Through the years we have reviewed many seats. Some that have claimed to do it all — rear facing, forward facing and then become a booster — but most have fallen short in one mode or another. Does the Graco 4Ever do it all? Rear facing (from 4 lbs!), forward facing, high back booster and then a backless booster. Yes! Well, mostly yes!
Rear Facing: For children who are 4-40 lbs (1.8-18kg) AND 18-43”(46-110cm) tall AND with top of the head at least 1”(2.5cm) below the red headrest/harness adjustment handle
Storage for the straps and crotch buckle for booster mode (no lost parts when converting the seat to booster mode!)
Easy to read colour coded manual with corresponding stickers on the seat for each mode
Machine washable cover with easy to open and close snaps
Built in cupholders (come ready to install and marked with Left and Right ~ must be used on seat)
Expires 10 years from date of manufacture
Currently the Graco 4Ever is available at Babies R Us for $449.99 and available in Cameron (grey) and Studio (black and white stripes)
Graco 4Ever Measurements
Two crotch buckle positions: 5” inner and 7” outer
Lowest harness slot (with body pillow in): approximately 7”
Highest harness slot (without body pillow): approximately 18”
Shoulder belt guide of highback booster: approximately 18.5”
Widest point of seat (at cupholders): 19”
Widest point of base: 15.5”
Seat depth: 13”
Internal seat width: 13”
Seat Weight: 22.5 lbs
Fit To Child
The fit on the just under 8 lb newborn was lovely. The harness tightened easily and still had room to tighten more. We didn’t have access to a smaller baby but as the harness straps were below the baby’s shoulders and the harness could be still tightened, it did lend itself to fitting a tiny newborn. The seat itself has lovely thick padding and the added infant insert is made up of two pieces; a body insert as well as a removable head support. Many small infants would need the insert to bump their bodies up to ensure the straps were at or just below the child’s shoulders as required by the 4Ever. As the child grows the head support can be removed. The seats instructions let you use just the body support but you can not use just the head support without the use of the body support.
This six month old was very content in the seat at a full recline, and fit with and without the insert. The fit was much nicer and seemingly more comfortable with just the body support. The head support seemed to at this point just push the head forward. Whether to use both pieces, or just the body support alone, will depend on your child’s shape and comfort in the seat, and will change as they grow.
This three year old, at 30 lbs and 37”, was very comfortable in the seat and had lots of growing room. Leg room was pretty fantastic. When the seat was at its most upright position it did give a lot of forward head slump when she was sleeping but it didn’t seem to bother her and she just moved her head to make herself more comfortable. She did love the cup holders but they would be hard to reach for a child who was younger and smaller.
Forward Facing Mode:
My three year old (32lbs and 38″) rides rear facing in our vehicles but was very comfortable trying this out forward facing. The 10 position harness adjuster made for a comfortable fit with the straps easily positioned just above her shoulders. The seat was fairly upright in my 2014 Odyssey at recline 6, but the 4Ever does allow for recline 4, 5 or 6 to be used for forward facing. That would alleviate head slump for younger forward facing children. Be aware that the recline position must be chosen before you install. No reclining once the child is in the seat.
At 6 years of age (42lbs and 46”), this child still had growing room in the seat. She found it very comfortable and the leg support was phenomenal. The seat pan slopes back and combined with the depth of the seat, it fit bothour younger and older harnessed children nicely. The no-rethread harness makes it a snap to change it up between different kiddos.
Booster fit can vary between children and vehicles. Our 6 year old tester had quite a good belt fit in the captain’s chair of the 2014Odyssey (lap belt low on the hips and shoulder belt laying across the chest and mid shoulder). She did find it a little more difficult to buckle as the seat sits very high and the buckle stalk was floppy. However, she isn’t typically in a booster so buckling is newer to her and might become easier with practice. When she reached over to buckle we did notice the shoulder belt kept popping out of the shoulder belt guide. It was easy to fix but wondered if in real life use it would continue to do this.
When tried again later with our 8 year old tester (50lbs, 51″) the shoulder belt stayed in the guide properly and it wasn’t an issue. She was just under the shoulder guide though, and therefore has just about outgrown the seat in high back booster mode. Note: the shoulder belt guide is only slightly higher than the highest harness slot. For those who max out the harness height, the high back booster will only fit for a short while longer. Those parents will have to decide whether the child is ready for a backless booster, or choose a taller dedicated high back booster.
6 year old ~ 42lbs, 46″
8 year old ~ 50lbs, 51″ – about to outgrow the high back portion
Backless fit on both the 9 (58 lbs, 54”) and almost 11 (68lbs, 59”) year old testers was variable. In the captain’s chair of the 2014 Odyssey, the shoulder belt was wanting to almost slide off the child’s shoulder. However in the third row outboard position the fit was exceptional. The 8 year old model however had really nice backless fit everywhere we tried it. Note: the 11 year old has outgrown the booster in the standing height but she does not 5 step in the vehicles in which she rides. She most definitely rides in a backless booster — just not this one. In this instance a booster with higher standingheight limits is needed.
As the 4Ever backless booster sits very high up off the vehicle seat, children who are tall or long in the torso may have poor fit at the upper height limits of the backless portion. Parents might consider a lower-set backless booster for kids in this situation. It will be impossible to know in advance, however, if you will find yourself in this situation if you are purchasing this seat for an infant or toddler. Rest assured that backless boosters are inexpensive and is a bridge that can be crossed years from now.
9 year old ~ 58lbs, 54″
Almost 11 years of age ~ 68lbs, 59″
For size comparison of the backless booster option here we have a tried and true favourite Graco Turbobooster vs. the backless Graco 4Ever (Turbo is green in these photos).
Fit To Vehicle
The seat was tried rear facing in a 2014 Honda Odyssey, a 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe XL Limited and a 2006 Volkswagen Golf. No major install issues were noted and the seat installed easily in all of them. The bottom of the 4Ever is smooth and has no rough edges. It is wide, however, and I don’t expect it to fit into narrow centre positions of many vehicles or in very many three across scenarios.
The 4Ever has 6 recline positions. Positions 1- 2-3 are for rear facing, 4-5-6 are for forward facing, and 6 is for booster mode. This variability made for easy fit to vehicle. I don’t expect that you would need to use a pool noodle or rolled towel to adjust the angle but both are allowed, if needed, in rear facing mode only.
An infant rear facing will need the seat to be fully reclined with the bubble indicator still within the blue allowable area while the vehicle is on level ground. It is important to note that the 4Ever manual does not address the needed recline for newborns specifically, but it is absolutely critical that the seat be as reclined as much as possible to protect a newborn’s airway. Chin-to-chest position is dangerous and parents should take care to recline the seat as needed. Once a baby has more head control the seat can be reinstalled more upright.
The seat can be used more upright and in recline position 2 or 3 for older rear-facing babies and children, as long as the bubble on the indicator is still in the blue area. In the Odyssey, the fully reclined 4Ever still gave the driver loads of legroom and would allow a newborn to be seated there no problem. When the 4Ever was installed behind the passenger seat in the Golf at its full allowable recline, I could not safely sit in front of the seat at 5’8” tall. When installed more upright I gained several inches of legroom and could easily sit comfortably and safely in front.
Full recline 2006 VW Golf ~ My knees were touching!
Seat upright as allowable in a 2006 VW Golf ~ Lots of legroom!
If you are wanting to use the seat from birth in a compact car we would recommend trying the seat first to ensure it fits. For older rear facing children it was amazingly compact and the head rest design of the seat seemed to mesh well with the vehicle headrest in front.
Forward facing the seat was a breeze to install with both UAS or seat belt (one or the other, not both at the same time). You can use recline 4, 5 or 6 for harnessed use forward facing. For vehicles with shallow back seats and limited front-to-back space — such as extended cab trucks or a Jeep Wrangler — you may need to install the 4Ever in its most upright position to allow the car seat to sit on the vehicle seat properlyor to give the child a safe amount of space to sit properly in that vehicle position.
The 4Ever allows no more than 20% of the base to overhang the vehicle seat. The seat’s headrest seems to jive excellently with those pesky non-removable forward headrests. Graco allows the seat to be reclined (recline 5 or 6) and that may cause there to be a gap between the car seat and the vehicle seat around the lower back area. As long as the install is tight at the belt path (with either the UAS or seatbelt) 1″ or less, and the base of the seat is flat on the vehicle seat, then it is acceptable. I found that the 4Ever didn’t work well with the headrest up in the higher slots with vehicle head restraints that jut forward and are not removable.
In high back booster mode you can use the UAS and top tether to secure the seat. If you don’t have lower anchors in that position, then you will need to teach the child to buckle up the seat when not in use to keep it from being a projectile in the event of a crash. The UAS connectors are removed with the back when converting to backless booster mode, so in backless mode the child must re-buckle the seat as it cannot be latched in. You must only use the seat in position 6 in booster mode, and no overhang off the vehicle seat is allowed.
The Graco 4Ever is an impressive seat! It truly has 4 usable modes and a 10 year expiry will allow for many years of use. It is fairly easy to move from rear facing to forward facing and then to a booster (whether it is backless or with a back). The stowage of the straps and crotch buckle for booster mode is ingenious. No lost parts! The 4Ever would be an ideal seat to be shared between multiple children of variable ages and weights. The harness height adjuster is smooth and simple. The higher weight and height limits for rear facing will allow most children to rear face to 4 years of age and the high harness height will get all but the tallest of children to a reliable booster age. It may however not get all children to an age where they can 5 step (as was the case of the 11 year old above) before it expires or they outgrow the standing height limit. It’s quite remarkable though that one seat can truly fit well from birth through age 10+ — it is still a lot of seat and I think the Graco 4Ever truly can be called an All-In-One seat! Which is why the 4Ever has earned a spot on our list of favourite convertible seats (even though it’s more than just a convertible).
Thank you Graco Baby Canada for providing the seat for us to review; all opinions given are our own!
One lucky reader can experience the 4Ever for themselves – Graco Baby Canada is giving one away! To enter please use the Rafflecopter widget below. Also post a blog post comment here and share something you learned from watching one of the videos we linked to above. Tell the Rafflecopter widget “I entered” and we’ll manually approve comments as we’re able. Good luck!
Laura Hagen is a mother to three young girls and is one of the founding members of Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs. She is a Technician-Instructor with CPSAC and can often be found cheering on her children from the side of the swimming pool. If she isn’t answering emails promptly it is because she is prepping for a birthday party with 12 pre-teen girls.
By Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs, on October 26th, 2016
I have never been able to stay upright while sleeping well even as an adult, so I was very excited to receive a Cardiff headrest to try out and we put it to good use on some road trips this summer. The Cardiff headrest is meant to be used for older children in a backless booster seat or for five-stepping passengers with the seat belt only. It does not change the fit of the seat belt. It is available for $75 on Amazon as well as at Canada’s Baby Store.
The purpose of the Cardiff is to provide side head support to children and adults who have outgrown a high-back booster but still tip out of the belt while sleeping. It helps passengers stay upright, which in turn keeps the shoulder belt properly positioned over their collar bone.
Transport Canada requires that all booster seats in Canada be tested on a test bench that simulates the average frontal crash. Several sized dummies are buckled into the booster seat and the test apparatus is “crashed,” (propelled above 48 km/h and 24.5G) and instrumentation on the dummy records how the dummy moved and what forces were applied to the head and chest. The Cardiff Headrest was added to this set-up and all readings were below the requirements. In-vehicle testing was also performed under more extreme conditions and still all readings from the dummies were below the Transport Canada requirements.
Here’s the take-home message: In these testing scenarios the Cardiff wasn’t presenting an added risk. Of course, real kids in real cars and real crashes won’t perform exactly the same way. However, if the difference is being slumped over because of no head support (where a high back booster isn’t available or possible) and definitely out of position at the time of a crash, or the chance that the addition of a Cardiff might cause an injury, as a parent I’d go with the option most likely to keep my child in proper seat belt position. It is an after-market product and it is up to parental discretion whether you are comfortable with its use for your own child. Although this product was tested to see if it changed how a dummy fared in a booster seat, it is unregulated and not subject to any testing to be sold.
The Cardiff comes in a package with all the necessary hardware to install it. It was simple to install, but requires an adjustable headrest with posts. It should install well in most vehicles with the right type of headrest. Installation only took a few minutes and it was easy to switch it to different vehicle seats as needed. The wings can be adjusted up or down depending on whether it’s in use and the height of the passenger using it.
The children we tried it with all like the Cardiff and appreciate the extra support they get from it. A few found they preferred it slightly off-centre as they tended to lean their head to one side more than the other and they liked that side of the headrest to be closer. Luckily this is easily done. In my vehicle, my own child who I used this with usually sits in the outboard passenger side, and I did find there was a slight decrease in my field of view. In my van it was not anything that I felt impeded my ability to drive but in a smaller vehicle it may be necessary to experiment with other seating positions. It fits a wide range of children in a variety of vehicles, but as usual if possible always try before you buy to make sure it works in your situation.
As I said earlier, I have always had trouble staying upright while sleeping myself, so I decided to give it a try on a longer drive. The wings are slightly flexible and have a bit of give when leaning on them, which took a bit of getting used to but was nice when going over bumps as it flexed with my head. Overall it felt solid and well made. There is padding added for comfort. I was able to sleep and liked that I could easily tuck the wings up when I didn’t need it anymore.
Overall I was very happy with the Cardiff headrest. It was easy to install in the vehicles we tried it in, allowed the passenger using it to sleep easily and comfortably, and kept them upright so that the seat belt was safely positioned. If you or your child are too big for a high-back booster but still fall asleep and have issues with slouching sideways when sleeping, it is definitely an option worth considering.
Want to check it out for yourself? Buy one from Amazon.ca or Canada’s Baby Store. Thanks to EI Brands one lucky reader will win a Cardiff Booster Seat Headrest for themselves! To enter use the Rafflecopter widget below, and make sure to leave a blog post comment here answering this question: What use do you have for a Cardiff? Do you have a big trip coming up? Or maybe you often drive home late at night? Tell us about it! Comments don’t show up until we approve them but that’s okay – tell the widget “I commented” and let us take care of the rest!
Thanks to EI Brands for providing the Cardiff used in this review but as usual, all opinions are our own.
Lindsay Wilson is a homeschooling mom of three and a co-founder of Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs living on the island. She has been a Child Passenger Safety Technician for almost six years now. If you need her, she is currently filling up her bathtub in preparation for a coming storm.
For this review we tried something new…we asked the large and ever-growing Canadian CPST community to collaboratively create this review. We polled them, and our role here is merely amassing the comments and feedback into a readable format. Huge thanks to everyone who contributed their thoughts and photos!
It was an experiment…and we are thrilled to say it works! This review is a compilation of the perspective of more than 35 seasoned technicians and instructors scattered across Canada, who among them own close to 50 of these seats and have installed hundreds combined. Of those polled it was a pretty even split between rear facing and forward facing use, with a high percentage switching back and forth as needed for different kids. We are confident that you’re getting an exceptional cross section of reality here!
The Evenflo SureRide, aka Titan 65 when found at Walmart, appeared on the market about two years ago and has fast become a go-to seat for reasons you shall see. Is it perfect for everyone? Of course not, no seat is! But it’s got some phenomenal things going for it.
Price: $150 at Walmart, about $150-180 everywhere else, often on sale somewhere for $120ish
Rear facing: 5-40lbs AND 19-40″ AND top of head at least 1″ below top of car seat back
Forward facing: 22-65lbs AND 28-54″ AND shoulders below the highest harness position AND at least one year old BUT it’s the recommendation of child passenger safety advocates (and Evenflo) to rear face as long as possible. Here’s why.
Seat weight: 11lbs
Width at widest point: 18″ at the front corners, 18.25″ at mid-shoulder height
Width of base at back bottom edge: A mere 10″
Crotch buckle positions: Two, without insert, 5.5″ and 7.5″
Harness positions: Six, three for rear facing and three for forward facing. Rear facing positions are at approximately 5.5″, 7.75″, 10″. Forward facing positions are at approximately 14.5″, 17″, 19″.
Use UAS until a child weightof: 55lbs, after which you must install with the seat belt (unless your vehicle states a lower limit)
Expiry: 6 years from date of manufacture (fun fact: Evenflo accounts for leap years when calculating the expiry date, handily printed right on the sticker with the date of manufacture and model name)
First the great stuff – a well rounded list of “pros.”
Fits almost anywhere (rear-facing in tiny cars or extended cab trucks…maybe not…but maybe in the middle, or it has a mysterious chameleon-like ability to fit in places you wouldn’t expect it to. We can’t explain it.)
Narrow base means it can work around icky vehicle features like big plastic hinges that tend to get in the way of other seats
Lightweight, so easy to manoeuvre
Lightweight, and allows use of UAS (also known as LATCH) up to a child weight of 55lbs
Excellent for traveling – installs well on airplanes
Readily available at most stores that sell car seats
Cover is easily removable and washable, with a variety of colour options
Removable body pad for extra cushioning
Harness is replaceable
Harness pads are available directly from Evenflo if needed
Realistic weight and height limits in both modes
Excellent price point for longevity
All parts are present and remain on the seat, so there’s nothing to lose
Fits a wide range of children: from birth to age 6-8 (depending on the size of the child of course)
Exceptionally long lasting forward-facing: ideal for long torsoed kids or vehicles with a low roof that don’t have room for a head rest to extend
Lots of leg room rear facing
Newer seats have buckle storage pockets to keep the harness out of the way when loading a child into it
Some older versions of the Walmart Titan 65 had premium push on UAS connectors but that option is no longer available
DUAL CERTIFICATION! For these seats purchased in Canada they are also certified for use in the US. Cool eh? Does not apply to seats purchased in the US. This is an excellent choice for those who travel a lot, no need to worry at all about if a seat in a US rental car is strictly legal for use by visitors.
Next the complaints – a realistic list of “cons.”
A small child on the lowest forward facing setting seems *really* small…thankfully they ought to still fit rear facing, but not always an option for everyone.
Straps are twisty
Basic hook-style UAS connectors
Larger, taller kids may run out of harness length at the top end of the fit
Three bottom slots for rear facing, three top slots for forward facing, with a large gap between the sets. This can make for some finicky or uncomfortable fit on kids at the top end of the rear-facing fit, or bottom end of the forward-facing fit (see small forward-facer photo). This means that for the medium-to-large rear-facers the harness will be quite a bit lower than shoulder level, and also that small-to-medium forward-facers will have the harness coming from pretty far up above their shoulders.
Harness slots are set close together, bugging some kids at the neck (note: harness pads are available for purchase directly from Evenflo)
Single recline level line for rear facing means the seat takes up how much room it takes up
Single recline level line for rear facing is hard to see (photo below)
No overhang allowed (off the vehicle seat) when used rear facing
Velcro strap needed for rear facing use is often missed by parents
Cup holder can only be used forward facing
Cup holder may not attach securely or easily (style has changed over time, may not apply to you)
Some covers seem to snag on jewelry and velcro (like on toddler shoes!)
Underside has sharp edges and is not friendly to leather vehicle seats
The recline level line can be hard to see, and therefore, align correctly. Make sure it is parallel to the ground. Tech tip: put a sticky not along that edge while you’re installing so it’s easier to eyeball.
From the mouths…er, typing fingers…of techs:
“Great seat for those who care to do it right. Maybe not the best option for people who need an absolutely foolproof seat.”
“The SureRide is a great seat for daily use, and is comfortable enough that my own daughter can sleep heavily in it. I own more expensive seats, yet this one still gets a lot of mileage.”
“Best bang for your buck on the market.”
“It’s a great price and great long lasting seat that fits my kids very well. 2 year old rear facing 32″ 32 lbs, almost 4 year old and just turned forward facing 37″ 32 lbs, almost 6 year old forward facing 42″46 lbs with tons of growing room. Three across in my truck! Did I mention the price?”
“Overall a great budget seat. I buy it for all my young foster children so I know they have a safe long lasting seat to take home with them.”
And now a wide range of photos to give you an idea of how it fits in vehicles, how it fits children, and what it’s like to travel with!
Rear Facing: A good fit from birth until 3-4
Forward Facing: Ideal for average-sized 3-7 year olds
Traveling: Excellent forward facing, probably a squeeze rear facing on most planes
Light enough to make use of the lower anchors in the 3rd row centre of Dodge Grand Caravans (and Chrysler Town & Country and VW Routan) to a child weight of 55lbs to make use of the single tether anchor back there, while leaving enough room for a boostered child on the passenger side. Also a great bet for these vehicles with the 2nd row bench on the “passenger” side to allow long term use of lower anchors and not block access to the 3rd row with the seat belt.
Like it was custom made for the “8th” seat in current generation Honda Odysseys, with no overhang anywhere in forward facing mode. Note: some seats allow some overhang off the edge of a vehicle seat…some allow it forward but not rear, or vice versa. Some don’t allow any ever. Make sure to check the rules for your seat carefully, and if you aren’t sure, contact the manufacturer of your seat!
Blue Cosco Scenera NEXT (read all about it here) in the foreground, with a Titan 65 in the background for comparison, both rear facing, good to go in a 2015 Chrysler 200.
Although it’s not the narrowest seat out there, the shape of it tends to get along quite nicely in a variety of three-across scenarios. Here is a forward facing Titan 65 flanked by rear-facers in a 2011 Elantra Touring.
Would you like to win one? Well good, because we’re giving one away. As always our opinions are our own, except in this case where they also represent a cool cross section of techs who are well-positioned to speak to the pros and cons of this seat! No products were provided to us for this review. Enter using the Rafflecopter below, and to qualify make sure you ALSO post a blog comment answering this question: what should I make for dinner tonight? Comments don’t appear until we manually approve them, so just tell the Rafflecopter widget “I commented!” and trust that we’ll get to it soon. Good luck, and thanks for reading! a Rafflecopter giveaway
Graco is on a roll with the introduction of the Tranzitions to their impressive and growing lineup of seats across all stages. See a video tour here.
The Tranzitions, currently a Babies R Us exclusive for $239.99 in an eye-catching green and black fashion called Spring, is a forward-facing only harnessed seat that converts to a high back booster and then a backless booster. True to its name it transitions — ahem, tranZitions – through these stages with ease. This seat is appropriate for kids who are ready to forward-face (best practice, and our opinion, means at least two years old, ideally older).
Forward facing in harness mode:
For children who are 22-65lbs (10-30kg) AND 27-49″ (69-125cm) tall AND able to sit upright unassisted AND are at least one year old AND have the harness coming from at or just above the shoulders.
High back or backless booster mode (with lap/shoulder belt of course):
For children who are 40-100lbs (18-45kg) AND 43-57″ (110-145cm) tall AND at least four years old (best practice, and in our opinion, means more like 5 or 6 because maturity matters).
Lowest harness height with body pillow: 11″
Highest harness height without body pillow: 18″
Two crotch buckle positions: 5.5″ with body pillow, 7.5″ without body pillow
Width at widest point: 19″ with cup holders / 17.5″ without cup holders / 18″ at arm rests
Width at back bottom edge: 14.5″
Seat weight: 12.5 lbs
Expires 7 years from date of manufacture
No-rethread harness (adjust harness height without undoing the harness or uninstalling the seat through eight head rest positions)
Install with UAS to a child weight of 45lbs
May use UAS in booster mode to secure seat
Smooth harness adjuster
Harness pads for comfort at neck
Machine washable cover
Fast and easy conversion from harness mode to booster mode
Two cup holders – but use is optional, so shave 1.5″ off the width by not using them
Easy access storage for unused UAS connectors
Ships semi-assembled but sets up easily in seconds
Fit to Vehicle:
The Tranzitions is slim, lightweight, easy to move around, and installed well in most places we tested it. Installation with UAS was quick and easy, and although the UAS connectors are the basic hook-style ones, the UAS adjuster is super smooth and tightening and loosening is a breeze.
Tip: pull up the interior fabric panel to expose the belt path so you can get more leverage and a better angle when tightening. Works for UAS or seat belt!
There will naturally be a bit of a gap behind the lower back area of the Tranzitions – minimize it as much as possible, and in harness mode ensure there is 20% or less of overhang off the front edge of the vehicle seat (no overhang in booster mode). If in doubt contact Graco for feedback.
Also make sure that any forward-leaning vehicle head restraints are not forcing the Tranzitions head rest forward. If it’s possible to remove the vehicle head rest (check your vehicle manual to see if it’s required to stay put for use with car seats) then as with many car seats, the fit will be better. Make sure to always use the tether strap and hook, no exceptions.
A sampling of the vehicles we tested:
2012 Honda Odyssey captain’s seat, Tranzitions head rest all the way up. Forward-leaning Odyssey head rest may be an issue at mid-height but fits like a glove at full Tranzitions height, and also at lower head rest positions. Difficulty level: with UAS = easy, with seat belt = medium.
2012 Ford F-150 Super Cab (extended cab with half doors). NO overhang – woot! – and narrow enough to install beautifully on the ’40’ side and still leave room for the ’60’ side to fold. Tranzitions is a very good option for extended cab trucks, or vehicles with shallow back seats, particularly if the vehicle head rest is permitted to be removed. The slim tether adjuster mechanism fed through the tether routing loop no problem (for those unfamiliar with truck tethering…just smile and nod). Difficulty level: with UAS = easy, with seat belt = easy.
2012 Ford Focus hatchback titanium trim level with leather. This Focus permits the removal of the vehicle head restraint when installing a car seat and this results in a much better fit to vehicle. This fit tip is true for most forward facing seats – check your vehicle manual to see if this is an option if you are having trouble. Difficulty level: with UAS = easy, with seat belt = medium (due to the fixed and forward-leaning buckle stalks).
2011 Dodge Grand Caravan in the 3rd row centre and also a 2nd row captain’s seat (those are the locations with a tether anchors and so the only places this seat can be used when in harness mode). Similar belt scrunching happening as with the Focus above, but doable. Difficulty level: UAS = easy, seat belt = hard.
Fit to Child
We are so thrilled to report that the Tranzitions fits reliably and comfortably in all modes. Although the minimum use for harness mode is 22lbs, 27″, sitting upright, and one year old, we don’t encourage use of it with children that small. Keep them rear facing as long as possible in one of many seats that can do it with ease. For those who are 2+ however, the ease of use features of the Tranzitions — harness pads, two crotch buckle positions, optional body pillow — will make for a happy ride. Our kid testers found it comfortable, including during a 2 hour drive, despite minimal padding in the bum area. There are no restrictions for weight, harness position, or crotch buckle position, so the removable machine washable body pillow is much appreciated.
We really liked the fit on our smallest tester all the way up to our biggest — and so did they.
Age 2.5, 32lbs, 35.5″ tall
Age 4.75, 53lbs, 44″ tall, 2nd from the top harness height
Age 6, 52lbs, 48″ tall, using the top harness position with about 1″ of torso height still to grow.
Booster mode — both high back and backless — had similarly excellent fit. Our experienced booster riders also reported that the Tranzitions was easy to buckle as well, an important part of proper and consistent booster use. Belt fit was reliable, and in the vehicles we tested the shoulder belt retracted smoothly when our testers leaned forward and then leaned back. Remember boostered kids have freedom of movement in their seat belt, just like we do, and if they readjust their position it’s really important that the shoulder belt stays snug as they do it. No overhang of the vehicle seat is permitted in booster mode.
These 6-8.5 year old (50-65lbs, 48″-56″ tall) testers are showing off the excellent belt fit at the shoulder and lap.
And our older, bigger testers model the backless booster:
Important to note: with the back on the Tranzitions the child sits further forward in the seat, ideal for smaller kids or those with shorter legs. With the back off and using as a backless booster kids should scoot their bums back…meaning the seat pan is now longer. If the child’s legs are too short to bend naturally at the edge of the Tranzitions we recommend putting the back on so they can sit comfortably, and avoid slouching. We all know what happens when we sit on a couch that’s really deep…we slouch and slide around to get comfortable, which is not okay when in a booster seat because it usually means the belt fit is no longer ideal.
Below is the same child in highback booster mode and backless booster mode. Her legs aren’t long enough to use the backless mode comfortably, but at six years old and as a beginner booster rider we’d recommend she ride in highback mode for a good while yet anyway.
This change in fit really emphasizes how well this seat grows with your child!
Conversion to booster mode, and back again, was so slick. Graco has designed some clever features into this process, such as the ease with which the crotch buckle can be removed (no broken nails or cursing!), and the nifty storage location for the splitter plate (the bit that the harness attaches to at the back). One booster tester found she could feel the splitter plate under her bum while in backless mode, but couldn’t in high back mode; the other two testers didn’t notice it at all. Make sure to store all of the bits needed for harness mode in a safe place.
UAS can be used when in high back booster mode, a nice convenience feature, but if you do not have lower anchors in the spot you’re using the seat, or if you’re using it in backless mode, then teach your child to buckle it when empty so it doesn’t become a projectile for you.
Graco’s Tranzitions is great value for the price, and is slim, lightweight, and actually works well in all three modes! Often seats that boast multiple modes tend to excel at one but are a bit lacklustre in others, but not this seat! It’s certainly easiest to install with lower anchors (UAS), and they can be used to a child weight of 45lbs. We recommend test-fitting with a seat belt installation as well, because not all kids are booster ready right at that weight. We’re pleased to add the Tranzitions to our list of favourite seats, and are excited to see what Graco has next in store for us!
Want to check it out for yourself? Thanks to Graco Baby Canada one lucky reader will win a Tranzitions! To enter use the Rafflecopter widget below, and make sure to leave a blog post comment here answering this question: What feature of the seat most appeals to you – what catches your attention, or what will be most useful for your child and your car? Comments don’t show up until we approve them but that’s okay – tell the widget “I commented” and let us take care of the rest!
Thanks to Graco Baby Canada for providing the seat used in this review but as usual, all opinions are our own.
Learn about Cozywoggle here or see a video about the concept here. We very much appreciate the thoughtful and quality design that went into this product — and the designer and inventor Cherlyn Jenkins soon after became a CPST herself!
This give-away is open through midnight PST on Saturday night, September 24th. Winner will be notified by email. To enter you MUST use the Rafflecopter widget below – good luck!
Note: comments are moderated and will not show up right away. That’s okay – tell the Rafflecopter widget that “I entered!” on the blog comment part, and we’ll take care of the rest…
Similar to “ripped from the headlines” but in a nicer, gentler, more supportive and informative style of “gently plucked from our questions” we bring you the first instalment of What’s Up Wednesday!
This series will take some of our more common scenarios and give some background and ideas. It may also help readers to know what we consider when we give advice.
My child is tall, and I don’t think his seat fits him anymore. The straps are on the highest setting but they are coming from below his shoulders and I don’t think that’s right. He is 3.5, and he weighs about 37lbs. What do I do? Can I put him in a booster seat?
You are correct – when forward-facing the harness needs to come from at or above the child’s shoulders. In addition to standing height or weight, harness/torso height is another way that a forward-facing seat can be outgrown. Harness height varies quite a lot from seat to seat, but is a feature hardly ever discussed on car seat boxes or advertising.
At 37lbs your child isn’t heavy enough for a booster — it’s illegal. Kids must be consistently over 40lbs to use a booster. At 3.5 he’s also much too young for a booster seat. Some seats have an age minimum on them, but more importantly, he doesn’t have the maturity or the impulse control to sit properly at all times. A booster seat positions the adult seat belt onto the strongest parts of a child’s body, but does not keep him still. A boostered child needs to be able to stay in position and understand and remember not to lean over, to mess with the seat belt, or to unbuckle while the car is moving. For most kids this doesn’t happen until at least age 5-6. The seat belt can not do its job to keep a passenger safe if it isn’t on the right parts of the body, with all slack removed, at the time of a crash.
There are many options out there for harnessed seats that will keep him safe until age 5-6, at which point you can think about if he is booster ready.
If you would like some help with specific seat suggestions we can do that on our Facebook page, or connect you with a CPST near you!
Do you have an idea for the next instalment of What’s Up Wednesday? Do you have a problem you need help solving? Send us your ideas at email@example.com.
By Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs, on July 11th, 2016
Amazon.ca is having a super deal on certain seats for Prime members! We want to take advantage of this
with a quick flash contest as a thank you to everyone using our links for their shopping. We will be using random.org instead of Rafflecopter for this one.
Just fill out the below linked form and we will draw at 7pm pst on Monday, July 11, 2016. You can choose between any of the sale Frontier CTs assuming they are under $300 and qualify for free shipping at the time of contest close. If the Frontiers are out of stock or the sale is over, or your child is years away from forward facing, you can use $300 towards a seat on Amazon that is in stock, qualifies for free shipping, and is on our favourites list.
We will contact the winner shortly after 7pm Pacific…and plan to order immediately to take advantage of sales. If you do not respond to our call or email within ten minutes we’ll move on to the next person. The entry form gives you the option for email and phone…we suggest you do both!
One entry per person please! Multiple entries will be disqualified. Open to residents of Canada who are the age of majority in their province who have not won one of our contests in the last year, excluding the admins of VI Car Seat Techs and their immediate families. Void where prohibited by law. We love comments but you must click the below “enter here” button to qualify.
Choices available for this contest as of contest opening are Frontier ClickTight in Vibe, Kaleidoscope, Congo, or Cowmooflage.
Contest is now closed! Thank you for your entries! Stay tuned for the winner shortly.
Want to take advantage yourself? Here’s how!
There are other deals available, but you must sign up for Amazon Prime to take advantage. You can cancel the subscription before 30 days. Buying through our links helps us buy seats for donation and run future contests, so thank you!
Evenflo has been a leader in child passenger safety for decades, creating products that continue to move the industry forward. They have raised the bar yet again with their latest all-in-one car seat, the Platinum SafeMax. This seat is an industry first – it has been rollover tested! We are very excited to check out this new product and look forward to seeing the many improvements Evenflo has included in this latest addition to their impressive car seat line up.
The Platinum SafeMax may look familiar to some, owing much of its structure and design to the existing Evenflo Symphony. This much-loved predecessor has won over many in the car seat world with its ability to provide a good fit-to-child in all three modes.
Highest harness position: 17 in
Lowest harness position: 6 in
Seat weight: 20.2 lbs
Width of seat at widest point: 21.1 in
Crotch buckle position (only one): 7 in
Depth of seat pan: 14 in
5-40 lbs (2.3-18 kg)
19-40 in (48 – 102 cm) and child’s head is at least one inch below top of child restraint headrest in either of its two lowest positions
Forward-facing (harness mode):
22-65 lbs (10-29.4 kg)
28-50 in (71-127 cm) and tops of child’s ears are below top of child restraint headrest
Child must be at least one year old (though they should not ride forward-facing until a minimum of two years old, read why rear facing is best and how to make it work here)
40-120 lbs (18-54.4 kg)
44-57 in (112-145 cm) and tops of child’s ears are below top of child restraint headrest
Child must be at least four years old (read more about when to move your child to a booster seat here)
The Platinum SafeMax is a large seat, but its size allows it to incorporate some pretty neat features! As mentioned earlier, the Platinum SafeMax is a first of its kind, having undergone dynamic rollover testing. This testing is unique to Evenflo, and is beyond that required by national standards. You can see features that are specifically designed to manage and dissipate the forces associated with that type of collision. Though this seat is quite wide and would not be a wise choice if you intend to have 3-across in your back seat, it is one to consider for all of the safety and ease-of-use features it includes if you have ample space in your vehicle!
Overview of features:
The Platinum SafeMax features handy buckle tongue holders, which make loading and unloading much easier.
The seat features Outlast® temperature-regulating fabric, which is also designed to be simple to remove. The fabric is machine washable, separately in cold water, delicate cycle. Tumble dry 10 to 15 minutes on low heat.
The seat pad also includes a magnetized fabric panel that covers the harness adjuster, keeping it hidden from curious little hands.
Belt guides and recline positions are colour-coded and correspond to rear facing (light green), forward facing (aqua) and belt-positioning booster mode (purple).
SureSafe™ Installation – Quick Connector™ UAS and guides make installation with a child under 45 lbs a breeze. The guides effectively create a “channel” to the lower anchor bar in your vehicle seat. These guides are especially helpful if you have buried lower anchor bars like I do! To release the lower anchor connector (Quick Connector™), simply pull the red loop.
Harness pads at the hips and shoulders ensure a comfortable and snug fit on your child. Both pads are fixed to the seat and cannot be removed, and the pads at the shoulders feature a rubber backing that enhances the performance of the seat in a collision.
The Platinum SafeMax features Evenflo’s “e3” side impact protection system surrounds your child in layers of thick, energy-absorbing foam.
Setting it up:
The seat comes out of the box with the lower anchors threaded for forward facing, but switching them is quite simple. Just flip to page 23 and 35 of your handy dandy manual and you’ll see these images, showing how to properly route the lower anchor strap for rear facing, or back to forward facing:
Take note – as it mentions in the above manual excerpts, you will have to swivel the white plastic strap that attaches the lower anchor strap to the seat in order to have the lower anchor strap sit flat on the seat, so ensure that step is complete as well!
Installation and Use – Rear-facing:
The Platinum SafeMax can be used rear facing from 5-40 lbs and 19-40 inches and while thechild’s head is at least one inch below top of child restraint headrest in either of its two lowest positions.
The seat is quite simple to install rear facing for a variety of children. The seat must be in recline position 1 (most reclined position) when used rear facing, but this does not mean that the seat takes up a whole heap of space! The seat is actually more compact than you’d think – it only takes up a very reasonable 31.5 in of space front-to-back, by my measurements. The Platinum SafeMax has a single recline line which must be level to ground (I have placed a piece of green painters tape on the line in the photo below so that it is more visible), but even with this requirement, the seat still allowed for ample space for the front seat passenger, which is certainly a plus in our books!
The following photos show the Platinum SafeMax installed in a 2009 Honda Accord:
The passenger seat is in a position that is more than comfortable for myself (at a hair over 5 ft 9 in tall), and leaves me ample space between my torso and the airbag, which is important for my own safety.
In order to make installation as sweat-free as possible, Evenflo recommends that you unzip the cover at the cup holders and pull back the padding to expose the rear facing belt path, as shown below. This will allow you to get better leverage when pulling the tail of the lower anchor strap or vehicle belt, whichever you choose for installation. Once you’ve finished tightening, step to the side of the restraint and, using the force of a firm handshake with your non-dominant hand, attempt to move the seat back-and-fourth and side-to-side at the place where the belt passes through the shell of the seat. If there is less than 1 inch of movement in any direction, and the recline line discussed above is level to ground, you’re good to go!
As you can see below, our petite doll Sara, who measures very similarly to a newborn infant, fits very well in the seat. The infant padding is optional, meaning you can judge whether or not your child needs it (click here to see how to get a snug fit on your rear facing child). Take note, however, that the padding cannot be used at all when the seat is in forward facing mode. The portion of the insert behind her head seemed to force her head forward just slightly, so had this been a real infant she likely would have fit a little better without the head insert. It is separate from the bottom portion of the padding, which would still be used for a proper fit. The fit on a real baby may vary, and ensuring their airway is unobstructed (i.e they are not chin-to-chest) is very important. You may find the head pad (optional) improves fit, or not, depending on your baby’s shape and size.
Here is Presley, who turned 6 months old just a few days ago. She fit very nicely in the seat at 17 lbs and 26 in. She had no complaints! The harness adjusted snugly around her body and the bottom portion of the insert provided ample support for her. She did not need the head portion of the insert. The adjustable head restraint was in its lowest position.
Here is Luke, who just celebrated his second birthday! He claimed the seat was very “squishy” and quite enjoyed being our little model. He even requested the seat be brought into the living room so that he could watch cartoons while using the seat as his recliner! Note: car seats are for cars and kids should always be buckled properly when in their seat.
The harness fit wonderfully on Luke. It was smooth and easy to tighten using the centrally-located adjuster strap. He seemed to really like the soft, smooth material, and he didn’t seem to notice the rubberized backing on the shoulder pads at all, which was one of my concerns for him. He is using the second-from-bottom headrest position, which is also the highest one permitted for rear facing. At this point, he would likely have another 6-8 months of growth left before he would hit the rear facing limits listed at the beginning of the review. Rear facing use of this seat is limited in comparison to others, but it does the job well for the time it lasts and will allow most children to reach age 2 before being outgrown rear facing.
As you can see, the seat provides an extreme amount of side impact protection to the child.
(Yes, Luke is still in the seat in this photo!).
Installation and Use – Forward facing:
The Platinum SafeMax can be used forward facing from 22-65 lbs and 28-50 inches and while the tops of child’s ears are below top of child restraint headrest. The child must be at least one year of age to use the seat forward facing.
Installation was a piece of cake forward facing. The seat padding has a convenient velcro-open space where the child’s lower back would rest that allows complete access to the forward facing belt path with ease. After opening up the velcro space, you will see the space in which the lower anchor strap or vehicle belt will pass through. This makes tightening the strap/belt much easier. After you’ve finished tightening, simply close the velcro space and step to the side of the child restraint, once again grasping it at the belt path in use and checking for movement (same as rear facing, using the force of a firm handshake with your non-dominant hand at the place where the belt passes through the shell of the seat).
The seat can be in recline position 2 with a forward facing child weighing between 22 and 40 lbs, and in recline position 3 with a child weighing between 22 and 65 lbs (i.e a child weighing over 40 lbs must use recline position 3).
Here is the seat installed forward facing with the vehicle belt in the 2009 Honda Accord:
Here is Jemma. She is 4 years old, weighs 32 lbs and wears a size 4 top. She really enjoyed the cupholders (they were lots of fun to take out and put back in, and also provided her a place to store her many hair clips and Barbie shoes!)
Here is Daniel, he is 2 weeks away from turning 7, wears a size 6-7 top and weighs 62 lbs. He quite liked the cup holders and was a huge fan of the soft seat material!
And here is the seat installed with the vehicle belt in a 2016 Chevy Equinox:
Remember that for ALL forward facing harnessed car seats in Canada, the top tether anchor must always be connected and properly used!
Installation and Use – Belt-positioning Booster Mode:
The Platinum SafeMax can be used in booster mode with a child 4 years and older from 40-120 lbs and 44-57 inches. It can also be anchored to the vehicle using the lower anchors to prevent the seat from becoming a projectile in a collision when unoccupied, which also eliminates the need to re-buckle the vehicle seat belt over the child seat when the child gets out. One less thing to remember is always a plus!
The Platinum SafeMax must be in recline number 3 (most upright position) when used in booster mode.
The harness on the Platinum SafeMax is not removable, so in order to switch the seat to belt-positioning booster mode, you need to store the harness. To do so, loosen the harness all the way and thread the harness through the forward facing belt path, and buckle the chest clip behind the seat. Then, looking at the seat from the front, you slip the shoulder pads into the harness adjustment slot, as shown, ensuring they are flat.
The crotch buckle also must be flipped upside down for booster mode. To do this, unzip the cover at the cup holders, pull back to cover and put the car seat in recline number 1 (most reclined position). Slide the black metal retaining plate out of its holder. After the buckle has been removed, pass the black metal retaining plate back up through the shell of the seat so that it lays flat in the seat pan, as so. The crotch buckle will now be hanging upside down under the seat. You can put the seat back into recline number 3 (only one permissible for booster mode, as previously mentioned) and put the cover back into place.
Here is Daniel again! He found the seat to be very comfortable in booster mode and requested that this seat be his everyday ride! Another feature he talked about after riding in the seat a few times was that his legs felt much more comfortable because of how “long” the seat was (he was referring to the deep, supportive seat pan). Keeping those legs supported certainly makes for a more comfortable ride!
The vehicle belt was able to retract through the belt guide freely in my Honda Accord, which is very important. Children who are mature enough to ride in a booster should stay in position the entire ride, without leaning to pick things up or interact with their siblings, but if they do happen to move about in the seat, the vehicle belt must be able to retract in the belt guide without getting caught up and remaining slack.
Something to note: The Platinum SafeMax requires the level line to be level to ground in booster mode. As such, Evenflo permits a tightly rolled towel or small blanket to be used to achieve this, as shown below.
The top booster belt guide comes in at 19 inches, which means that it will serve the function of a high back booster for an adequate period of time for most children, after which they will need a backless booster seat until they pass the 5-step test.
The Platinum SafeMax is a large seat, but its size does not stop it from being a versatile, comfortable and functional car seat. It takes you from infant all the way to school-aged child. The seat is outgrown rear facing more quickly than other convertibles on the market, but it will get most children to at least age 2 rear facing, which is wonderful. Overall, this seat is a great choice, provided you have the space to accommodate it!
Thank you to Evenflo for providing the seat used in this review! As usual, all opinions are our own. Thank you again to Evenflo for giving one lucky (Canadian) reader a SafeMax of their own in Shiloh fashion! To be eligible to win please post your response to this question as a comment on this post:what is the age and size of the child this seat would be for (if you won), and what mode would it be used in? Use the Rafflecopter widget below to confirm your entry, and good luck! Your comment won’t show up right away (we manually approve them) but use the widget anyway, it will soon enough!
Well this is eye-catching eh? Harmony set out to redesign the concept of a booster seat, and visually speaking they sure nailed it.
Known for providing champagne features on a soda water budget Harmony Juvenile has delivered again with the brand new Big Boost Deluxe, a backless (…or dare we say, low back?) belt positioning booster that has ample padding, a detachable cupholder, and…wait for it…LOWER ANCHORS. All for the amazing price of $29. The seat is starting to appear in select Walmart stores, and should show up online soon. It is available now by contacting Harmony directly.
The Big Boost Deluxe is for children who are between 40-110lbs, 40-57″ tall, and who have the developmental maturity to sit properly in a booster seat at all times. For most kids that’s at least age 6. We prefer not to see kids start off their booster experience in a backless booster, but for those who have outgrown a high back or otherwise have excellent belt fit in a backless, this is an outstanding option to take them through to adult seat belt readiness around age 11ish.
It’s roomy internally without being wide externally, it’s cushy, it’s easy to buckle, works really well with buckles that are recessed and low, and did you catch that it’s latchable?
The seat belt fit of the Big Boost Deluxe will vary from child to child, and from vehicle to vehicle, as is the case with all booster seats. In general we found the lap belt fit to be good on most kids, tending toward low. If you have a vehicle where the seat belt geometry tends to position the lap belt overly high on the belly (not good) then this is a good go-to seat to try out. Below is a selection of kids who are 7-10 years old, and of varying builds.
The Big Boost Deluxe is easy to buckle, even with short or recessed seat belt buckles, because of the way the booster swoops away from the arm rest.
Seat pan depth was reported comfortable even by the older, taller testers, and most kids liked the back rest, offering slight lumbar support. It will absolutely feel different for kids used to sitting in conventional boosters so may take some getting used to.
Premium features include:
A well padded seat cushion (removable and machine washable)
Cup holder, that when not in use, stores cleverly on the underside of the booster seat so it doesn’t get lost.
Lower anchors to prevent the seat from becoming a projectile when unoccupied. If you do not have lower anchors in the seating position you are using simply stow the hooks, and remember to have your child re-buckle the empty seat when they exit the vehicle.
The Big Boost Deluxe is medium width, fitting easily on the “40” side of a 60/40 split in two test vehicles (2012 Ford F-150, and 3rd row outboard Honda Odyssey). For size reference here it’s shown beside a pink Harmony Youth Booster, a tried and true favourite.
Boosters are deceptively simple, but do important work by properly positioning the seat belt on the strong bones of a child who is both 40+lbs, and ready to sit properly at all times. Harmony has crammed an impressive number of features into one tidy package, with an even more impressive price tag.
The seats shown in this review were provided to us for the purpose of review, but all opinions are our own. To celebrate this innovative new booster seat design at a spectacular price, Harmony is giving away one Big Boost Deluxe to one of you! To enter use the Rafflecopter widget below, and good luck! Contest is open until 11:59pm Pacific time on Wednesday, May 11th.
Please make sure to comment on the blog answering the question: Pick one word to sum up the Big Boost Deluxe – what comes to mind for you?Blog comments are moderated and will not appear immediately, so don’t fret if your comment doesn’t show right away, it will as soon as one of us pops in to approve them.
VICST has been around for 4.5 years now…and we’ve never really gotten around to branding ourselves. We think it’s high time!
Sadly, we lack both imagination and creative design skills. That’s where you come in. A logo contest! Or a trade, or barter, if you’d prefer.
To the winner: your choice of a Graco Dimensions, Evenflo SureRide, Graco MyRide, or possibly something else that you need. If you win we’ll chat.
You design and create an original logo or set of logos for our use. If you are the winner you agree to give us complete ownership of the images so we can use them as we see fit. If you submit a design it must be your original design.
The logo must be proportioned to fit in standard Facebook or Twitter profile pictures (square), and ideally would also be able to be used in header format. Perhaps there are some basic design elements that can be creatively combined in different ways! We don’t know…you see why we haven’t done this before?
One day maybe we’ll print it on a banner so a high res file would be good. Ideally it would also print well in black and white for those times when we photocopy stuff. We would prefer if it could be produced as a vector file but don’t require it.
We are under no obligation to choose any winner. We may extend the deadline if we haven’t received sufficient entries. Open to Canadian residents of any age, void where prohibited.
Please submit to firstname.lastname@example.org by 11:59pm Pacific time on Sunday May 15th. We look forward to seeing what you come up with!
The Pipa advertises a five-second installation and in many vehicles that is in fact true. “Yeah right,” you say! Watch here for a video tour and see it in action.
Rear-facing only seat to accommodate children 4-35lbs and up to 32″ tall and whose head is at least 1″ below the top of the carrier
Three harness positions:
Lowest harness position with low birth weight insert: ~5.5″
Highest harness position with all inserts removed: ~8.5″
Two crotch buckle slots with multiple positioning options. Note: measurement indicates approximate depth to crotch buckle location: ~3″ (with ability to shorten for small babies and both inserts in place) / 4.5″ with single insert in place / 6.5″ / 7.5″
Flexible seat padding options:
low birth weight under-bum pillow that tucks tidily away; reduces space between baby’s crotch and crotch buckle for an excellent newborn/preemie fit
full-body insert in plush fabric; machine washable
optional harness pads
optional crotch buckle pad
The Pipa features a long list of premium ease of use features that are sure to delight the most discerning parent. Look for photos below this list of highlights.
True Lock™ installation with rigid UAS makes for a quick and easy installation with lower anchors (note – vehicle must have lower anchors in the seating position of choice)
Included funnel guides for UAS installation (photo below)
Dream Drape™ for privacy and protection from the elements (and touchy feely strangers)
Well-placed mesh ventilation and peep holes to keep an eye on babe from any direction
Elegant fabrics in sophisticated colours and textures that are well-fitted, snugly sewn, and machine washable. Currently available in two fashions: Graphite (shown here) and Night (black).
Allows a European belt routing when installed baseless (more on that later in the “fit to vehicle” section)
Lightweight carrier with comfortable handle
Compatible with many strollers with either Nuna or Maxi Cosi adapters
Seven year useful life period from date of manufacture, or date of purchase with original receipt
True Lock™ installation with rigid UAS is truly lightning fast in many vehicles. A red/green indicator button makes it clear whether the installation is complete. The included optional funnel guides (black plastic casing on split image) make a UAS installation easier for vehicles with buried lower anchors by exposing them. They work particularly well on flatter vehicle seats.
The Dream Drape™ tucks away ingeniously into the seat’s canopy and when zipped up looks tidy and neat. Best used for the smaller occupants who don’t have the ability or awareness to kick it out of place, or for an older child who is sleeping. It might also be handy to keep curious older siblings out of baby’s space when seated next to each other in the car. The lower tabs are magnetic and attach easily and snugly to the outer edge of the carrier with no velcro or buckles to fuss with.
Well-placed mesh ventilation in the canopy and Dream Drape allows one to keep an eye on sleeping babe from all angles.
Elegant fabric in attractive colours and textures make for a stylish ride. Featured throughout this review is Graphite (grey), also available in Night (black).
Ergonomic handle makes for an easier time carrying baby. There is sufficient clearance between the raised canopy and the handle to easily fit a hand. If you prefer to carry in the crook of your elbow lowering the canopy is likely necessary.
Easy carrier release located on the base (not the carrier like many other seats). Not a pro or a con per se, just different.
Fit to Child:
The Pipa fits a broad range of children, providing a customizable fit with flexibility in crotch buckle positioning, included inserts, harness pads, and crotch buckle pad. As always consult the manual to know when and how to adjust these features. The Pipa fit my newborn/preemie doll (approximately a 5-6lb, 18″ baby) beautifully. At the other end of the fit spectrum a 24lb 11 month old was nearing both the standing height and clearance above his head. Like most seats the Pipa will be outgrown first by height, but with the 32″ limit and tall shell it’s a market leader for longevity.
The largest child I tested at 24lbs and 31″ tall, this 11 month old had ample harness length left (sometimes a concern at the top end of a seat), and no issues at all with crotch buckle length or ease of buckling. If this was his seat I’d be advising his parents to get shopping for the next seat to continue to rear face him in. Shorter-torsoed kids will last to the full standing height but it’s important not to exceed any stated limit for a car seat.
At 3 months and 14lbs, 5 months and 18lbs, and 9 months and 20lbs these cuties demonstrate nicely just how great the fit is in the Pipa for differently shaped babies. The parent testers liked the feel and fit, and huge thanks to them and their offspring for giving the Pipa a go. Use of cloth or disposable diapers will affect whether any inserts are needed at smaller sizes but you can see with the youngest baby that she already fits without it. That bodes extremely well for the teeny tinies who sometimes don’t fit well in seats.
Fit to Vehicle:
Fit to vehicle varied widely. I loved the Pipa very much in vehicles with lower anchors (anything 2003 or newer), and with vehicle seats that are not extremely sloped. In most of the test vehicles I tried it installed really well, sometimes in as little as seconds. In others I needed to adjust the recline angle but was still relatively simple. If you are considering the Pipa it should be for its strength for use with rigid UAS. It is light weight (9.4lbs fully decked out with canopy and all infant padding), and really compact front-to-back.
If you do not have lower anchors in the seating position where you want to use it, if your vehicle seat is extremely sloped, or if you have a tight three-across seating situation I would strongly urge you to try this seat before you purchase it. Take the time to visit a boutique store and install it. The seat belt installation is challenging, and can not be used at all with seat belts “forward of the bight,” meaning seat belts that anchor forward of the natural crease between seat back and seat bottom.
Despite the seat belt challenges, the successes were many. In all vehicles the front seat was either all the way back, or sufficiently back that my 5’8″ self could very comfortably sit in the passenger seat. If you are significantly taller or like to lean your seat way back (not safe for you – don’t do that!) you might not find it quite as roomy as I did.
2016 Acura MDX behind the passenger and centre (this vehicle has centre UAS).
2016 Mitsubishi Lancer
2016 Mitsubishi RVR (white) and Outlander (black)
2016 BMW X5 was ultimately successful but required some effort and technique to achieve the correct recline (yellow noodle is there for that purpose). Initially the base ‘hovered’ as shown in the first picture. Don’t despair – it weights down once the carrier (and baby) are in place, and is simply an artifact of the rigid UAS.
A similar “hover” was experienced in a 2012 Ford F-150 extended cab but again, with the weight of the carrier in place it settled down and was an excellent fit, leaving lots of room in the passenger seat AND being narrow enough to tumble the 60 side of the 40/60 split. The amount of overhang shown here is permitted, just. Be wary if you have very shallow back seats.
Fit in a 2012 Odyssey was terrific, both in the 2nd row captain’s seats and the 3rd row outboard seats. The UAS installation is demonstrated in the video tour here. Pictured below is a baseless installation with Euro routing. This routes the shoulder belt around the back of the carrier, tucking into the bracket made just for this purpose, and enables a snug installation even baseless. While extra bases can be purchased, a baseless installation is a handy skill to learn.
If you have a lap belt only, or your lap/shoulder belt isn’t long enough to route as shown don’t fret – traditional routing is also approved. Already a compact seat, a baseless installation means the Pipa will fit in even the smallest of spaces, and makes this 2012 Civic look enormous!
Should you find yourself wanting to do a seat belt installation there is a large, easy to open and close lock-off for this purpose. It clamps the belt and holds it tightly. I had difficulty achieving a tight installation at the appropriate recline, while keeping the seat belt flat in the lock-off in the vehicles I tested. While doable, it’s not easy to accomplish, and is not where the Pipa shines. If you must use a seat belt in your vehicle it would be worthwhile to consider other options unless you can try in advance and know the Pipa will work for you.
We first laid eyes on the Pipa at a trade show last year…and we’re so glad to see it finally here! It’s a
very good option in many vehicles and features some lovely finishing touches that we like a lot.
lickety split UAS installation that truly couldn’t be easier — provided the seating location has lower anchors and the vehicle seat isn’t crazily sloped
beautiful finishing details on fabric and inserts
long lasting for height and weight
fabulous fit to child
challenging seat belt installation may result in it being incompatible in seating positions without UAS
If I knew for certain that this seat worked where I wanted it to in my vehicle (and a baby was in my future…alas, I am done!) this seat would absolutely top my list. It’s lovely in many circumstances but where it isn’t…it really isn’t. Consider it for your family if you can be sure ahead of time that it works in your vehicle, or better yet, try it for yourself. It will be well worth the time and effort to do so because if it is an option for you…it’s dreamy.
HUGE thanks to Nuna Canada for offering up another one for YOU! Enter to win a Nuna Pipa in Night (black) by using the Rafflecopter widget below. Please note that comments are moderated, meaning yours won’t show up immediately.
Collision Dynamics: Dissecting Impact, by Angela Stacey
(Physics disclaimer: Assuming ideal conditions, friction out of scope, assuming no loses to H/L/S, decel/accel out of scope).
It’s the moment we CPST’s fear most. Impact from a vehicular collision. And rightfully so! A lot goes on in the milliseconds leading up to, during and after an impact. But by growing our understanding of how these timeframes play out, we can help to better protect the occupants of our vehicles and those of the families we help. And hey, physics is fun! (Don’t believe me? You’ll see).
First, let’s start with some basic physics: Newton’s Laws of Motion. Not a math lover? Never been one for complex equations? Well, you’re in luck, Newton’s Laws are simple to interpret and apply to everyday situations. These three laws govern the motion of anything and everything, including your vehicle. These laws will be the main tool in our impact dissection kit, so let’s take a look at them.
First law: Every object in a state of uniform motion or at rest will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external force.
Second law: The relationship between an object’s mass m, its acceleration a, and the applied force F is F = ma. Acceleration and force are vectors (meaning they have both a magnitude and a direction).
Third law: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. That is, when one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body.
Not so bad, right?
Let’s put ourselves at the scene of a rear-end collision. For simplicity, we’ll say that they are both the same model of vehicle, with the same mass*. We have been told that the vehicle traveling behind (a silver vehicle) has impacted the vehicle in front (a blue vehicle) as the pair were coming to a stop at a red light. No one is badly injured, but both drivers seek to better understand why their necks hurt.
In order to better understand what happens in a collision at the moment of impact, we must first look at what happens before that moment. Our bodies, our children and our trunk full of groceries are all traveling at the same speed as the vehicle. Now would be an excellent time to read Newton’s First law of motion again. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
The objects in your vehicle are traveling in a state of (relatively) uniform motion in the moments before the impact. They will carry on that way until…something acts to stop them or change their course. The silver vehicle impacting the blue vehicle serves this function. As the vehicles impact one another, the contents of the vehicles impact the surfaces adjacent to them. The force with which objects contact one another is equal to the product of the mass of the object (in kilograms) and the acceleration of the object (in m/s2 ), which is Newton’s second law: F = ma. I will point out that units are very, very important!
So that bottle of windshield wash in the foot well of your vehicle? It’s time to put that in the trunk to make sure it doesn’t continue in uniform motion and impact someone in the event of a collision!
At the moment of impact, everything (and everyone) moves toward the point of impact. Give Newton’s third law another read. In a collision between two objects, both objects experience forces that are equal in magnitude but opposite in direction. The person in the silver vehicle will feel a force “coming back” to them that is equal to the force they hit the blue vehicle with, but again, in the opposite direction. This is why the person in the rear vehicle will move forward in their primary post-impact movement, and the person in the front vehicle will move backward, pressing into their seat. Occupants of both vehicles will move toward the point of impact because of the equal and opposite forces described by Newton’s third law. Take silver vehicle’s force to be directed –> this way, then the blue vehicle’s force would be equal and oppositely directed <– this way. Giving you: S–> <–B
Rear end collisions also involve the consideration that both vehicles are moving in the same direction, though one has unfortunately “caught up” with the other. This affects the outcome such that both vehicles will continue to move along that path until they come to a stop, their original direction of travel being the same means that their force vectors (think of these as arrows that represent the direction the vehicle is moving, with a length proportional to the mass multiplied by the acceleration of the vehicle) will add. Yet another reason why rear end collisions do not represent a large amount of overall collision injuries.
A video may help, see above: (silver vehicle = silver bottle, blue vehicle = blue bottle)
I hope that this short explanation has helped to increase your understanding of the basic physics of a collision, and will serve as a motivation to learn more about physics!
*Something to note: In accordance with Newton’s second law of motion, the acceleration of an object is dependent upon both force and mass. Thus, if the colliding objects have unequal mass, they will have unequal accelerations (or rather, decelerations) as a result of the contact force that results during the collision. This is why you will see a small car slide across the road when hit by a Hummer. Mass is (sometimes unfortunately) directly related to force.
Introducing the Grow & Go, Safety 1st’s new 3-in-1 fresh to the market. The Grow & Go can accommodate children rear-facing, forward-facing, and as a booster. We’ve tried it here in all modes and given it our usual thorough treatment!
Safety 1st’s manual, and matching colour coded labeling on the seat, is an excellent first glimpse at what the seat can do. Very clear, very easy to follow along, and a super way to get an overview of the seat and understand how it might work for your family.
Rear facing: 5-40lbs AND between 19-40″ tall AND at least 1″ of head rest above the head
Forward facing: 22-65lbs AND between 29-49″ AND harness coming from at or above the shoulders AND at least two years old
Booster: 40-100lbs AND 43-52″ AND at least four years old
Lowest harness height on infant harness routing (with required body padding): approximately 5.25″
Lowest harness height on no-rethread harness routing (with optional body padding): approximately 9.5″
Highest harness height (without optional body padding): approximately 17″
Maximum seated height while rear-facing: approximately 26″ (chances are the 40″ standing height limit will be reached first however)
Three crotch buckle positions: approximately 4.75″, 6″, 7.25″
Highest booster belt guide position: approximately 18.5″
No-rethread “Quick-Fit” harness (except for when the infant routing is used – babies grow fast, don’t worry!)
Dual cup holders
Sleek styling with a grey herringbone fabric
Lots of leg room rear facing
Easy to convert between modes of use
More – see photos below!
Really handy harness holders so you don’t have to dig the buckles out from under your child. Two ways to use them: hook the harness over top (we found this easiest) or pop the buckle tongue into the slot made especially for it.
Colour coded, easy to read labeling on the side of the seat. Blue for rear-facing, red for forward-facing and booster (there is some overlap in instructions with these two modes hence the doubling up of colour). One handed, super-smooth recline adjustment for rear- and forward-facing, and large visible indicator of position.
Easily removable soft goods and seat cover (not an iPod plug-in as I thought when I first glanced at it). The fabric is nice and feels like it would not pill or snag. The padding provides ample body and head support. Most is optional so customize fit to your liking. Harness pads are a new design and are longer on the underside and shorter on the outside. They were easy to position, and removed quickly with velcro.
Great news – this seat will fit from birth, and quite easily. The harness tightens fully, the harness is slightly below the doll’s shoulders, and the fit is good. Setting the seat up for newborn use requires re-routing of the harness to both shorten and lower it. Safety 1st has found an ingenious way to make the seat actually fit a newborn through a school-age child. Pay careful attention to the steps in the manual to set the seat up for newborn use (and the reverse when ready to move to the no-rethread “Quick-Fit” harness system). It’s not difficult nor time consuming, but does require manual reading and following the steps as indicated.
Modeling the seat we have a newborn doll, a ten month old, a 25 month old, and just turned 3 year old (the 3 year old in the green sweater is 38″ tall for reference).
Kids liked the dual cup holders, ample leg room, and squishy padding. Parents liked the harness covers, attractive fabric, nicely positioned headwings that provide head support but don’t block the view, and low profile of the seat shell itself that enabled easier loading. One parent noticed that the harness release button is discreetly tucked away to make it just a little bit harder for those Houdini kids to wriggle out.
The features that appealed rear-facing also appeal forward! Dual cup holders, easy to adjust no-rethread harness, and squishy comfortable fabric. The crotch buckle pad is optional, as is the body padding and extra head pad. All are easily removable. This seat can not be used forward facing until age two, and should fit most kids in harness mode through at least age five. Shown here is aged 2.5-5, approximately 30lbs through 42lbs, all of whom declared it comfy. Of course all kids come in different sizes and proportions so shorter torsoed kids will fit in harness mode for longer (blond girl in summer attire has always been long in the torso for example).
The Grow & Go may be used as a booster once a child reaches the minimums for this mode but we’d recommend you keep kids harnessed as long as they fit, and then ensure they’re mature enough for a booster. If that describes your child, then carry on! Belt fit is quite good on the kids we tried it in but there isn’t much time for booster use (by torso height) beyond when it’s outgrown in harness mode.
At 5.5, 46lbs, and 45″ tall (pink sweater) and 7.75, 55lbs, and 50″ (blue tartan) these two both fit in booster mode. The older child is just squeaking in (her shoulder is grazing the head wing). Lap belt fit on both is excellent. Use of the upper shoulder belt guide is optional if needed to properly position the shoulder belt centered on the shoulder, and on the buckle side both lap and shoulder belt should tuck under the harness storage tab as shown above. The booster weight limit of 100lbs is hugely overstated in our opinion – as you can see height is much more of a limiting factor than weight.
UAS and tether are not to be used while the seat is in booster mode – follow storage instructions, and teach your child to rebuckle the empty booster when it’s not occupied so it doesn’t become a projectile in a crash. It is a very simple process, however, to switch between harness and booster mode. No unthreading of the harness necessary – tuck it behind the red plate as shown in the photo. Then a quick removal of the crotch buckle, tuck the tail of the harness adjuster under the seat pad, and remove all padding and accessories. Our tip: stow it all together in a labeled Ziploc bag so you don’t forget what seat it belongs to.
Fit to Vehicle:
The Grow & Go installed quite nicely in our test vehicles. Two important aspects to note for rear-facing however: the red bracket shown below, and the rear facing level line. Both of these elements are shown in the following installation pictures but they are important enough to highlight here so they aren’t missed later on.
Our representative small sedan is a 2012 Honda Civic. A centre installation allows a decent amount of leg room up front – enough for an average driver – but those requiring the seat all the way back are going to want to use an outboard position (more on that shortly). Installing centre means a seat belt must be used (most vehicles do not allow the use of UAS in the centre, check your vehicle manual to know if yours does).
The single recline line rear-facing means that this is how it will fit for the entire time spent rear facing. Make sure this setup suits your family; there will be ample room in medium-large vehicle interiors. If your vehicle seat is too sloped to achieve the needed recline a small tightly rolled towel or chunk of foam pool noodle cut to length can be placed at the seat bight to further recline the Grow & Go. The base of this seat is nice and slim, and at 9″ wide should fit easily between the plastic hinges present in many vehicle interiors.
Note the proper belt routing here relative to the red brackets. Slide only the lap portion through – it’s easily accessible and the webbing slides freely to tighten, but must be routed through the red guides for proper installation.
For comparison here is an outboard installation with UAS. Driver’s seat is all the way back, with dazzling pink running tights showing off the resulting front passenger room for a leggy 5’8″ person when the seat is properly installed behind it. It is important to note that the UAS strap (when used) also routes through the red guides on both sides.
Forward facing installation is very straightforward – quick and easy whether you are using UAS or seat belt. The adjustable head rest sits slightly forward of the seat shell and will limit interference with forward-leaning head restraints in vehicles. Always check your vehicle owner’s manual for proper tether routing (under, over, or around a vehicle head restraint). The belt path is high enough that installation should be simple in most vehicles.
For families wanting to buy one seat for use from birth through to the high back booster stage this is a very attractive option. Those of you with medium-large vehicle interiors should have no trouble attaining the required recline rear-facing through that use of the seat. High five to Safety 1st for blazing the trail to require a minimum age of two to use the seat forward-facing. This seat should reasonably last for most kids through age 6 if not longer, depending on proportions. If you have one of those immensely long torsoed children — something you won’t obviously know if you are shopping while still pregnant! — you can always cross that bridge when you come to it. At a minimum you will need a backless booster to last your child through age 10-12 when their boostering days are over and they pass the Five Step Test for seat belt fit.
The finishing is nice, the features are easy to use and clearly labeled, and kids and parents alike find it comfortable and user-friendly. It has to be rather difficult to design a seat that truly will fit a newborn AND a 6 year old well – but Safety 1st has done it.
To celebrate this accomplishment our generous friends at Safety 1st are giving away one Grow & Go to you, lucky readers! To enter please use the Rafflecopter widget below. Thank you to Safety 1st for providing the seats used in this review, but all opinions are our own.
Winter is here…brrr! No matter what part of Canada you live in we want to help the whole family be safe and warm in the car. With a few tips, some explanation around why it matters, and no need for fancy or expensive gear, your whole family can be riding safely no matter what Mother Nature has in store.
Keep the harness (or seat belt) close to the body
By close we mean close…super close! When car seats are crash tested there are strict rules around exactly what the test dummies wear, and it’s not much. Remove bulky layers that interfere with the harness being close to the body. With bulky layers removed make sure the harness passes the pinch test, and for booster riders and adults ensure the lap belt is under any coat or sweater, and then snug up the shoulder belt and place it against the chest.
What defines “bulky?” That’s a bit tricky. Anything big, lumpy, thick, oversized…will it interfere with proper harness placement or positioning? That’s the ultimate question. At the end of the day it’s a judgment call and requires some common sense and critical thinking. It’s notoriously difficult to gauge simply from a photo whether something is “too bulky” or “poorly fitting.” It can help to buckle a child in regular clothing, undo the harness without loosening it, dress in whatever layer is in question, and attempt to rebuckle. If you can – carry on! If you have to loosen a hair – probably also carry on, because that layer doesn’t disappear like magic in a crash! If you have to loosen quite a bit then it’s not a good choice because the looser the harness, the further away it is from the body. Make sense?
How to keep the harness (or seat belt) close? Thin, insulating, well-fitting layers
We don’t want anyone half naked, or under-dressed, because that would be…well, cold. You can be smart with your layers and here’s how: choose items that retain heat, such as fleece, down, wool, and other performance synthetics. Cotton does not keep you warm if it gets damp (if you’re sweating for example) but wool and fleece will keep on doing their thing. They’re also quite dense so if they fit well and aren’t overly thick, they won’t get in the way of how the harness (or seat belt) sits against the body, and they won’t disappear or compress much in a crash.
Do you prefer the convenience of a full body suit?
Many brands now make thin, warm fleece suits (typically avoid the lined ones, and certainly avoid any with filling or padding).
Look for something that is trim in cut (avoid the wide boxy ones).
Don’t size up because you don’t want it to be lumpy and bumpy and get in the way of the harness.
Try your child in it to make sure you can still get an excellent harness fit! What works for one child in a particular seat may not work for another. Babies and kids come in different shapes and sizes.
Same goes for “car seat safe” coats. These are not parkas, rather they are paper-thin compressible down jackets or suits that are handy for in and out of the car while running errands but won’t likely cut it for serious winter play. More brands than ever are making it affordable to go this route – look for something labelled “packable.” If you shop at Costco (in August!) look for packable down coats for around $35 (available is kids’ sizes 4 to adult XL). Other options include the Cozywoggle coat, or a car seat poncho that you can make yourself without any sewing skills.
After a child is buckled, put their coat on backward, or a blanket over top for added warmth.
A visual demo because we like pictures.
Thin, packable coat (in blue on the left) or a fleece jacket (in pink on the right), fleece pants, mitts and a toque – safe and warm. Layer up with a blanket or bring along the winter coat. Note: five year olds make awesome fashion choices.
NOT okay. With a bulky parka and snow pants the harness can not be properly positioned or tightened. Furthermore this child would overheat very quickly and can’t remove layers as the car warms up. Note: grumpy face was not at our direction. She really did not like this one bit.
How about boostered kids (or adults too)? Same principles apply. Always put the lap belt under any top layers. Dress in thin, well-fitting layers such as the blue packable jacket, open bulkier coats so the lap and shoulder belt can touch the body without interference, or remove bulky coats and cinch the belt tight over thin-to-medium weight snow pants.
NOT okay – the belt is sitting much too far off the body. Note: self-inflicted grumpy face here too. “Mom, I’m squished, let me out!”
Why does it matter? What’s the big deal?
Air is the enemy here!Avoid puffy, bulky items that are warm because they’re full of air. Great for the toboggan hill, not for the car or booster seat. You know those vacuum pack bags to store clothing or extra bedding — how you can make a previously gigantic piece of clothing quite tiny by sucking all the air out? That’s basically what is going on in a crash. Crash forces are extreme and compress the bulk and air so much so that suddenly your child’s harness is really loose, no matter how much you tighten the harness to begin with. Loose enough to cause injuries, or allow partial or complete ejection. Bad stuff you don’t want to experience.
Parents worry that if they are in a crash and their child is dressed only in a fleece they’ll die of hypothermia before help arrives. Remember that your child is not dressed only in a fleece, but rather thin, warm layers, and that the first goal is to survive the crash. Injury from ejection is immediate — hypothermia is not. Survive the crash, and then worry about the rest.
Keep Warm Stuff in the Car
Keep a fleece or wool blanket in the car, permanently. Thrift shops are great places for really warm stuff for cheap as chances are you’ll get snow, winter slush, and other assorted kid detritus on the blankets so they don’t need to be fancy — just warm. Kids will toss them off once they warm up.
If you are going somewhere to play outside bring the bulky layers with you! Is it a pain to try to dress a squirmy kid anxious to get sledding? Why yes, yes it is….such is life with a toddler (dang, someone should have told us that before we had kids!).
What if you break down and have to walk? Have an emergency kit that stays in your car, and includes spare layers. While half of us are based on Vancouver Island, we have all lived, or live, in places where -40C° happens. We are not supermoms, just regular parents like you. We can do it, and so can you.
A sample outfit for any age: tights or leggings, topped by fleece pants. Wool socks. Undershirt or tank top, long sleeve thermal shirt, thin fleece sweater, topped by a trim fleece jacket. Or a super thin down jacket (compresses to basically nothing, often called “packable”). Toque, mitts, and a blanket in the car? Presto chango, warm and comfy.
Help other parents! How do you keep your family warm and safe in the car? Any tips for success? Share them here! Please note that comments are moderated so yours might not appear right away. Thanks for reading!
A fun way to recap some products new to market, and highlight our tried-and-true favourites! And did we mention a contest? YEAH! We will offer up giveaways for some of the below listed seats…but the window for entry will be short so you’ll have to check back often! See below for complete rules.
Is your child’s seat not on this list? Don’t despair – it’s just a quick, fun recap. We have LOTS of favourites and you can check them all out here! If you’re shopping for a new one and plan to buy through Amazon please start here so a small portion gets referred back to us at no cost to you. It helps funds our seat donations throughout the year.
1. Best new convertible under $150
The Cosco Scenera NEXT wowed and amazed us with its small size and amazing abilities. $99 at Walmart and in six cute colours it fits in places we never thought a rear-facing seat could go. Dorel is making some waves in the industry with a minimum age of two for forward-facing. Fist bump Dorel – carry on.
CONTEST #1: Congrats to the winner, Charlene C. from B.C., who won a Cosco Scenera NEXT.
2. Best new convertible under $300
Graco Dimensions (with its slightly less well-dressed sister the Contender) came onto the market in late summer at $269 and available most places Graco seats are sold (Contender is a Canadian Tire exclusive). Despite the 35lb rear-facing weight limit it’s crazy tall and super compact, making it a top notch choice for rear-facing a l-o-n-g time for those slim but tall kids, even in small cars. The Dimensions has nice features like premium push on UAS and harness pads. Video tour here.
CONTEST #4: Congrats to the winner, Stephanie H., from Ontario, winner of a Graco Dimensions.
3. Gold star for consistent awesomeness
Booster fit is ALL about belt fit, and that is completely dependent on the specific seating position in a vehicle (3rd row bench versus 2nd row captain’s seats for example) and the child who will occupy the seat. The Graco TurboBooster, the high back version specifically, is such a tried and true performer that if we know nothing about the vehicle-kid combo this seat is a pretty safe bet. Found most places for around $70-80 and frequently on sale for less it is easy to use, lightweight, and provides consistently good belt fit on most kids. Is your child booster-ready? This will help you decide.
CONTEST #2: Congrats to our three winners, Tennille, Sheena & Jill, all from Ontario. We gave away one each of a high back Graco Turbo, a high back Evenflo Amp, and a backless Harmony Youth Booster.
4. Best booster we don’t talk about enough
Another seat that is a good bet in many circumstances is the high back Evenflo Amp. Readily available at many retailers for around $70 its particular claim to fame is being a good bet in vehicles with long buckle stalks, as well as being one of the very few that work in the 3rd row outboard of current body style Dodge Grand Caravan (and clones Chrysler Town & Country and VW Routan), or 3rd row of the Mazda 5.
CONTEST #2 now closed – congrats to the winners!
5. Best infant seat we don’t talk about enough
Small but mighty the Evenflo Embrace is amazingly long lasting, pretty compact, and well-priced. It’s $140 at Walmart, and accommodates kids 4-35lbs or 17-30″ tall. It’s lightweight, fits tiny humans beautifully, and is a breeze to install.
6. Best new combo seat
A much anticipated addition to the combination (forward-facing harness-to-booster) seat lineup is the Harmony Defender. With a cool cover name of Pirate Gold we had high expectations – and were not disappointed. Exceptionally long lasting with a lot of features we’ve come to expect from pricier seats and on the shelves at most Walmarts for $159 it has a lot going for it.
CONTEST #5: Congrats to the winner, Amelia I. from Nova Scotia. Enjoy!
7. If we had another baby and skipped the infant seat we’d use…
a Clek Infant Thingy plus Foonf or Fllo. Clek released their “Infant Thingy” last spring and like their other products it was well thought out, well-executed, and just beautiful. It allows a truly magnificent fit for a newborn in a seat that can otherwise accommodate most kids to age four rear-facing, and to six+ forward-facing. None of us are expecting – but if we were the Infant Thingy would be at the top of our list for the newest VICST CPST-in-training.
8. If we had another baby and used an infant seat we’d use…
a Chicco KeyFit 30 (pronounced KEE-ko, for real). Smooth, simple, compact front to back yet long lasting for height and weight (4-30lbs or 30″ tall), and just all ’round easy to install and use, the KeyFit 30 is a super choice for many families. It’s also three-across friendly, meaning the straight edges of the base make it a good option when trying to fit three seats in a tight space.
CONTEST #3: Congrats to the winner, Sarah D. from B.C., who won a Chicco KeyFit 30!
9. We can’t believe this is less than $20
Did you know that most kids get out of a booster seat far too soon? Despite provincial laws that allow a child to ride in only a seat belt at age 8 or 9 the provincial law ALSO requires the seat belt to fit properly. For the vast majority of kids that won’t happen until at least age 11. For a mere $18 the Harmony Youth Booster (and any other booster that provides good belt fit) can dramatically decrease horrible life-altering injuries to the 6-11 year old crowd. We really like the Youth Booster.
CONTEST #2 now closed – congrats to the winners!
10. What we’re excited to get our hands on in 2016
What fun stuff will 2016 bring us? Already on the market but not yet in our hot little hands is the Nuna Pipa, an infant seat with some neat features that we previewed in the fall at a Toronto Trade Show. We hope to have more info about it soon. Also at that show was the Recaro Performance Booster and Performance Sport combo seat, and we liked the looks of them. We’ve also heard rumours of the Graco 4Ever coming to Canada but no info on it yet. What else will come to market in the next year?
And huge thanks to you for reading and sharing and getting good quality child passenger safety info out there in the world! Here’s hoping that 2016 is a good one for us all.
Contest rules: open to residents of Canada age 18 or older except where prohibited. Not open to the four admins of VICST or their immediate family members, nor to anyone who won something from us in 2015 or their immediate family members. One entry per household please. Entries must be completed in full, and winners must respond within 48hours to claim their prize. Entry time period varies by seat/day so check back often. Winners will be chosen randomly with the help of random.org.
The product offered for the giveaway is free of charge, no purchase necessary. By providing your information in the contest form, you are providing your information to VICarSeatTechs alone. We do not share or sell information and will use any information only for the purpose of verifying and contacting the winner.
In case this is as far as you read here are our Take Home Messages:
The BEST seat for you is the one that fits your child, fits your vehicle, fits your budget, and that you can use properly EVERY TIME. That “use properly” bit is key as misuse piled on top of misuse is going to increase the risk of injury to your child.
Please remember that Consumer Reports is testing American car seats. Up here in the Great White North our seats are often a little different as our testing requirements are different. Even seats that appear to be identical often aren’t. Canadian seats tend to have more padding in the head area, have some form of anti-rebound control when rear-facing (most commonly anti-rebound bars, or a modified shape to the front edge of the car seat compared to US seats), and always require the use of the tether when forward-facing. Our weight limits are lower, and sometimes height limits too. We also have much less selection…but really, tons more than we used to! US seats are cheaper but Canadian seats are made for Canadian requirements and it’s illegal for Canadians to use foreign seats here.
It is really important to understand that ALL of the seats tested are SAFE. Let us repeat that – if they’re for sale on the shelf they are safe.
Furthermore the final ratings given to the seats are an amalgamated score combining CR’s idea of “ease of use” and “fit to vehicle” with the crash testing.
Why did Consumer Reports (CR) change the testing method for crashworthiness evaluation? According to them it was because they wanted to provide comparative information to consumers to aid in the buying process, and to develop a test protocol that was more representative of modern vehicles. Great ideas, but no need to panic at the results if your child’s seat isn’t on the top five list.
Good news! 2 of the top 5 seats are excellent budget options. What if you have a seat that isn’t on that list? Don’t freak out. Between the four of us we own…um…a lot of car seats and have absolutely no intention of swapping them out for seats on the Top 5. None. Because first and foremost we know we are using them correctly and THAT is far and away the most important element when it comes to our children’s safety.
Want to double check that you are using your seats properly? Meet with a CPSAC-certified CPST near you. Some charge a fee for their time and others volunteer but either way it’s time well spent.
It’s been just over four years since we started providing online help via Facebook and this website. FOUR YEARS of good stuff! It’s been awesome. Four busy moms with ten kids between us we hope our passion for child passenger safety has shone through with kindness, knowledge, and no judgment. Maybe you’ve enjoyed our silliness, or nabbed a seat on a super sale. Maybe one of our posts helped you to make an important decision for your family’s safety?
We’ve enjoyed fantastic relationships with manufacturers as we bring real, useful reviews to Canadian readers and have written about and given away more than 22 seats to lucky winners in our weird and wonderful contests.
What we also do, and could not do without your support, is provide seats to families who need them. Families who want to make sure their children are safely seated in the vehicle and need a little help to be able to do that. Over the years we’ve given away many seats to grandparents and parents. Other kids have received booster seats or harnessed seats at roadside stops. Sometimes we hear of a family by referral, or sometimes a seat is given out at a roadside stop in cooperation with local law enforcement. We are so fortunate to work with community partners who seek to educate and connect families with the resources they need!
We purchase seats with referral funds that don’t cost you anything extra when you shop at Amazon.ca (for anything, not just car seats), or when you sign up for and make a purchase from shop.ca or via an ebates.ca account. Alternately, if you’re feeling extra generous, we’d love to ensure that a new-in-box car seat or booster seat that you want to purchase for a family gets to someone who needs it. Be in touch if that’s the case, we can make it happen.
We post sales every Friday morning — more often if there’s a super car seat deal — and shopping via those links contributes too.
Do you know of someone who could use our help? We’d like to be a resource for local Vancouver Island families. A few conditions apply:
The family, ideally the whole family or everyone involved in child transport, needs to meet with a tech to learn how to use and install the seat. This means you need to be near a technician, or willing to travel to a technician.
The family needs to be open to the idea of best practice, meaning exceed the bare minimums. What that means will depend on the child, the vehicle, and the family’s needs but we’d like to have that conversation, and provide a seat(s) to allow best practice to happen with ease! Of course we can’t make anyone do anything, nor do we want to. Our style is gentle education while providing the tools and knowledge to make it work for the family.
In consultation with a family we will help to choose an appropriate seat. Where choice exists we’ll provide it as best we can. Often this means we need to know who else rides in the vehicle, including the children’s ages, weights, and heights. A family’s privacy is important so this information is used only to enable the selection of a suitable seat.
Are you in need of a little help? Do you know of a family who would appreciate a new seat but can’t quite swing it on their own? Please tell us via this form. Info we collect is used solely for the purpose of doing our best to get seats to kids who need them, and we will absolutely respect the privacy of any information you submit. Please understand that we can’t possibly fulfill every request but we sure will try our best.
Alainna and Jen (and their future CPST helpers, plied with food, play dough, and cameo appearances with My Little Ponies Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle) spent yesterday wandering the Toronto Baby Time Show looking at products, chatting with sales people and manufacturer reps, and ogling new stuff.
We matched, of course. That’s how we roll.
Recaro was an exciting first stop for us. Brand new to Canada they’ve brought their convertible (infant/child) seat to market. So far Canadian Tire is carrying the Performance Ride for $299, and we got to explore it while chatting with their experts. We will have more info on the Performance Ride, the combination forward-facing child/booster seat Performance Sport, and high back booster Performance Booster really soon.
5 years old and tall in the Performance Ride – still plenty of room left by torso height. She proclaimed it super comfy and we agreed. Lots of padding, really nice finishing details.
Happy to oblige by sitting in the high back Performance Booster (not quite on the market yet) we were pretty impressed with the height in this seat. No comparison shots yet but it’s a tall, cushy option that does not require a vehicle head restraint behind it. It does have lower anchors to secure it to the vehicle when unoccupied.
We visited Clek as well, spotting the gorgeous new “capri” colour from afar. The 2016 Foonf and Fllo come with extra padding in the head rest and seat pad areas, as well as a new style of harness cover that is longer, soft and cushy with snap closures. Capri will also be available on Oobr and we forgot to ask if it will be on the backless Olli as well. We hope so – it’s beautiful.
Clek has also updated the design of the rear-facing lock-offs. Compared to a ski boot closure or my own favourite, a Grolsch bottle, it’s easy to use and should make a seat belt installation even smoother.
Tokidoki fans rejoice – a new space-themed print. My 5 year old spotted the unicorn straightaway.
A stop by the Nuna booth saw Alainna lounging on the job, and then getting to it with her helper. We’re interested to see the Nuna Pipa in action. It comes with a lot of nice features including lovely fabric, rigid UAS, a super easy to use lock-off for seat belt installations, high height and weight limits (4-35lbs, up to 32″ tall), and really quite a lot of flexibility when it comes to usage rules. For those familiar with the Pipa in the US the Canadian version does not have a load leg. Don’t let that stop you though – it’s got a lot going for it. For those who want an infant seat in the $400 price range this won’t disappoint.
Our kids ran out of steam and we drove home…but not before spotting this through the ceiling of the convention centre. Until next time!
We are pumped to announce a fun contest in honour of child passenger safety week…but you have work at it a bit to earn an entry! And work fast…contest closes Saturday night at midnight Pacific (Sept 20th at 12:01 am).
Up for grabs: a seat of your choice!
it is from our favourites lists, unless there is a good reason for something else
it is available to order online from a Canadian retailer, and for free shipping
is in stock
$400 cap pre-tax but should you choose something pricier you can pay the difference
your choice of colour within reason…for example if another colour of the same seat is significantly less than others we have the final say
other fine print in the terms on the Rafflecopter
you MUST leave a blog post comment on this post to qualify, and you MUST record your entries on the Rafflecopter widget. Comments are moderated which means they won’t appear immediately, but proceed with the Rafflecopter anyway once you’ve left your comment.
Craft a haiku or a limerick that is car seat, booster seat, or otherwise child passenger safety related. We aren’t judging on creativity or poetry-writing skills but making one is your ticket to entry and you MUST submit it as your “blog entry” and then record it on the Rafflecopter below! Submissions must be original, suitable for a general audience (no PG-13 or more adult submissions please, leave those Nantucket references for elsewhere!), and may be shared on our Facebook page.
Seeing a new car seat come into the Canadian market is always exciting. Many of us can’t wait to get our hands on something new and see if it lives up to our (high) expectations or falls short. Sometimes we cringe when we see something that isn’t user friendly, has limited height and weight limits or is just too BIG to be useful in many of today’s smaller cars.
One seat we are excited to finally see in the flesh is Graco’s Dimensions 65. We had heard rumours that this seat was coming for some time and we are excited to see it added to the Graco lineup. Graco has many tried and true favourites: the Snugride Click Connect line, Nautilus & Argos combination (harness to booster) seats, as well as the TurboBooster and Affix belt positioning boosters. Until now the only convertible option we had from Graco was the MyRide 65. The MyRide is often recommended for small cars since it is relatively compact front-to-back, but it is also quite wide and not the longest lasting seat overall. This new convertible model takes all the things we love about the MyRide and makes them longer lasting and user friendly!
Graco Dimensions 65 Specs:
Rear-Facing: 5lbs/2.2kg to 35lbs/16kg 18”/46cm to 43”/109cm, with at least 1″ between top of child’s head and red adjuster handle
No-rethread Harness One of the standout features for this seat is the no-rethread harness. It is designed so that you don’t have to pull the harness loose before adjusting the head rest up. The harness could be at the newborn setting, and you just pull the handle at the top and slide it up without any resistance. Click here for a demo to properly appreciate this feature!The no-rethread is fantastic for anyone that has different age/size children that ride in their vehicle. Grandparents, social workers, day care providers, car poolers or just someone with several kids that may use different seats depending on who is riding in the vehicle at the time.
Smooth Harness Adjustment The harness tightens and loosens easily and smoothly. There is no struggling or tugging when tightening this harness.
Blue for rear-facing instructions, orange for forward-facing. Simple and clear!
Quick Direction Change The ability to change this seat from rear-facing mode to forward-facing mode is simple and quick. This is another great feature for the list of people that benefit from the no-rethread harness. The colour coded stickers are easy to read and understand. The recline foot easily flips from back to front, under the seat, and if using a seat belt install, that’s it except for stowing or connecting your top tether hook as required. If using the lower anchor hooks the strap slides along a bar on the right side of the seat and thread through the appropriate belt path. This seat is relatively lightweight so easy to move from vehicle to vehicle and will make a nice travel seat.
Detachable cup holders I have a love/hate relationship with many cup holders. This one is easy to attach, can be used on either side of the seat and is at the perfect location for both rear and forward accessibility. It easily removes when that space is needed to install another car seat or have a person seated next to it. I ran it through my dishwasher when one of my kids put an unfinished ice cream cone in it, and it came out great. I think the most shocking thing is that I have a kid that doesn’t finish their ice cream!
Easy To Read Manual The manual is easy to read, well organized and has lots of great visual instructions. Always read the manual before using a child restraint. This is a life saving device! It was designed and tested to be used as indicated in the manual!
Fit to Child
Rear Facing (5-35lbs and 18-43″) Originally the rear-facing height limit on these seats was 36”/91cm, but Graco has since amended the height limit to 43”, which is fantastic news! Some early models in store may still have the old limits, so contact Graco for new stickers and manual with the updated info. Most kids will be able to use this seat rear facing well past their 2nd birthday, much longer if they are tall and slim.
There are other seats on the market for kids who are heavier than average for continued rear-facing to 40-50lbs. The average boy (50th percentile) reaches 35lbs around age 3.75 and 43″ around age 5 while the average girl is 4 when she hits 35lbs and just over 5 when she is 43″. (Click the links to see Canadian WHO growth charts to see where your child falls). Even those long-torsoed kiddos will be able to rear face a good long while in the Dimensions as the shell+head rest is plenty tall.
At age two, 36″ tall, and ~28lbs this kiddo has oodles of space still rear-facing.
The minimum child size for this seat is 2.2kg/5lbs and 46cm/18”. There are two crotch buckle positions. Newborn fit can vary, and the difference can be in torso length. Although a newborn may be within the lower limits of the seat, if the harness is above the child’s shoulders, they are too small for the seat. The Dimensions fit our small newborn doll quite nicely. The head pad is optional, but the body pad must be used until the baby’s torso is tall enough to fit the seat without it.
Rear-facing there is ample leg room, even for kids at the top end of the height/weight limits!
Forward Facing (22-65lbs and 27-49”)
The first thing I did when I received this seat was extend the harness to its full height. And I was very impressed! The harness height is around 18.5”, rivaling a short list of convertible seats with tall harnesses on the market. This is also around the height of some combination (child/booster) seat harnesses, so this seat could be used until booster readiness for most kids. In addition to being tall, the harness also has a lot of length to it so even a heavier child would be able to have ample harness space. My oldest turns 7 next week, and is 48” tall and well under the max weight limit, so has 1” of standing height left before outgrowing this seat. She sits comfortably with harness room to grow. It is possible she outgrows this seat in standing height before her shoulders are above the top harness slot. This is interesting because she has outgrown several other harnessed seats with 49” limits due to her shoulders being above the top harness slot, as well as a seat that claims a 57” standing height limit! Always a good reminder that kids fit seats differently and it’s so important to try them in it rather than simply relying on listed numbers.
Pictured left to right: Age 7.5 and still harness height left; age 5 and she reports that it is quite comfortable; age 2 and usually rides rear facing but happily obliges her auntie with her “camera smile” for this forward-facing photo.
The seat’s shape naturally makes it reclined when forward-facing. My second child turned 5 last week. He loves it and looks like he’s lounging in his favorite recliner when using it. Prior to the Dimensions arriving I’ve had several other harnessed convertibles and combination seats installed in our van, and he would oblige me with a single courtesy ride in them and then return to his primary, preferred seat. Not this time! I’ve had a hard time convincing him that other kids need to test it out. He has had to move back to his other seat a couple of times when we were carpooling and the other child was outgrown his abandoned seat, but fit in the Dimensions. Another 5 year old tester easily fell asleep in it on a long drive and was able to comfortably keep her head back. There was no forward flop and she reported that she liked it for sleeping (yet denied that she’d fallen asleep at all – do your kids do this?!).
Fit to Vehicle
The rear-facing install has been great in many different styles of vehicles. One of the great things about the shape of the seat is that it creates a space ideal for using in vehicles with odd shaped seat bights, raised seat bights or with plastic hinges. One vehicle that often has compatibility issues is the Dodge Journey’s centre seat. The large plastic hinges often interfere with proper installs of some seats, but the Dimensions works around this and installs nicely.
Both belt paths are quite high and seat belt installs work well with many different styles of seat belt buckles, including those with long buckle stalks that can interfere with a good installation. The rear-facing belt path has a nice wide opening and is easy to route the belt through. You can also access the belt path by moving the cover out of the way to get better leverage when tightening the seat belt or lower anchors.
The natural slope of the seat will work well behind vehicle seats with forward leaning head restraints. It is also a good bet for a centre install, leaving ample room for front seat occupants even at a newborn recline. Most vehicles prohibit use of lower anchors in the centre so unless you have a dedicated set of centre lower anchors you must use the seat belt.
2012 Honda Civic – a great bet for tall drivers with the seats all the way back!
Rear-facing the seat fits very compactly front to back and works well in small vehicles. This seat is also very narrow, especially at the base and child’s foot area and has worked really well in several 3-across situations I’ve tried it in, both rear- and forward-facing. It is an ideal choice next to booster seats due to its relatively high shell, and narrow base, leaving room not only for boosters to fit beside it but for young hands to reach down and buckle.
We were easily able to install the Dimensions in several vehicles at the newborn recline level without anyadded rolled towels to increase the angle, but doing so is an option if necessary. The recline indicator on this seat is a roller ball that can be anywhere in the blue range for 3+ months, and within the light blue range for 0+ months (newborns). Make sure to park on level ground when installing, and recline as much as allowed for newborns to protect their airway.
2012 F-150 extended cab – Dimensions installs easily in the centre with lots of leg room for driver and passenger.
2003 Honda Civic (with an upright MyRide in the background).
2013 Ford Focus sedan at a newborn recline, with lots of leg room remaining.
One issue I can see is in vehicles with fixed head restraints, forward leaning head restraints and head restraints that may not be removed when installed forward-facing (always check your vehicle manual to know whether the head restraint may be removed when installing a seat). Since the Dimensions has a natural recline the headrest moves up and back, not simply straight up. When extended past the shell of the seat the headrest of the child’s seat may be impeded by the vehicle’s head restraint. See photos below for a comparison with and without head restraint in place.
The naturally reclined shape when forward-facing is a great comfort feature for kids with low muscle tone, for kids who are forward-facing earlier than we’d recommend, or for those who sleep a lot in the car and are otherwise inclined to flop their head forward. Those who like to sit more upright will not enjoy the recline.
The forward facing belt path is closed, which makes it a great option for air travel since the aircraft seat belt buckle won’t be running behind the cover along the child’s back they way it does in many other seats. It weighs 16lbs, so not overly heavy. The narrowness of the seat’s base should also fit well in an airline seat.
Narrow base and slim shell will fit 3-across in many vehicles
No-rethread harness adjusts up and down without loosening the harness with the same butter-smooth harness adjuster we have come to know and love on the Graco Argos
All parts attached except infant insert – nothing to store or lose track of
Quick and easy switch from rear- to forward-facing
Range of install angles for rear-facing
IMMI buckle and non-twisty harness
UAS connector system is simple to change from rear- to forward-facing
Detachable cup holder works on either side of seat
Easy to read manual and seat stickers are clear, and are colour coded rear- and forward-facing
Rear/forward-facing flip foot is easy to use and is clearly labeled
TALL harness! Top Harness height ~18.5” from bum to shoulder
LOW harness! Adjusts small enough, ~7.75″, to fit the average newborn well
Small tether strap adjuster fits easily through truck tether loops and other small spaces
Shape when rear-facing makes a good fit for vehicles with plastic hinges and awkward seat bights
Naturally reclined when forward-facing (may be a “con” for you depending on your preference!); this may be a great seat for kids with low muscle tone
Lower (35lb) rear-facing weight limit
Naturally reclined when forward-facing (may be a “pro” for you depending on your preference!); kids who prefer to sit more upright will not enjoy this positioning
Not compatible forward-facing with fixed and/or forward leaning vehicle head restraints
Little choice in fabric colours – I’d love to see some teal, green, orange, purple, pink…
Thank you to Graco Baby Canada for providing the seat used in this review; all opinions are our own!
Are you in the Edmonton AB, Langley BC, London or Burlington ON areas? Graco and Walmart are offering free car seat clinics no matter what brand of seat you have! Space is limited so register for your appointment time now!
Lightweight, colour options, inexpensive ($99), narrow, and long-lasting? YES PLEASE! What’s not to love?!
Dorel, parent company of Cosco, has brought the Cosco Scenera NEXT to the Canadian market and it is a fantastic addition to our line-up. They are also bringing some interesting features that are unique, so like always, you must read your manual. Available online at Walmart.ca or possibly in store from time to time we think you’ll like what you get for the price.
Rear-facing 5-40lbs, 19-40″, head level with the top of the shell. Forward-facing 22-40lbs, 29-43″, at least two years old, top of the ears level with the top of the shell.
We very much like the layout in the NEXT manual – clear, concise, easy to follow. And to highlight an important minimum a child MUST be at least 2 years old to forward-face. Go Dorel! This a trend we expect to see on more and more seats in the Canadian market.
Machine washable and dryable cover
Removable cup holder
Weighs less than 8lbs
Use of lower anchors (UAS, LATCH) for the full harness weight of the seat
It is also extremely important to note that if you use this seat to the max rear-facing, as we encourage you to do, it will not be usable at all forward-facing. You may not know this looking at the specs and so it’s important to understand why. When rear-facing the harness comes from at or BELOW a child’s shoulders, keeping him down and contained within the seat during a crash. When forward-facing the harness comes from at or ABOVE a child’s shoulders. The design of the NEXT is such that a child will fit longer rear-facing than forward…and that’s okay. It does it extremely well, so read on!
Here is the same child rear- and forward-facing: At age just-turned-two (the minimum to use it forward-facing), 35″ tall, and 28lbs it is outgrown already forward-facing as the harness is no longer at or above his shoulders…but LOTS of room left rear-facing.
Take home message here? Consider the NEXT a rear-facing only seat, something it does with ease. Kind of like an infant seat with no handle. It is highly functional in rear-facing mode so that is what we will focus on.
Fit To Vehicle…
…is spectacular. Truly. It fits in small spaces. It’s on the narrow side. It’s lightweight and easy to install. When mine arrived I dangled it from a digital fish scale (everyone has one of these, right? maybe it’s for luggage…) and it came in a 7lbs 10oz. Amazing!
The NEXT has a line on the side that must be parallel to the ground for children who can not sit up unassisted – this is to protect the child’s airway and enables them to keep their heads properly tilted back. For children who can sit up unassisted the NEXT can be installed more upright, and this is where its amazingness comes out. It can fit in extremely small spaces front to back, leaving ample room for front seat passengers.
Those of you who had a second child and felt the only way to have room to drive was to turn your child forward? Rejoice! Chances are excellent that the NEXT can enable rear-facing a good long while yet. Pretty awesome eh? Some visual examples of just how much room it gives; even more front to back space can be gained installing with this body positioning technique (a different seat is shown but the pelvic brace + peeling the cover back is what you’re after). We also like that the harness adjuster mechanism (that button you push to loosen the harness) isn’t buried when rear-facing.
2012 Ford F-150 extended cab with suicide doors – my tallish self can sit in the passenger seat no problem even with the NEXT at the fully reclined newborn angle.
2012 Ford Focus hatchback. With the NEXT at the newborn angle behind the passenger I had more room in the passenger seat in this car than I have had with any other rear-facing seat. Install it more upright in the middle and both driver’s and passenger’s seats can be all the way back.
NEXT also makes a 3-across pretty doable. This is of course dependent entirely on the vehicle and what seats it is beside but the compactness plus narrow shape at the bight (the part that makes contact with the vehicle seat back and bottom) is very 3-across friendly. Furthermore it leaves room to buckle a booster next to it.
3-across in a 2012 Ford Focus hatchback.
3 across in a VW Jetta – NEXT is the blue one in the middle.
Bottom line is it installed everywhere we tried it. While I’m sure it is possible to have an incompatibility out there somewhere we haven’t yet discovered one rear-facing.
Truth be told…we didn’t much bother with forward-facing. If you’re going to forward-face an under-two then you can’t use this seat to do it, and if your child is average-to-large in height or torso length chances are it’s nearly outgrown forward-facing so again, not the seat for you! Plenty of other rear- and forward-facing options on the market though.
Fit to Child
Like all things car seat, reading your manual is SUPER important. The NEXT has very specific, very unique harness routing and crotch buckle routing for use with a newborn. If you use the lowest harness position you MUST route as directed. This is to shorten the harness sufficiently for a newborn, enabling proper tightening. With the 5lb minimum weight, and low harness height, combined with ability to properly shorten the harness, we expect it will fit the average newborn quite well.
2 weeks old, 7.5lbs, 20.5″ long this wee one is already on the second-lowest harness slot!
NEXT does not come with infant padding but please do use rolled receiving blankets, such as pictured here, for side support if needed. Don’t put anything behind or around baby’s head — no aftermarket head positioners as they’re not approved for use with this seat.
6 weeks old; 11.5lbs, 22.5″ long.
15 months, 22lbs, and 31″ tall.
2.5 years old, 25lbs, 34″ tall.
This evenly proportioned child is right near the height limit at 39.5″ tall and 35lbs…but at 3 years, 9 months he fit for a long time, with ample leg room.
Longevity and fit also depends, of course, on child proportions. In the green shirt: 2.5, 30lbs, 37″ with a long torso. In the purple shirt: 4 years old, 31lbs, 38.5″ tall. Loads of leg room too! Although these kids are similarly sized the long torso on the younger child means he won’t fit in the seat quite as long as his older sister. Most seats require at least 1″ of shell above the head (in addition to being within height and weight limits); the NEXT allows a child’s head to be even with the top. Both of these kids have lots of room left by shell height and weight but are coming close by standing height. The seat is outgrown whenever ONE limit has been met, so keep an eye on all three!
Other points to note:
We quite like the new look of the manual. Easy to follow and hopefully easy for parents to use properly. Please read your manual – car seat and vehicle – before installing!
NEXT is a super option for airplane travel. Remember it weighs less than 8lbs so not only will it be easy to transport through the airport, it will be easy to carry on to the aircraft. The compact size and no limit to how upright it can be is a handy feature. If you’ve never traveled with a car seat before please consider it for your next trip; your child can sleep in a familiar place, and s/he can be safely restrained in case of turbulence, rough landing, or aborted take-off. Bonus? Rear face that kiddo and no worrying about stopping him from kicking the seat in front of him.
The seat padding is pretty comfy, and the cover is machine washable and dryable. You have to remove the harness to remove the pad but that’s quick and easy. We love that it’s available in six different cover options !
Do you love colour? Patterns? Prefer for your car seat to match your upholstery? Want something to best camouflage kid dirt and detritus? You have lots of choice with the NEXT! We love choice.
Superb value and longevity in this seat provided you use it as a rear-facing only option. That is its true use, and it will easily get most kids rear-facing past age 3. If your child is long-torsoed and hugely tall then you might want to explore other options. The NEXT will enable those of you with small cars to keep on rear-facing your kids even behind a tall adult. Remember that 2 year minimum to forward-face…we’re going to see that on more and more seats in the future and huge props to Dorel for bringing the NEXT to market with that limit. Easily removable cover, detachable cup holder to store treasures, cute covers, and lightweight shell make the NEXT a winner in our books.
Now…want to win one? Thank you to Dorel Juvenile Group for providing one Scenera NEXT in the colour of your choice (based on availability) to one lucky person in Canada!Giveaway is over – thanks to all who entered, and congrats to our lucky winner!
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The information presented here is up-to-date to the best of our knowledge as of the time it was published, but is subject to change at any time.