We’ve reviewed Nuna’s Pipa rear facing only car seat, spent some time with their AACE booster seat, and waited anxiously to review the newest seat to their lineup, the RAVA convertible car seat. We finally got to see it at the Kidz in Motion CPS conference in Orlando, Florida. The CSFTL team were so excited to see it at KIM, we ran all the way over to the Nuna tables!
The RAVA’s styling is sleek and modern with very nice touches from top to bottom. The seat has modern styling and sleek lines along with some unique ease of use and safety features.
CSFTL Quick Stats
- Rear facing weight range: 5-50 pounds
- Rear facing height range: less than 49 inches tall
- Forward facing weight range: 25-65 pounds
- Forward facing height range: less than 49 inches tall (Manual suggests rear facing to 2 years old)
- Lowest harness position: 7 inches with insert
- Highest harness position: 17 inches
- Lower anchor weight limit: 35 pounds rear facing, 40 pounds forward facing
- Shell height: 25 inches
- Width at widest point: 19 inches, 17 inches wide at the seat pan
- Seat pan depth: 13 inches without calf support, 16 inches with support extended
- Multiple buckle positions – 3 inches with insert, 4.5 inches without insert, 6 inches greatest distance
- Seat weight: 27.2 pounds
- Expiration: 10 years
- Reinforced belt path compartment
- True Tension installation system
- No-rethread harness with 10 positions
- Smooth recline mechanism with multiple positions for rear facing and forward facing
- Calf support for rear and forward facing
- Push-on lower anchor connectors
- Ventilation channels in cover for air flow
- Flip-up flexible cup holders for ease of use and cleaning
- Steel reinforced frame
Padding and Cover
The RAVA has a soft cover and a very padded infant insert. This insert is quite thick and should be very supportive for smaller passengers, and includes a newborn wedge for babies who weigh less than 11 pounds.
There is a head cushion insert with sturdy plastic “arms” on the back to help it stay in place. There are corresponding spots on the headrest cover for them to go into.
The cover is cushy and comfortable, and feels like it will hold up well to years of use. It is removable for easy washing, with step by step instructions for removal and care found in the back of the manual. The seat pad easily pulls out and folds to access the True Tension doors, and it secures back into place with heavy duty metal snaps.
True Tension Belt Path
Installing the RAVA is as simple as moving the padding to reveal the True Tension door, opening it, routing the belt through the path, buckling, tightening and locking the belt, and then closing the door. Reveal, open, buckle, pull tight and lock, then close. That’s it!
While installation with the lower anchors is allowed, the vehicle seat belt is the preferred method for installing the RAVA.
There are two very visible notices included with the packaging stating as much; one in the rear facing belt path and one with the manual, which is an awesome way to get that info parents and caregivers! Kudos, Nuna, on that idea!
EPS Foam and SIP Pods
The RAVA has an EPS foam layer inside, and SIP (Side Impact Protection) Pods on the outside of the seat. Both of these features are designed to enhance safety. The EPS foam is there to help absorb energy during a crash.
On the outside of the seat, the SIP Pods extend to provide impact protection. 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 RAVA is installed in a center seating position. At the moment, the manual is a bit fuzzy on this issue. We’ve confirmed with Nuna that updated manuals should include some additional clarification on the prohibition of SIP pod use in the center seating position.
Laid Back Legroom
The RAVA also has laid back legroom calf expansion. This extension panel offers up to 2″ of extra support for rear facing riders, and is usable for forward facing children as well. Painful leg dangling is a primary complaint of forward facing children, so we’re pleased that Nuna offers this extra support.
Forward facing, the calf expansion is a little less supportive than we’d prefer, but it offers a decent amount of extra leg room for rear facing kiddos.
The RAVA has a total of 10 recline settings.
Adjusting the recline takes very little effort. Push the button on the base, and glide the seat itself through one of the five rear facing or five forward facing settings before installing. With such a large recline range, RAVA can be reclined enough for a newborn, but also install really upright for older rear facing kids.
Here’s a comparison of the most reclined and most upright angles for forward facing. Fully reclined in the captain’s chair of my van, there was a bit of a gap behind the seat. I confirmed with a Nuna rep that the gap was acceptable. A deep recline may be good for children who need more support.
The RAVA can be incredibly compact in rear facing mode. This is in the third row of my Honda Odyssey with the second row captain’s chair all the way back!
The RAVA’s base may make a newborn recline on sloped vehicle seats a challenge. A newborn ride in a properly reclined car seat, generally around 45 degrees.
Lack of Recline Indicator
Most car seats have a level line or level indicator of some sort, but the RAVA does not, letting the caregiver determine the recline angle based upon the comfort of the child.
No Rethread Harness
The harness adjuster at the top of the headrest slides easily to adjust the setting upwards or downwards with one hand.
A parent’s dream come true! At least, it’s my dream come true!
The RAVA comes out of the box with the cup holders closed over the rear facing belt path. They’ll need to be flipped up for rear facing installation, but can be left folded for storage or removed completely. Stowing or removing the cup holders can offer more space for three across or side by side setups.
The cupholders are flexible and flip inside out for cleaning. They’re also dishwasher safe!
Buckle Tongue Storage Pockets
Keeping all of the parts of the buckle out of the way when buckling your little can be a task in and of itself. The RAVA has buckle pockets which hold the buckle tongues off to each side until you’re ready to buckle baby. What a useful feature!
Crotch Buckle Adjustment
The crotch buckle adjusts easily to accommodate children of different sizes. Directions are listed right on the buckle as well as in the manual. Push the grey piece and slide it to move the buckle from one position to the other. Make sure to also move the buckle to the corresponding slot in the cover. The inner slot is required for babies using the insert in rear facing mode.
Labels may seem seem trivial, but so much information is listed on the labels adorning the sides of your car seat.
These labels include everything from installation information and methods, to seat height and weight limits, and more! Labels can be distracting but the RAVA’s labels are all tucked away in relevant locations on the seat.
Installation: Rear Facing
- Weight range: 5-50 pounds
- Height range: less than 49 inches or when the child’s head is above the top of headrest
- Crotch buckle position: 1st or 2nd slot (1st slot is required when the insert is used)
- Lower Anchors: 35 pound child weight limit
The lower anchors are stowed in large compartments inside the seat’s rear facing True Tension door. Open both doors, then move the lower anchor connectors from the rear facing belt path/storage area to the belt path. There is a lot of room inside for storing the lower anchors when they’re not being used. The compartment is quickly accessible and easy to open.
The RAVA includes premium lower anchors. Nuna permits the use of lower anchors in any vehicle allowed spacing for lower anchor usage. Attach the lower anchor connectors, pull tight, close the True Tension door, and you’re done! To release the lower anchors, simply push the red button on the connector.
The tether anchor stores neatly on the back of the seat. The storage location is marked with the same tether anchor icon that is on vehicle seats. The extra length of webbing is folded and bound with a padded cover similar to the harness comfort pads. Remove and store this padding before using the top tether.
Installation with Vehicle Seat Belt
Vehicle seat belt installation with the RAVA is a breeze. After the seat pad is unsnapped and pulled forward, the True Tension door is opened, then the belt is routed through the True Tension Door locking compartment. After that, simply pull the belt tight, lock it, and close the compartment.
The installation takes seconds, and feels very secure with little effort. If you’re installing with a lap/shoulder belt, the RAVA requires locking the vehicle belt during installation. Unsure how your belts lock? Learn more in our Lock It Up article! Vehicle seat belts that don’t lock will require a locking clip.
Make sure that the lower anchor connectors are securely stowed in their compartments just under the rear facing belt path when not in use.
The Nuna RAVA has five recline positions for rear facing, and a clear level window on the side of the seat. Setting it to the proper recline is a piece of cake. Bob, the Nuna representative at the 2016 Kidz In Motion conference, said that the recline adjustment mechanism was “smooth like buttah” and we agree with him!
Fit to Child
The RAVA features a no-rethread harness adjustment system and is designed to be easy enough to do one handed. Adjusting it for multiple children should be effortless, and I did so for my three models and Huggable Images doll within a few moments. A hefty insert with wedge for newborns really helps smaller babies get a better fit.
Our newborn model is a Huggable Images doll, and she’s 7 pounds and 19 inches long. She gets a great fit with the newborn wedge. It has to be removed at 11 pounds, which is in the manual but is also on the wedge itself. In addition to the wedge and insert, the head insert is very supportive and stays in place nicely since there are holes in the cover of the headrest to keep it from moving around.
All of the optional comfort padding on the crotch buckle and harness can keep baby snug and secure, but removing them may also help improve the fit for some smaller babies. In the photo below, I’ve removed one of the harness covers to show that the harness is definitely properly positioned on our newborn doll.
In the manual, Nuna suggests that parents and caregivers may find that removing some of the harness pads can help to improve fit. I didn’t find that necessary, but someone with an actual newborn may.
Huggable Images dolls are a great option for CPSTs and other educators.
I was able to achieve a deep recline for our newborn in the RAVA in my Honda Odyssey, but it may be possible that the RAVA could install too upright in some vehicles for newborns or younger babies. If there is a concern with recline when the RAVA is at its most reclined setting, parents can try to move the seat to another position in the car, and failing that, we’d suggest that caregivers discuss the installation with a CPST or directly with Nuna.
2 Years Old
Our two year old model is 23 pounds, and is 34 inches tall. She’s smaller for her age, and is closer to the size of an 18 month old. The RAVA fit like a glove, with the harness easily below her shoulders, and a lot of room for growth. I chose to remove the insert entirely since doesn’t need the support of the cushion and didn’t like the other padding on the harness much, either. Some toddlers really like the extra padding, but she would just like to take it all off. She couldn’t, though, which I liked.
I also liked that the hook and loop closures were softer and more flexible inside; nothing rough to scratch baby or toddler who may try to remove some of the padding. This toddler may continue to use the RAVA, but I will probably make adjustments to the padding, removing what she doesn’t like and keeping what she tolerates… for now.
4.5 Years Old
This model is 4.5 years old, weighs 35 pounds, and is 42 inches tall. She normally rides forward facing in another seat, but agreed to help with this review by testing out the RAVA in rear facing mode. She has another 15 pounds or 7″ growing room in the RAVA!
I noticed that she could not unbuckle the chest clip on her own, something that she’s able to do in other seats. Our model preferred rear facing recline four using the calf extension. She had loads of legroom!
4.5 Years Old
This happy model is also 4.5 years old. He weighs 39 pounds and is 43 inches tall. He finds the seat quite cushiony and comfortable. The wide range of recline options have helped him stay comfortable in the seat as he’s grown.
Installation: Forward Facing
- Weight range: 25-65 pounds
- Age range: suggested 2 years and up
- Height range: less than 49 inches
- Crotch buckle position: either position allowed
The RAVA has a 40 pounds forward facing lower anchor limit. Using the lower anchors is easy, and is similar to installing the seat in rear facing mode. The separate belt compartments are clearly marked in different colors to avoid confusion. When switching the lower anchor connectors from one mode to another, simply slide them up or down to the next path.
In order to move the lower anchors to forward facing mode, open both True Tension doors and move the strap up from the rear facing belt path to the forward facing belt path. Switching it from one belt path to the other is more time consuming than simply threading the vehicle seat belt. It will probably be easier for most caregivers to use the vehicle seat belt.
Installation with the Vehicle Seat Belt
RAVA’s seat pad flips up to reveal both True Tension doors, so one needn’t wrestle the belt though a small belt path. Simply open the compartment, route the belt through, buckle and lock the belt, then close the door. Easy peasy!
My only concern was the “convenience button” on my vehicle’s seat belt, which ended up right under the door. I contacted the Nuna representative, who assured me that the placement was fine as long as the door closed. The door closed securely, even with the button in the belt path.
To release the tether anchor from the seat’s storage spot more easily, Nuna recommends reclining the seat and then attempting to loosen the tether anchor strap. This was a really helpful tip.
Fit to Child
4 Years Old
Here’s our four year old model. She weighs 35 pounds, is 42 inches tall, and gets a beautiful fit in the RAVA. The top harness setting works for her, but the next one down also places the harness at her shoulders, which is okay for forward facing. She’s saying “I’m four, and happy in a harness!”
RAVA has an optional calf support that she liked for rear facing because it offered more legroom, but when we tried it forward facing, she said it wasn’t enough. Her legs were uncomfortable and dangled without the calf extension, and she wanted more support than the extension could offer. Perhaps future versions will offer a more substantial version with additional support.
Even though she’s almost five, our model isn’t ready to be in a belt positioning booster, so a harnessed seat like the RAVA is best for her for now.
6 Years Old
Our model is six and a half years old, weighs 43 pounds, and is 44 inches tall. She’s on the smaller end for her age. She normally rides in a booster seat, but happily agreed to sit in the RAVA for this review. She still fits with a little room for growth, but not too much. In the photos, the harness is just above her shoulders and needs to be at or above her shoulders for proper fit. While most kids are ready to use a booster at age 5-6, some younger kids this size may not be ready for a booster.
While she is able to use a booster full-time, it is nice to know that she still has some growing room in the RAVA.
Important Information: Where to Find
Manual Storage: Right out of the box, the RAVA manual is attached to the seat in a plastic bag. Keep it! Fill out the product information card and mail it back to Nuna, while you’re thinking about it. Returning the registration card is important because the manufacturer of the seat will have your information on file in the event of a safety notice or recall. For easy storage, the manual slips into a compartment on the back of the seat, an easily identifiable manual icon right on the seat.
FAA Approval Label: The RAVA’s FAA approval label is located on the bottom of the seat and has an easily identifiable airplane icon right on the label. We know that it is safest for the youngest travelers to fly securely in their car seats. Want to learn more? We have an extensive travel archive here at CSFTL!
Date of Manufacture Label: RAVA has a 10 year expiration; this information is found in the manual on page 3 and it is also on the seat itself.
There are so many things to like about the Nuna RAVA, it’s hard to pick out just one or two. The height limit and weight limit for rear facing make it a solid option. This seat could be a great option for newborns and rear facing toddlers, though it may be a challenge to install the RAVA reclined enough for newborns in vehicles with a steep seat slope. The 17 inch top harness height may not be tall enough to last all children until they’re booster ready, but it should do the job for most.
The RAVA’s range of recline angles mean it can be installed in tight situations. The True Tension doors make quick work of installation, and having big purple notices explaining why vehicle seat belt installation is preferred is going to be very useful for parents and caregivers. The leg extension is useful for rear facing children, but seems to fall short in forward facing mode. Between the plush cover, the sleek styling, the clear labels, and the ease of use, we find that the RAVA has a lot to offer.