Evenflo is breaking the mould of what a booster seat should look like with the introduction of the brand new Spectrum. The styling is cool, the colours are amazing (we want them ALL!), and our kid testers have good things to say.
Looking a little like what has been described as “futuristic,” “like the captain’s chair from Star Trek,” and also “E.T.” it dazzles with fabulous eye-catching design and styling in a spectrum of colour gradients — a sample below. This review features “Foggy”, the black-to-grey fashion on the right.
Spectrum is appropriate for kids who are:
- 40-110lbs (18-49.8kg)
- 44-57″ (112-145cm)
- At least four years old**
**It is worth noting that only the tallest of four year olds will meet the height minimum of 44″, as 50th percentile kids don’t reach that height until age 5.5 — an excellent age to start thinking about boostering. Most kids don’t have the impulse control or maturity to properly and safely use a booster seat until 5.5-6 years old. Some might be ready sooner, and others not until later. It’s important not to rush this step.
Spectrum Measurements & Details:
- Tallest shoulder belt guide position: 22″
- Lowest shoulder belt guide position: 14.5″
- Widest point (at head wing area): 20″
- Internal width at shoulders: 14″
- Internal width at thigh: 13″
- Expires six years from date of manufacture
- Machine washable and dry-able seat pad (kids are messy)
- Does not require a vehicle head restraint behind it – this means it CAN be used in places where you get a better fit without the vehicle head restraint (if the vehicle permits removal) or in seating positions without head restraints
- Rollover tested, unique to Evenflo, and simulates roof to ground contact as one would find in a rollover. We’re a fan of any additional testing a manufacturer wants to do, although this type of testing is not a federal requirement and so should be considered a bonus
- User manual available here
- Available mid-February at Babies R Us for $99.99 (more retailers soon)
In a nutshell here’s what we like about Spectrum:
- Sophisticated and eye-catching styling with modern colours and fabrics
- Ergonomic arm rests
- Sleek snack trays
- Really thick and comfortable padding in the bum area
- Smooth height adjust mechanism with nine positions for customizable fit
- Open path for routing seat belt makes it really simple for kids to buckle
- Innovative side impact protection technology called LYF+GUARD
- Design of seat back to seat bottom is genius: it doesn’t flop apart when carrying it between vehicles, and when the back is removed for use as a backless booster there’s no gap or open bracket at the tail bone area to cause discomfort
- Belt retraction at the shoulder belt guide is a little hit or miss, and less predictable in vehicles than we’d like. Seat belts situated really far forward of the passenger, or really low relative to the shoulder belt guide, may be an issue and not retract easily. Wherever possible, try before you buy. This goes for ALL car seats and booster seats actually!
Photo Gallery and Feature Reel
As with all of our reviews we make every effort to test a product in a wide range of vehicles with a wide range of kids. Spectrum is best suited for the 5-10 year old crowd. The 57″ height maximum equates to 4’9″, which is one indicator that a child may be ready to move out of booster seat and into an adult seat belt (regardless of age).
We tried this booster seat in a 2012 Honda Odyssey, 2012 Ford Focus sedan, 2008 Mazda 5, 2012 Honda Civic, and 2012 Ford F-150 with generally good results.
High Back Mode
We recommend kids stay in a high back booster as long as they fit. While it is true that booster use, whether it’s a high back or backless, is all about belt fit, we find that seat belt fit tends to be better in a high back. Regardless of the seat or style, aim for the lap belt to be low across the thighs and hips, and the shoulder belt to make contact with the chest and cross the collarbone.
High back boosters feel more like a car seat, and for beginners that’s a good thing. The side support will encourage them to stay in position, and the head wings provide a comfy resting spot for a tired head. The shoulder belt guide will also properly position the belt at the collarbone and reduce the chances of the child leaning side to side and out of the belt – potentially catastrophic if that’s the moment of a crash. Consider putting the back on for long drives even if your child is usually fine in a backless. The below testers (from youngest to oldest) are 6-8.5, between 45″ and 53″, and 44-60lbs. In the outboard (outside) seating positions in most vehicles there won’t be enough ceiling height near the window to fully extend the head rest. Still ample room to accommodate the height of the average 7+ year old though.
Overall our testers – some new to boosters, and others old hats – reported that the headwings were comfortable without being confining, they thought the seat looked cool, the fabric felt nice, and the padding was excellent. No one had any problem buckling, although the open belt path design did throw the experienced ones for a loop as they were momentarily stumped by the lack of arm rests to route under and around. The confusion was brief however (and also amusing as they all did it!) and they quickly picked it up. New booster riders with nothing to compare it to will not have any issue.
We really like this seat as a backless booster, wishing only that it had a higher standing height limit than the 57″ listed. Many kids will still need a booster seat for proper belt fit at that height — my tall nine year old sure does — and there aren’t many boosters that exceed 57″ unfortunately.
The seat pan is a great depth offering lots of thigh support, and there’s a nice slope to it to help kids maintain a safe posture for optimum belt fit. The ergonomic design of the arm rests mean they are well-situated and were comfortable arm supports for our testers, shown below ranging in age from 8-9, 49-56″ tall, and 55-75lbs. While this seat does come with a shoulder belt adjuster strap for use when backless, it is my habit to avoid using such a device on boosters, short of an emergency. They’re finicky, they’re not always easy to use, and typically if one is needed then it’s a good indication that a high back booster or a different booster seat would provide better belt fit.
- LYF+GUARD side impact protection. These mysterious protrusions on the outside of the headwings contain energy management crush zones that are designed to deform upon impact to help absorb crash force energy, taking the force off of your child’s head — similar in concept to how the hood of a car crumples in a frontal crash. This does add width to the head area of the seat though.
- Nifty cup/snack trays. A little stiff to slide in and out but we expect that will get easier with use. And while yes, we should pack away our projectiles and not store hard or heavy things in the open trays, we can assure you that a soft plastic bicycling water bottle fits, as does a juice box, and small stuffies.
- Excellent leg support yet not so deep it overhangs vehicle seats – as demonstrated in a 2012 F-150 extended cab with a shallow back seat.
- Easy belt routing – make sure to hook the lap belt under these little notches on both sides, and also the shoulder belt on the buckle side.
- Consistently great lap belt fit in both high back and backless modes – with all of the kids and in all of the vehicles we tried, the lap belt fit was super, nice and low across the thighs and hip bones.
- Attractive fabric – we know, it’s cool.
- Contoured shape – the slightly tapered shape of the base meant it was no trouble to buckle this recessed buckle stalk (2012 Ford Focus) that can be a challenge with other boosters.
Spectrum looks cool, and doesn’t disappoint with its features. It’s comfortable, long lasting, well-priced, and easy to use. The open belt path design will reduce belt-routing errors because it’s easy for kids to buckle. It’s comfortable so there won’t be any squirming around, which can lead to poor belt fit. It’s wide internally but not wide externally. Not sure how Evenflo managed that (maybe magic lessons from Hermione?). The look is stylish and mature which should make it easier for big kids to stay in boosters longer. Shoulder belt retraction – how easily or smoothly the shoulder belt moves in and out of the belt guide – is a bit less reliable than we’d like, but overall we had good luck with the majority of seat belts we tried. See it on our favourites list here!
Enormous thanks to Evenflo for getting us this seat to test, and big thanks to them for giving one to you too! As always though, all opinions are our own.
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Jen Shapka is a mom of two, and always wears her safety equipment — even when tobogganing. Currently awaiting news of where her military family will be posted to next, she spends her spare time purging and cleaning her house getting ready to move.