Nuna AACE Review

Nuna AACE Box

Nuna AACE Box

We’ve been big fans of the well-featured Nuna Pipa rear facing only car seat for quite some time. When Nuna announced the new AACE booster seat and the upcoming RAVA convertible car seat, we Could Not Wait to take a look! The AACE arrived in a very large box and I forced myself to finish another article before I could open it.

That's a very tall box!

That’s a very tall box!

My first thought was oh my, this is a pretty booster! I know, we’re all CPSTs here so we should start our focus on the more technical features of the seat but I, too, can be wowed by a well-featured, pretty seat.

CSFTL Quick Stats

Nuna AACE 9 Years Old

  • High back booster weight range: 40-110 lbs
  • High back booster height range: 38-60 inches tall
  • High back booster age range: at least 4 years old. CSFTL suggests that children be at least 5 years old before riding in a booster seat.
  • Highest booster guide position: 21″
  • Expiration: 10 years
  • Backless booster weight range: 50-120 lbs
  • Backless booster height range: 38-60 inches
  • Does not require a vehicle head rest behind it
  • Replace after any accident

Features

  • Rigid lower anchor connectors
  • Adjustable length leg support
  • Torso support widens as the child grows and the headrest is raised

Measurements

  • Width at widest point: 21″
  • Width across lap area: 17″
  • Weight (high back booster): 16 lbs
  • Weight (backless booster): 8 lbs

Features

Padding

The AACE is very cushioned with lots of room in the hip, torso, and shoulders. As the headrest goes up, there’s still lots of cushioning behind the child. My booster riders complain without pause if they’re forced to ride in a booster where the padding disappears for taller children so in that area, the AACE gets all my votes!

Cover Material

The Nuna AACE in "Indigo"

The Nuna AACE in “Indigo”

The cover is different than typical car seat covers. It’s more of a plush canvas feel than a silky smooth feel. I realize that ‘plush canvas’ seems sort of like an oxymoron but I swear, it’s a very nice to the touch fabric!

Shoulder Expansion

Nuna AACE shoulder belt guide below the side supports

Nuna AACE shoulder belt guide below the side supports — the belt did not stick!

One unique feature about the AACE is the expanding shoulder area. When the headrest goes up as the child grows, the shoulder area expands along with it.  This gives growing kids more room so their shoulders don’t feel squished in the booster. This made for just the right amount of support for my new booster rider — the side supports helped remind her to stay in place.

My main issue with the bulky shoulder supports is that they’re so deep, it was hard to access the shoulder belt guide to thread the seat belt in high back mode. I found that raising the headrest until it cleared the top of the side wings, threading the vehicle belt, then lowering the headrest to the right spot for my kiddo worked just fine. The shoulder belt did not stick at all as the headrest moved up and down.

When the headrest is fully extended, the AACE is 21 inches wide.  That might make it a challenge for most three car seats across the backseat situations.

Side Impact Protection Pods

Side Impact Protection pod

Side Impact Protection pod

On each side of the seat, there are little flaps that fold in and out. Those are the Side Impact Protection pods, which should be opened when the seat is in use.

The SIP pods pull out and can pop back in and should only be used on the side of the seat that’s next to a vehicle door.  The SIP pods should not be extended when the AACE is installed in a center seating position.   At the moment, the manual is a bit fuzzy on this issue, we’ve confirmed with Nuna.   Updated manuals should include some additional clarification on the prohibition of SIP pod use in the center seating position.

Leg Support

Seat adjuster fully extended

Seat adjuster fully extended

The AACE has a leg extension panel that adds a bit of depth for taller children. We often joke that some boosters are for children without thighs because the seat pan is so short. There’s no way to make that joke about the AACE — the seat adjustment offers ample leg support for a wide range of children!

Seat adjuster smallest position with folded fabric at the back

Seat adjuster smallest position with folded fabric at the back

My only complaint about this feature is the cover — it has a few extra panels of fabric at the back of the seat that got sort of folded up when I moved the panel out and back. When the seat adjuster is in the shortest position, the fabric bunches up but it was easy enough to tuck it back under the bottom of the booster’s back. Most families aren’t doing this particular move on a daily basis so I don’t anticipate this being any kind of an issue for most families.

Recline

The AACE has two recline positions.  The short version of how to use them: recline the seat back if that helps the AACE fit the vehicle and child better.  With lower anchors, the seat back still reclines but the anchors aren’t pushed all the way into the vehicle seat back.  The manual doesn’t offer any guidelines around when the recline should be used.

Manual

Normally, we don’t mention the manual specifically but I’d like to give Nuna a gold star here.  The manual itself is printed on nice, thick paper that’s easy to hold and flip through.  It’s well-written and easy to follow.

Assembly

Some assembly required for high back mode

Some assembly required for high back mode

The seat ships in the tallest car seat box I’ve ever seen and arrives in pieces — the backless portion and the back. To assemble the seat, lay the backless portion on a flat surface, then line the hooks of the back portion up with the slots in the backless portion. Once the hooks are lined up, pull the seat back up until it clicks into place. Note: it took a little extra brute force to get that click than I expected!

Starter Kit

Starter Kit

Included in the box is a tiny box called the Starter Kit. This includes the cup holder, lower anchor guides, and shoulder belt adjuster. For most car seats we review, these types of items are often shipped in bags, then attached to the seat itself. Having their own little box was a very nice touch.

Lower Anchors

Nuna AACE lower anchor connectors

Nuna AACE lower anchor connectors

The lower anchor connectors weren’t totally obvious at first. They’re tucked into the backless portion of the seat in a very tidy manner. To release them, squeeze the handle underneath the front of the backless portion of the seat. While squeezing, pull the bar at the back of the backless portion of the seat.

Rotating the lower anchor connectors

Rotating the lower anchor connectors

When fully extended, it doesn’t quite look like there’s enough room for the connectors to flip around but there is. Grab the lower anchor connectors, flip the ends around, then set the AACE on the vehicle seat.

The connectors click into the lower anchors on the vehicle. My car has some amazing, easily accessible lower anchors so I didn’t need to use the guides that are included with the AACE.

Once the lower anchors are connected, push the backless portion of the seat toward the vehicle seat back until there’s an audible click. At that point, the AACE is in place!

Note: for booster seats, lower anchors secure the seat to the vehicle so it doesn’t become a projectile in a crash. The child still needs to buckle the seat belt.

Note: when using the AACE in older vehicles that lack lower anchors, buckle the seat into the car when it’s not being used. This practice prevents the booster from becoming a projectile in the event of a crash.

Fit to Child

High Back Mode

6.5 Years Old

Nuna AACE 6 Years Old

Nuna AACE 6 Years Old

Here’s my favorite 6.5 year old booster model. She’s 48 inches tall and weighs 51 lbs. She still rides in a harnessed car seat when she’s not with me — she’s still mastering the art of sitting properly in a booster. The Right Seat for her varies between vehicles. We’ve found that more robust boosters with lots of padding and bigger sidewings help her sit properly more often so I was eager to try her in the AACE.

10 Years Old

Nuna AACE 10 years old

Nuna AACE 10 years old

The AACE’s stated height limit is 60 inches tall so I asked my favorite 10 year old booster rider to have a seat. She’s 55 inches tall and wears a size 8/10 clothing. Since the top shoulder belt guide height is around 21″, she’s way too tall to use this seat in high back mode.  But we tried anyway for the sake of this picture.

Backless Mode

6.5 Years Old

Nuna AACE 6 Years Old

Nuna AACE 6 Years Old

Once again, we see my favorite 6.5 year old booster model. She rides in a backless booster very rarely so she was pretty darn excited to see the AACE set up for her. The belt fit was terrific — the lap portion fit across the tops of her thighs and the shoulder portion sits right across the middle of her shoulder.

10 Years Old

Nuna AACE 10 Years Old

Nuna AACE 10 Years Old

This kiddo passes the Five Step Test in some vehicles but not all so she still rides in a backless booster most of the time. She’s 10 years old, 55 inches tall, and wears a size 8/10 in clothing. The AACE was a quick favorite for her! The belt fit was solid, she found it easy to buckle, and she loved the padding. We can see the AACE as a great, long-lasting option for growing kiddos.

Important Information: Where to Find

FAA Approval

Nuna AACE: not approved for airplane use

Nuna AACE: not approved for airplane use

Like all booster seats, the AACE is not approved for use on aircraft. That’s because airplanes have lap-only seat belts — they lack the shoulder belt that booster seats require. The label is found on the underside of the backless portion of the seat.
If you travel with the AACE, we’d suggest putting the back portion in a hard-sided suitcase and checking that through. The backless portion would fit in the overhead bin on an airplane so it’s ready for use when you arrive at your destination.

Date of Manufacture

Nuna AACE: 10 year expiration

Nuna AACE: 10 year expiration

The AACE has a 10 year lifespan. That limit is clearly marked with a label on the bottom of the backless portion of the seat.

Manual Storage

Nuna AACE manual storage

Nuna AACE manual storage

The manual tucks into a tidy compartment on the bottom of the backless portion of the seat. When the seat ships, the manual is in a plastic bag that’s attached to the back of the backless portion of the seat. I mention this because the manual is so thin, I overlooked it for longer than I care to admit.

Overall Thoughts

Nuna is new to the world of boosters but wow, are we impressed with the AACE! It has features we love — seat bottom adjustment, plush, comfortable fabric, expandable shoulder area, lower anchors, and a solid belt fit for our models. It’s like Nuna took notes from every well-featured booster on the market, then included all of the best features on the AACE! Since it converts to backless mode, families could expect to get many happy years of use out of this seat.