This is a review of the original Sunshine Kids Radian XT model.  The newest version is the Radian XTSL, which is very similar to the original but has unique “Super LATCH” lower LATCH attachments and an increased rear-facing weight limit of 45 lbs.  The XT model is basially the Radian80 with enhanced Side Impact Protection.

Both the original XT and new XTSL models are convertible (rear-facing and forward-facing) child restraint for kids 5-80 lbs who are less than 53″ tall.  Rear-facing the original Radian XT was rated from 5-40 lbs and the newer
XTSL model
is rated up to 45 lbs.  Forward-facing, both XT models can be used for children over 1 year old who weigh between 20-80 lbs.

Radian XT comes with a detachable base and a tether connector strap (both for rear-facing installations), infant head and body support cushions, harness strap covers, a clear luggage tag for your child’s emergency information, a SafeStop load-limiting device and a padded carry strap.

Please Note:  There is an error in the XT instruction manual.  On page 30 of the manual is states:  “Proper Height:  When using the bottom two harness slots, position head support at its lowest location.”  This is incorrect.  You actually need to position the headrest at its highest location when using either of the two bottom harness slots.  Subsequent versions of the manual will state the correct information. 
Features and Advantages

Side Impact Protection:  Radian XT has reinforced, adjustable head supports for advanced side impact safety.  Side impacts are gaining attention because they can be very dangerous, even to properly restrained passengers.  The 8″ deep wings of the head support are reinforced with metal rods and lined with energy absorbing EPS foam.  My youngest son is 4 years old, 41 lbs and 43″ tall. As you can see from the photo – the wings provide very good coverage from the side.  The head support on the Radian XT moves up and down on 2 tracks but the lowest position is just above the third harness slots.  To move the headrest up and down the track, you simply grab it from the bottom on both sides and move it into the desired position.  For rear-facing babies and toddlers who use the bottom two harness slots – position the head support at its tallest setting.

5-point Harness to 80 pounds:  One of the most unique features of the Radian XT is the 5-point harness that is rated to 80 pounds. Most convertible seats have weight limits of 40, 50 or 65 lbs.  Radian XT and Radian80 are the only convertible seats currently available with an 80 lb harness limit.  Granted, most children will outgrow the harness by height before reaching 80 lbs but it’s a comfort to know that the seat is strong enough to restrain a child at those weights.  Sunshine Kids tests the Radian XT and Radian80 using a dummy who represents an average 10-year-old child weighing almost 80 lbs.  The harness itself is very nice and not twisty at all.  The buckle tongues are just the right size for the harness and allow the harness to slide freely through them.

High Rear-Facing Weight and Height Limits:  When you combine the rear-facing weight limit of 35 lbs with the height of the shell it virtually ensures that most children will not outgrow the rear-facing position before their 2nd or even 3rd birthday.  This is important because rear-facing is the safest way for kids to travel. In particular, it has been proven that children under 24 months face an increased risk of head and spinal cord injuries when they are forward-facing.  While children may be forward-facing in the Radian XT once they meet the minimum requirements of 1 year old AND 20 pounds, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children remain rear-facing for as long as their convertible carseat will allow.  I put my 4 year old, 41 lb, 43″ son in the seat rear-facing just to illustrate how tall it really is.  He would technically still fit rear-facing in this seat height-wise if he was under 35 lbs.

Slim Design:  Radian XT, Radian65 and Radian80 are among the narrowest carseats currently available.  This is an attractive feature for parents or caregivers who may need a slim seat to fit in a narrow seating position or who need to fit 3 child restraints next to each other in a row.

Strength:  With a reinforced, steel alloy frame, Radian XT is one of the strongest, sturdiest child restraints currently available.  However, that strength and sturdiness come with a heavy price – literally.  At over 23 lbs, Radian XT feels like a tank when you pick it up.

5 Harness Slots: There are five harness slot heights on the Radian XT.  Only the top 3 can be used for a forward-facing child.   For rear-facing, the straps should be in the nearest slot at or below the level of the child’s shoulders.  For forward-facing, the straps should be in the nearest slot at or above shoulder level but it must be one of the top 3 sets of slots.  With the cover on, I measured the lowest harness slot height at approximately 8.5″ and the top slot at just under 17″.  This is higher than most other convertible carseats currently on the market which means more growing room before the seat is outgrown.  A forward-facing child will outgrow this seat by height when they exceed the 53″ height limit OR when the top of their ears are above the back of the restraint.  Adjusting the harness height is accomplished by removing the shoulder straps from the single-arm splitter plate in the back of the restraint and re-threading them through the desired slots.  If the seat is installed rear-facing it is possible to re-thread the harness without uninstalling.  However, if the seat if forward-facing you will have to uninstall it to move the harness straps to a different height. The seat comes out of the box with the harness straps threaded in the 4th (second from the top) harness slots and the crotch strap in the 3rd (outermost) position.  Since most consumers will be using the seat rear-facing initially – expect to make some adjustments right off the bat before your child can use the seat.

Recline Adjustments:  Radian XT has an upright and a semi-recline position for forward-facing.  The bottom of the seat extends outward to create a bit of recline if desired.  For rear-facing installations, the necessary recline angle is achieved by using the detachable base.  This detachable base is mandatory for rear-facing installation but must never be used when the seat is installed in the forward-facing position.

Folding and Carrying:  Radian XT, as well as Radian65 and Radian80, all fold for easier carry and storage purposes. There are 4 approved ways to carry the seat (all clearly outlined in the manual) but due to its weight – Radian XT should never be carried by the harness straps.

SafeStop Load-Limiting Device:  All Radian convertibles come with a load-limiting device called SafeStop.  The SafeStop device is designed to absorb energy and reduce the impact to a smaller, forward-facing child in a crash.  SafeStop must be attached to the splitter plate if all of the following specific requirements for usage are met.  Child is forward-facing AND child weighs between 20-40 lbs AND seat is tethered.  The SafeStop device must never be used for a rear-facing child or a child who weighs more than 40 lbs or if the seat is not tethered.  The SafeStop device can be found attached to the top of the cover via a fabric loop.  Installing and removing the SafeStop device is relatively quick and easy.

Harness Adjuster and Use: Radian XT has a one-hand-pull front adjustment to tighten the harness. It is similar to the type found on many carseats and is relatively easy to use. The one-pull strap to tighten the harness comes through a slot in the front of the seat. The release lever is under a flap in the cover that is secured with Velcro tabs.  This allows for easy adjustments to make the harness tighter or looser. It works smoothly but does require some force. When the seat is installed in the rear-facing position, tightening the harness will be easier if you grab the two straps from behind the shell and pull the slack to the back before pulling on the adjuster strap.  The buckle clicks audibly when each buckle tongue is inserted. The chest clip is a new design and is easy to open and close.

LATCH: Radian XT has a single flexible strap to attach to the lower anchors found in newer vehicles.  There is an adjuster on one side of this strap.  The LATCH connectors are the nicer, push-on style with the button release mechanism. These types of connectors are much easier to attach and remove than the more basic hook connectors.  There is a clearly designated storage area on the back of the shell to store the LATCH connectors and tether strap when not in use.  The tether strap on the Radian XT can be used rear-facing as well as forward-facing. For rear-facing tethering, an additional tether connector strap is provided.  While tethering a forward-facing child restraint with a harness is always recommended, a top tether is not required for this seat.  Just keep in mind that you cannot use the SafeStop device if the seat is not tethered in the forward-facing position.

Note:  Sunshine Kids prohibits using the LATCH system for a child weighing over 48 lbs.  This is an issue with almost all child restraints that have a harness rated above 40 lbs. At some point, you should expect that it will become necessary to use the seatbelt for installation. Seatbelt installations are just as safe as LATCH, providing that you can get a good, tight installation.  Consult your vehicle owner’s manual for more specific information.  Some vehicles have a lower, 40 lb weight limit for the lower LATCH anchors and you should conservatively defer to the lowest weight limit in these cases.

Crotch Strap Adjustment: Radian XT provides 3 positions for the crotch strap.  The instructions recommend that you always use the third, outermost position for children over 30 lbs.  For children 5-30 lbs use the slot that is directly below or slightly under the child.  To remove the buckle, the metal anchor must be rotated vertically, slid through the opening and then re-threaded through the desired slot.  This can be a little tricky and time consuming (even if you’ve folded the seat and are accessing the anchor through the bottom) – so have some patience.  Having small hands helps too.

Padding, Comfort and Appearance: Radian XT is well padded and seems very comfortable. There is a small piece of yellow memory foam under the bottom of the cover and the cover itself has some padding built-in.  The cover I have is “Nassau” which is a plush, two-tone grey fabric.  The dark grey is what I would consider charcoal and the lighter, contrasting color is a beigey-grey.  The plush fabric is very soft and I expect it to hold up well over time.  The harness system and chest clip are both grey and come with harness strap covers and a buckle pad.  The strap covers and buckle pad are entirely optional and may be removed if they are not needed or if they impede a proper harness fit.  The Radian XT is also reasonably deep and may accommodate kids with longer legs better than other convertible seats.

Infant Support Cushions:  Radian XT also comes with 2 additional accessories.  An infant head support and a body support cushion. The infant head support is only meant for babies who need it.  The body support may be used for infants or toddlers but must be removed if the child weighs more than 30 lbs.

8 Year Expiration: Most other carseats expire after 6 years but the Radian XT is good for 8 years from the date it was manufactured.  It might not be the only child restraint that you’ll need to buy for your child but it will last your child a long time.  Most children who have outgrown the Radian should be big enough and mature enough to safely use a belt positioning booster seat.  Do not continue to use the seat if it has been involved in a crash.  Please contact Sunshine Kids for guidance.

Airplane Certification: Radian XT is FAA approved for use in aircraft and if you don’t mind lugging it through the airport it can be a good choice for airplane travel if your child can use the seat forward-facing.  It is narrow enough to fit in coach seating positions and low enough that your child will actually be able to open and use the tray table.  The seat comes with one padded carry strap and you can purchase a second one which will then allow you to carry the seat on your back as a backpack.  Due to its height and the required usage of the detachable base for all rear-facing installations – I do not recommend the Radian for children who need to ride rear-facing in the aircraft unless you can guarantee bulkhead seating.  This seat takes up a lot of room when rear-facing and it isn’t likely to fit in a standard coach seating position.

Value: With high weight and height limits, an 8-year expiration date and a price point that is competitive with other popular, high-end convertible seats you will definitely get your money’s worth with a Radian XT.

Construction: Like all other Sunshine Kids child restraints, Radian XT feels solid and extremely well constructed. Nothing looks or feels cheap or flimsy.

Owners Manual:  The owner’s manual is large, clear and has good diagrams and pictures.  It is conveniently attached to the seat with a cord but is easily removed without having to cut the cord.

Differences between the Radian65/80 and the Radian XT

  • The Radian XT has enhanced Side Impact Protection for children who are tall enough to use the 3rd harness slots
  • The Radian XT has a new chest clip design
  • The Radian XT has a removable harness which means you can replace the harness if this becomes necessary.
  • The Radian XT has a redesigned detachable base which can improve the ease of certain rear-facing installations.
  • The Radian XT has no-slip rubber material on the bottom of the seating surface.

Installation Comments

Installation with LATCH in the captain’s chair of my 2005 Ford Freestar minivan took some effort but I was able to get a good, solid install in both the rear-facing and forward-facing positions.  These weren’t easy installs mainly due to the stiffness of my vehicle seats (I’ll admit that I broke a sweat) but it was certainly do-able.  I did not try a rear-facing installation with seatbelt but forward-facing with seatbelt was a real problem.  I was finally able to get an acceptable install but the amount of effort and tricks that I needed to use was beyond what I could expect a parent to be able to replicate.  In my opinion, the Radian XT is just not compatible with that seating position in my van if a seatbelt installation was necessary.  This isn’t necessarily the fault of the XT.  The seatbelt buckle in this seating position is rigid and angled.  It just doesn’t work well with any of the Radian convertibles.

The good news is that forward-facing installation with seatbelt went much better in our 2000 Honda Accord.  In this case, two twists of the seatbelt stalk and strategic positioning of the seatbelt latchplate did the trick.  Of course I still had to kneel into the seat and use all my strength to tighten the belt but that’s par for the course.  I haven’t tried to install the Radian XT rear-facing in the Accord yet but I will update with this information sometime next week.

Disadvantages

Most of these issues are not really disadvantages, but I list them here to alert parents about specific issues that pertain to the Radian XT.

Price: At $279, it is expensive up front, but is reasonable when value is considered. Like any type of product, you pay more for premium features and higher-end components/materials.

Weight and Bulk: The Radian XT is neither small nor light.  At over 23 lbs, it has to be one of the heaviest carseats currently available.  And like other harnessed seats for bigger kids, it’s not an easy seat to be lugging through the airport or switching frequently from vehicle to vehicle.  However, if you purchase an additional strap and carry it as a backpack or attach it to a luggage cart that should make airplane travel more manageable.

Enhanced Side Impact Protection only for children tall enough to benefit from the headwings: As I mentioned previously, the head support on the Radian XT moves up and down on a track but the lowest position is just above the 3rd harness slots.  When either of the two bottom harness slots are being used, move the adjustable head support up to the highest setting to keep it out of the way.  This means that babies and toddlers will not benefit from the enhanced SIP offered by the head support.  However, it’s important to point out that rear-facing carseats inherently provide very good protection during side-impact crashes so the additional benefit of the adjustable head support just isn’t as important for rear-facing babies and toddlers.  It’s the older, forward-facing kids that can really benefit from this enhanced SIP.

lowest head support position

lowest head support position

No lock-off device: There is no built-in lock-off device on the Radian XT.  If your vehicle was made prior to 1996 you may need to use a locking clip to install this seat if you are installing it in a seating position with a lap/shoulder belt.  See your vehicle’s owners manual for more information.

Height Limits: The height of the shell and the stated height maximum of 53″ should accommodate many kids beyond 50 pounds.  Some kids may even be able to use it to 60 pounds or beyond. However, it’s unrealistic to assume that the average child will still fit in this seat at 80 lbs.  So, just be aware that most kids will probably outgrow the Radian XT by height before they reach the 80 lbs weight limit.

Installation Issues: No one carseat is compatible with every vehicle but Radian models have a reputation for being difficult to install in some situations.  The Radian XT is no exception.  Having LATCH in the seating position that you intend to use increases your chances of being able to achieve a good, tight installation.  A good installation is defined as not being able to move the restraint more than 1″ in any direction (side to side and front to back) – checking for tightness at the beltpath.  Keep in mind that even with LATCH, it may be necessary to switch to a seatbelt installation at some point if your child exceeds the weight limits for the lower anchors. As per the Radian instruction manual you must switch to a seatbelt installation once the child reaches 48 lbs.  However, some vehicle manufacturers (Honda, Acura, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Saab) require you to switch over to the seatbelt once the child reaches 40 lbs.  The other issue is the amount of room that this seat takes up when installed in the rear-facing position.  If you don’t have a lot of leg room in the backseat of your vehicle – your chances of fitting this seat rear-facing in your vehicle will largely depend on whether or not it can be installed in the rear center position.  If there is enough room between the front seats to “clear” the Radian XT – then you have a decent chance of making it work.

Cover Removal & Fabric Care: Removing the cover takes effort due to two plugs on the outside that hold the cover in place.  These plugs are, in my opinion, unreasonably difficult to remove.  The cover itself is hand wash and line dry only.  If you need to get the cover off and you’re having trouble removing the plugs – use a butter knife to pry them out just a little and then use pliers to finish the job.

Conclusion

Radian XT is an impressive convertible seat.  The quality of the construction and the materials is undeniable.  The enhanced side-impact protection for forward-facing kids is impressive.  These are NOT flimsy head supports.  You can’t flex them at all thanks to the metal rods running through them underneath the EPS foam.  Also, the slim design makes this seat a good contender for families with smaller vehicles and multiple children although the amount of space that it requires in the rear-facing position can be a problem.  I like that the seat can be tethered in the rear-facing position.  I like that it’s nearly impossible to outgrow by height in the rear-facing position.  I also like that tethering isn’t required at any weight, rear-facing or forward-facing.  My son thinks the Radian XT is very comfortable and even though he hasn’t fallen asleep in it yet – I’m confident that he’ll sleep well thanks to the deep wings.  Overall, I think it’s a real winner but it isn’t going to work for everyone in every situation.  As always, the best advice is  “try before you buy” whenever this is possible.

The webpage for the Sunshine Kids Radian XT: www.skjp.com/products/Radian/XT/

Link to the Radian XT Instruction Manual: www.skjp.com/media/RadianXT-manual.pdf

For more information on child passenger safety, please visit:

http://www.car-seat.org

http://www.car-safety.org