When UPPAbaby released their MESA rear facing only car seat, it took ease of use and comfort features to a new level. Since we first wrote this review, UPPAbaby has announced some exciting new seats but for now, we’ll spend some time with the MESA rear facing only car seat.
CSFTL Quick Stats
- Weight range: 4-35 pounds
- Height range: up to 32″, the top of the child’s head must be less than 1 inch from the top of the headrest when it is in the highest position
- Shell height: 18″
- Lowest Harness position: 4.5″
- Weight (carrier only): 11 pounds
- Expiration: 7 years
- Handle position: Any locked position
- Seat belt lockoff
- 2 position adjustable crotch buckle
- Adjustable recline foot
- Euro vehicle seat belt routing for baseless installations
- Push button lower anchor connectors
- Adjustable head support with no rethread harness
- Infant insert for small babies (4-8pounds)
- SMARTSecure System with independently self-racheting lower anchors and a tension indicator
- Buckle storage pockets
- Hideaway canopy with SPF 50
The MESA has several unique features that set it apart from other rear facing only car seats.
The SMARTsecure lower anchor tensioning system is pretty unique and kind of awesome. It’s a tension indicator and independently ratcheting lower anchor webbing on the MESA’s base. The tension indicator is on top of the base and works for both lower anchors and vehicle seat belt installations.
When the installation is tight, the indicator turns green. That’s about as simple as it gets!
Despite this ease of use, we’re kind of boring and still encourage checking for movement at the belt path. There should be no more than 1 inch of movement from side to side or front to back at the belt path.
The ratcheting lower anchor webbing stores on each side of the seat — each side ratchets independently so installing the MESA with lower anchors is a bit of a dance. Just place one hand on either side of the outside of the base, then rock back and forth as the webbing retracts into the base.
The next unique feature is the hideaway sunshade with SPF 50+. This is a nice feature for keeping your Little safe from the UV from the sunlight.
Integrated Head Support and No Rethread Harness
The integrated head support with no rethread harness adds to the MESA’s weight but some families may consider it a fair trade because these features make the MESA quite easy to use!
The head support adjusts via a small tab at the top of the seat. Just pull up or down on the head support to set it in the correct position at or below the child’s shoulders.
The buckle storage pockets are small pockets sewn into the side of the seat fabric. These pockets are in the right place to tuck the harness buckles into the seat and out of the way for easy loading and unloading. They also keep the buckles cool on hot days.
- Expiration: 7 years
- Handle position: Any locked position
Before installing the MESA, set it on the vehicle seat and adjust the recline angle.
Recline Angle Adjuster
The MESA’s base includes four position recline foot. This foot extends to allow for multiple recline levels to accommodate many different vehicle seat slopes. It adjusts easily with the grey button on the top of the base.
The side of the base has a level indicator that turns green when the base is at the correct recline level.
Vehicle Seat Belt
The tension indicator that’s part of the SMARTsecure system works with the vehicle seat belt install or a lower anchor installation. Thread the vehicle seat belt through the belt path, then under the lockoff. Tighten the vehicle seat belt while keeping the seat belt nice and tight, then and close the lockoff. When the vehicle seat belt is tight, the indicator window shows green. We still encourage checking for movement at the belt path. There should be no more than 1 inch of movement from side to side or front to back at the belt path.
If needed, UPPAbaby allows the vehicle seat belt’s locking mechanism to be used while still being routed through the lockoff door.
If the vehicle seat belt has a convenience button or a sewn in loop on the lap portion of the vehicle belt, you can install without using the lockoff. This button or loop helps the buckle on the vehicle belt remain easily accessible rather than slipping down to the floor of the vehicle for adult passengers, but sometimes cause installation issues with lockoffs.
The lockoff stays closed and the vehicle belt is routed over it but still under the ‘T’ of the lockoff. As with all other installation methods the indicator window will still show green with this install method. Please remember to use the locking mechanism on the vehicle belt when installing using this method.
The MESA is one of the easiest lower anchor installs I’ve ever done. The SMARTSecure system integrates the ratcheting lower anchor strap. These ratchet straps consist of two independent retractors in the base. The retractors are similar to that found in a vehicle belt retractor. To start the install the lower anchor connector needs to be pulled out of the connector storage compartment on the base, then the orange button is pushed on the top of the base. This button allows you to pull the straps out of the base. The straps need to be pulled as far as possible from out of the base while continuing to push the orange button. The hardest part of the install is that you’ll need to hold the strap so that it doesn’t ratchet back in until the lower anchor connector is connected to the vehicle lower anchor. The premium lower anchor connectors help with this step.
Once the connectors are connected, you release the lower anchor strap which ratchets into the base making the base tight without having to pull any lower anchor strap tail as in most car seats. You do this with each side, then push down on the back of the base until the tension indicator turns green. Rocking the base back and forth can help with this step.
If the Base Doesn’t Contact the Vehicle Seat
UPPABaby has developed a fix that ONLY applies to this seat: you can add a rolled towel between the base and the back of the vehicle seat. This is a very specific fix for a very unique situation, please read their FAQ on the topic to determine if this applies to your situation.
Installation without the Base
Standard Vehicle Seat Belt Routing
Installing the MESA without the base is also a fairly easy task. Set the carrier portion of the MESA on the vehicle seat, line up the red level line on the side of the car seat so that it’s even with the ground, thread the lap portion of the vehicle seat belt through the blue belt guides on either side of the car seat.
While putting your weight into the car seat, tighten the vehicle belt, then lock the vehicle belt at either the retractor or latch plate once the desired tightness is accomplished. There should be no more than 1″ or less of movement from side to side or front to back at the belt path. If you’re having a hard time keeping the bottom part of the seat, where the child’s feet go, from flipping down you can either use a pool noodle pyramid or use the baseless install method shown in this video.
European Vehicle Seat Belt Routing
Note: this installation method is not available for seats made after 2015.
This install method is the same as the vehicle belt install described above. The only difference is that you route the shoulder belt portion of the vehicle belt behind the infant seat instead of laying it against the vehicle seat. The shoulder portion will be routed through the open blue door on the back of the infant seat. This is NOT a lockoff though and the vehicle belt will still need to be locked. This installation method helps the stability of installation and also over rotation in a crash.
Fit to Child
- Weight range: 4-35 pounds
- Height range: up to 32″
Our preemie Huggable Images doll weighs 4 pounds and is 17 inches long. The MESA fit her very well with her shoulders right above the bottom harness slot. Due to her weight we used the infant insert (use between 4-8 pounds) under her. The chest clip is also small which makes the harness straps fit nicely over her shoulders. Since the MESA has 2 crotch buckle positions, she fit very nicely with the crotch strap at the smallest position.
Our newborn Huggable Images doll weighs 7 pounds and is 17 inches long. We found that the MESA fit her quite similarly to the preemie. Because our newborn doll weighs less than 8 pounds, we left the infant insert in and left the crotch buckle in the smallest position. This setup placed her shoulders right above the lowest harness position.
Our newborn model has been modelling car seats for us since her debut right here in this review! At the time, she weighed 7 pounds 4 oz and was 20 inches long. Today, she’s a seasoned pro but on this day, she was coming home from the hospital in the MESA. Since she weighed less than 8 pounds, the infant insert was left in.
Overall, mom felt that the MESA was pretty easy to use, but felt that the infant insert made adjusting the harness a little difficult. It also seemed that using the infant insert pushed her bum forward and her head down towards her chest so that her cheeks rested on the large harness pads. Even with the harness pads off, which did make the harness easier to adjust, she was still a little slouchy. It didn’t seem like her bum was all the way back in the seat. Using the infant insert did allow her to use a harness position one above the one she would be using without the insert. She is closer to the 8 pound maximum weight for the insert, so it’s possible that the fit would have been different if she was a little smaller.
Mom felt that removing the infant insert provided a better fit, with or without the harness pads. Ultimately, that is how the MESA was used for this model. Both mom and dad were much happier with the seat overall. With her bum all the way back in the seat, she didn’t seem like she was slouching and her head didn’t look like it was being pushed forward; rather it tilted slightly to the side. There’s not really any support on the sides without the infant insert, but that wasn’t a problem for this model or her parents. Standing above the seat and putting one hand next to the adjuster while pulling the harness adjuster strap made tightening the harness pretty easy, especially so after the insert was removed once she weighed 8 pounds.
Time Lapse: 10 Days to 2 Months Old
10 Days Old
1 month, 10 pounds, 23 inches long
7 weeks, 11 pounds 10 oz, 24 inches long
2 months, 12 pounds 10 oz, 24 inches long
This model was kind enough to model the MESA as he grew. It fit him well since he was a newborn. He came home weighing over 8 pounds so we were never able to use the infant insert, but we haven’t had any issues with fit. I love how easy it is to wipe anything off the cover. He spits up frequently, and even so the cover does not appear dirty or stained. He seems very comfortable in it and rarely complains. He tends to fall asleep in it within minutes.
The only downfall I’ve found so far is the height of the head support above the actual harness straps. This makes side head slump a problem. Side head slump isn’t a safety issue even with newborns, but as a new parent you always want your child to look comfortable in his or her seat. I’m excited to keep using this seat with him and see how it grows with him.
Eight Months Old
Our 8 month old model weighs 16 pounds and is 27 inches tall. Her mom has been really pleased with the fit. This model has used it since she was 4 months old. The few downfalls she found with the Mesa is that it’s a heavy carrier weighing in at 11 pounds, it’s a pound or so heavier than some other infant seats on the market, making it a bit of a strain to carry with a child in it. Due to the no rethread harness and lack of splitter plate, cover removal is a bit difficult. Once the cover is removed, it does clean up nicely though. She loves how it fits her little model and the Mesa is one of her favorite rear facing only seats she’s used.
13 Months Old
Our 13 month old model weighs 23 pounds and is 30 inches tall. He’s just about to outgrow the MESA by height but the harness still fits him well. Since he’s kind of heavy these days, the MESA stays in the car while his parents lift him in and out.
We can’t forget the most fun part of this seat: the color choices!! It’s amazing how many questions I got about the MESA’s unique cover color and shape. The colors pop and the sleekness of the seat are very eye pleasing.
The MESA is a long-lasting rear facing only car seat with many features that make it a nice seat for both big and small kids. The independently ratcheting lower anchors make for a fairly easy installation in so many siutations and the lockoff is also easy to use for vehicle seat belt installations. In addition, the no rethread harness, small overall footprint, high height and weight limits, European vehicle seat belt routing for baseless installations, and hideaway canopy all add up to a very nice seat. It does have a few minimal downfalls including the seat’s weight, the large gap between the head support and harness straps, and difficult to remove cover.
UPPAbaby graciously provided the seat used for this review, but opinions, as always, are all our own. CSFTL was not compensated for our opinions. Originally written by Angela Tastad. Edits maintained by the CSFTL Editorial Team.