The much-loved Graco Extend2Fit convertible car seat has made its way to Canada. While we are still very big fans of this seat and its versatility, there are some major changes between the Canadian and American versions. We’ll use this review to illustrate the differences, most of which are around rear facing use.
CSFTL Quick Stats
- Rear facing weight range: 4-50 pounds
- Rear facing height range: 18 inches up to 1 inch below the adjuster handle when fully extended (not to exceed 49 inches)
- Forward facing weight range: 22-65 pounds
- Forward facing height range: 27-49 inches
- Expiration: 10 years
- Lower anchor weight limit: 45 pounds in both rear facing and forward facing modes
- No rethread harness
- Premium Lower anchor connectors
- Lowest harness position: 7 inches with insert
- Highest harness position: 17.5 inches
- Shell height: 28 inches tall with headrest fully extended
- Width at widest point (cupholders): 19.75 inches
- Seat weight: 18 pounds
The seat labels are colour coded with blue labels addressing the rear facing use and orange labels addressing the forward facing use. They clearly indicate the recline options, overhang allowance, as well as the recline and panel use requirements. There’s a warning label on the side of the seat that includes the requirement for the cupholders to be installed at all times.
The overhang limit is clearly marked on the seat for both rear and forward facing. This was helpful when we tried to install the Extend2Fit in an upright position rear facing. When the panel is fully extended, this overhang limit makes it impossible to install the seat as upright as the recline indicator allows in most vehicles. Reclining the Extend2Fit creates a larger contact area between the car seat and the vehicle seat. Installing the seat more upright creates more overhang. Keep an eye on the overhang limit when installing this seat in small spaces to ensure enough of the Extend2Fit’s base is supported.
The Extend2Fit has six recline positions. Reclines 1, 2, and 3 are for use rear facing and reclines 4, 5, and 6 are for use forward facing.
There are no restrictions on which reclines can be used forward facing, as long as either 4, 5, or 6 are used. This allows families to use whichever of these three recline options is most comfortable for the child and installs well in each particular vehicle.
Rear Facing Recline Positions and Panel Rules for Canada
Children who weigh less than 22 pounds:
- The seat must be installed rear facing
- Recline positions 1, 2, and 3 may be used
- Panel positions 1, 2, 3, and 4 may be used
Children who weigh between 22 and 40 pounds:
- Reclines 1, 2, and 3 may be used
- Panel positions 3 or 4 must be used
Children who weigh over 40 pounds:
- Reclines 2 and 3 may be used
- Panel must be in position 4 (most extended)
The Extend2Fit features a recline indicator on the side of the seat. The ball must be fully contained within the blue at all times rear facing, and fully within the light blue for babies under 3 months old.
The harness, buckle strap, and chest clip are all standard-issue Graco hardware. Buckling in all of the dolls and my daughter was very easy, as expected. The straps did not easily twist, even moving them around as much as I did for all of these sizes. The headrest adjusted easily through all ten positions, though the flap that lifts as the headrest goes up did get caught under the cover every time I moved it back down. This was quite annoying for me, but most caregivers will not be adjusting the headrest 20+ times a day, so I don’t see it being a large problem.
The inserts that came with the seat are thick and easy to use at the head and under the bum. They both do a good job of supporting a child. The insert under the bum must be removed forward facing, but the insert behind the head can stay in through the life of the seat. If you have a child who appreciates more head support, or a forward facing child with low tone, these may be very beneficial.
The seat has optional strap covers that have a grippy material on the inside.
There are two crotch buckle strap positions. Either can be used rear and forward facing, and Graco requires using the closest slot without the slot being underneath the child. For most of the children we tried in this seat the inner slot was a very nice fit rear facing. Forward facing the outer position worked well for them. Tip: when changing the buckle position, recline the seat AND pull out the extender fully to access the buckle strap. It’ll make life much easier.
The Extend2Fit includes two cupholders. Both cupholders must be attached to the seat. They click in with ease provided they are in the correct direction. They simply won’t fit another way, so it’s not hard to do.
The Extend2Fit includes the Fuss Free pockets for buckle storage when the seat is not in use. That means you don’t need to dig around by your child’s hips searching for the buckle tongue every time you get them in or out.
Installation — Rear Facing
Because the Canadian version of the Extend2Fit only allows the use of recline positions 1, 2, and 3 for rear facing installations, there was initially some concern about how compact this seat would be especially for older or heavier children who require the panel to be fully extended.
We installed the Extend2Fit rear facing in a number of vehicles that featured various front to back space, including this 1999 Volkswagen Beetle. Here the Extend2Fit is in recline position 3 with the panel in position 4. We were unable to install the seat as upright as allowed by the recline indicator without exceeding the allowable overhang of the seat. We were able to install it behind the passenger seat with the passenger seat pushed up and locked into position.
It is unlikely that an adult would have been able to comfortably travel in the front passenger seat with this setup, but the seat fit well and would have allowed a child to ride rear facing for a very long time in this small car.
This Extend2Fit is installed rear facing for a child who weighs over 40 pounds. It’s using recline position 3 with the panel in position 4 in a 2007 Honda Odyssey.
Manual manipulation — pressing down in a slightly different place on the seat’s shell while removing slack from the vehicle seat belt or lower anchors creates a wide range of acceptable recline options. Here are some typical ways to adjust the car seat’s angle on car seats like the Extend2Fit that allow for a more upright rear facing installation:
- For a more upright installation, apply pressure on the front of the seat pan and pull the base of the child restraint slightly away from the vehicle’s seat back while tightening the lower anchors or seat belt.
- For a more reclined rear facing installation, apply pressure on the upper shell of the child restraint and push the car seat’s base toward the vehicle seat back while tightening the lower anchors or seat belt.
Even with the weight-based recline and panel requirements, the Extend2Fit still installs nicely with a wide recline range.
Fit to Child
This Extend2Fit is set up for a newborn. It’s in recline position 1 with the panel in position 1 installed in a 2007 Odyssey. We were very impressed by how compact the Extend2Fit was when installed in this vehicle without the panel extended, even at the newborn recline. The front passenger seat is as far back as it can be positioned, and there are about 4 inches between the Extend2Fit and the passenger seat.
Newborn Head Slump
Like so many other car seats with a no rethread harness, we found some potential for head slump in the smallest of passengers. We’d encourage caregivers to try every allowable adjustment to get a proper harness fit on newborns and preemies. This can include:
- Removing the head padding
- Removing the body padding (provided the harness is below the shoulders without it)
- Adding a rolled washcloth between the child’s legs and the crotch buckle
Sometimes even a week of growth can make a difference, so the fit issues facing a tiny newborn on their first rides in the car may be resolved quickly. In the meantime, protecting those tiny airways is a critical part of how the child fits in their car seat.
The Extend2Fit is marketed as a seat that will fit from birth. It has a lowest height limit of 18 inches and a lowest weight limit of 4 pounds. We know that not all seats marketed for newborns and preemies actually fit newborns and preemies, so we put the Extend2Fit to the test with a 7 day old, 18 inch, 5 pound 8 ounce baby.
This little guy needed a rolled washcloth between him and the crotch buckle to prevent him from slumping. We removed the head cushion to prevent head slump because it pushed his head forward. He is also using the bottom insert.
We were very impressed by the harness fit for this tiny model. We were able to tighten the straps to pass the pinch test, and they were positioned below his shoulders. We did find that we needed to make small adjustments to get him correctly positioned in the seat.
3 Years Old
This model is 3 years old, weighs 38 pounds, and is 42 inches tall. She normally rides rear facing, so riding rear facing in the Extend2Fit is nothing new to her. She was very vocal about how much she liked the extender panel (used in position 4), and her cupholders. She has requested that she keep this seat “forever” and we take that as a very good sign.
5 Years Old
This 5 year old model weighs 48 pounds, and is 46 inches tall. He has started booster training in a Graco Affix but was willing to try out the Extend2Fit rear facing and give his thoughts. He was initially unimpressed with “sitting backwards” but after a few rides admitted he was very comfortable in this seat. While we are not advocating that 5 year olds need to ride rear facing, we were impressed that this seat makes rear facing a possibility for big kids or littles with medical issues that make rear facing to the maximum a much safer method of transportation.
Forward Facing Recline Positions
There are no forward facing recline restrictions on the Canadian Extend2Fit, aside from using reclines 4, 5, or 6. Remember that the top tether must always be used in Canada. Yes, Graco has included that on a label, too!
Fit to Child
3 Years Old
At 3 years old, we’d prefer to see this model ride rear facing. She was kind enough to show how the seat fits her but she normally rides rear facing. She weighs 38 pounds and is 42 inches long. The seat fits her well and she’s got plenty of room to grow.
5 Years Old
This 5 year old model weighs 48 pounds, and is 46 inches tall. He’s got a little room left to grow in this seat and finds it comfortable.
Six Years Old
We’ve seen how long-lasting the Extend2Fit can be for children who ride rear facing, but how does it fit forward facing? Our 6 year old model weighs 45 pounds, and is 46 inches tall. She’s got about a half inch of harness height left above her shoulders. The Extend2Fit is installed forward facing on recline position 4.
In rear facing mode, this model had the headrest in position eight. In forward facing mode, the same model needed the headrest in the top (10th) position. For very tall lightweight kids, it may be possible to outgrow this seat forward facing before — though not much before — rear facing.
We applaud Graco on not only bringing a seat with high rear facing limits to the Canadian market, but also for making it easy to use and install, and giving it an affordable price point ($350CAD MSRP). The clear labelling makes important information easy to find.
While the Canadian version of the Extend2Fit is not as compact a seat rear facing as its American cousin, it is an excellent seat for tall/heavy littles and will fit in a variety of vehicles. One key consideration is overhang — the allowable overhang is clearly marked on the seat but because it’s a large seat front to back, it’s important to keep overhang in mind when installing the seat.