Nuna staked their claim in the car seat market with the Pipa rear facing only car seat and has expanded their easy-to-use offerings to include the RAVA convertible car seat and AACE booster seat. Their latest addition to their lineup took the popular PIPA rear facing only car seat, removed a staggering 2 pounds of weight, and created the ridiculously lightweight PIPA Lite.
Note: the Canadian version of this seat is pretty different from the United States version of the seat that we’re reviewing here.
CSFTL Quick Stats
- Weight range: 4-32 pounds
- Height range: up to 32 inches tall
- Shell height: 18 inches
- Lowest harness position: about 6 inches with newborn insert
- Expiration: 7 years from date of original purchase/ date of manufacture if original purchase date is unknown/forgotten
- Handle position: any locked position. The handle must not contact the interior of the vehicle.
- Crash replacement: confirm in your seat’s manual, contact the manufacturer directly to confirm
- Carrier weight: 6 pounds, 5 ounces with cotton head insert, but without the body inserts or strap covers
- Carrier weight: 5 pounds, 14 ounces with the head insert removed
- Width of carrier at widest point: 17 inches
- Width of base at widest point: 13 inches
PIPA Family Tree
There are now 6 PIPA models in the family. Here’s a handy chart to help you keep track of them!
Both the PIPA rx (reviewed here) and the PIPA Lite r include the new PIPA RELX base. We’ll talk more about this pretty awesome base later in this review. Nuna weighs the carriers without the canopy or infant insert. These items typically add about 1.5 pounds. We weigh seats with all of those items on the seat.
|PIPA||MSRP||Base Included||Weight*||Installation Method||Dream Drape||No Rethread Harness|
|These models include the PIPA RELX base but are compatible with the original (PIPA series) base|
|PIPA rx + PIPA RELX base||$379.95||PIPA RELX base||7.5 pounds||With or without base||Yes||No|
|PIPA lite r + PIPA RELX base||$399.95||PIPA RELX base||5.3 pounds||With base||No||No|
|PIPA lite rx + PIPA RELX base||$499.95||PIPA RELX base||6.9 pounds||With or without base||Yes||Yes|
|These models include the original base but are compatible with the PIPA RELX base|
|PIPA||$319.95||PIPA series (original) base||8 pounds||With or without base||Yes||No|
|Nuna PIPA lite||$349.95||PIPA series (original) base||5.3 pounds||With base||No||No|
|Nuna PIPA lite lx||$399.95||PIPA series (original) base||5.7 pounds||With base||Yes||No|
Astonishingly Light Weight
The best feature of the PIPA Lite is in its name – at only 5 pounds, 14 ounces without the head insert, body insert, or strap covers, it’s pretty darn light weight. For caregivers who like to use rear facing only seats until the child reaches the height or weight limits, this lighter weight can be a game changer.
Nuna achieved this light weight by removing the baseless routing option, only having a single crotch buckle slot, using aeroflex foam that is lighter than traditional EPS foam, using aerospace aluminum that is stronger yet lighter than other metals, and using featherweight fabrics.
Most car seat covers are made from a single piece of material that’s cut and stitched into the proper shape. To keep the weight down on the PIPA Lite, Nuna used a thin stretchy fabric over the outer shell, with the thicker padded fabric behind the child.
Installation on Aircraft
The very first batch of PIPA Lites were shipped before Nuna received FAA approval for the base for use on aircraft. That changed very quickly, and PIPA Lites are now approved for use with the base on aircraft. PIPA Lite owners who do not have the FAA approval label on their seat can contact Nuna for a retrofit kit that includes updated labels and an updated manual.
The instructions are sparse, but the caregiver should buckle the airplane belt through the lockoff and close it. If the buckle ends up in the lockoff, the caregiver should unbuckle the belt and twist the side without the buckle a few times so that when the belt is buckled and tightened, the buckle is not in the lockoff.
While we welcome this development, we recognize that it will be unwieldy to lug the heavy base on the plane. In addition, the seat will not fit front to back on many airplanes when used with the base. While technically a passenger with this issue would have the right to be re-seated, in our experience, airlines may refuse to do this. We’d recommend buying an inexpensive rear facing only car seat for travel use and installing it without the base on an airplane, leave the PIPA Lite at home on airplane trips. Anyone who does want to bring this seat onto an airplane with the base should call Nuna to get an updated FAA approval sticker and updated instructions, if the seat was purchased before these were included.
The PIPA Lite includes a substantial canopy. Fans of the Nuna PIPA dream drape may be disappointed to find that the dream drape is not available on the PIPA Lite. We found that the PIPA Lite’s canopy is so light that it had trouble staying up at times.
The manual is quite thin and only includes instructions in English. The stickers on the seat are also only in English. The manual is clearly written, and we liked the design choice to put the words on the left side of the page with corresponding diagrams on the right side of the page.The manual clearly states Do not use without the base right on the front cover. We’re glad to see this key information in such a prominent loction since the base requirement is pretty unique.
Installation: Base Required
Our reviews usually contain two Installation sections: with the base and without the base. However, the PIPA Lite must be installed with the base, it can’t be installed without the base. So we’ll only have one Installation section here! The base may be installed with the lower anchors, the vehicle seat belt, or both the lower anchors AND the vehicle seat belt. The base includes rigid lower anchor connectors that need to be rotated forward and pushed onto the vehicle’s lower anchors. When the anchors are securely connected, the window on the lower anchor will show a green indicator. One CPST referred to this as point and click, and we’d have to agree! When this works well, installing the PIPA and PIPA Lite are quite simple.
Rigid Lower Anchors and Deep Vehicle Seats
The PIPA has been on the market for over three years, so we’ve seen the PIPA installed in a variety of vehicles. We’ve found a couple of scenarios that make installing the PIPA and PIPA Lite’s base with the lower anchors a challenge. The rigid lower anchors work as a safety feature by preventing extra movement and rotation of the base. When the vehicle’s lower anchors are very recessed or the vehicle seat very sloped, the PIPA’s connectors are simply too short to reach the vehicle’s lower anchors. When we’ve been able to attach the anchors in vehicles with this type of setup, the part of the base near the front of the vehicle lifts up in the air. Not only can this put the base at the wrong level, the upright angle can be dangerous for newborns and small infants who require a more reclined angle.
Vehicle Seat Belt
To install with the vehicle seat belt, open the blue lockoff, thread the lap and shoulder portions of the belt through the lockoff, tighten the vehicle seat belt, and close the lockoff. In certain vehicles, the geometry and anchor points of the belt can make it impossible to thread the belt through the lockoff and close the lockoff tightly. In these vehicles, the belt will move over the lip of the lockoff, and the lockoff will pop open. If that happens, we’d suggest trying a different seating position.
Stability (Load) Leg
The PIPA base has a load leg — Nuna calls this a stability leg — designed to help minimize downward rotation in a crash.The load leg is easy to operate. It folds out from under the base. To extend it, squeeze the handle in the center of the leg. The indicator turns green when the load leg makes secure contact with the floor.
The manual states the load leg should not be used to adjust the recline of the base. The load leg will not work in many center seating positions where there is a large hump on the floor of the vehicle because the leg will not go down far enough. In addition, the manual cautions to check the vehicle manual to see if a load leg may be prohibited, such as on a hollow floor with a compartment underneath. If the base lifts up when removing the carrier from the base, the load leg will often extend further and change the base’s recline angle. We’d suggesting spending some time practicing removing the seat from the base. First, squeeze the button on the base to remove the seat, and then pull up on the handle. Doing these steps in reverse will cause the base to lift and the load leg to descend.
Recline Foot and Level Indicator
The base features a recline foot that folds out from under the base. Because the rigid latch anchors are so short and the rigid latch installation so tight, often the recline foot doesn’t make a significant difference in the recline when the base is installed with the lower anchors. However, it can make a more significant difference with a seatbelt installation. The level indicator consists of a bubble and a vertical line. The bubble must touch the line for the recline to be correct. The line does not have to be in the middle of the bubble.
Fit to Child
Low Birth Weight Insert
The PIPA Lite’s inserts include a smaller insert that’s sort of hidden inside the larger insert. This insert can be a little confusing because it’s only mentioned in the latter part of the manual — it’s not mentioned specifically in the parts list at the front of the manual but it is mentioned in the Head and Body Support section. Here are the guidelines for the insert’s use:
The low birthweight pillow (located on the back of the body support) can be used in the body support for even smaller babies, but MUST be removed once a snug fit can be achieved without it, at approximately 11 lbs.
The PIPA Lite comes with two sets of inserts. One comes on the seat, and an additional set is included in the box. This additional set is made from GOTS certified organic cotton. Many parents might hesitate to use white inserts, as babies are messy, but then again, there is always a spare set! The head insert contains memory foam that’s between two pieces of plastic. Nuna asserts that this Tailor Tech Technology helps distribute crash energy evenly.
The head insert is attached via two straps that thread through the harness slot above the harness slot that the child currently uses and attach with Velcro. We found it tricky to attach the insert without pulling off the cover, but after a few times we got the hang of it. We applaud Nuna for labeling the insert itself with the instructions for this insert.
Our Huggable Images preemie doll weighs 4 pounds and is 17 inches long. The doll looked quite snug in the seat, but the straps were just a bit above the doll’s shoulders, even with the low birthweight pillow added to the insert. We do find that human children are shaped a bit differently than our dolls so we encourage caregivers to check the fit on their child before heading out. Our friends at Nuna are also available for virtual fit checks for tiny passengers in the PIPA.
We asked Nuna if a crotch roll is allowed to help improve fit for the tiniest of passengers, and they said yes. This small rolled washcloth is placed between the baby’s crotch and the buckle.
The PIPA Lite fit our newborn doll very well with the newborn pillow in place. The doll weighs 7 pounds and is 17 inches long. The pillow must be removed when the harness fits the child snugly without it, at around 11 pounds but for now, it’s helping our doll have a better fit.
6 Month Old
This 6 month old weighs 17 pounds and is 27 inches tall. We put him in the seat with and without the head insert. He was a bit snug but seemed happy and comfortable with the head insert in. His parents will continue to use the seat with the head insert in, as Nuna has told us that the memory foam in the head insert does help with crash protection.
Without the head insert, he also fit well in the seat.
One Year Old
This little just turned 1. He weighs 28 pounds and is 30 inches tall. He has a similar fit to our 6 month old in this seat! He has a comfortable fit in the PIPA Lite without the inserts. Since many rear facing only car seats are outgrown at around 9 months, it’s nice to see that the PIPA Lite can last a bit longer than that!
Important Information: Where to Find
FAA Approval: The very first batch of PIPA Lites shipped before Nuna received FAA approval for use on aircraft. That changed very quickly and PIPA Lites are now approved for use with the base on aircraft. PIPA Lite owners who do not have the FAA approval label on their seat can contact Nuna for a retrofit kit that includes updated labels and an updated manual.
Manual Storage: The manual is stored in a compartment on the underside of the base. While we always advocate bringing the manual along for the ride, accessing this spot requires uninstalling the base. Thankfully the manual is also available for download on the PIPA Lite website.
Expiration: The PIPA Lite expires 7 years after the date of original purchase. Nuna has confirmed for us that it would expire 7 years after the date of manufacture listed on the seat if the owner loses track of the orginal purchase date.
Parents and caregivers who frequently take the seat in and out of other vehicles, such as taxis, rideshares, or caregivers who travel frequently would probably want to consider a different seat that can be used without the base. We’d suggest the PIPA Lite for familes tend to drive the same vehicle most of the time and can leave a base installed.
One of our favorite parts of the original PIPA was the European baseless install routing, so we were initially wary about the PIPA Lite’s required base. However, we are very impressed by the PIPA Lite’s extreme light weight and the extra inserts included with the seat. It’s hard not to be a fan of the easy rigid LATCH base install in most vehicles.