Hooked on AFFIX: Graco booster review and giveaway

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Oh how I love coming home and seeing a big shiny new box on my porch!

This review will detail the Graco AFFIX, a new backless booster that has UAS attachments for installation into the vehicle.  It’s what we commonly call latchable, even though the Canadian term is ‘UAS’ and not ‘LATCH.’ UAS-able doesn’t have quite the same ring to it… It’s wonderful to see this capability on a readily available seat (Sears, Canadian Tire, Walmart, Babies R Us, possibly more soon!) at a very accessible price point of about $50, with a 10 year life span!  It’s also rather amazing to consider the immense safety difference a relatively simple piece of equipment like a booster can make to belt fit, hugely improving outcomes in crashes for children.  The AFFIX is intended for children who are between 40-57″ tall, 40-100lbs, and aged 4-10, although we encourage parents not to rush to boostering too early.

Having come recently to the world of boosters with my oldest just moving into one this past summer at about 45lbs, 48″ tall, and 5.5 years old, I very quickly discovered that I vastly prefer a latchable booster if it’s to be used in a seating position with lower anchors.  Without that capability, the booster must be re-buckled when unoccupied to avoid becoming a projectile for everyone else in the vehicle, which is time consuming and can be tedious if the buckling isn’t easy to do for the child.  A booster with UAS also makes a booster more stable when entering and exiting the vehicle as it prevents it from tipping or shifting around.  For independent bucklers this is a much-appreciated benefit!  Daughter #1 usually rides in a high-back booster but a backless is a reasonable option for short trips at her age if the belt fit is good.

AFFIX02Opening the box I found a tidy little package with a little assembly required.  I located the manual in the pile and read it carefully before doing anything — as should you with any new car or booster seat!  It’s easy to assume things and become complacent, and that’s how errors are made and misuse happens.  Inside were the two arm rests, the manual, and the shoulder belt positioning clip (more on that later).  The arm rests popped in easily, and are ‘handed’ so will only fit in their designated right or left hand sides.  And bonus to those of you familiar with Graco’s other booster, the beloved Turbo: there are NO SCREWS to lose, forget about, or install.  YAY!  (Do you own a Turbo and are now thinking to yourself “uh, what screws?” Your Turbo came with them…see here for a pictorial to help you determine if you’re screwless, and what to do about it!).

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Diligently reading my manual, I discovered that the cup holder comes packed on the underside of the booster, tucked away in a little cubby.  It also easily snapped into place.  Voila! The AFFIX is ready to go.  Now to find some willing model testers…

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I had a booster riding 5.75 year old help me with the installation. First she located the lower anchors in the seat bight.  Then she clipped the UAS connectors on, and pulled on each easily accessible tab at the front of the seat to tighten the straps and secure the booster firmly to the car.  Easy peasy. Some might notice the basic hook-style UAS connectors and be disappointed that they’re not premium push-on connectors.  A premium style isn’t really necessary on a booster that is lightweight and easily moved, and would only drive up the cost unnecessarily.

 

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At 46lbs, 49″ tall, and 5.75 years old the belt fit on Tester #1 in this ’03 Civic was excellent. The lap belt is low and flat and touches the tops of her thighs, and the shoulder belt sits nicely against her chest and crosses her collarbone exactly where it should.  At her age I’m more comfortable with her in a high back booster for longer rides as she’s more likely to get squirmy or fall asleep, but for short rides around town this is a super option.  As with all backless boosters, in-vehicle head support is required up to at least the tops of the child’s ears.  This child would be too tall in the centre seating position in this vehicle where there is no head rest, and a high-back booster would be needed there.  Thankfully a high-back version of the AFFIX is due out soon! Update: the high back version is now available, yay!

 

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At 62lbs, 49″ tall, and 9 years old Tester #2 is a very good example of why age is not a good indication of readiness to ride without a booster seat.  Booster laws vary between provinces and territories but height is a much better indicator of whether the adult belt will fit, with 4’9″ the height at which children generally start to ‘5-step’.  This tester is the same height as tester #1 above but with a stockier build, and not surprisingly the belt fit is excellent on him as well in a ’12 Focus.  Width-wise he was comfortable in the seat with room to spare, and liked the feel of it.  A latchable booster is especially nice on leather upholstery where the seat is more likely to slip and slide around as kids climb in and lean over to buckle.

 

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Tester #3 is too light and too young to ride in a booster (and still rides rear-facing in fact…and yes, does have kitty whiskers on her cheeks) but meets the minimum height requirement of 40″. I decided to try her out to see how a shorter-statured child would fare in the AFFIX.  The lap belt fit is still excellent which is encouraging for smaller kids ready to ride in a booster. I did need to use the shoulder belt positioning clip to — you guessed it — better position the shoulder belt. It’s a piece of black webbing that easily attaches to the lower back of the booster, and a red clip (at her right shoulder) that slips onto the seat belt. Shortening or lengthening the black webbing adjusts the position of the shoulder belt for a potentially better fit on the child, and is a necessary step if the belt fit is not naturally optimal.  Seat belt geometry varies widely though and sometimes even with the clip the fit isn’t acceptable. Without this clip the shoulder belt would rub against her neck, an irritant that most kids will not tolerate, and contributes to the dangerous misuse of putting the belt behind the back or under the arm.  An additional consideration for a shorter child is the depth of the seat pan.  For a one minute photo op most kids should be able to sit still. However, start driving and the discomfort resulting from the knees not bending easily at the edge of the booster will mean slouching, squirming, and shifting about, all of which will make the belt fit less than optimal and decrease safety.  If you’ve determined that your 40lb+ child is mature enough for a booster please ensure it’s one that fits them properly.

 

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For older, leggier children I very much like the deeper seat pan offered by the AFFIX, and yet it’s not so deep that it won’t fit and be supported by vehicle seats.  Here it nicely completes a 3-across in an ’05 Sierra extended cab, known for its shallow seat depth.

 

Graco’s Turbo Booster is a tried and true performer in our favourite boosters line-up and I was particularly curious to see how it compared to the AFFIX.  The arm rest shape is different but is virtually the same height as the lower setting on the Turbo. The AFFIX is a tad wider and deeper, to better accommodate the slightly larger child.

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Last but not least the AFFIX features not only an integrated cup holder but a hide-away tray for all of the treasures and detritus children inevitably collect.  My daughter’s is usually full of hair bows, clips, rocks, and pony elastics…how about yours?

The AFFIX impressed me. It’s easy to use, and it provides wonderful lap belt fit. Shoulder belt fit will vary greatly from child-to-child, and in different vehicles, and should be evaluated carefully for optimal fit, but that is the case for every booster, backless ones in particular. Sub-optimal fit may be corrected with the shoulder belt positioning clip.  The latchability is the selling feature for me, at a very good price point and readily available at many stores.  Don’t have a vehicle with UAS? The AFFIX is still usable of course as the connectors will just tuck away, but must be re-buckled with the seat belt when unoccupied.  The AFFIX has absolutely earned its spot on our list of favourite boosters.

Thank you go Graco Baby Canada for providing the AFFIX used in this review.  All opinions are our own.

…and – thank you Graco Baby Canada for giving away one awesome AFFIX to a lucky reader!  Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter – but make sure you expand the option for the blog comment, there’s a specific question we’d like you to answer that requires some thinking!  Don’t have a booster-ready child?  Enter anyway and give it to a child you know!
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