Posted Under: Reviews
The Graco SnugRide 35 Classic Connect has been around in various incarnations since 2005 when it was first introduced as the Graco Safe Seat “Step 1″ infant carseat. Graco recently rolled out their 4th generation of this popular infant seat and this time they focused on expanding the lower end of the weight range. They accomplish this with the addition of a new and unique infant body support cushion. Only SR35 models with this new 2-part body support are rated down to 4 lbs. Previous versions of the SR35 had a 5 lbs minimum weight rating and often the harness didn’t provide an ideal fit on smaller newborns. This new model clearly aims to correct that shortcoming.
The pattern I have is named “Orlando“. The solid black fabric in the center is soft and plush while the patterned accent fabrics on the sides are not. This particular fashion comes with “Gracopedic foam” which adds extra comfort padding. In addition to the plush 2-piece body support insert, this model also comes with harness strap covers.
Extra bases for the SR35 Classic Connect are available for around $50. This particular base can also be used for previous generations of this carseat (Graco Safe Seat Infant & SnugRide 32) as well as the SnugRide 30 which is a completely different infant carseat. We have a review of the Graco SnugRide 30 here. This particular base is NOT compatible with the original Graco SnugRide model (5-22 lbs). Various weight and height limits apply to the base, depending on which compatible Graco infant carseat you have. All the specifics are printed on a label on the base (click image to enlarge).
SnugRide 35 Specs & Features:
- Rear-facing only: 4-35 lbs, and 32″ or less
- 3 harness height positions
- Single crotch strap/buckle position
- Harness length adjusts in two places – at splitter plate and at hip strap anchors
- Energy-absorbing EPS foam lines entire upper portion of shell
- Adjustable base has nice, sturdy lock-off for installations using seatbelt
- Can be installed without base
- FAA approved for use in an airplane
- 7 year lifespan before expiration
The SnugRide 35 has all the important bases covered when it comes to features. In addition to everything mentioned above, it has the following comfort & convenience features:
- Handle can be left up in the fully upright “carry position” while in the vehicle
- Well-padded, machine washable covers (cold water, delicate cycle, mild detergent – drip dry)
- Compatible with various Graco strollers including the SnugRider Stroller Frame to create a “Travel System”
- Smooth harness adjuster makes it easy to tighten and loosen harness straps
- Thick harness straps aren’t likely to twist
- Large canopy can rotate 180 degrees
- “Gracopedic” comfort foam (on certain models)
- Cold weather boot (on certain models)
- Lowest harness slot height with Gracopedic foam and lower body support insert (approximate): 6″
- Harness slot heights without lower insert (approximate): 7″, 9 1/2″, 11 1/2″
- Internal shell height: 19 1/2″
- Width of base at beltpath (how much space you need in your seating position to install base): 9.5″
- Width of base at widest point: 17″
- Carrier Weight: 9.4 lbs (according to my digital bathroom scale)
The combination of low bottom harness slots and the new body support insert helps this new SR35 model fit a vast majority of newborns and even preemies very well.
The 2-piece support attaches together with velcro to create a single head and body support cushion. You must use both portions for babies who weigh between 4-5 lbs. The body support is optional but probably helpful for most smaller newborns whose shoulders are still below the bottom harness slots. Discontinue use of the lower portion of the insert once the child’s shoulders are even with the bottom harness slots *without* the insert. The upper head support insert can continue to be used, if desired, until the harness straps are moved up to the top harness slots. The harness strap covers are purely optional but should be removed, as per the warning label inside, if they interfere with proper positioning of the chest clip. The chest clip should always be placed at armpit level. For what it’s worth, I almost always remove the harness strap covers on a newborn (if they’re optional) because they just tend to get in the way more than anything else.
If you’re having trouble getting the harness snug enough on a smaller baby, double check to make sure that the harness is secured on its smallest settings. It should be set up so the upper loops are attached to the splitter plate and also to the anchors that secure the hip straps (pics below). When baby is bigger and you need more harness strap length, reattach using the loops at the very end of the straps. It doesn’t matter if you extend the strap length by adjusting at the hips or at the splitter plate or do both at the same time. All that matters is that you have enough strap length to get baby in and out easily and also get a snug fit when you tighten the harness.
Pictured below is the 4 lbs, 17″ preemie doll from Huggable Images using both portions of the 2-piece insert, as required. The flap on the lower insert is meant to be folded up and placed behind the crotch strap and buckle. If your newborn needs additional support (as per the manual – pg 18, diagram 4), rolled receiving blankets may be added for additional support (pic below). Take care to make sure that nothing interferes with the harness. With the exception of thin, rolled-up receiving blankets – never use aftermarket inserts or supports not made by Graco specifically for this carseat. Never use a Bundle-Me type product with this or any other infant carseat unless specifically approved by the carseat manufacturer. For more info on preemies and carseats please see our blog with video here.
This is how my 20″ newborn doll (which is roughly the size of an 8-9 lbs baby) fits without the lower body portion of the insert. This bigger doll did not need the lower insert since his shoulders were slightly above the bottom harness slots without it. I did use the optional head support but not the harness strap covers.
On the opposite end of the size range, the 32″ height max on the SR35 should accommodate most babies up until their first birthday although obviously there are no guarantees. I think it’s important to point out that almost every child will outgrow this seat by height before hitting 35 lbs. And tall babies with long torsos will always outgrow their carseat more quickly than babies with short or average torso lengths. Always use the harness slots that are even with or slightly below the child’s shoulders.
Smaller toddlers may fit in this seat well beyond their 1st birthday. Pictured below is a petite 23-month-old who is 22 lbs and 31″. She is close to outgrowing the seat by height – but for the moment she still fits! For the record, she was very happy with this seat and climbed right in without even being bribed!
The vehicle pictured above is a 2008 Honda Civic and the SR35 was installed as upright as possible in this vehicle because a toddler doesn’t want or need the full recline angle. Positioning the seat more upright (but still within the acceptable blue range on the angle indicator – pictured above) gives the adult in the front seat more legroom and is also more consistent with the overall comfort of an older baby or toddler. Use the max recline allowed by the indicator for a newborn or young baby who lacks head and neck control but once baby is able to sit upright unassisted (usually around 6 months), feel free to make the carseat more upright if that’s possible in your vehicle. Just make sure it’s still “in the blue” when you check the recline angle indicator.
As long as you read and follow the instruction manual carefully – the SR35 is generally VERY easy to install properly regardless of whether you are using your vehicle’s lower LATCH anchors or the seatbelt. FYI – only use one method of attachment. Do not install the base with both LATCH & seatbelt.
Use of lower LATCH anchors in the center seating position with non-standard spacing (more than 11″ apart) is allowed only if your vehicle owner’s manual specifically allows it. Even if it is specifically allowed, make sure you’re not blocking access to an outboard seatbelt buckle just 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. Seatbelt installations are just as safe and usually just as easy with this base.
If you have an older vehicle that has a lap-only seatbelt in the center position, clamp both the lap belt and the loose tail end of the seatbelt (if there is one) in the lock-off.
The SnugRide 35 can also be installed safely without the base. The carrier is secured directly to the vehicle with the seatbelt. This is very handy if you’re traveling by taxi or airplane. No need to lug the base around with you! However, you have to know how to lock the seatbelt in the vehicle that you’re going to be in because there is no lock-off device on the carrier itself. On an airplane (pic right) it’s easy because you have a lap-only belt with a nice locking latchplate. All you do is thread the seatbelt through the guides and pull it tight. Easy peasy!
A taxi is a little more complicated because you will usually have a lap/shoulder seatbelt that you will need to use to install the carrier. In the video below, the lap/shoulder belt has a switchable retractor which I use to lock the seatbelt so the carseat stays installed tightly and cannot wiggle loose. Not all vehicle seatbelts have switchable retractors but most do. If the vehicle was made anytime in the last 15 years, the passenger seatbelts MUST have some way to lock in order to keep a carseat installed tightly. If the vehicle was made after 1996 and you don’t encounter a switchable retractor when you pull the shoulder belt all the way out – then that seating position probably has a locking latchplate. Locking latchplates are your friend if you’re installing a carseat since they automatically cinch the seatbelt and don’t require any further action (like pulling the shoulder belt all the way out). The real test is to check for tightness after you’ve installed the carrier. If the seatbelt holds tight and doesn’t loosen up when you start tugging the carrier from side to side – then it’s locked and you should be all set. If the seatbelt slips and loosens up, then something is wrong and you need to troubleshoot the issue before you go anywhere. A locking clip may be required to secure the carrier if you’re using a lap/shoulder belt in a vehicle made before 1996 (of if you’re in a different country with different seatbelt regulations and standards).
When the lap/shoulder belt is routed correctly – it will look like this:
(Please forgive passing traffic and children playing in the background. I asked the kids to be quiet while I was taping but as you can see… I mean hear… they didn’t listen very well. Lol.)
SnugRide 35 Advantages:
- Fits a wide range of baby sizes
- Generally easy to install properly with base
- Easy to use correctly
- Energy-absorbing EPS foam lines entire upper portion of shell
- Generous canopy
- Well-padded and comfortable
- Compatible with many different strollers
- Cover is relatively easy to remove and machine washable
- Wide variety of fashions
Disadvantages: (In all fairness, these aren’t necessarily problems but I list them here to inform potential consumers of specific SR35 issues)
- Can take up a lot of real estate in the back seat – especially when you need the maximum recline allowed for a newborn
- Base and carrier are wide and this could be a problem if you need something that will fit next to another carseat or booster
- Lacks premium push-on LATCH connectors
- 2 of 4 handle positions are not allowed to be used in the vehicle (which creates potential for misuse)
- Carrier isn’t lightweight but 9 lbs is a typical weight for a larger infant seat
- Harness straps can only be spot cleaned. If spot cleaning isn’t enough – the harness must be replaced at your cost.
- Made in China – but to be fair, so are most other infant carseats
The Graco SnugRide 35 is an immensely popular infant carseat and it’s easy to see why. This seat has all the important bases covered when it comes to safety and convenience, which is why it’s been on our list of recommended carseats for years. The new 2-piece body support insert (on the models rated down to 4 lbs) address the one complaint that we’ve had regarding previous generations of this seat – that it tended not to fit small infants well. Now that they’ve fixed that one potential issue – this seat is essentially a home run! It could be a walk-off home run if Graco would upgrade to premium, push-on LATCH connectors (hint, hint).
However, this is not a compact infant seat by any means so consider yourself warned. If you drive a smaller vehicle and/or if you’re tall and need lots of leg room up front – please make sure you try before you buy! Actually, that’s our standard, sage advice for any carseat purchase. If try before you buy just isn’t possible – at the very least hold onto the box and the receipt until you’re sure this seat is going to fit and install properly in your vehicle.
Thank you Graco for generously supplying the demo SnugRide 35 used for this review and for local Child Passenger Safety training activities!