Families come in all shapes and sizes and have a wide variety of needs when it comes to car seats. One area where we see a lot of questions is what to do when the back seat is full of children, or when two children need to ride next to each other. We call this setup three car seats across and it’s a topic that has a lot of variables.
Manufacturers have heard your struggles and they’re starting to respond! We’re seeing more narrow options for these situations. The latest seat in this category is the Graco SlimFit.
CSFTL Quick Stats
- CSFTL Recommended Seat
- Rear facing weight range: 5-40 pounds
- Rear facing height range: 1 inch below the adjuster button on the headrest when the headrest is fully extended
- Lower anchor weight limit: 45 pounds
- Premium lower anchors
- Forward facing weight range: 22-65 pounds
- Forward facing height range: 49 inches or less
- High back booster weight range: 30-100 pounds
- High back booster height range: 38-57 inches tall
- Lowest harness position: 7.5 inches with insert, 8 inches without insert
- Highest harness position: 17.5 inches
- Highest booster guide position: 18.75 inches
- No rethread harness
- Expiration: 10 years
- Width at widest point (at the child’s shoulders): 19 inches
- Width at narrowest point (across the seat pan area at the bottom of the seat): 17.5 inches with the cupholders turned in
- Width at narrowest point (across the seat pan area at the bottom of the seat): 20 inches with the cupholders turned out
- Crotch strap & pan depth (with insert): 3, 4.5, and 5.75 inches
- Crotch strap & pan depth (without insert): 4, 5.5, and 7 inches
- Seat pan depth: 12 inches
- Shell height: 28 inches
- Weight: 19 pounds
In a lot of ways, the SlimFit is the same seat as the Graco Milestone. Since the Milestone is a seat that we’ve known and loved for some time, having a narrower version of this versatile car seat is a pretty exciting option. We’ll do our best to tackle this review as if we’re new to the seat.
What Multimode Means
Multimode is a fairly new, but important, type of car seat. Like the name suggests, these car seats do many things: they have a rear facing, a forward facing, and a transitional booster mode. The Graco 4Ever further converts from a high back to a backless booster, but most seats in this category become high back boosters after they’re outgrown in harness mode. The SlimFit has 3 modes: rear facing, forward facing, and high back booster.
The SlimFit can be installed rear facing in recline positions 1 and 2. The recline angle can range from 30-45 degrees, the more upright angle is intended for older toddlers who have good head and neck control.
Rear Facing: Lower Anchors
Installing the SlimFit in rear facing mode is pretty straightforward. Thanks to an ingenious clip on the cover, just remove that clip temporarily to access the lower anchor strap, then pull straight up on the webbing with one hand while pushing down on the seat pan with your other hand. This is easier than it sounds!
My car, a 2016 VW GTI, has a pretty serious slope in the seat and a recessed seating area. This translates to needing a rolled towel or a pool noodle to achieve the proper recline for rear facing car seats. The SlimFit was no exception.
Switching Lower Anchors Between Modes
The lower anchor strap remains attached to the seat at all times. It’s connected by a handy bar — just pull the lower anchors into the shell of the seat, then slide the connectors to the other belt path, then feed the connectors back out through the belt path.
Rear Facing: Vehicle Seat Belt
Installing the SlimFit with the vehicle seat belt also required the rolled towel in my car, but it likely wouldn’t in a vehicle with a flatter seat. Threading the seat belt through the belt path took some care so I didn’t scrape my hands.
Pro tip: Turn the car seat sideways on the vehicle seat so the belt path is straight up and down. Then extend the vehicle belt so that it’s long enough to fall through the belt path. Drop the vehicle seat belt through the rear facing belt path, grab the buckle, then buckle the seat belt.
Fit to Child
Our Huggable Images newborn doll weighs 7 pounds and is 17 inches long. The SlimFit’s lowest harness setting was a bit above her shoulders — it should be at or below. The manual requires that the body support must be used if the child’s shoulders are below the lowest harness setting without the padding. Even with the body support, we wouldn’t assert that the SlimFit is a consistently well-fitting option for newborns.
Toddler: 18 Months Old
This model is 18 months old, weighs 26 pounds and is 28 inches tall. He loved climbing into the seat when it was in the house, but he had words to say when he was buckled into the SlimFit. Despite his struggling, it was easy to adjust the seat to fit him properly using the adjustable headrest. The distance between each headrest position is small enough to ensure that the harness fits most children well as they grow.
Our model found the SlimFit very comfortable. If he was even close to being tired, he fell asleep without any problems. He didn’t experience much head slump while sleeping in the SlimFit, even when it was installed more upright.
This young model is 3 years, 11 months old, weighs 33 pounds, and is 32 inches tall. He was pretty comfortable in the seat. True to toddler/preschooler form, he didn’t want to get out of the seat when we reached our destination. There’s plenty of space above his head, and several more headrest positions higher than the current position as well.
Here, the SlimFit is installed on the middle jump seat of a Honda Odyssey. It fit very well in that fairly small location and worked as part of three car seats in a row. In this case, it was a Chicco NextFit, the SlimFit in the middle, and a Graco Extend2Fit on the other side. Each car seat was independently tight.
The SlimFit’s forward facing size range is 22-65 pounds, the child is less than 49 inces tall, and the tops of the child’s ears are below the top of the headrest.
Recline angle: 3 or 4
Always use the top tether with a forward facing install. The top tether is an important safety feature regardless of whether the seat is installed with the lower anchors or the vehicle seat belt.
The SlimFit can be installed at recline 3 or recline 4 — whichever angle provides the best installation in the vehicle. Installing the seat in forward facing mode using the lower anchors was almost as easy as the rear-facing install. The manual clearly stated that the lower anchor weight limit is 45 pounds. This weight may be different on newer models of the seat, so as always, read your seat’s labels and manual when installing.
Because it has a high, somewhat narrow belt path, installing the SlimFit in forward facing mode took a little more work than the rear facing install. The trick was to push the seat pan straight down into the vehicle seat while pulling straight up with the lower anchor webbing or vehicle belt, depending on which installation method I used.
The harness itself is very easy and smooth to adjust. The back of the seat is closed; I could not access the harness straps from the back of the seat. Since the harness is no rethread, this isn’t an issue and it means that the harness straps won’t get caught on the vehicle seat belt.
The harness adjuster is easy to access and easy to push. The seat pan itself is 13 inches deep, which allows for a good amount of leg room for growing kiddos.
Fit to Child
3 Years Old
At 3 years old, we’d advocate that this model still ride rear facing. He weighs 36 pounds and is 36 inches tall. He’s got plenty of room to grow in the SlimFit. The low sides make climbing into the seat an easy task for him and the smooth harness adjuster makes securing him properly a simple task as well.
5 Years Old
This model is 5 years old. He weighs 42 pounds and is 42 inches tall. The SlimFit fits him well and he’s got a good bit of room to grow in harnessed mode.
Converting to Booster Mode
Switching between harnessed and booster modes is another thing Graco has done very well with this seat. The entire harness tucks into a tidy little compartment behind the cover that closes with a very satisfying snap. Compare this to other combination seats, which require the harness to be removed either partially or taken all the way out, or to the Diono Radian, which requires caregivers to unbolt portions of the seat to access the harness and the SlimFit earns high marks in this area. When we had a forward-facing harnessed child and a booster riding child in our family, we got a lot of use out of combination seats. I’ve spent more time than I care to admit removing or re-assembling harnesses so that the other child can use a particular seat or take a friend somewhere. The ease with which the SlimFit moves between modes could be a real game changer for families who need to share seats between children.
“Oooh! I love it when you surprise me with a new car seat!” said my young model when she got in the car. Her first task was to put her cup into the cupholder. She was able to rotate the cupholder from the inward, most narrow position, to the outward, open position herself. Once she climbed into the SlimFit, she reported a little trouble reaching down to access my car’s very recessed buckle stalk. Since the SlimFit sits up on a base, I wasn’t too surprised by this small challenge. The interesting part was, she buckled herself in quicker than she normally does in her dedicated booster seat.
Fit to Child
This sassy model is 7 years old, weighs 54 pounds, and is 48 inches tall. In booster mode, the SlimFit provided a great belt fit for her. She’s got a little room to grow until her shoulder reaches the 18.75 inch top shoulder belt guide. The SlimFit isn’t the longest lasting booster available but like other multimode car seats, we definitely like it as a transitional booster option once the child has outgrown it in harnessed mode.
Lower anchors and tether can be used with the SlimFit in booster mode. This is particularly useful in the early days of booster training — if the child weighs 45 pounds or less, the SlimFit can remain installed with lower anchors and switched between harness and booster mode as the child learns to sit properly.
Like the Milestone, the SlimFit boasts a steel-reinforced frame. While we can’t say for certain if this means it’s actually safer we do know the trend in child restraint manufacturing is toward energy flow management, not just retention in the car.
The SlimFit’s claim to fame is the space saving design. The ad attached to the seat shows an older sibling who presumably passes the Five Step Test sitting between two forward facing SlimFits, one in booster mode.
The great news? We found find that the SlimFit worked well with other rear facing car seats in a Honda Odyssey. The narrow base makes it a solid option, especially when it’s next to other rear facing car seats.
However, the wider shoulder area doesn’t make it a sure thing when a mix of forward facing and rear facing car seats are involved. Our biggest concern is around the width of the SlimFit at the child’s shoulder when it’s installed forward facing — it’s the same 19 inches that we see on the Milestone. While the lower part of the SlimFit is a pretty narrow 17.5 inches that larger width higher up in the seat’s shell may not make the SlimFit the best option for every three across setup. We also wonder if having a person in the middle seat might make buckling the SlimFit in booster mode a bit tricky. If at all possible, we’d suggest trying the SlimFit in your vehicle with your configuration of car seats before making a purchase.
When this car seat is installed on the plus one or jump seat of a minivan, Graco has confirmed up to 20% of the base can overhang the edge of the vehicle seat while in harness mode. In booster mode the entire base must be in contact with the vehicle seat.
Important Information: Where to Find
Manual Storage — the manual tucks into a compartment on the back of the seat.
Date of Manufacture and expiration — the Date of Manufacture sticker is on the back of the seat, between the manual storage and the FAA approval sticker on the base. The SlimFit expires after 10 years from that date.
FAA Approval — the approval for use on aircraft is the red lettering found on this sticker. It’s located on the back of the seat, on the top of the seat’s base, underneath the manual storage and Date of Manufacture sticker.
We’ve long been fans of the very versatile Milestone. The SlimFit takes everything we love about the Milestone and makes the seat just a little bit narrower at the base. Of the two seats, that change makes the versatile, long-lasting SlimFit a better option for tight spaces.