The quest for a lightweight, rear facing only car seat is one that many manufacturers have taken on. Graco joins this club with their newest offering — the SnugRide 35 Lite LX, part of their budget-friendly SnugRide Click Connect lineup. The SnugRide line of seats has been around for quite some time, they’re solid seats that are by and large easy to install and use correctly. Many of the CSFTL children took their first car rides in a SnugRide!
This newest offering takes on the lightweight carrier challenge. We had a lot of questions around the “Lite” in the name and wanted to see how lite this lightweight seat really is!
CSFTL Quick Stats
- Weight range: 4-35 pounds
- Height range: 32 inches or less
- Shell height: 20 inches
- Lowest harness position: 6 inches with insert
- Weight (carrier only): 7.2 pounds
- Expiration: 7 years
- Handle position: Any locked position
- Available in the United States and Canada
- Two position adjustable crotch strap (5.5 and 7 inches from the back of the seating area)
- Four harness height settings (6, 8, 10, and 12 inches)
- 2 crotch buckle positions: 5.5 and 7 inches from the back of the seat pan
- Base width: 14 inches near the recline dial, narrower at ends
- Base depth: 21 inches
- Width at widest part (handle): 17.5 inches
- Infant body and head insert for children weighing less than 12 pounds
- Adjustable recline foot
- Standard lower anchor connectors
- Multi-age recline angle indicator
More About the Features
Two Position Adjustable Crotch Strap
The slots for this crotch buckle measure 5.5 and 7 inches from the back of the seat pan. Having more than one slot can help keep both small and larger infants comfortable. We all know that babies come in many different shapes–this adjustability helps the crotch strap not sit either too far or too close to a child’s body. The manual that came with our particular seat didn’t include any weight limits on either setting, it just stated that it is time to move to the outer slot when the child’s body is on top of the inner slot.
However, this information is on a label on the seat and itself and is also included in newer versions of the manual. Thanks for making the manual update, Graco!
Manual Rethread Harness
The harness adjusts by removing the straps at the splitter plate and rethreading the straps through the harness slot that’s at or below the child’s shoulders. In addition, there’s an inner loop at the bottom of the harness that can be used on the lower two harness slots. Moving the harness onto these smaller loops reduces the harness length to be short enough for the smallest babies. I found the wording in the manual about when to use which loops a bit confusing.
Thankfully Graco included an awesome label on the back of the seat which shows that the lower two slots are to be used with the shorter harness length, and the upper two slots use the longer harness length.
The canopy is adequate for coverage from the sun, but it’s kind of noisy when it’s opened or closed. At one point, the noise of this canopy clicking into place woke up baby as I adjusted it in hopes of keeping the sun out of his face. The canopy, thankfully, can be removed. Some higher end Graco rear facing only car seats have a much quieter canopy.
The extra padding for smaller infants can be used until the child weighs 12 pounds and does a great job of keeping little infants correctly positioned and comfortable. The head and body insert can be used together or separately, however neither can be used above 12 pounds. The head insert must be threaded through the harness slot above the harness straps.
Adjustable Recline Foot
The recline foot extends to help with installing the seat at the correct recline angle via the push of a button and has an easy-to-read recline angle indicator on the side of the base.
This rather exaggerated angle helps the base fit a wide range of vehicle seat slopes, though in some vehicles pool noodles or a rolled towel may be needed to install the seat at the proper angle for a newborn.
Multi-Age Recline Angle Indicator
Like many Graco rear facing only car seats, this seat has a recline range that allows the car seat to be installed at two different angles: more reclined for infants from birth or slightly more upright for children who are 3 months old and older. While these different recline angles are listed as options, we’ve found it fairly difficult to install this type of base at the more upright angle.
Standard Lower Anchor Connectors
The seat has standard, j-hook lower anchor connectors. They store on the underside of the base and are released from the base by pushing the gray adjuster on the webbing. This type of adjuster is notoriously difficult to release once the seat it’s attached to is installed securely so we tend to recommend that caregivers use the vehicle seat belt for this type of base as most will find that less frustrating.
When the vehicle seat belt is used to install the base, the lower anchors store easily on the side of the base.
Graco allows up to 20% of the base to overhang the vehicle seat, either front or side, which may make the SnugRide 35 Lite LX a good choice for jump seats in vans or smaller vehicle seating areas.
At just over 7 pounds, the carrier portion of this seat is definitely one of the lighter carriers on the market. One of our reviewers has a few rear facing only car seats available so we’re including an unofficial weight comparison for you!
The SnugRide 35 Lite LX is noticeably lighter than the Graco SnugRide SnugLock Extend2Fit 35 I had been using just prior to this seat’s arrival. It’s also quite a bit lighter than the Chicco Fit2 (which isn’t marketed as being lightweight) that I often use for travel. The Nuna Pipa Lite that I normally use is about a half pound lighter than this seat, which may not seem like a lot but it is a noticeable difference. We realize that mentioning all of these seats is a bit like comparing apples to oranges since they’re all more featured (and thus, priced a bit higher) than this seat. But we wanted to compare the weight in a meaningful way since we recognize that some families choose their baby’s first car seat based on weight alone.
The carrier portion seat ships with the Click Connect base. That’s part of why the seat is so budget-friendly! However, it’s also compatible with the more featured, easy-to-install SnugLock bases that we’re quite fond of. If it’s within your budget, we’d suggest considering a SnugLock base for the primary vehicle, then using the Click Connect base for any additional vehicles.
Installation with the Base
This seat includes Graco’s basic Click Connect base. This base can be installed with either lower anchors or the vehicle seat belt but does not have a lockoff like the SnugLock series.
The base is very lightweight, just about 4 pounds, and I found that when installing with a locked lap-shoulder belt the installation required a firm hand on the base while tightening the seatbelt to prevent tilting. This little trick will prevent a lot of frustration (pulling up on the shoulder belt can cause the seat to tip – and no one wants a lopsided seat!).
In my minivan, I was able to install the base at the maximum recline angle for newborns without much trouble. However for older infants, even with the recline foot all the way in, I was barely able to get it into the 3 months+ zone.
That isn’t a safety issue of course, however with a tall driver or small vehicle that little extra bit can make a big difference up front. Note: this second recline position is an option on many Graco bases and we’ve almost never been able to install at that more upright angle correctly.
Installation Without the Base: Standard and European Routing
The SnugRide 35 Lite LX’s manual details how to install the seat using standard routing and also European routing. In European routing the shoulder portion of a lap-shoulder belt goes around the back of the car seat’s shell, stabilizing the seat and acting to use up the belt so that the car seat is snugly installed, even in the case of a lap-shoulder belt without a locking mechanism (which is common in Europe, but not in North America).
Unfortunately, the labels don’t include both routing options, but this flexibility is something to keep in mind. I have found that whenever the vehicle belt is long enough, the European routing makes for an easier baseless installation.
If the vehicle’s seatbelt is not long enough for the Euro routing to be a feasible installation, the SnugRide Lite LX allows the “standard” baseless installation as well. Simply route the lap portion of the shoulder belt through the baseless belt guides on the carrier, buckle the seatbelt, and engage the seatbelt’s locking mechanism.
As always, check for less than 1 inch of movement at the belt path and when installed baseless the red line on the side must be level regardless of baby’s age.
We noticed when installing the Graco SnugRide Lite that it seemed fairly compact, so we put it to the test beside another well-known compact rear facing only seat: The Chicco KeyFit.
In this 2013 Mazda CX-5, our thinking proved to be correct. When installed at the most reclined angle allowed (for a newborn), the SnugRide Lite took up approximately 25.5 inches from front to back, while the KeyFit took up approximately 26.5 inches. At the most upright allowable reclines (for older babies with good head control), the SnugRide Lite took up approximately 23 inches front to back compared to 25.5 inches for the KeyFit. This fit will vary by vehicle, but if you’re on the lookout for a more compact rear facing only seat, the SnugRide Lite may be a good option.
Fit to Child
Our Huggable Images preemie doll, who is 4 pounds and 17 inches long, had a passable fit in the seat, using the insert and a rolled washcloth at the crotch buckle.
The straps were just barely below our doll’s shoulders, so this seat may not always be the best bet for the tiniest of newborns or preemies. We always advocate that caregivers check the fit on actual children before leaving the hospital.
The newborn Huggable Images newborn doll weighs 7 pounds and is 17 inches long. The doll fits very well in this seat. Their shoulders were above the 2nd harness slot with the insert, and still solidly above the lowest slot with the insert removed.
We took photos of the newborn doll both with and without a rolled washcloth between the doll and crotch buckle. While we felt both were solid options, it would depend on how “slumpy” the actual newborn is whether or not the crotch roll would be required to improve the harness fit.
Our newborn model is 10 weeks old, weighs 11 pounds and was measured at 23.75 inches tall. While she can still use the body pillow, we like her fit in the seat without any of the padding. The harness is threaded through the second set of slots and the inner loops are in use (required by Graco), and she fits in the seat beautifully. Her mom was very impressed by how lightweight the seat is and by how nicely it fit in the back seat of her 2013 Mazda CX-3.
13 Months Old
This model is quite small for his age: at 13 months he is 19 pounds and 28 inches tall. He fits well in this seat. His shoulders are just above the third harness slot (he’s wearing his usual cloth diapers), but I noticed that in disposables the third slot was barely at his shoulders if I was not careful to position him. Like most kiddos, he will easily outgrow this seat by standing height or shell height long before hitting the weight limit.
Important Information: Where to Find
FAA Approval/National Safety Mark (for Canadian Users) – the carrier portion of this seat is approved for use on aircraft. The FAA approval is printed on page 10 of the manual and on a label on underside of the shell, and for Canadian users, the National Safety Mark (the label required to show the seat is approved for aircraft use) is located on the side of the carrier.
Date of Manufacture is on the bottom of the car seat, and the inside top of the base.
Expiration: The expiration is printed in the manual and stamped into the plastic on the bottom of the car seat.
Manual Storage — the manual stores on the bottom of the base.
When it comes to rear facing only car seats, many families look first at the carrier weight. They’ll find a lightweight well-featured seat in the SnugRide Lite LX.
European routing in baseless mode is a definite perk, especially for travel, and especially at this price! As technicians, we say over and over that the best seat is the one that fits your child, fits your car, and that you can use correctly every time. This seat is easy to use properly and offers a good fit for many differently sized infants, so it would be a solid, budget-friendly choice for many families who prefer a lighter weight carrier.
Our friends at Graco are giving away two of these seats! One to a reader in the United States, the other to a reader in Canada. Read our terms and conditions, then enter below for your chance to win!