Posted Under: Reviews
Evenflo’s newest addition to their child restraint lineup is the much-anticipated Secure Kid 300 and Secure Kid 400 combination harness/booster seats. Here at CarseatBlog, we know it’s our job to give you the kind of thorough, professional, parent-perspective reviews that you’re just not going to find anywhere else on the Net. And we take that responsibility seriously, so here it goes…. First, let’s clarify the differences between the 300 and 400 models:
- Secure Kid 400: This is the premium model with Evenflo’s patented, self-ratcheting SureLATCH lower LATCH connectors and their “e3″ side impact protection technology which utilizes 3 different types of energy-absorbing foam in the headwings to minimize crash forces.
- Secure Kid 300: This model offers nice, IMMI push-on lower LATCH connectors (Evenflo calls them “Quick Connectors”) and EPP energy-absorbing foam lining the headwings. This is NOT a low end, stripped-down model by any means. And the price point is about $20 less than the 400 model.
The sample used for this review is the Secure Kid 300 in the “Loy” pattern. This padded cover has solid black fabric with gray mesh accents and yellow piping. The black poly fabric has a smooth feel to it and should, hopefully, hold up well over time. It’s definitely a gender-neutral pattern that should appeal to most grownups and look good in most vehicles. If you know me, you know I’m a fan of fun, colorful and kid-appealing. This falls a little short on those counts but the integrated dual cupholders are bound to be a hit with almost any kid so that makes up for the basic, neutral fabric in my opinion. And since it’s a brand new seat, I fully expect that there will be more varied cover options available down the road. Secure Kid 300/400 Specs:
- With 5-point harness: Forward-facing only for kids 20-65 lbs, at least 1 year old, height of 50″ tall or less (shoulders must be at or below top harness slots and top of ears must be below the top of CR headrest).
- In booster mode with vehicle lap/shoulder belt: 40-100 lbs, at least 3 years old, height 43.3 – 57″ (top of ears must be below the top of CR headrest).
- 4 sets of harness slots
- 2 crotch strap/buckle positions
- Premium lower LATCH attachments (either push-on “Quick Connectors” or “SureLATCH” connectors)
- Energy-absorbing EPP foam or e3 foam that lines the back and sides of the headwings
- Adjustable height head support
- LATCH attachments can still be used in booster mode
- Dual integrated cup holders
- FAA approved for use in aircraft (with 5-pt harness)
- 6 year lifespan before expiration
- Harness slot heights: 12″, 14″, 16″ 18″
- Crotch strap positions: 5 1/2″, 7 1/2″
- Seat pan depth (leg room/thigh support): 11″
- Booster height: 19 1/2″ to bottom of headwings with headrest in tallest height position
- Weight: 12.4 lbs (according to my digital bathroom scale)
Fit to Child Comments: On the bottom end of the size range it fits small toddlers well although I wouldn’t recommend this, or any other forward-facing only seat for children less than 2 years old for obvious reasons. I did try a petite 22 month old (22 lbs, 31″) in this seat just to check fit and the harness fit her well on the lowest harness slots. I am choosing not to include the pics of her in this seat because I really don’t want to promote a forward-facing only seat for children under 2 years old who should still be rear-facing in a convertible seat. Secure Kid was a good fit for a thin 48 lbs, 49″, 6 year old. With the 5-pt harness and also in booster mode (on my vehicle demo seat). She still had a little bit of growing room height-wise in the harness. Forgive me for cheating with the demo seat but it was cold outside that day and we decided to “play” indoors in the storage room where it was nice and warm. With 5-pt harness: With vehicle’s lap/shoulder belt as a belt-positioning booster: My son who is now 7.5 years old, 60 lbs and 50″ was just slightly too tall for the harness (his shoulders were a few cm above the top harness slots). Considering the max stated height limit of this seat in harnessed mode is 50″ – I’d say that’s a realistic expectation. Kids with long torsos will always be the exception. However, I ran into one big glaring issue when I tried him in the seat. The harness is too short to accommodate kids on the top of the weight and height range. With the harness fully extended – I was able to buckle him, but just barely. And if he had been wearing anything thicker than jeans and a t-shirt, it would have been a no-go. The good news is that Evenflo is aware of the problem and hopefully there will be a resolution to this issue in the near future. If they make a longer harness, I sincerely hope they offer it as a replacement to currently registered Secure Kid owners. On the flip side – the Secure Kid 300 fit my son very well in booster mode although he only had about an inch of growing room left. The shoulder belt was positioned perfectly and the lap belt was nice and low, touching the tops of his thighs. Note that the lap belt (and just the lap belt portion) must be threaded under the “lip” on both sides of the lower belt guides. The manual really doesn’t make this clear but I have clarified this information with Evenflo and this is the correct way to route the seatbelt in booster mode. Installation Comments: Based on 300 model with IMMI push-on “Quick Connectors” I’m happy to report that installation with either lower LATCH anchors or seatbelt was easy and straight forward in the several vehicles that I tried. All of the vehicles I installed in (including the vehicle demo seat) had head restraints that were adjustable and/or removable so I was able to install the Secure Kid flush against the vehicle seat in each case. Evenflo recommends adjusting or removing the vehicle’s head restraint if it interferes with the carseat’s ability to rest against the vehicle seat back. I’m not sure what they would recommend in cases where the vehicle’s head restraint was fixed and angled but this is a problem we’re running into more and more often with newer vehicles. If you have a newer vehicle with head restraints that tilt forward and are not adjustable or removable then the best advice would be to “try before you buy”. For the record, Evenflo allows installation of the Secure Kid in the center seating position with LATCH if the lower anchors bars are spaced 11 inches or wider AND if vehicle manufacturer permits. Attaching the top tether strap on the carseat to the tether anchor in your vehicle is strongly recommendedregardless of the child’s weight or installation method but Evenflo states to switch from using the lower LATCH anchors to a seatbelt installation (plus tether) once the child reaches 48 lbs (or less if your vehicle owner’s manual states a lower limit for the lower LATCH anchors). Since this seat does not have a lock-off device for seatbelt installations, please read your vehicle owners manual for information on how to lock your seatbelt when installing a child restraint. The seatbelt MUST be locked to keep the carseat from wiggling loose after it’s installed. Not sure how to lock your seatbelt and missing your vehicle owners manual? Visit our forum at www.car-seat.org and we’ll help you figure it out! Or find and visit a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician in your area. Since my son is over the 48 lbs weight limit for the lower LATCH anchors in my vehicle – I installed the SK300 using the seatbelt and the top tether strap. The lower LATCH connectors should be stored on the sides of the seat (as pictured) when not in use.
Secure Kid 300 Advantages:
- Very tall top harness slots and 65 lbs weight limit
- Generally easy to install properly with LATCH or seatbelt
- Easy to tighten/loosen harness straps
- Harness straps are thick and not likely to twist
- Deep headwings are good for sleeping and for enhanced side-impact protection (SIP)
- Design doesn’t promote “head slump”
- Can use LATCH in booster mode
- FAA approved for use in aircraft (with 5-pt harness)
- Good value for the price
- Good fit on my models when used in booster mode
- Cover is relatively easy to remove and machine washable (cold water, delicate cycle)
- Harness and crotch strap are replaceable if necessary
- Made in the USA!
Secure Kid Disadvantages: (In all fairness, these aren’t necessarily problems but I list them here to inform potential consumers of specific Secure Kid issues)
- Buckle may be difficult or impossible for children to buckle/unbuckle on their own (this can be a pro for younger kids who like to unbuckle at the wrong times but is definitely a con for older kids who want to be able to buckle/unbuckle themselves)
- Continuous harness
- Lacks harness strap covers which could make the harness more comfortable (it tends to rub against the neck on some kids)
- Currently 5-point harness may not be long enough to accommodate children near the top of the weight and height range (especially if they’re dressed for cold weather)
- No recline setting
- No lock-off device to help with seatbelt installation
- Seat needs to be uninstalled to move harness straps to a different height
- Short tether strap may require separate tether extender from Evenflo if your tether anchors are further away than average
- Shoulder belt guide in booster mode is easy to miss and will be impossible for most kids to navigate on their own
- Lap belt guide requires some maneuvering to get the lap belt tucked under the “lip” of the guide
Summary: Overall, the Evenflo Secure Kid has a lot going for it. With very high top harness slots and a 65 lbs weight maximum, both the 300 and 400 models will accommodate kids in the 5-point harness longer than most other seats currently on the market. It’s also a good value for the price and made in the USA! I love that it’s lightweight yet doesn’t feel cheap or flimsy. It’s easy to install and use correctly in harnessed mode which is how most consumers are going to use the seat. The harness length is definitely an issue for some kids, like my 60 lbs, 7.5 year old who is at the top weight and height range for this seat but again, this probably won’t be an issue for the majority of consumers who are interested in this seat now because they have a younger child transitioning out of a convertible seat. And hopefully Evenflo will have a solution to offer consumers soon. Honestly, my biggest complaint besides the too-short-for-really-big-kids harness straps have to do with the guides for booster mode and the lack of clarity in the instruction manual regarding correct seatbelt routing. Yes, the belt fit in booster mode appears to be excellent but it’s too easy, in my opinion, to misuse the seat in booster mode. It’s also too difficult to “do it right”. I would wager that the vast majority of older kids (I’m talking age 6+) will not be able to buckle themselves properly in this seat in booster mode. Now, if you don’t mind helping your older child each and every time or if you’re only planing to use the seat in booster mode occasionally then this shouldn’t be a deal breaker – just consider yourself warned. On the plus side, even when I misused the seat in booster mode (shoulder belt not placed in the upper guide and lap belt not tucked under the lip in the lower guide) I still found great belt fit. Obviously that’s not an excuse or justification for not routing the seatbelt correctly in booster mode when you know better but I’m definitely not going to lose any sleep over accidental misuse in booster mode. In fact, even when the lap and shoulder belt portions aren’t routed perfectly, the belt fit is still way better than most other combination seats in booster mode. And that’s progress in my book! Thank you Evenflo for providing the Secure Kid 300 used in this review!