The Cybex Aton infant seat has been highly anticipated since it was first unveiled at the ABC Show two years ago. From first glimpse, it was a cute infant seat in a rainbow of colors. At last year’s ABC Show, we saw the base for the first time and saw German engineering and creativity at work. A big sticker on the front of the base advises “Easiest Base to Install!” Is it? Does the infant seat live up to the anticipation? Let’s see.

Basics

  • Weight limits: 4-32 lbs.
  • 3 harness slots
    • bottom slots: approximately 8” with infant insert and newborn inlay
    • top slots: 12.5” without infant insert
  • 1 buckle slot: approx. 5”
  • 3 position handle: handle must be in UP position when in the vehicle for rebound
  • Recline positions for 2 weight ranges: 4-22 lbs. and 22-32 lbs.
  • Carrier weight: 8.8 lbs.
  • 17 ½” wide at handle, 14 ½” wide at belt path on base

Features

  • Most of seat lined with EPS foam
  • Separate EPS foam newborn inlay for up to 11 lbs.
  • Fabric infant insert for up to 22 lbs.
  • Shoulder belt guide on back of carrier for European method of baseless install
  • Steel on steel carrier connection to base
  • 4 position recline foot on base
  • Premium push-on lower LATCH connectors
  • 6 year expiration

 

How does it fit babies?

I had four models: two real life babies and two dolls. Of course, the real life models were much more fun to work with, though a lot harder to pose! The 4 mo. old weighed about 12-13 lbs. (guess) and fit wonderfully on the 2nd set of slots. I let her mom fasten the harness and tighten it and she was impressed with how easy it was. She and the mom of our second model both raved over how light the seat was with the baby in it. Our second model was 18 mo. and about 25 lbs. She’s clearly too tall for the seat, but I wanted to get some perspective on how the seat would fit a child her size since other infant seats accommodate an 18 mo. easily. We weren’t clear on her height.

The dolls were the Huggable Images preemie doll, which represents a 4 lbs., 17” newbie, and a nondescript 23 ½” doll that I’ve had forever and a day. If only both of my kids were as easy to take care of as my doll! You can see in the pictures that the fit of the preemie doll in the Aton isn’t ideal. I’m not going to sugarcoat it: I had problems with it since it is rated from 4 lbs. and there may be 4 pound babies in the seat. I spoke with the U.S. technical director at Cybex about preemie fit and how it can be improved. They are still testing the seat with preemies and looking at the padding in the seat. Essentially the EPS newborn inlay makes the inside bottom of the seat very rounded so the infant is laying rather than sitting. This opens up the angle the child is at so that they don’t have to work so hard to breathe (and also makes it very difficult to get an accurate measure of the bottom slots since there’s no bottom from which to measure). Their recommendation for such small newbies is to work very closely with the NICU doctors and nurses to achieve a good fit and make sure that the baby is stable enough to be released: remember that all children are built differently and will fit differently in different seats. A rolled washcloth or blanket will be needed behind the crotch strap to keep baby from sliding down, but the buckle lays flat on the tummy instead of poking in. The harness pads were way too long on the preemie doll and the instruction manual suggests threading them through the slots in the shell to the back of the seat until they don’t interfere with the chest clip. That worked just fine without any interference with adjusting the harness, but I prefer removing the pads altogether. Despite the fit problems of the harness height and the harness pads, the harness did snug up very nicely on the preemie doll. A car-seat.org member, laccaycol, snapped some photos of her twin dd in the Aton. As you can see, the fit was very nice on the baby who weighed 5 lbs. 12 oz. at the time, so it does fit small babies well depending on how they carry their height.

The fit on my other doll was very nice. The harness pads are just right for that size doll/baby and shouldn’t pose a problem.

Installation

Is it the easiest base to install? In my experience using LATCH, yes.  After trying it out in my 2011 Acura MDX and 2004 Lexus RX 330, I thought it was too easy. So I went to a Dodge/Chrysler dealership and a really nice salesman led me around to different vehicles so I could try installing it (and I think he might have caught the carseat bug, lol!). I tried it in the deeply sloped seats of a Dodge Grand Caravan, 4-door Jeep Wrangler, and Dodge Durango, all brand spankin’ new. As you can see in the pictures, I didn’t even need my noodles.

There are 3 methods of installation: LATCH with the base, seatbelt with the base, and seatbelt with the carrier. The base is very heavy, weighing in at 10 ¼ lbs. It has a unique method of installation with a “Belt Tensioning Plate” that locks down over the seatbelt or LATCH belt to tighten the belt *for you* and make installation that much easier. Is there room for error? Oh yes! Don’t get lazy. But the word that keeps running through my mind when I use the seat is “revolutionary.”

When installing the base, the LATCH belt is already threaded for you. If using the seatbelt, it’s a little more difficult because you must thread the seatbelt over the blue guides and under the Belt Tensioning Plate, serpentine-like. The seatbelt has a tendency to leave excess slack while you’re threading, so you may have to snug up the belt a couple of times before your installation is perfect. After you’ve snugged up the belt, press down on the Belt Tensioning Plate so that it clicks into place and your installation is complete if the base moves less than 1”. I found it very easy to get a rock-the-car solid installation with the base with *minimal* effort, even more so with LATCH. One caveat is that YOU MUST LOCK THE SEATBELT if you are doing a seatbelt install. It seems logical that the Belt Tensioning Plate is a lock-off, but it’s not. YOU MUST LOCK THE SEATBELT. Did I make that clear, lol?

When installing the carrier and using a lap/shoulder belt, you have 2 methods from which to choose: you can use the preferred European method which involves the shoulder belt going behind the carrier. Don’t forget to LOCK THE SEATBELT, even though sometimes this method takes up most of the seatbelt in some vehicles. This method is preferred because the shoulder belt will keep the carrier from rotating down and toward the front of the vehicle in a frontal or side impact. The other method is the standard method where you route the lap belt through the belt guides on the carrier but leave the shoulder belt out, laying against the back seat.

I’ve heard some folks comment they have trouble releasing the carrier from the base. There are 2 buttons that must be pressed simultaneously on the base and the carrier is tipped out. I actually find it to be easier than trying to grasp for the release handle on the back of some infant seats. If you have weak hands, this system is better and less painful.

 

Comparisons to other seats

We all know space is a premium in the back seat. I measured several popular infant seats by placing them—carrier in base—against a wall and measuring the length. I didn’t account for angle lest I be kicked out of the BRU and people were already looking at me, lol. The Cybex Aton will be a great seat for fitting in snug back seats.

Cybex Aton: 25 ¼”

Chicco KeyFit 30: 27 ½”

Graco SnugRide 30: 28”

Safety 1st onBoard Air: 28”

 

Flying with the Aton

We love infant seats for their portability and because they are easy to take on planes. The carrier can be installed on an airplane seat, but the base cannot. If you’re traveling by airplane, do yourself a favor and practice installing the carrier by itself. You’ll find out how easy it is to do so and you won’t have to worry about packing a 10 pound base in your luggage.

Instruction manual and stickers

I love the manual! It’s well-written and the diagrams are very clear and easy-to-understand. Cybex follows the new American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on rear-facing and has “rear-facing is safest” statements in at least 2 places in the manual. Way to go, Cybex! I was especially impressed when I read this section:

We recommend all children ride rear-facing until they are at least two (2) years of age. It is safer for young children to ride rear-facing as long as possible to protect the head, neck and upper torso in the event of a collision.

Use the CYBEX Aton until your child reaches the maximum weight or height limits. Because not all children have the same shapes and sizes, DO NOT USE the Aton when the top of the child’s head is less than 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the top of the Infant Carrier. This allows for proper protection during a crash.

After your child outgrows the Aton, keep your child rear-facing in a convertible seat as long as possible, according to the manufacturer’s specifications, before turning them around to ride forward facing.

The color stickers on the base show step-by-step how to install the base using either LATCH or the seatbelt, then how to place the carrier on the base.

Cover and harness

As I played with the seat, I noticed how nice and smooth the fabric is; it should be comfortable and cool, and it’s well-padded. Removing the cover was easy since it is a wrap-around cover and you’ll only need to disconnect the harness from the splitter plate on the back of the seat to remove it. However, putting the cover back on was a challenge! At the top and sides of the seat, the cover sits in a channel in the EPS foam and is designed to be on the seat very tightly. Fitting the cover around the belt guides on the carrier involved a screwdriver, some time, and patience. I was afraid of snapping the thick EPS foam. But I did get the cover back on and into all of its grooves. Wash the cover in cold water using a mild detergent on the gentle cycle. Hang to dry. Changing the harness slots is straightforward. One thing to note is that the harness (and crotch strap) is not consumer-replaceable. Since I did have the screwdriver out, I was tempted to try, but didn’t want to ruin a perfectly good seat ;). It’s due to Euro regulations and they didn’t change that part of the seat when they brought it here. To clean the harness, sponge off with warm water and a mild soap.

Strollers

The Aton fits all Cybex strollers and you can use Maxi Cosi adapters to connect the seat to other strollers like the Bugaboo, Quinny, and UPPAbaby among others.

Disadvantages

Canopy: while quite sleek, it doesn’t cover much

Harness slots: an infant seat starting at 4 lbs. really should have bottom slots at around 5-6”

Steel on steel carrier to base connection: it rattles a lot while driving, but perhaps with a larger baby in it, the rattles would lessen

Oh, Canada . . .

Sorry to say, Regal Lager isn’t bringing the Aton to Canada for a while yet. Because it’s still a new brand to the U.S., they’re still trying to get a good foothold in the U.S. market before venturing to the Great White North.

Final Word

So, let’s go back to our questions: Is it the easiest base to install? Does the infant seat live up to the anticipation? A product really has to blow my socks off (OK, it’s summer, so flip flops) for me to just absolutely rave about it. The Cybex Aton comes reeaaaalllllllyyyy close. If I had the desire to have a baby again . . .

For more information, see the Aton web site: http://cybex-online.com/site/us/carseats/aton.html .



Thanks to Gabriel at Prestige Chrysler Jeep Dodge for being patient with me and allowing me to try the Aton in various cars on the car lot. And thanks to my mom friends who let me photograph their beautiful kids!

Our Cybex Aton was provided to CarseatBlog.com by the generous folks at Regal Lager.