When we first met the Maxi-Cosi Magellan and Magellan Max multimode car seats at Lifesavers 2018, we were intrigued by many of the new and interesting features included on the car seat. Boasting rear facing and forward facing harness modes along with a booster mode, the Magellan is marketed as fitting children who weigh between 5-120 pounds. A team of CSFTL reviewers explored how well this complex car seat stacks up to that claim!
CSFTL Quick Stats
- Rear facing weight range: 5-40 pounds
- Rear facing height range: 19-40 inches tall
- Forward facing age minimum: 1 year and walking unassisted. CSFTL recommends that children ride rear facing until they’re at least 2 years old, ideally until they’ve outgrown their convertible or multimode car seat in rear facing mode by height or weight
- Forward facing weight range: 22-65 pounds
- Forward facing height range: 29-49 inches
- Booster weight range: 40-120 pounds
- Booster height range: 43-57 inches tall
- Expiration: 12 years from the date of manufacture
- Lower anchor weight limit: 35 pounds for rear facing mode; 40 pounds for forward facing mode
- Top tether required in forward facing mode
- Follow NHTSA’s crash replacement guidelines
- Lowest harness position: 6 inches with insert, 8 inches without
- Highest harness position: 17 inches
- Booster belt guide: 18 inches
- Crotch buckle slots: 3.75 inches, 5 inches, and 7.25 inches from the back of the seat pan
- Shell height: 19.5 inches with the shell in, 21.5 inches with the shell extended
- Width at widest point: 19.5 inches
- Weight: 27 pounds. That is not a typo.
Twelve, not Ten
An advertising campaign for this seat is marketing the Magellan as a car seat that will last for a decade. While that’s true, the actual expiration period is indeed, 12 years. As always, don’t just take our word for it — confirm this in the car seat’s manual.
Magellan and Magellan Max
- The seat’s shell extends to move the side impact “zone” up as the child grows
- AutoLock vehicle seat belt lockoffs in rear and forward facing modes
- Cupholders are removable for cleaning and must be removed for installation
- Plush, well-padded cover
Unique Magellan Max Features
- Magnetic chest clip *Cannot be used if child/caregiver has an implanted electronic medical device; caregivers must contact Maxi-Cosi for a non-magnetic replacement.
- Springy harness pads that keep the harness out and away for ease of buckling — these can be removed
- Crotch buckle cover that moves the buckle forward to allow kiddo to get into the seat more easily
Page 4 of the manual includes a very clear Quick Navigation guide that shows pretty clearly when the seat should be used. We are always fans of clearly-displayed content, so this was a welcome sight!
Unique Features on Both the Magellan and Magellan Max
When the headrest is raised and lowered, the extra padding that’s attached to the seat moves along with it sort of like an accordion. This means that the padding is always in the right place behind the child!
The Magellan/Magellan Max’s shell has three outside torso settings that are intended to keep the impact protection centered around the child as they grow.
To raise the shell, press the buttons on the outside of seat, then raise or lower the shell.
The shell’s lowest setting is intended for use in rear and forward facing mode, the second is for forward facing mode, and the third is for booster mode only. These restrictions are clearly labelled on the seat itself.
Recline Angle Indicator
The Magellan and Magellan Max’s recline angle indicators are the ball leveller style. These indicators include a blue zone to indicate the rear facing recline range. However, this recline indicator is hidden toward the bottom of the seat’s shell. We found it almost impossible to determine if the ball was in the correct spot for rear facing, because we couldn’t even see the indicator!
The recline indicator has an arrow on the bottom that’s supposed to line up to the corresponding arrows on the label showing the recline options.
Unfortunately, the arrow on the bottom of the indicator is clear plastic, and blends in very well with the seat’s shell. Not only that, it’s harder to spot because it is on the bottom of the recline angle adjuster. Caregivers might need to turn the seat on its side to confirm which recline position is being used. This is no small task when it comes to a car seat that’s as large and heavy as the Magellan.
Installation: Rear Facing
The lower anchors are stored deep within the seat pan and were a bit difficult to access. This is a fairly unusual storage location that we aren’t particularly fond of.
When installing the Magellan/Magellan Max with the lower anchors, the lower anchor webbing seemed to get bunched in the belt path. In the Kia Sedona we used for this review, the belt bunched in the lockoff and made the belt look twisted although it was not. However, the tether anchor strap comes with a very handy hook-and-loop strap to keep it nicely tucked up and away when it is not in use during rear facing mode. The tether anchor connector stows in the back of the seat right under the FAA approval label.
According to the manual, the Magellan’s cover needs to be partially removed for installation. While we often advocate removing the cover to access a hard-to-find belt path, requiring that the cover be removed can prove to be quite the challenge in some situations.
The Magellan is quite wide and has many moving parts, so while we may cringe at the notion of removing a cover from a car seat that’s this complex, the Magellan’s rather very small belt paths make this the only way to properly access them.
When installing the Magellan rear facing, the cupholders must be removed and the cover must be pulled up to expose the belt path. Despite this seemingly ample access to the seat pan, the belt paths are still small and quirky.
Vehicle Seat Belt
We installed the rear facing Magellan in a minivan and found that the vehicle seat belt bunched in the lockoff while we were installing it. While the Magellan/Magellan Max was secure, the vehicle seat belt routing was fairly quirky — the vehicle seat belt barely slid into the lockoff in some vehicles, and the belt folded over and appeared twisted. We noticed a similar bunching in the webbing when we installed the seat using lower anchors but we didn’t have this issue in the SUVs we also tested the seat in.
Lockoffs: Lock the Vehicle Seat Belt Too?
We’ve confirmed with Dorel that the manual requires the vehicle seat belt be locked when using the lockoff. So the process would be: install the Magellan using the lockoff, verify that there’s less than an inch of movement at the belt path, and then pull the vehicle seat belt all the way out to engage the retractor and secure the belt. Feed the vehicle seat belt back into the retractor.
The manual explains this as follows:
“After the seat has been installed, if your car has a switchable retractor, you may also use it to lock the belt.”
Fit to Child – Rear Facing
The Magellan is outgrown in rear facing mode when the top of the child’s head is less than an inch below the internal headrest, even when the headrest is raised above the seat’s shell.
Note: using the Magellan and Magellan Max with a newborn requires the crotch buckle to be routed in through the 1st crotch buckle slot, then looped back out the 2nd crotch buckle slot. The manual has instructions on this process.
Our Newborn Huggable Images doll weighs 7 pounds and is 17 inches long. We found that the Magellan Max fit our doll quite well. Before we buckled the doll into the seat, we were concerned that the extra padding would make the fit challenging or that the harness pads would make the chest clip sit too low on her chest.
We were pleasantly surprised to see that the padding helped to provide a great harness fit for our doll. In addition, the seat seemed to cradle the doll very well. The harness pads did not make the chest clip sit too low on our doll’s chest. We did not have to remove the pads, though the manual suggests removing them until the child is large enough that the harness pads don’t detract from a good harness fit.
2 Years Old
This model is a tall, slender 2 year old. She weighs 27 pounds and is 36 inches tall. When she rode rear facing in the Magellan with the harness straps just barely below her shoulder, she had about 1.5 inches of the seat’s shell above her head.
The crotch buckle can only be used on the innermost and middle settings when the Magellan is installed rear facing. It’s also on the shorter side. This combined to make buckling her into the seat more challenging than we’d expected.
This model was not a fan of the Magellan’s recline angle, even when the seat was installed as upright as allowed. The springy harness covers included with the Magellan Max seemed to bother her, though we learned after this photo session that they can be removed.
4 Years Old
This model is a tiny 4 year old who celebrated her 4th birthday during the process of writing this review! She weighs 30 pounds and is 39.5 inches tall.
With the harness positioned properly just below her shoulders, she had 1 inch of headrest over her head. We can assert that her next growth spurt would put her over the height limit for the seat, since she’d have less than 1 inch of headrest over her head.
As advocates for best practice, we’d like to see kids ride rear facing for as long as possible. While the 40 inch rear facing limit was enough to allow her to rear face until her 4th birthday, it wouldn’t be sufficient for all kids.
At our model’s request, we tried to install the Magellan more upright for her. Unfortunately, our vehicle seat’s shape made this a challenge.
The crotch buckle is rather short, and since only the first and second crotch buckle slots are allowed for rear facing, her thighs got pinched a couple of times when she was being unbuckled.
Installation: Forward Facing
Before installing the Magellan forward facing, the lower anchor webbing must be moved to the forward facing belt path. We’d expect that, but this is one area where the Magellan is kind of unusual, and frankly, it’s an area where we wouldn’t like to see something unusual!
It takes multiple hands and a lot of effort to move the lower anchors from the rear facing belt path to the forward facing belt path. The cover must be lifted out of the way while simultaneously trying to move the lower anchors. Our initial attempt ended in a twisted mess with the harness partially trapped underneath the lower anchor webbing.
We had a team of reviewers tackle reviewing the Magellan, and they all reported struggles with moving the lower anchors between the belt paths. This particular task is not for the faint of heart.
Beyond moving the lower anchor webbing to the forward facing belt path, the lower anchor adjuster must switch sides during the move.
- Rear facing — the lower anchor adjuster must be on the child’s left side
- Forward facing — the lower anchor adjuster must be on the child’s right side
That additional requirement added to our struggles with this task. Unfortunately, moving the lower anchors between the belt paths is a task that most caregivers will need to take on while they own a Magellan — the challenges we faced doing this task definitely give us pause.
The top tether is required for forward facing installations. This requirement applies to lower anchor installations and vehicle seat belt installations.
Vehicle Headrest Interaction
The manual states that the Magellan must be as flush as possible with the vehicle seat when it’s installed forward facing. If the vehicle’s headrest interferes with the Magellan being flush with that vehicle seat, the manufacturer requires that the Magellan be installed in a different seating position.
We had our own set of struggles with this requirement. We installed the Magellan in a variety of vehicles. In our Kia Sedona, we couldn’t get an installation that seemed correct. We installed it on a captain’s chair — in that seating position, there was a large gap behind the Magellan, regardless of the Magellan’s recline angle. In addition to the gap behind the seat, we noticed that the vehicle seat belt twisted and didn’t quite fit into the lockoff despite all of our best efforts.
When our team of experienced CPSTs has this kind of struggle, we can’t help but worry how challenging an average caregiver will find working with this seat.
But — it’s not all bad news! We also installed the Magellan in a Dodge Durango with a bench seat and had a much better result. So we could assert that the installation is vehicle-dependent, and that the Magellan might work best forward facing when it’s installed on a flatter style of bench seat than in a captain’s chair.
Forward Facing Crotch Buckle Rules
The crotch buckle slot that’s furthest from the back of the seat pan can only be used for forward facing. The back two slots can be used for forward facing as well. We noticed that the crotch buckle strap is quite short — that length could be an issue for children who prefer to have the buckle lie higher up on their bodies.
Fit to Child – Forward Facing
4 Years Old
This 4 year old model weighs 30 pounds and is 39.5 inches tall. She’s got lots of room for growth in forward facing mode. She was most comfortable with the crotch buckle in the outermost position, which is only allowed for forward facing. The crotch buckle padding and harness chest clip padding made it easier for her to get into the seat, but she could not buckle herself because of the magnetic chest clip. As a newly minted 4 year old, she is very interested in doing it all on her own, and she did not like needing help to buckle herself in. She also could not undo the chest clip or crotch buckle on her own.
While the inability to open and close her chest clip was frustrating for this model, the ClipQuick chest clip can be amazing for children who attempt to escape from their car seats!
The Magellan’s bottom shell setting is allowed for rear or forward facing. The middle setting is for forward facing harness mode only. She fit well in the seat on both settings. The harness padding is rather firm and has an internal structure that retains its shape. This otherwise eager and happy car seat model became incredibly upset by the harness padding, and said that the top of the padding hurt her.
6 Years Old
Our 6 year old model weighs 45 pounds and is 45 inches tall. She fit in forward facing harness mode with both the headrest and the shell in the highest settings.
Her head peeked out from the top of the seat, but the harness was just above her shoulders. She would not have a lot of room for growth in the Magellan Max, even though she’s well below the stated height and weight limits of 49 inches and 65 pounds.
She had some trouble connecting and disconnecting the chest clip. Since a lot of older children who ride in a harnessed car seat are able to help get themselves in and out of their seats without a lot of adult assistance, this is a bit concerning. However, it’s quite possible that she’d grow familiar enough with this chest clip over time to learn the required skill.
The manual suggests that many children tend to outgrow car seats in harness mode at age 4, but this kiddo still fit in the harness and had room to grow. We advocate that children ride in a harnessed car seat until they’re at least 5 years old.
Switching the Magellan/Magellan Max to booster mode involves multiple steps.
First, adjust the back upwards to the top setting that’s indicated by a purple label on the shell. The headrest can extend further after the back is adjusted upwards.
The harness and crotch buckle store on the seat itself. They must be tucked all the way into the pockets on the inside of the cover. The crotch buckle stores under the padding on the seat pan.
With the Magellan in booster mode, we had some challenges feeding the vehicle seat belt through the very very small opening on the shoulder belt guide. The manual permits caregivers to bypass this guide, so it’s still possible to get a good vehicle seat belt fit without using the shoulder belt guide.
Fit to Child – Booster Mode
6 Years Old
This 6 year old model still weighs 45 pounds and is 45 inches tall. The vehicle seat belt fit her well in the Magellan Max’s booster mode, but she experienced some frustration when she couldn’t easily pull the vehicle seat belt through the belt guides. She couldn’t buckle the seat belt without help.
The belt did not retract properly in the 2014 Durango that was used for this particular setup. The manual permits bypassing the shoulder belt guide, so we tried that and found a much better fit.
The Magellan Max has a fairly deep seat pan. In booster mode, this positioned her legs so they dangled, and they were quite high off the seat. Her knees were much closer to the vehicle front seat than they are when she’s riding in her dedicated booster seat. This model normally uses a high back booster and is accustomed to being able to adjust her seat on her own. She preferred to go back to using her regular seat instead of taking any more rides in the Magellan.
8 Years Old
Our 8 year old model weighs 50 pounds and is 47 inches tall. She’s on the shorter side for her age and got a good belt fit in the Magellan Max.
Like our other booster models, she found it very difficult to pull the vehicle seat belt out and buckle herself into the seat. The belt retracted slowly, but her main issue with the Magellan Max in booster mode was that she felt she needed to pull the vehicle seat belt out all the way to have enough room to buckle up.
Pulling the vehicle seat belt all the way out can engage the retractor and lock the belt, something that’s not generally permitted with booster seats and isn’t permitted with the Magellan. She rode comfortably in the seat, but felt that her legs seemed to be positioned too high up in the car and that they were very dangly. This model will continue to use a booster seat until she passes the Five Step Test.
Important Information – Where to Find
Date of Manufacture: Most date of manufacture labels are located in an out of the way, but findable location. The Magellan’s label is completely hidden unless the shell is raised completely. We urge Maxi Cosi to relocate this label to a more prominent location.
Manual Storage: The Magellan’s manual stores on the back of the seat’s base. We found that our manual didn’t quite tuck all the way into this compartment.
FAA Approval Label: The Magellan is approved for use on airplanes in harnessed mode. The FAA approval label is found on the back of the seat but honestly, this seat is so large that we can’t see it fitting on most airplane seats. We would recommend using one of our recommended travel seats instead of flying with the Magellan.
It might fare better on the sea, since it’s a bit of a land yacht. (That’s a joke, we’re not asserting that the Magellan should or could be installed on a boat!)
The Magellan has a lot of interesting features and is so well padded that even the pickiest of passengers should find it comfortable. That’s a huge plus for many families! The lockoffs are quite nice and we remain fans of the ClipQuick chest clip that’s found on the Magellan Max.
We tested the Magellan with a number of children and in a number of vehicles. Unfortunately, the number of installation challenges we faced along the way don’t put the Magellan at the top of our list for easy to use car seats. Families who are looking for a very plush car seat, have a roomy vehicle, and are willing to be extremely patient while installing the Magellan may find it exactly what they need. But families who have average-sized vehicles and who might be short on patience for car seat installations would probably be happier with a different choice.
Shoutout to the Review Team!
We were lucky enough to have a team of amazing reviewers spend time with both the Magellan and Magellan Max. Many thanks to Laurel, Jacky, and Courtney for their efforts on this review!