I’ve decided to document how various combination (harness/booster) seats fit my now 4.5-year-old, 42 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) Summit as a booster.  This seat has also been sold as the Deluxe High Back Booster.

The seat below has a recent date of manufacture (DOM) of Nov 2008.  In these pictures, the headrest has been adjusted to the top position on the track in the back of the seat.  This position is only for use in booster mode.  According to the instruction manual you must not place the bar in the top notch when your child is using the harness.  This position is only for raising the headrest when the seat is being used without the harness in booster mode.  Unfortunatelty, this information is not stated prominently in the manual nor is there any indication of this anywhere on the seat itself so it’s a frequent and common misuse.  It’s too bad because the difference between the top slots (not allowed with harness) and the second to top slots (maximum height for the harness) is substantial.  If the top slots were usable that would make a big difference.  As it stands now – many children will outgrow the harness on this seat by height before reaching 40 lbs.

As a booster:

The Good: He seems to have more growing room in this seat (as compared to other Dorel combo seats that I’ve reviewed previously) because of the adjustable headrest.  Still, that’s little consolation after everything else is considered.

The Bad:  Shoulder belt wasn’t snug across his upper torso.  Lap belt was too high and positioned over his abdomen.  The lap belt wasn’t even close to touching the tops of his thighs where it should be.

Bottom Line:  I was disappointed but not surprised.  The fit seems to be one of the worst that I’ve seen.  That’s too bad considering how popular this seat seems to be.  As a booster in this situation - it’s a failure as far as I’m concerned.  As a harnessed seat it might be okay but many other harnessed seats have much higher [usable] top slots.

Top position - NOT for use with harness

Top position - NOT for use with harness

Top position for harness

Top position for harness

Top Notch – Booster Mode Only
2nd From Top Notch - Tallest Usable Slots for Harness