For many years, the Graco line of SnugRide rear facing only car seats has featured well-fitting, easy to install and use mainstays of the car seat market.
With this long history of awesomeness in our pockets, we were excited to learn that Graco was releasing a new line of seats with an updated, easy to install base: the SnugLock line. This review covers the not-very-base-at-all base model, the SnugRide SnugLock 35.
Key Features of the primary SnugRide SnugLock models (other variations may be available):
The SnugRide SnugLock 35 featured in this review has 4 harness slots and standard j-hook lower anchor connectors on the base. It does not have a no rethread harness.
The SnugRide SnugLock 35 DLX has 4 harness slots on the infant carrier portion of the seat larger SnugLock arm and premium lower anchor connectors.
The SnugRide SnugLock Platinum has a no rethread harness on the infant carrier portion of the seat, the larger SnugLock arm, and premium lower anchor connectors.
CSFTL Quick Stats
- Weight range: 4-35 pounds
- Height range: 32 inches or less and the top of the child’s head is 1 inch or more from the top of the carrier
- Lowest Harness Position: 5 inches with infant insert
- Expiration: 7 years from date of manufacture
- Handle Position: Handle can be in any locked position
- Weight (carrier only): 7.8 pounds
- Width of carrier at widest point: 17 inches
- Width of base at widest point: 13.5 inches
- SnugLock arm on base allows for a simple installation!
- Infant insert for smaller infants (Can be used until the child weighs 12 pounds)
- Adjustable recline foot
- Convenient compartment that stores lower anchor connectors and manual when not in use
- Narrow base makes it a good choice for three across situations or middle seats
Moving Vehicle Seats
Vehicles with 3 rows sometimes involve moving a second row seat forward to access the third row. If that’s the case for your vehicle, install the base using the lower anchors.
Installation With the Base: Vehicle Seat Belt
Here is what I would like to say about this base and installation method: I installed it 3 days after having a C-section. Now, before you think I am recommending you do this: I am not. As a CPST, I meet with many expectant families, and I usually counsel them to take care of the car seat installation at around 36 weeks. But, due to some logistical and cultural considerations, I found myself at hospital discharge with an uninstalled SnugLock and a husband very willing to help. But I wanted to try it myself… and it took me about 2 minutes.
It’s just that easy. Here’s how:
- Adjust the recline foot so that the level indicator is correct (more on that below)
- Press the red button and raise the SnugLock arm
- Thread the vehicle seat belt through the belt path
- Pull the shoulder belt to remove the slack from the vehicle seat belt
- Close the SnugLock arm
- Check for movement at the belt path by giving a firm handshake with your non-dominant hand
That’s it. You’re finished!
Caregivers who have arthritis or dexterity issues may want to check out this base as well. The SnugLock arm requires only a small amount of force to close, and it can be closed with only one hand.
Installation With the Base: Lower Anchors
This model of the base includes standard j-hook style lower anchor connectors. They store in a little compartment on the base. Like the Britax Boulevard Clicktight and Nuna Rava, this style of SnugLock base is best installed with the seat belt; attaching and removing the standard lower anchors can be time-consuming and difficult. Other versions of this seat have premium lower anchor connectors — on those versions, installing the base with the vehicle seat belt is just as easy as installing with the lower anchors.
To install this base with the lower anchors, hook on the lower anchor connectors to the lower anchor bars on the vehicle. Tighten the webbing, but leave a tiny bit of slack so the SnugLock arm can close. I found the seatbelt installation to be much easier, and truly this is a seat that will not often need to be installed with the lower anchors.
Installation Without the Base
I was so pleasantly surprised to see that this seat offers European belt routing for an installation without the base. I use the word “surprised” not only because I was not expecting it but also because this Euro belt routing is not indicated anywhere on the seat’s labels. It is mentioned in the manual as an alternate method. Since this installation improves the stability of the seat, I would love to see it promoted more.
In addition, it took me a moment to figure out where the belt was supposed to go for the European routing. There is a hook on the back of the seat which looks like it might be the belt path, but it is not. The belt needs to go below the hook at the back. I noticed a tendency for the belt to slip downwards on the buckle side, as there is no belt guide holding it in place.
The standard “American” belt routing is quite easy as well. I have installed many seats without the base and I find that the shape of the bottom of the Graco seats makes baseless installation work extremely well in almost every vehicle.
Recline Angle Indicator
Graco has introduced two new styles of recline level indicator on the SnugLock bases. This model features a blue wheel — the higher end version of this base features a bubble indicator.
I didn’t find this update any easier (or harder) to use than their previous level indicators. This new indicator features a blue block that shifts left or right based on the level. Like the previous style, these indicators have 2 separate zones: newborns and 3 months and above. I have seen many owners of this seat confused about whether they must install the seat more upright at 3 months (no). I don’t think this new indicator clears up that question.
My oldest two children used the Graco SnugRide 35 Click Connect, so I was in familiar territory using the SnugLock for my newbie. What can I say – I’m a fan of Graco rear facing only seats. The carrier is light, easy to install, and easy to tighten…no complaints! I even took the SnugLock on an airplane flight and had no trouble installing the carrier. I’m also a fan of the rubber padding on the handle. Though I tend to leave my seat in the car, it does make it much easier to carry when I take it out.
Airplane seat belts are a bit thicker than vehicle seat belts. When installing the SnugRide on an airplane, temporarily tilt the carrier toward one side to thread the belt through the belt guides. Then even out the seat, thread the seat belt through the opposite side’s belt guide, buckle and tighten.
Fit to Child
During our tenure as CPSTs, we’ve seen a great number of children come into seat check appointments and fit stations in Graco rear facing only car seats. We have found quite consistently that the SnugRide carriers fit most preemies and newborns very well. The SnugLock 35 is no exception!
Preemie Doll with Insert
The SnugLock 35 comes with an optional infant insert that can be used until the child weighs 12 pounds and when the harness straps are on the bottom two slots. Our preemie doll is 17 inches tall and has a 7 inch torso.
Preemie Doll without Insert
I found that the preemie doll fit very well even without the insert. We find that sometimes, inserts can push the baby’s head forward. If that seems to be an issue for your child, it may be worth trying the seat without the insert. The insert can only be used when the straps are in the bottom two harness slots.
Our Huggable Images newborn doll is 7 pounds, 17 inches long, and has a 9.5 inch torso. The fit was excellent, as I expected. There’s plenty of room to grow.
6 Days Old
This model is 6 days old. She weighs 6.5 pounds and is 19 inches long. We find that Graco rear facing only car seats fit the tiniest of passengers quite well and this seat is no exception. She’s got an excellent harness fit and she’s got plenty of room to grow.
This little guy is 3 months old, weighs 14 pounds and is 25 inches long. He has a long torso, so he is almost ready for the third slot from the bottom! The seat fits him exceptionally well and still provides the recline that he needs since his head control is not perfect yet. He may outgrow this seat by torso height earlier than his peers would (hair notwithstanding!)
Our toddler doll has not yet outgrown this seat by height. He still fits well with room to spare!
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.
Important information: Where to Find
FAA Approval Label: The FAA approval label is on the underside of the carrier. The base is not FAA approved.
Manual Storage: The manual stores in the same compartment on the base as the lower anchors. This is a convenient location and is easily accessible, even when the seat is installed.
Expiration: The directions not to use the seat after 7 years after the date of manufacture are stamped onto the back of the carrier.
The white sticker on the carrier gives the date of manufacture. We’d love to see the expiration date listed on the sticker as well.
With a lightweight carrier, quite possibly the easiest installation of any base on the market, and a superb fit from preemie to toddler, the Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 is an excellent choice for parents and caregivers looking for the first car seat for their Little. In addition, the narrow width of the base combined with the easy seatbelt installation makes this an excellent choice for three across situations or for any middle seat. We highly recommend this seat for caregivers who are looking for a budget-friendly seat that’s easy to install and offers a great fit.