Here at CarseatBlog we’re very familiar with the Evenflo Symphony which first debuted back in 2008.  We’ve reviewed the first and second generation models of this popular 3-in-1 and we’re happy to report that the latest DLX version with enhanced “e3″ Side Impact Protection technology continues to impress!

First, let’s clarify that there are two versions of the Symphony that are currently available on store shelves. The Symphony DLX (previously named the Symphony 65 e3) is the premium model with SureLATCH connectors and deeper headwings for enhanced protection in side-impact crashes.  The Symphony 65 LX model has different headwings, lacks the high-end e3 foam (but still has plenty of energy-absorbing EPP foam) and has nice push-on lower LATCH connectors instead of Evenflo’s patented, self-ratcheting “SureLATCH” connectors.

Both models are very nice although I personally prefer the DLX version with deeper headwings if your child is going to be riding in either of the outboard seating positions in your vehicle.  If you plan on installing the carseat in the center position of your backseat (which is considered the safest spot in the vehicle since it’s the furthest away from any potential point of impact), then I think either model is fine.  Of course it never hurts to have more protection than your child might need but if you’re drawn to the LX model because you prefer the standard push-on connectors, or if you’re just trying to stay within your budget – the LX model still has a lot of great safety and convenience features to offer.

Currently, the “Porter” and “Ocala” fashions (pictured below) are available on Amazon.com and may offer the best Symphony DLX value.

Evenflo Sym65 - Ocala

 

Evenflo Symphony 65 e3/DLX Specs:

  • Rear-facing: 5-40 lbs, at least 19″ tall, top of the child’s head is at least 1″ below the top of the headrest in either of its two lowest positions
  • Forward-facing with 5-pt harness:  20-65 lbs, at least 1 year old, height of 50″ tall or less (shoulders must be at or below top harness position and top of ears must be below the top of CR headrest)
  • 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)

 

Features:

  • Infinite Slide harness system easily adjusts to the perfect height for your child
  • Single crotch strap/buckle position
  • 3 position recline (1 for RF, 2 for FF)
  • Premium lower LATCH attachments (either self-ratcheting “SureLATCH” connectors on e3/DLX model or  push-on “Quick Connectors” on LX model)
  • Thick, energy-absorbing EPP foam which lines the headwings (e3/DLX model has extra foam in the padded cover)
  • Integrated steel bars
  • 5-position adjustable head support (bottom 2 positions for RF)
  • LATCH attachments can still be used in booster mode
  • TruTether Adjuster (available on certain models) has indicator which turns green to signal when tether strap is secured tightly enough
  • Infant head/body insert
  • Attachable cup holder
  • FAA approved for use in aircraft (with 5-pt harness)
  • 8 year lifespan before expiration

      

 

Measurements:

  • Lowest harness height: 8″
  • Highest harness height: 17″
  • Single crotch strap/buckle position: 6.5″
  • Booster Mode: 17″ to bottom of extended headwings.  The belt guide is actually a little higher but the child’s shoulders will contact the bottom of the extended headwings first, so I count that as top height in booster mode.
  • Weight: 20.0 lbs (according to my digital bathroom scale)
  • Narrow footprint measures 10 1/2″

 

Usage Modes & Installation Comments:

Rear-facing:  Must use the fully reclined (#1) position. Seat is outgrown in the RF position when child hits 40 lbs or when child’s head is 1″ from the top of the shell with the headrest raised to the 2nd (from bottom) headrest position. I measured 23″ to the top of the headrest in this second position.  There is a level-to-ground arrow line on the base.  If you need to use a piece of foam pool noodle (or a tightly rolled towel) to help achieve the appropriate recline angle in your vehicle – the pool noodle goes under the edge of the base as pictured below.  Do NOT use the tether strap in the rear-facing position but make sure it’s secured to its storage point and not hanging loose where it can fly around in a crash.

      

Installation with the SureLATCH connectors was quick and easy in the several vehicles I tried.  However, I know from prior Symphony 65 experience that that isn’t always the case. Evenflo provides a nice tip in the instruction manual if you’re having trouble getting the LATCH belt to tighten sufficiently using the SureLATCH connectors.  And if you can’t get the seat tight enough (less than 1″ of movement from side-to-side and front-to-back when tugging at the beltpath) no matter what you try –  switch to a seatbelt installation instead.  Just make sure you understand how your seatbelt locks in your vehicle because there is no lock-off device on this carseat for seatbelt installs.  Your vehicle owners manual will provide all the details you need on how to secure a carseat with the seatbelt.  If you still have questions or need more guidance, please visit our forums at www.car-seat.org and we’ll be happy to help you sort it all out!

  

 

Forward-facing: For a child weighing between 20-40 lbs you may install using either the semi-reclined (#2) position OR the fully upright (#3) position. For a child weighing between 40-65 lbs you MUST use the fully upright (#3) position.  It’s pretty easy to figure out which of the 3 positions you’re in but Evenflo gives you a nice visual indicator anyway.  The arrow on the base lines up with an arrow on the shell and tells you which position the seat is in.

Again, installation with SureLATCH was quick and easy in the several vehicles I tried.  However, as I mentioned above, I know using the SureLATCH connectors isn’t always a cake walk.  If you’re having issues, try the tip from the manual posted above. If that doesn’t work – switch to seatbelt. Pictured below is installation with seatbelt and top tether.  The seat is in the fully upright (#3) position.  The SureLATCH connectors are stored by clamping them onto the D-ring that is sewn onto the cover.

  

Lower anchor LATCH limits:  If the child weighs more than 40 lbs, use seatbelt plus tether to install the seat instead of using the lower LATCH anchors in your vehicle. Evenflo recommends using the top tether for all forward-facing installations regardless of the child’s weight or the installation method. The wording in the manual isn’t as clear as it could be. They use the term “LATCH” when they are referring to just the lower anchors and lower anchor connectors.  Technically LATCH is an acronym which includes both the lower anchors and tether anchor but that’s not how they use the term in the manual.  I think this wording may be more confusing to CPS Technicians and advocates than to consumers.  I think most average consumers hear “LATCH” and automatically think “lower anchors”.

Switching the lower LATCH Connectors:  The Symphony 65 e3 model has a clear, unique method of switching the lower LATCH strap from the rear-facing beltpath to the forward-facing beltpath and vice versa.  You need to unhook the bottom of the cover to see what you’re doing (otherwise you’re going to tangle the straps) but it’s a great feature.  The DLX model does not utilize the same setup.

  

Center installs with non-standard LATCH spacing: Evenflo recently announced that they allow all their seats to be installed in the center seating position with LATCH if the spacing between the lower anchors is 11″ or wider AND if the vehicle manufacturer permits it.  This allowance is retroactive.  Just make sure you’re not blocking access to an outboard seatbelt buckle if you decide to use LATCH in the center seating position. You don’t want to create an unsafe situation for another backseat occupant just to use LATCH.

Belt-Positioning Booster Mode: Must use the fully upright (#3) position.  Harness isn’t removable so there’s a process involved to re-route and store all the components properly.  Can continue to use LATCH attachments to secure the seat to the vehicle (seatbelt secures child) unless there is some obvious reason not to do that – like having offset lower anchors that don’t line up with the position of the seatbelt.

 

Fit to Child Comments:

On the bottom end of the range, this seat would likely fit an average to large newborn well.  The doll used in these pictures is 20″ long and is similar in size to an 8 or 9 lb newborn. The infant head/body insert supports the small doll well and the harness straps are level with the shoulders in their lowest position.  To be honest, I thought the infant insert made it more challenging to get the doll positioned and buckled in correctly but it did help the harness to fit the small doll better. If you’re planning to use this seat for an older baby, you definitely won’t need to use the insert – it’s pretty small and clearly made for a newborn.

  

For rear-facing toddlers this seat offers a high, 40 lbs weight limit and decent height growing room although it’s far from best in class in the height dept.  I wish Evenflo would allow the headrest to be used in taller height settings.  Currently, only the bottom two headrest height positions can be used in the rear-facing position.  It’s definitely tall enough to get most kids to 2-3 years old in the rear-facing positions but if you’re one of those parents who wants to rear-face forever without buying another seat down the road, this probably won’t fit the bill.  On the plus side, it offers great leg room and doesn’t take up as much room as some of the other, larger convertibles when rear-facing.  Pictured below is a petite 22 month old at 22 lbs and 31″ tall.

        

On the top end of the range most kids will outgrow the 5-pt harness by height before reaching the 65 lbs weight limit.  Pictured below is a leggy 48 lb, 49″, 6 year old. She is just at the top height setting on the harness.  Kids with long torsos will outgrow the harness more quickly than kids who carry their height more in their legs.

  

I found great belt fit on both of my models but this seat isn’t very tall in booster mode and it won’t be the last seat your child needs before they can pass the 5-Step Test and ride safely in just the adult seatbelt.  The extended headwings on the e3 model actually reduce the amount of growing room a child will have in booster mode.  My 7.5 year old, 50″ child wasn’t comfortable in booster mode because the extended headwings protrude down and contacted his shoulders.  Personally, I think it’s a reasonable tradeoff.  I’d rather have the enhanced SIP of the extended headwings at the cost of a little bit of booster height.  There are plenty of dedicated highback and dual mode boosters on the market that can accommodate older, taller kids.

  

    

 

Symphony 65 e3/DLX Advantages:

  • 3-in-1: Can be used rear-facing, forward-facing with 5-pt harness and as a belt-positioning booster
  • Deep headwings are great for sleeping and enhanced side-impact protection (SIP)
  • Infinite Slide Harness System
  • Generally easy to install properly with LATCH or seatbelt
  • Nice buckle design – easy to buckle and unbuckle
  • Easy to tighten/loosen harness straps
  • Good rear-facing leg room
  • Narrow footprint helps with FF installations in narrow seating positions
  • Tether strap should be long enough not to require an extender from Evenflo
  • Can use LATCH in booster mode
  • FAA approved for use in aircraft (with 5-pt harness)
  • Good value for the price
  • Cushy & Comfortable (lots of padding in cover)
  • Good fit on my models when used in booster mode
  • Cover is relatively easy to remove and machine washable (cold water, delicate cycle)
  • Made in USA!

 

Disadvantages: (In all fairness, these aren’t necessarily problems but I list them here to inform potential consumers of specific Symphony 65 e3 issues)

  • Wide (not a good choice if you need it to fit next to another CR)
  • Harness tightens and loosens at the hips rather than at the shoulders (not a bad thing – just different)
  • Harness straps can twist somewhat easily if you’re not careful
  • Harness cannot be removed or replaced
  • SureLATCH isn’t a sure thing in all vehicles
  • No EPP foam behind the head for smaller children
  • Lacks harness strap covers (and you’re not allowed to add them either because they might interfere with the Infinite Slide adjuster mechanism)
  • No lockoff device for seatbelt installations
  • Not very tall in booster mode

 

Summary:

Overall, the Symphony DLX is a great product with many unique and innovative features.  This seat is extremely easy to use correctly. The harness straps tighten and loosen easily with a central front adjuster mechanism. The only difference is that the straps tighten and loosen at the hips rather than at the shoulders. The infinite slide harness adjustment system allows you to set the harness height correctly, and quickly adjust it whenever the child has a growth spurt. The shell height (head support) can be increased or decreased with a simple, one-hand adjustment. There is nothing difficult or awkward about the buckle or the chest clip. Really, when it comes to ease of use – it doesn’t get much easier than this.  Just be attentive with the harness and fix it right away if you notice that it’s starting to twist as it routes through the buckle tongues.

As far as I’m concerned, the positives far outweigh the few negatives which is why the Evenflo Symphony is on our list of Recommended Carseats.  However, this seat may not be the best choice for parents who want to keep their child rear-facing beyond 2-3 years.  It’s also wide so not a great option if you need it to fit it next to another CR or put 3-across in your backseat.  Other than that, this seat has many great safety and convenience features that will appeal to a majority of parents and caregivers.  Just remember to “try before you buy” whenever possible and at the very least hold onto the box and the receipt until you’re sure this seat works well for your child in your vehicle!

For more Symphony 65 info check out our previous comparative reviews:

The 3-in-1 Throwdown: Evenflo Symphony 65 vs. Graco Smart Seat!

Evenflo Symphony 65 vs. Triumph Advance: Comparative Review of Features

 

Installation videos can be found on Evenflo’s website here: http://www.evenflo.com/support.aspx?id=460

Thank you Evenflo for providing the Symphony 65 e3 used in this review! No other compensation was provided and the comments and opinions are entirely those of CarseatBlog