Posted Under: Reviews
I’ll admit it, I have a special place in my heart for the name “Britax Roundabout”. Yes, I know we aim to provide straight-forward and factual reviews here at CarseatBlog but sometimes I can get a little sappy if I’m reminiscing about my past [carseat] loves. And the original model Britax Roundabout was my first true love back in 1997 so what can I say… the first cut is the deepest, right?
Okay, I promise not to wax nostalgic over the discontinued original Roundabout. This is a new era and an entirely new Roundabout model which is part of a whole new lineup of Britax convertible carseats. But is this new model a worthy successor to the Roundabout name? Read on to find out!
Each Roundabout 55 model comes with a matching belly pad, infant body pillow, harness strap covers and a tether connector strap (aka D-ring) for tethering the seat “Swedish style” in the rear-facing position. Unlike all the other convertibles in the new Britax lineup (Advocate 70, Boulevard70 & Marathon 70), the RA55 does NOT have the rubber HUGS pads on the harness. This can be a pro or a con depending on how you feel about HUGS. An accessory cup holder and newborn positioning insert (for babies 5-11 lbs) are available separately for purchase.
The pattern shown in this review is a soft, plush fabric called “Smokey Pearl”. There are several Britax “fashions” available for the Roundabout 55 if polka dots just aren’t your thing. MSRP is $199 but you can usually find better prices online.
- Rear-facing 5-40 lbs, or until there is only 1″ of shell above child’s head
- Forward-facing 20-55 lbs, 46″ or less, at least 1 years old*
- FAA approved for use on aircraft
- 7 yr lifespan before seat expires
- Made in the USA!
*Britax recommends that children ride rear-facing to the highest weight or height specified
- 4 sets of harness slots
- 2 crotch strap/buckle positions
- Integrated steel bars strengthen the seat and keep it from flexing forward in a crash
- SafeCell™ Technology in the base – these cells compress in a crash, which lowers the center of gravity of the child and reduces forward head excursion
- Dual lower LATCH attachments (one strap for each side of the carseat)
- Energy-absorbing, rip-stitch Versa-Tether®
- Energy-absorbing EPP foam that lines the entire back and sides of the plastic shell
- Lock-offs for rear-facing and forward-facing installs with seatbelt
- 3 recline positions (1 for rear-facing, 2 for forward-facing)
- Smooth bottom base with grippy edges that won’t damage vehicle upholstery
All are somewhat subjective since nothing on this CR is a straight line
- Harness slot heights: 8″, 10 1/2″, 13″, 15 1/2″
- Crotch strap positions: 5″, 7.5″
- Seat pan depth (leg room/thigh support): 12″
- Overall height of shell: 23″
- Weight: 17.2 lbs (according to my digital bathroom scale)
The great news is that this seat practically installs itself, both rear-facing or forward-facing, if you’re using the LATCH system. Really, it’s super easy to get a nice snug install thanks to the dual lower LATCH attachments (permanently attached to sides of the carseat via a metal bar) and the premium SafeGuard (IMMI) push-on LATCH connectors. However, unless otherwise specified by your vehicle manufacturer - you can only use the lower LATCH anchors in your vehicle until your child reaches 40 lbs, then you must switch to a seatbelt install. Most vehicle manufacturers actually allow LATCH to be used up to 48 lbs (Honda, Acura & Subaru are the main exceptions) so check your vehicle owner’s manual for more info. FYI – all vehicles made since 2003 will have these LATCH attachment points for a carseat but they might not have them for every seating position.
*Here’s a little tip if installing rear-facing with the lower LATCH anchors. After pushing the connector onto the lower anchor bar (fat side of the connector on top so it looks like a stapler clamping onto the bar), pull the loose “tail” end of the LATCH strap thru the slit on the top on the cover. Apply downward pressure to the side of the seat with one hand and pull the strap tight with the other. Repeat on the other side. The end result should be a tight installation which is defined as less than 1″ of movement from side to side when you tug on the seat *near the beltpath*. In this case, just grab the metal bar near the area of the LATCH strap and tug side to side. If it moves less than 1″ when you tug with reasonable force – you’re golden!
Now, regardless of whether you are installing your Roundabout 55 with the lower LATCH anchors or with the seatbelt – Britax recommends that the top tether strap be used at all times. Of course, you can only use the top tether strap when forward-facing if you have a top tether anchor in your vehicle. Not sure if you do or where it’s located? Check your vehicle’s owners manual! If your vehicle was made anytime during the last 10 years, you should have top tether anchors. Find them! Use them! Shower them with attention (they like that)! LOL! Okay, I’m being goofy but seriously, using the top tether strap on a forward-facing carseat is so important. Unfortunately, most parents don’t - probably because they have no idea what it is or where it goes. But now you know, so consider yourself part of the elite group of tether-using parents!
Rear-facing tethering is a totally different concept and Britax is one of only 3 carseat manufacturers to currently allow the tether strap to be used when the seat is installed in the rear-facing position. Pictures below of the RA55 tethered “Swedish style” down to the floor using the tether connector strap (aka D-ring), and “Aussie style” tethered back towards the vehicle’s tether anchor. Only use the D-ring if you are tethering Swedish style down to the floor. Make sure you carefully read and follow the instructions in the RA55 manual. Most Britax owners chose to tether using the Swedish method because the Aussie method can get in the way of loading and unloading the child.
Aussie tethering method: 2006 Honda Pilot
Swedish tethering method: 2006 Honda Pilot (plastic trim piece removed to expose metal leg where front seat is bolted to floor of vehicle). Please excuse the mess – this is hubby’s vehicle and I wasn’t about to vacuum it for him!
Fully reclined (#3) position MUST be used for rear-facing, semi-reclined (#2) & fully upright (#1) positions are for forward-facing. As you can see below, there is very little difference between the fully upright #1 position and the semi-reclined #2 position.
When installing in the rear-facing position, make sure the seat is fully reclined first. Depending on your child’s age and developmental abilities, and also on the slope of your vehicle seat cushion, you may want or need to adjust the recline angle if you don’t think it’s suitable for your child. If the seat is too upright, you can use one or more pieces of foam pool noodle, or a tightly rolled up towel under the carseat. Just make sure you place them near the bight of the vehicle seat and remember that you never want to recline more than 45 degrees. If your older baby or toddler likes sitting more upright and the seat installs that way due to the slope of your vehicle seat cushion then that’s fine, as long as it’s within the allowable rear-facing range of 30-45 degrees. There’s a nice diagram in manual showing what a 30-45* range looks like. Below are pics of the seat installed in a 2006 Honda Pilot and also in a 2008 Civic.
2006 Pilot – used one piece of foam pool noodle to get the blue reference line on the label “level to ground”. If you don’t have a foam pool noodle use a tightly rolled thin towel. If the blue line is level to the ground this indicates that the seat is installed at 37.5 degrees which is the middle of the allowable 30-45* range.
2008 Civic – rear-facing, the seat installed really upright in this vehicle due to the slope of the vehicle seat cushion. Without noodles to help with the recline, I estimated that it was very close to 30 degrees which is the max upright angle. This would be an acceptable install for a rear-facing toddler who prefers to sit more upright. The awesome discovery was that we were able to get the drivers seat all the way back with the seat installed this way!
Forward-facing in the Civic with LATCH:
Fit to Child Comments:
These are pics with my 20″ newborn-sized doll. This doll is roughly the size of a big 8-9 lbs newborn. Harness fit even without the newborn positioning insert that can be ordered separately was very good. I took comparative pics with and without all the accessory stuff (body pillow, harness strap covers and belly pad). Personally, I subscribe to the less is more theory. The extra stuff just tends to get in the way more than anything else but I know most parents subscribe to the more is better theory so if it comes with the seat then they’re probably going to use it.
Once I added the separate infant positioning insert (only for babies 5-11 lbs), the biggest difference I noticed was how it altered the recline angle. Just as the name implies, the position of the ”baby” was altered. I don’t know if you’ll be able to see the difference in photos but it was definitely different. I really liked how it positioned the doll but I don’t think the positioning or fit was ”bad” without it either. Still, if you’re planning to use this seat for a newborn I definitely recommend getting this insert.
Without additional infant positioning insert:
With infant positioning insert:
Fit with petite 17 month old in the Civic. Thank you to lilypadmom for letting me borrow her beautiful DD and her hubby’s car (again)! In these photos she is 21 lbs and 31″ tall. Notice how upright she is! While this is a perfectly acceptable install for a child of this age who has no special needs, this would too upright for a baby who was unable to maintain head and neck control.
Roundabout 55 Advantages:
- Super easy install with LATCH (in most cases)
- “Non-Handed” lower LATCH straps allow you to easily switch the connectors from rear-facing to forward-facing
- Center LATCH installations with non-standard spacing are allowed as long as the spacing is between 11-20″ and the vehicle manufacturer allows it as well
- Easy to tighten and loosen harness straps
- Velcro on harness keeps straps out of the way when loading and unloading child from seat
- Harness straps are replaceable in case they get chewed by the new puppy or puked on too many times
- Ability to tether in the rear-facing position (Aussie or Swedish method)
- Rear-facing recline angle range of 30-45 degrees allowed
- Doesn’t take up a lot of room rear-facing (especially if you don’t need a full 45* recline). This makes it a good option for smaller cars and for tall parents who may need to have the front seat all or most of the way back.
- Premium fabrics and extra padding for comfort
- Good value for the price
- Made in the USA!
- Difficult to clamp the lockoffs closed if installing with seatbelt
- Harness must be detached from splitter plate to move straps up or down to different slots. This can be accomplished without uninstalling the seat when rear-facing but you will have to uninstall to make this adjustment when seat is forward-facing.
- Harness must be detached from splitter plate to get cover off
- Rear-facing leg room is generally less than some other competitive (non-Britax) models
The Roundabout 55 covers all the main bases and does it for a very reasonable price. Innovative safety features provide peace of mind and ease of use continues to be an area where Britax convertibles shine. One of the main reasons I loved my original Roundabout so much was that I could even trust my DH to install it and use it correctly. This is the guy who could build you a brand new house from the ground up but for some unknown reason was incapable of installing or using most carseats correctly. Go figure. Anyhow, I’m happy to say that I feel the same about this new model too – especially if you can use LATCH to install it. This seat is definitely a good candidate for parents, grandparents and other caregivers who need something easy to work with – but again, being able to use LATCH in the vehicle is going to be the key to an easy install (in most cases).
Truthfully, I’m a little disappointed that the lock-offs for seatbelt installs continue to be an issue despite the fact that they’ve already been tweaked by Britax. The forward-facing lockoff didn’t give me too much trouble but the rear-facing one was beyond difficult and my thumbs were crying after a few minutes of trying to get the darn thing clamped shut over the seatbelt. Thankfully, according to the FAQ section on the Britax website, you have the option to bypass the lock-off if your seatbelt has a locking feature either on the latchplate or in the retractor. And every vehicle made since 1996 has a way to lock the seatbelt somehow, in order to secure a child restraint pre-crash. Therefore, you shouldn’t need to use the lockoff in most cases if it’s really giving you a hard time. See your vehicle owners manual for information on how to install a carseat properly using the seatbelt system(s) in your vehicle. If you don’t have your vehicle owners manual and don’t know for sure how your seatbelt locks then you MUST use the lockoff to properly secure the carseat until you get it figured out. Capice?
Overall the Roundabout 55 is a well-designed convertible carseat and the positives far outweigh the negatives, especially since most parents who purchase this seat can probably take advantage of the easy LATCH installation. For these reasons, not to mention it’s a bargain right now at under $159 on sale at Amazon.com with free shipping and returns, the Roundabout 55 has earned a spot on our Recommended Carseats List!
Britax webpage for the Roundabout 55: http://www.britaxusa.com/car-seats/roundabout-55
Thank you to Britax USA for supplying the Roundabout 55 used in this review.