NUNA’s Pipa Lite LX has been available in the United States for a while, but did you know there is also a European version of this lightweight rear facing only car seat? When NUNA asked if we would like to check out the European Pipa Lite LX we jumped at the chance! Lightweight yet full featured and stylish… but is there a catch to all those fabulous features? Let’s find out!
CSFTL Quick Stats
- Weight range: 0-13 kg (0-29 pounds)
- Lowest harness position: around 20 cm (8 inches)
- Expiration: NUNA doesn’t specify a maximum period of use, but they do advise that harnessed seats be used for a maximum of 5 to 7 years after the date of manufacture for the EU version of this seat. The version sold in the United States has a specific lifespan.
- Replace after any crash
- Weight (carrier only): 2.9 kg (6 pounds 6 ounces) with insert and canopy
- Width of seat (carrier + base) at widest point: 44.5 cm (17.5 inches)
- Shell height: 43 cm (17 inches)
- Length of seat (carrier + base) with ISOFIX extended: 73 cm (29 inches) — the actual length will vary based on how deep in the vehicle seat the ISOFIX anchors are located
- Length of seat (carrier + base) with ISOFIX stored: 65 cm (26 inches)
- Huge canopy with Dream Drape
- Extremely lightweight
- Base with ISOFIX or vehicle seat belt install option
- 3 point harness
- 2 inserts come standard — one is organic cotton
This was the scene in my house the evening I brought the Pipa Lite home:
Him: Is this the new fancy car seat?
Him: So what’s so special about it?
Me: Pick it up.
Him: Wha..? Oh! Wow!
It is just that light. Even my partner, who is one of the least discerning car seat users on the planet, immediately noticed how light it was. For several months I have left my other infant seat installed in the car because it was just too heavy to carry with my son strapped inside. But now that I’ve been using the Pipa Lite LX I find that I’m carrying him around with ease again!
The secret to its light weight lies in its construction — you can see here how the foam is partially structural rather than lining a plastic shell as it does in most other infant seats.
The harness on the Pipa Lite LX is a 3 point harness. This means there are no straps over the hips, only straps over the shoulders and down to the crotch. While some caregivers think that 3 point harnesses are less safe, they actually pass both required testing and third party testing in the EU quite well.
The harness is very easy to buckle and unbuckle, and adjusting the harness is smooth as butter. It’s very easy to get it tight enough and to loosen. The only issue I had with the harness adjustment is that the adjuster button has a layer of fabric over it which threw me off at first — I was expecting to be able to feel the metal of the button! Once I figured it out, though, it has been extremely easy to use.
Harness Height Adjustment
Adjusting the harness height is very easy. Unbuckle the harness, thread the straps through the slots, then rethread through the desired slots. The slots are nice and wide so the buckle tongues slide through easily, and since this is a 3 point harness there are no loops or splitter plates to worry about. I did note in the manual that the diagram mentioned and had arrows pointing to non-existent loops and splitter plates, but NUNA has said this diagram error will be corrected.
We love the extremely clear labels on the back of the seat that remind caregivers to thread the harness under the metal bars, not over them. Such clear labeling on the seat itself can go a long way towards reducing misuse.
The canopy is free moving rather than being attached to the handle. I found it sometimes fell backwards a wee bit when fully extended, but it was never an issue. It also has a pop-out additional shade for more protection. And, best of all, it features NUNA’s Dream Drape.
The Dream Drape is AWESOME. It stores in a zippered compartment on the canopy; when more shade (a lot more!) is needed, just unzip the compartment and pull out the fabric. Magnets in the bottom corners attach to magnets at the bottom corners of the carrier. It offers an absolutely huge amount of sun protection, and is ventilated to help prevent overheating. My son hates having the sun in his eyes, so this has been fantastic for him!
The base can be installed with the vehicle seat belt or ISOFIX. This gives it a lot more flexibility than some other European bases, but I did have some challenges with it.
The ISOFIX arms on the Pipa Lite LX base are a fixed length and angle. This means in some vehicles there may be quite a large gap between the car seat and the vehicle seat. I was concerned about this gap, but NUNA assured me it’s normal and expected. I was still able to get a good, solid install despite the gap. A mention of the gap in the manual would likely help assuage caregivers’ concerns, since it is apparently normal to see in most cars.
The fixed angle means that in some vehicles the base may be too upright on ISOFIX for a newborn. I was able to install the Pipa Lite LX with a good recline angle in both our BMW i3 and our Ford Focus, but it’s definitely a good idea to check the angle before you put a newborn in it. If the recline angle when the base is installed with ISOFIX is too upright, a vehicle seat belt install may make it easier to compress the base more to get a better recline angle.
The fixed length of the ISOFIX arms makes the base take up significantly more front to back space in some vehicles when installed with ISOFIX than it does when installed with the vehicle seat belt. I couldn’t fit it behind my tall partner in our Ford Focus on ISOFIX, but I was able to fit it behind him when installed with the vehicle seat belt.
The load leg on the Pipa Lite LX can fold up under the base, but it does not store there — it simply flops down when you pick up the base. This is a good reminder that, unlike the US version of the seat, the load leg MUST be used at all times.
The insert on the Pipa Lite LX comes in two pieces: a head support and a body support.
Tucked into the body support is what the manual refers to as a “low birthweight pillow.” This wedge helps young babies maintain a more reclined position in the seat to protect their airway. The term “low birthweight pillow” is a bit of a misnomer — there is no weight limit on it and we would recommend using it until baby has good head control to ensure the airway stays open.
The rest of the insert is required for use until baby is 6 months old. The version of this seat that’s sold in the United States doesn’t have an age limit — that manual indicates that it’s for “smaller babies.” After 6 months, the EU insert is optional and may be used as long as desired. NUNA notes that the head insert provides additional side impact protection, so we would suggest using it as long as possible.
The head support may only be used when the harness is in the bottom or middle harness slots. Thread the strap on the back of the head support behind the cover through the slot above the one the harness is currently in and attach the hook and loop fastener.
The fabric on the insert is very, very soft, and the insert itself is extremely cushy. It provides lovely, soft comfort for smaller babies.
An additional organic cotton insert comes with the seat. Our sample unfortunately didn’t include this additional insert, but it is identical to the standard insert in shape and form and differs only in the fabric covering. Babies tend to be rather leaky, so having an extra insert at hand can be a real plus!
Flame Retardant Fabrics
The seat I received to review is a UK-spec seat. Totally unbeknownst to me, the UK has flame retardant requirements for car seats that mainland Europe does not have. NUNA has satisfied these requirements with a “super secret” blend of fibres — mainly Merino wool and Tencel — that are flame retardant without any additional chemicals. The fabric on the European models is different, but still soft and supple.
The carry handle features a leatherette grip that helps with comfort while toting the seat around. The handle may be in any of the locked positions while in the vehicle. However, no part of the handle may contact any part of the interior of the vehicle, including the seat in front or the sides of the vehicle.
Yep, there’s a catch! The Pipa Lite can only be installed with the base — there is no baseless install option. Is this a deal breaker? For me it isn’t. I tend to use my infant seats in just one vehicle and rarely if ever do a baseless install. But for folks who frequently catch rides with friends or take taxis the ease of a baseless install will be sorely missed.
First, rotate the ISOFIX arms out from their storage position. Then pull out the load leg so it hangs down towards the floor of the vehicle; you don’t want it folded under when you place the base on the seat, or you’ll have to start over! Line up the ISOFIX arms with the ISOFIX anchors in the vehicle — if the ISOFIX anchors are buried deep in the seat bight you can use the included plastic ISOFIX guides to help make access easier. The large collection of ISOFIX guides gathering dust in my wardrobe attests to the fact that I’ve never needed to use them.
Push the ISOFIX arms onto the anchors until you hear a click. The indicators on the arms turn green when they’re correctly installed.
Extend the load leg down to the floor of the vehicle. It pulls out easily, so if you overextend it just push up on the button in the middle and retract the leg a bit. Once firmly in contact with the vehicle floor the indicator on the foot will turn green. I found it was difficult to see the indicator in our Focus, because the indicator faces the front of the car and the front seat was in the way. I used my phone to snap a picture to ensure the indicator was correct.
Once the base is installed, there should be very little movement at the belt path. The gap between the base and the vehicle seat is normal and expected.
Installation: Vehicle Seat Belt
If the ISOFIX arms are extended, push the ridged button on the bottom of the base and rotate them back into their storage position. I found the button somewhat hard to push, so don’t be afraid to put a little muscle in it!
Make sure the load leg is pulled out from the base, so it hangs down towards the vehicle floor.
Next, open the the lockoff on the base. Thread the vehicle seat belt under the side and through the base. Buckle the vehicle seat belt. Make sure both the lap and shoulder portion of the vehicle seat belt are in the lockoff. Apply some pressure to the base and pull the shoulder portion of the seat belt straight out towards the door of the vehicle to ensure it’s nice and tight.
Close the lockoff and check for movement at the belt path.
If there’s little to no movement, extend the load leg down to the floor of the vehicle. The indicator on the foot will turn green once it’s firmly in contact with the floor. I sometimes had to give it a good hard push to get it quite down all the way. Occasionally I overextended it while doing so, lifting the base off the vehicle seat. When this happened I had to push up on the button in the middle to retract the leg, then try again. It was a bit frustrating, but with a little practice it didn’t happen quite as much.
I did find that a vehicle seat belt install was incompatible with my BMW i3. The seat had a lot of movement even when correctly installed.
This is due to the belt geometry of the car — the seat belts are mounted too far forward of the seat bight. In our Ford Focus I had no problem with a vehicle seat belt install.
Installation: Carrier Onto Base
Line up the carrier on the base and allow it to click into place. Indicators on the base turn green when the carrier is correctly installed. The handle may be in any locked position, as long as it doesn’t touch any part of the vehicle interior — I found the upright position gave us the most room, so I left it there.
To remove the carrier, pull up on the release handle located on the base above the load leg. With the other hand, lift the carrier off the base. I found it was sometimes difficult to get the carrier off the base without lifting the entire base off the vehicle seat (which risked the load leg coming down further and overextending). With a little practice I was able to pull up on the release handle and tilt the seat toward the back of the vehicle enough to disengage it from the base without lifting the base up. Then I was able to remove it without accidentally changing the load leg height.
Fit to Child
Our Ikea doll has a torso that is roughly equivalent to a newborn baby. He gets a pretty good harness fit in the Pipa Lite LX, with the straps just at or slightly below the shoulder with the full insert in use. In addition, the insert provides very nice support and a good angle for a newborn. It’s easy to pull the harness nice and snug, even for a small baby.
Our model is 7 months old, about 69 cm (27 inches) and 8.3 kg (18 pounds 5 ounces). He gets a lovely harness fit in the Pipa Lite LX, though we spent a lot of time trying to figure out the best configuration for him! He still just about fits with the body support in and the “low birthweight pillow” removed, but ultimately I decided his fit was better without the insert. He’s currently on the second slot for the harness. He seems comfortable and he loves how the Dream Drape keeps the sun out of his eyes! It’s extremely easy to adjust the harness on him. I make sure to slide the strap covers down to do the pinch test (as recommended in the manual) every time I put him in the seat. He’s got quite a lot of growing room in the seat, and I expect it will last until he’s over a year old.
I’d prefer to keep the head insert in for the additional side impact protection it provides, but it kept falling down so I’ve removed it for now.
Our model is now 11 months old, about 74 cm (29 inches) and 9.8 kg (21 pounds 10 ounces). I’ve removed the canopy to show how much space he has above his head; like other European seats, the Pipa Lite LX is outgrown once the top of the baby’s head reaches the top of the car seat shell. He still gets a great fit in the Pipa Lite LX. The straps are on the middle slot, and he still has loads of growing room. He definitely prefers having the strap covers on — without them, the straps tend to rub his neck because they’re fairly narrow set.
Important Information: Where to Find
Expiration: NUNA doesn’t specify a maximum period of use, but they do advise that harnessed seats be used for a maximum of 5 to 7 years after the date of manufacture. The version sold in the United States has a specific lifespan.
Manual storage: The parts diagram in the manual shows a storage location on the bottom of the base, but when I tried to fit the manual in there I was entirely unsuccessful. It’s just too thick!
Airline approval: The Pipa Lite LX is not approved for airplane use. The version of this seat that’s sold in the United States does allow airplane use when it’s installed with the base but this version does not.
The main claim to fame for the Pipa Lite LX is how incredibly lightweight it is, and it absolutely delivers on that. Yet it also packs several other really awesome features (hello Dream Drape!) into that super lightweight package. Its main downside is the inability to use the carrier without the base. For those who use taxis or catch rides frequently, it probably isn’t going to be the best choice. But for caregivers who routinely use one vehicle and who value an extraordinarily lightweight seat with some awesome features, the Pipa Lite LX is well worth considering.