As part of our expansion around the world, we’ve added an EU Recommended Seats tab to our website and sent our EU-based team to Cologne, Germany to attend the Kind + Jugend trade fair in September 2018! This giant temporary city of baby gear is not unlike the ABC Kids Expo and JPMA Shows that our U.S.-based teams have attended over the last few years. Our Kind + Jugend team attended the fair in shifts, covering all days and as much ground as possible over the course of the week.
The car seat seats and booster seats that our team encountered along the way fall into groupings that are a bit different than the types of U.S.-based car seats and booster seats that you may know and love. Here’s a handy guide:
European Car Seat Cheat Sheat
- Group 0/0+: Rear facing only car seats – for children who weigh up to 10 or 13 kg
- Group 1: Harnessed car seats – for children who weigh up to approximately 18 kg
- Group 2: Harnessed car seats or high back booster seats – for children who weigh up to 25 kg
- Group 3: High back boosters or booster cushions – for children who weigh up to 36 kg
i-Size: Newer regulations have introduced R-129 car seats, which are commonly referred to as i-Size seats. These are currently limited to ISOFIX fitted seats for children up to 105 cm and a very small number of high back booster seats.
In the future, all car seats will conform to i-Size regulations and will be available for all ages.
Different groups can be represented in one seat. For instance, a 0+/1/2 convertible seat can generally rear face, forward face, and become a booster. A 1/2/3 seat will usually forward face with a harness and then turn into a booster. Hopefully this quick guide will help the rest of this article make sense to all of our readers from around the globe!
Our first big stop after familiarising ourselves with the layout (seriously, it was huge!) was at the Kiddy pavilion to check out their new i-Size seat, the Artemis. This is a rotating seat that rear faces from a child height of 61 cm up to 105 cm or 18 kg.
We also got a chance to check out their new bright colourways — the flowery print on their DLX seats was a definite head-turner!
We were also shown the neat feature of their new covers — Morse Code! We were told it says “we love our kids”, which was kinda cool.
We were also excited to see that their new covers had an “eye level” marker on their boosters, which we hope will help caregivers ensure the belt guide is at the appropriate height. This marking was on the now-discontinued Kiddy Cruiser 3 that was sold in the U.S. so we’re glad to see it popping up around the globe.
After lunch we headed over to Dorel’s huge booth to meet with CSFTL’s old friend, Ryan Hawker. He’s moved on from car seats into an exciting new role. While we’re happy for him, he’s definitely missed around here!
He showed us all of the many car seats Dorel had brought to the show. He was most excited by the new lay-flat cot bed car seat, the Jade, which is suitable from birth up to about 6 months. It installs on the 3wayFix base, which can also be used for the Pebble Plus and Pearl Pro i-Size seats.
We also saw the new Titan Pro. This is a forward facing group 1/2/3 seat that harnesses until 18 kg, then becomes a booster until the child weighs 36 kg. We found the headrest quite hard to adjust, but Maxi Cosi told us they’re looking into the problem.
We were also lucky enough to see the new U.S. car seat, the Maxi Cosi Magellan. It’s a rare day when we get to see a U.S. seat in person so this was a show highlight!
We enjoyed this display from Maxi-Cosi, which featured their very first infant seat, from 1984, next to their newest i-Size compliant infant seat, the Pebble Plus. It was awesome to see the differences and get a side-by-side glimpse into the evolution of child passenger safety.
We took the opportunity to clarify a question we frequently see on our European Facebook group. Maxi-Cosi infant seats typically say in the manual that the harness straps must be right at the shoulder, but with some seats having only two harness slots that can be nearly impossible. Maxi-Cosi confirmed that it’s better for the straps to be below the child’s shoulder rather than above, to reduce ramping up during a crash.
We were up bright and early to get back to the car seats! While walking the show floor we came across the recently released Nachfolger HY5 with its innovative new take on travel car seats. This inflatable seat feels less like an inflatable toy and much more like the new inflatable stand up paddle boards. The stability of the material was remarkable. This is a rear facing only seat, suitable from birth until 18 kg.
Unfortunately, the HY5 is still awaiting flight approval. In vehicles it can be used in both the front and rear seats — in the front seat it must brace on the dash, and of course the airbag must be disabled. When installed in the rear seat it uses an Australian style top tether. Nachfolger are also excited to hopefully release a second, forward facing seat in the next year.
We spent quite a bit of time at Diono’s booth. The first thing to catch our eye there was their upcoming i-Size seat, the Journey 360 AX. It’s quite a departure from their older line of seats. The Journey 360 AX is a rotating car seat that will eventually be available in three different versions — the AX vogue will even feature a wooden side panel!
They also had a new ISOFIX group 1/2/3 seat, the Orcas NXT fix. It features a no rethread harness and can recline on the go in harness and booster mode.
And finally, we had a look at what Diono does best — their high back boosters seats! The Monterey is getting a bit of a redesign: the back of the base will be reduced about 4 cm to hopefully make it easier to buckle in vehicles where the vehicle seat belts are more narrowly set. It will also be available in a more “grownup” jacket, featuring grey wool and wood paneling.
A new booster is also in the works. The Everett NXT fix will be a more budget friendly option, and features height markers to help caregivers more accurately adjust the height of the booster. Of course, every child is proportioned differently, but these height markers should give a good rough estimate of where the headrest needs to be in order to give a safe vehicle seat belt fit.
Our first stop on day 3 was the Britax booth. We met with their Mark Bennett, their Senior Technical & Training Manager to get a tour of their current lineup of car seats. If you’ve ever watched a Britax UK install video there’s a good chance you’d recognise Mark — I certainly gasped “It’s the guy from the videos!” when I saw him, much to my embarrassment. We got to see the new Kidfix iii booster seat. This updated version of the Kidfix ii offers a wider internal seating area while maintaining the same outside dimensions as the Kidfix ii. It also has a deeper seating area than the previous version of the seat. This expanded seating area helps to support kids’ legs longer and keep them comfortable as they grow. The Kidfix iii lacks an XP Pad for the shoulder belt, but the SecureGuard clip is still included.
Next up was a look at the new Advansafix IV combination car seat.
This seat is a complete redesign of the Advansafix line of seats. It harnesses until 18 kg and then converts to a booster seat. It’s now super easy to convert the seat from harness to booster mode – the harness stores inside the shell (even the strap covers are stored on the seat!) and the crotch buckle is on an innovative system that flips over to reveal the SecureGuard clip. This is great news for those of us who routinely lose bits and pieces when swapping modes, as nothing ever leaves the seat to get lost!
Many of the seats have new mesh fabric to help with airflow. My son has complained about his Kidfix ii being warm, so he’d definitely be a fan of the mesh!
We also had a look at the Trifix2 i-Size seat, which is a forward facing harnessed car seat that harnesses with ISOFIX and top tether until the child weighs 22 kg or is 105 cm tall.
Our absolute favourite part of the Britax booth was seeing the new, colourful covers! Letter Design and Comic Fun will be available soon for select models of car seats. They’re so fun!
They’ll also be available to order separately if you already have one of the seats they fit on. In Germany you’ll be able to order through Britax’s website, and in other markets you can ask your local retailer to special order them.
After finishing with Britax we headed over with our Ikea doll to check out the soon to be released UPPAbaby MESA i-Size infant seat. Ikea baby fits perfectly in a preemie size outfit, so he’s a good stand-in for a real baby to check fit. One common issue with European infant seats is that the lowest harness setting is often too high to fit preemies or small newborns correctly — with the straps correctly placed at or just below the shoulder. However, in the MESA the fit was great! The chunky insert boosted Ikea baby up enough that the straps were very well situated. This means it could be a great choice for those expecting small babies. We also loved the colour choices and the feel of the fabric.
The MESA i-Size is due to be released early next year.
I was curious how the fit was in the MESA for older babies, so I brought my son along the next day to see. He also got a great fit! He’s 7 months old, about 68 cm and about 8.4 kg. He’d likely outgrow the MESA earlier than he’d outgrow some other seats, but the tradeoff is an excellent fit for tiny babies.
Nuna and Joie
We were super excited to have an appointment with Joie/Nuna. Their booth was so huge it wasn’t even on the main floor of the convention centre! Filling several very large conference rooms, they had all their many car seat and stroller offerings on display. We started off looking at Nuna’s range of products. In addition to their Pipa Icon and Pipa Lite infant seats we also had a look at their new rear facing seat, the Norr. This is the only rotating, Plus tested, i-Size seat on the market, and it’s suitable from birth to 105 cm.
The most exciting seat in the Nuna range was the new Myti. This soon to be released forward facing only car seat is harnessed until the child weighs 20.5 kg, then becomes a booster certified to R129 (the new i-Size standard). The harness hides cleverly away when the seat is converted to booster mode, and the reclines can be used in any mode. It’s great to see an option that harnesses past 18 kg!
Over on the Joie side of things we had a look at their huge range of seats! The new i-Spin 360 rotates like the original Spin 360, but now has added i-Size certification and a deeper recline. And a new cool feature! As you tighten the harness, the side impact protection automatically pops out from the side of the seat. It’s so easy to forget to engage the various types of side impact protection, so this should definitely help increase the use of this important safety feature. With a 19 kg weight limit it’s also a bit longer lasting by weight than some other seats on the market.
Another new seat we found super intriguing was the upcoming Verso. It’s based on the Every Stage fx shell, but unlike the Every Stage fx it only has one harnessed mode — rear facing. After the child weighs 18 kg, it is then used forward facing as an ISOFIX fitted high back booster seat.
One great piece of news we got is that the Joie Bold will soon be shipping with a longer crotch strap. A common complaint with the seat has been that it is tight in the crotch area for bigger kids, so the longer crotch strap should definitely help with that!
Our last stop was at Axkid, where every member of our team received some fabulous training on the Axkid car seats. It was great to get some awesome tips and tricks on getting a solid install with the Minikid 2.0 and Move, and we also got a good look at their new i-Size infant and toddler seats. Axkid told us that they are stopping production on their seats that harness forward facing, in order to focus on rear facing seats.
The most intriguing thing they had at their booth was an infant head weight simulator. Visitors could get strapped in to experience what it might feel like to have a head that is the same proportional weight as a toddler’s head. With a toddler’s head making up 25% of their body weight, compared to 6% for an adult, the difference is huge. It’s easy to see (and feel!) why rear facing is safer and more comfortable for a child when you’ve got a 10 kg helmet strapped to your head!
A big thank you to Jayne and Peter at Axkid for spending so much time showing us how to get really solid installs with their seats!
We’re so pleased we got the opportunity to visit Kind + Jugend 2018, and we’re looking forward to doing it again next year!