seat, the base kept slipping positions and the entire seat would move away from me.

I’d suggest removing the crotch buckle before wrapping the harness around the base of the seat.  This is out of the order listed in the manual but might be more effective.

Once accessed via the bottom of the seat pan, the crotch buckle pops out of place.  It stores right on the seat — it’s flipped upside down and locks into a flat position on the seat pan.  This is super handy — there’s no chance that the crotch buckle or harness can be misplaced while the seat’s in booster mode!

Fit to Child

Booster Mode

The Symphony has a nice belt fit in booster mode as well

The Symphony in booster mode

We describe the short-lived booster mode on a multimode car seat as a transitional booster — meaning that it will help new booster riders start their booster training but not last terribly long as the child grows.  The Symphony fit our models best right as they were outgrowing the seat in harnessed mode.

Important Information: Where to Find

Evenflo Symphony labels and manual storage

Evenflo Symphony labels and manual storage

FAA Approval: The Symphony is approved for use on aircraft in harnessed mode only.  The FAA label is on the back of the seat.
Manual Storage: The manal stores in slots on the back of the seat.
Date of Manufacture label: The Symphony has a 6 year expiration.  The date of manufacture label is on the back of the seat.

Overall Thoughts

The Symphony is not the right car seat for every child.  While it will fit average newborns very well — a nice, and kind of rare feature for a convertible car seat, let alone a multimode car seat like this one! — its limitations for rear facing and short top harness height are its biggest drawbacks.  Most kids will outgrow the Symphony rear facing by height well before they reach the NHTSA recommendation of their fourth birthday.

For some kids, the 15 to 16 inch top forward facing harness height is tall enough to allow them to ride in the Symphony in harnessed mode until they reach a safe booster age, but others will outgrow it before they are ready for a booster.  The Symphony is an IIHS Best Bet booster, so some children will be able to use the seat safely from birth to transitional booster.

The Symphony DLX is well designed and easy to use, despite its limitations. This seat is a great option for smaller than average children, foster parents or day care providers who need one seat that fits children at multiple ages and stages of development.