The Coccoro \’kō-kə-rō\ is a new child restraint from Combi. It is a convertible seat that can be used rear or forward facing for children 5-40 lbs who are less than 40 inches tall. Rear facing, the seat is rated from 5-33 lbs with a stated height limit of 36 inches. Forward facing, it can be used for children over 1 year old who weigh between 20 and 40 lbs.

The Coccoro is compact at just over 15 inches wide and weighing only 11 lbs. The back of the shell measures ~21 inches tall with harness slots at 9, 11, 13 and 15 inches. The lack of a base makes it is a good candidate to fit in even the smallest of vehicles.

Features

The Coccoro comes with an infant insert that is required up to 15 lbs and may be used until the child reaches 20 lbs (for rear facing use only). It is well padded with a thick foam wedge that goes behind the child. It makes a significant difference in fit. Combi calls it the Mommy’s Lap Insert to emphasize the cozy way it surrounds the child. It is secured by a cord that is tied through the upper harness slots.

The cover is soft and well padded with a waffle weave fabric. It has storage loops to keep the harness pulled to the side while loading/unloading the child. It also has two storage pockets- one on the side for the lower anchor strap and one on the back for the tether, rear facing lock-off, and manual. It has a thick tummy pad that goes around the crotch buckle and long harness pads for over the shoulders. The cover can be machine washed on gentle cycle. It is shown here in Strawberry Shake and comes in 4 other bright patterns as well as two neutral/tan ones.

There are four harness slots. Any slot may be used for rear facing. Only the top two can be used for forward facing. The five-point harness has terminal ends (non-continuous loop). There are two sets of rear loops and the splitter plate came on the upper loop for smaller children. The webbing seems to be thick and non-twisty. There are plastic buttons on the lower portion so the buckle tongues won’t slide all the way down. The chest clip is IMMI style. The harness can be cleaned with mild soap and a damp rag, but cannot be removed without a screwdriver.

It has a puzzle buckle with a Tru-Safe™ indicator that changes from red to green when the buckle is properly fastened. The crotch buckle is 5” from the back of the shell. However, the infant insert takes up several inches of that.

The front harness adjuster is smooth with a lever style release. It is located under the front flap of the cover. It is a single pull adjuster. You press the lever back toward the child to release the adjuster. The end of the adjuster strap snaps to the cover so it doesn’t swing loose.

There are lock-offs for both rear and forward facing. The rear facing lock-off is for lap/shoulder belts only. It is a separate piece that snaps onto the seatbelt. There are integrated lock-offs for forward facing. They are slot style with a hinged tab. There are also belt guides on the back of the seat for optional Euro-style routing of the shoulder belt for rear facing installations. Instead of having both the shoulder and lap portion through the beltpath, you can wrap the shoulder portion around the back. Per Combi, the European method of placing the shoulder belt behind the shell in the rear facing position allows for better ride-down during a crash.

The box claims Tru-Safe™ Side Impact Protection. While there are no test standards for side impact crashes, we know they are some of the most dangerous. The Coccoro has deep side wings and the back of the shell is fully lined with EPS foam. There is a piece of EPP-like foam under the seating area, though that is likely more for comfort.

Installation

Installation is rather straightforward once you figure out the rear facing beltpaths. Combi helps you along by making everything color coded- blue for rear facing and red for forward facing. There are also stickers with diagrams and instructions for each aspect of installation, including how to hook and remove LATCH connectors. Unless otherwise indicated by the vehicle manual, the vehicle seatback must be fully upright.

The LATCH connectors are the common basic clip style. They can only be used in dedicated positions with standard spacing. Borrowing of lower anchors is not allowed. The tether must be stored for rear facing. It is only for forward facing use and must be used for a forward facing lower anchor install. It is optional with a forward facing seatbelt install, though strongly encouraged.

Rear Facing

Any harness slot may be used for rear facing. The harness needs to be at or below the child’s shoulders for rear facing. The seat is outgrown rear facing by weight at 33 lbs and by height when the child’s head is 1” from the top of the shell. The infant insert must be used for children under 15 lbs and may be used for children up to 20 lbs, or when the harness straps become too short.

The Coccoro manual and stickers on the shell state that it must be installed with the recline reference line horizontal (45 degrees) for rear facing. I confirmed with the Combi rep that while 45 degrees is required for infants, older children with good head control can be a bit more upright. Older babies and toddlers can generally be as upright as 30 degrees (when measured from vertical). The appropriate angle should be easy to achieve by positioning in most vehicles due to the lack of a base. If necessary, a tightly rolled towel or blanket or firm piece of foam (such as a pool noodle) may be used to attain the proper rear facing angle. Take care when pushing down to tighten the LATCH strap or seatbelt. It is easy to change the angle by pushing down toward the front or back. However, it is also easy to inadvertently get it too upright or reclined by the same method. Provided the vehicle allows it, the shell of the Coccoro can touch the vehicle seat in front of it- as long as it isn’t wedged tight.

The rear facing beltpath is accessed by lifting the front of the cover. There are two plastic hooks and a snap on each side the cover to aid in that. It is an open beltpath in that there are arms rather than closed slots- much like infant seats that can be installed without a base. For seatbelt installations, only the lap portion goes under the arms.

I’m going to go over rear facing seatbelt installations because although the drawings and instructions are clear, it may seem intimidating at first. Unhook the cover and pull back the flap. Follow the blue beltpaths. The lapbelt goes in front of the crotch buckle (farther from the child) and over the part of the cover that remains when the flap is folded back. If lapbelt only, tighten belt so that a secure installation is achieved. Check for tightness and replace cover flap. The manual encourages those users with locking latchplates to flip the male end 180 degrees if the lap portion is not staying tight (complete with illustration).

If using a lap/shoulder belt, make sure only the lap portion is under the arms of the rf beltpath. Fasten the blue rear facing lock-off on the shoulder portion only with the arrow pointing down. Tighten the lap portion and slide the lock-off down until it is touching the latchplate. Route the shoulder portion behind the seat following the marked belt guides. The seatbelt goes over the near lower belt guide and through the far upper one. It is not necessary to switch a locking retractor to locked mode at this point, but it is acceptable. However, a locked shoulder belt may cause the rear facing Coccoro to tilt. If the shoulder belt is not long enough to route around the back of the shell, it may be left next to the vehicle seatback.

Forward Facing

The Coccoro may be used forward facing for children who are at least 1 year and 20 lbs. The infant insert must not be used forward facing. Only the top two harness slots can be used. The harness should be at or above the child’s shoulders forward facing. It is outgrown forward facing by weight at 40 lbs or by height when either the tops of the child’s ears are above the top of the shell or the child’s shoulders are above the top harness position.

Installation is straightforward with both LATCH and the seatbelt. Use the red beltpath. The red forward facing lock-off is built in, unlike the one for rear facing. It is slot style with a tab- much like the older (and preferred) Britax style. You push the red tab forward, slide the shoulder portion in and allow the tab to rotate back into position. It appears to hold the belt tightly and I wasn’t able to make it slip. As with rear facing, it is acceptable, but not necessary to lock a shoulder retractor in addition to using the lock-off. To ensure the appropriate angle, both rear facing beltguides must be touching the vehicle seatback.

Impressions

The Coccoro is light and compact. It seems to fit small babies well. It would make a great travel seat or alternative to an infant bucket. Combi marketing proudly proclaims that you can fit three across in most vehicles. I don’t doubt this. However, that’s not really practical application. Most families needing to fit three passengers in a row don’t have three children small enough to ride in the Coccoro. More importantly- how does the Coccoro fit next to other common seats?

My experience with that question is that with a few buckle stalk twists and a well-placed knee I can fit the Coccoro rear facing in the center of my Subaru Outback. What’s more, I can fit it next to a forward facing Marathon. In a pinch, I could install it between two forward facing Marathons (with less than an inch to spare). In place of the second Marathon, a forward facing Scenera or Fisher Price Safe Voyage Booster fit even better. Though it may seem unimpressive in many vehicles, this is truly a glowing review. The only seat I’ve been able to fit rear facing so far in my center position is a Chicco Keyfit. That’s a great seat in its own right, though not as versatile as a convertible.

The Coccoro also fit rear facing in either outboard position at an infant recline with the front seats all the way back. Again, that is absolutely amazing in that no other convertible can claim that. Sure, I could fit a fairly upright Marathon for a toddler with the front seat most of the way back… but that simply wasn’t possible for a newborn. I imagine that without a base, it will fit well in the highly sculpted seats of many two door vehicles.

My daughter is a hefty 15 lbs and 24″ at three months. The Coccoro fits her well, both with and without the insert. She has about 6 inches of growing room before it is outgrown rear facing by height. Although the manual encourages extended rear facing, I think it may be pushing it to get most children to the new recommended minimum of two years. The 33 lb limit is a bit behind the rest of the market, but I find it adequate given that most children will reach the height limit first.

Forward facing, my four year old son was comfortable, but just a smidge above the top harness slot. He is thin, but average height at 41” with an estimated torso height of 15”. He just squeaks in under the 35 lb limit of most other convertibles, so he’s outgrown it forward facing when he could still technically be rear facing in a convertible with a taller shell.

I’m a big fan of both styles of lock-off. I might even be tempted to use the separate rear facing lock-off with other seats. Okay, not really, but I do like it. You just buckle the seatbelt, clip on the lock-off, pull the lap portion tight and slide the lock-off down. In terms of necessary coordination, it’s much easier than a true locking clip or the Britax and Recaro rear facing lock-offs (though doesn’t quite match that of the Keyfit base). I like the forward facing one in that it’s similar to the old style Britax, but appears to be reliably functional, unlike the current Recaro version. I’ve heard that the upper blue belt guides also function as lock-offs. However, the manual does not indicate this in any way and my observation is that the belt slides freely within them.

The harness adjuster is buttery smooth. It easily pulls to the proper tightness with a single tug. Although the lever says PRESS and is the same action as required by my infant seat, I intuitively want to pull to release. I think that’s due to the curved and slanted shape of the lever.

The manual is well written and detailed. It includes important points such as several statements encouraging extended rear facing and a note about not using cargo hooks as tether anchors unless the vehicle specifically allows it. It also has illustrations correct harness placement on the splitter plate, flipping a locking latchplate, and testing for movement when installing.

Now, it’s not all blind love for the Coccoro. As I mentioned above, it will be outgrown long before most other convertibles. The harness covers seem to be a couple inches too long. There is just barely enough room for the chest clip to be properly positioned beneath them on my 95th percentile 3 month old. I’m not sure if they would fit on a tiny newborn. The cover has a noticeable chemical smell that is still going strong 7 days out of the box. Luckily, it can be machine washed, which is my next order of business before I ride next to it for 700 miles.

I can’t seem to get the LATCH strap to store in the side pocket without appearing lumpy and bulky. I imagine it might possibly interfere in some tight side by side installations. I would prefer a quicker install and release method for the infant insert. Webbing with plastic buckles or an elasticized loop and toggle system would make more sense than a cord that you tie. The cover wrinkles in a weird way each time I have to fold it up to access the rear facing beltpath (which I can see becoming tiresome as well). I’m afraid after too many more installations it won’t smooth back out. That being said, I think I prefer the open beltpath to squeezing my hand through a narrow, closed one.

The Euro routing of the shoulder belt makes it cumbersome to load/unload a rear facing baby except for using the center position from the driver’s side (meaning, the side opposite the retractor). That routing is optional, but I see it as a safety feature. We know that anything that limits side to side movement offers an improvement in safety- particularly in side impacts. It also offers a benefit in reducing downward rotation in the more common frontal impacts.

Reportedly, there will be a stroller to use with the Coccoro- sort of like a snap and go frame for infant seats. While that’s a neat concept (and likely much more affordable than the Orbit toddler system), I can’t imagine repeatedly installing and uninstalling with a child buckled in. Again, the Euro routing makes it a bit tricky. It takes every bit of my center shoulder belt, which means the ALR is engaged and it can be somewhat difficult to uninstall the seat. The manual says to push down on the front of the seat to uninstall. I can see myself flipping my infant on her face while trying to remove the seat. It would probably be a bit easier with LATCH or even leaving the shoulder belt in front, but I like the idea of the seatbelt routed behind.

The Coccoro seems like it will be fantastic for three across and is very portable. However, unless you are planning to use two convertibles for one child in order to achieve extended rear facing, the Coccoro is probably not a practical option. Overall, I’m pleased with my purchase. It is now the primary seat for my infant daughter and I can’t wait to take it on trips with us. It’s definitely a niche seat, but it fills that niche very well.

The Coccoro is certified for use in aircraft. It is made in China, has a 7 year expiration period, and follows NHTSA’s guidelines for crashed restraint replacement. MSRP is $199.

The webpage for the Combi Coccoro: http://www.combicoccoro.com/

For more information on child passenger safety, please visit:

http://www.car-seat.org

http://www.car-safety.org