A fantastic new option in high capacity infant-style seats snuck onto the shelves recently, but we’re about to blow its cover. Because we LOVE it, and we’re here to tell you why.
Introducing the Evenflo Embrace 35, available at Walmart for $140. This is a rear-facing only infant-style seat with stay-in-car base and removable carrier. It is meant for children who are between 4-35lbs and 17-30″ tall.
You know us – we like to chatter on about fit-to-child and fit-to-vehicle and show you lots of pictures of same. But let’s start with the highlights:
- Exceptionally good fit on low birth weight babies. Expecting multiples? Unexpectedly find yourself with a preemie? The Embrace is a very good bet, and readily available on your local Walmart shelf.
- Long-lasting specs: the average child will fit until 30″ tall, and with most seats on the market it’s the height limit that will be reached well before weight.
- Easy to use and lightweight. It’s simple and straightforward with some ease of use features often found on higher end seats.
Now for the nitty gritty, the detailed analysis you know we will always provide.
Fit to Vehicle:
The Embrace installed quickly and easily in the test cars we put it in. We tried it with lower anchors, with seat belt, and without the base. We’re quite good at it of course – but it’s straightforward and there’s nothing tricky to contend with.
03 Honda Civic – front seats all the way back!
03 Honda Odyssey – front seats all the way back again.
3rd row of the same Odyssey – the 2nd row slides forward enough to leave ample room for the Embrace.
03 Civic installed baseless – so much room you could have a party in there.
03 Civic behind the passenger, with the driver’s seat all the way back for reference. If this seat is installed behind a vehicle seat (i.e. not in the middle) you must leave 1.5″ of clearance between the top of the car seat shell and the vehicle seat. Even so, plenty of room in the front for my 5’8″ self.
The Embrace (and many other Evenflo seats) now come with these nifty little additions. Evenflo calls the little plastic guide a LATCH Guide but they are also generically known as funnel guides. They make it easier to quickly secure a premium connector onto a buried lower anchor. Photo on the left is what the seat bight looks like. The anchor is there but you have to dig for it. Photo on the right is with the LATCH Guide in place, enabling very quick access to the lower anchors. You won’t need them on vehicles with exposed lower anchors, and should not use them with simple hook-style connectors (you’ll never get them out again) but this is a very nice option for those of you with Evenflo seats who move your seats often.
Another handy feature that aids in successful installation is the recline indicator, easily visible on the base. You want to make sure it’s all in the green, always. For a newborn recline it as much as possible while still staying green; this will protect the airway and prevent chin to chest head flop. Use the built-in three-position recline adjustment on the base, or a rolled towel if needed to achieve the needed positioning.
Perhaps you’ve heard that only a certain amount of a car seat can overhang a vehicle seat? For most seats no more than 20% can hang over the edge. Some don’t allow any at all. We expect the Embrace to be a good bet on shallow vehicle seats such as extended cabs because it’s quite compact.
Fit to Child:
The Embrace is a a spectacular fit on very small babies and should be a go-to option for those needing to fit a low birth weight baby. There are two important steps that need to be done to ensure the harness is adjusted properly.
1. Shorten the harness and route it properly onto the splitter plate. The manual describes this but here is a photo showing the proper orientation of the excess length.
2. Shorten the crotch buckle to best position it for baby, which will also further shorten the harness. This means you can tighten it sufficiently for a wee one. There are special routing instructions for how to do it, so check the manual carefully.
Overall fit features:
The Embrace has three harness heights (the lowest is around 5.5-6″), and four crotch buckle positions (including the special newborn position as described above). The harness length is both short enough and long enough, meaning it fits properly at both ends of the spectrum. The harness adjuster is smooth and easy, and the cover is well-padded with energy-absorbing foam. Handle positioning is smooth – no fighting with release buttons, and must be in ant-rebound position toward baby’s feet at all times while driving.
This is Lucy, my small newborn tester. The harness is adjusted short and on the lowest setting, and the crotch buckle is set for a newborn, and I still have room to tighten the harness further. The included head pillow is optional but fills the interior of the car seat nicely.
I got to hang out with not one but two adorable babies to model this seat. Babe on the left is about 11lbs, 8 weeks old, and easily on the 2nd harness position already. Mom found the carrier light weight (7.5lbs). Babe on the right is also about 11lbs at 7 weeks old and with her long torso she easily fills out the seat.
At the other end of the spectrum we wondered would the seat actually fit a child to the height or weight limit? This 18 month old model is right at the height limit – 30″ – but at only 21lbs she has outgrown it by height. She’s evenly proportioned and has the required 1″ of shell above her head still. Long-torsoed children might outgrow it by that measure before reaching the standing height limit. There was still ample harness length left as well, so a bulkier child would fit too.
Storage compartments for the buckle tongues to hold them out of the way while loading your squirmy offspring.
Smooth and simple carrier release. Push the top of the release bar in and the carrier can be lifted easily out of the base.
Quick connector with pull release (the red loop) makes for a nice fast uninstall, and works beautifully with the LATCH Guides mentioned above.
You get a lot of bang for your buck with the Evenflo Embrace. Lightweight, easy to use and install, with some nice features all in a tidy, compact, well-priced package — it absolutely has earned a place on our favourites list. Big thanks to Evenflo for providing the seat used in this review, but as always out opinions are completely our own. Will it be the perfect seat for you? Maybe! Best to check it out at Walmart, and wherever possible try installing it in your car before committing.