I’ve decided to document how various combination (harness/booster) seats fit my 4-year-old, 41 lb, 43″ tall son in booster mode.  He’s at the size where most parents would be switching from the 5-pt harness to the vehicle’s lap/shoulder belt in booster mode if they had a combination seat with a 40 lb limit on the harness.  In each case I’ll use the same seating position in my van – driver’s side captain’s chair in a 2005 Ford Freestar.

The IIHS booster study compared the fit of various boosters using the 6-year-old Hybrid lll dummy who weighs 51.6 lbs (23.41 kg) and has a standing height of almost 45″.  I thought it would be even better to show belt fit on a child who was just over the 40 lb weight limit for the 5-pt harness.  I’ve decided to focus exclusively on combination seats because of their popularity.

This week we’ll be looking at the Dorel (Cosco/Safety 1st/Eddie Bauer) Apex 65 as a booster.  This seat has also been sold as the Alpha Elite Apex Booster.  To be honest, this seat shouldn’t qualify for review in this series because it is a higher-weight harness (HWH) seat.  My son could still use this seat with the harness.  He is no where near the 65 lb limit and still has plenty of growing room height-wise in the harness.  But I had this seat in the house and I wanted to try him in it in booster mode.  He is over the 40 lb minimum for booster usage so he could technically use this seat that way.

In these pictures the adjustable headrest is positioned as if he was using the 3rd set of harness slots.  This seat is very wide and very deep from front-to-back.  It takes up as much room as a Britax Regent so it’s probably not a good candidate in booster mode for a smaller vehicle with a more narrow seating position.  It takes up almost every inch of space in my captain’s chair.

The Good:  Thanks to the adjustable headrest design, the shoulder belt fit is very good.  The lap belt fit is decent but not great.  The seat is very wide and adjusts very tall so it’s actually possible for a child to fit in this seat all the way up to the 100 lb weight limit.

The Bad:  The bottom of the lap belt is barely touching the tops of his thighs.  There are many dedicated boosters that would do a much better job positioning the lap belt.  However, to be fair, he really shouldn’t be using this seat in booster mode yet since he still fits in the 5-point harness with plenty of growing room to spare.

Bottom Line:  A child this size would be better off using the 5-point harness on this seat for a while longer.   The fit of the seatbelt in booster mode was acceptable but not optimal.