Here at CarseatBlog we’ve already reviewed most of the Britax convertibles currently available so we were interested in taking an in-depth look at the Pavilion to see how it compared to its siblings – Roundabout 55, Marathon, Boulevard & Advocate. The Pavilion is the replacement for the previous generation Boulevard 70 CS. The CS designation stands for “Click & Safe” snug harness indicator, a feature that helps parents and caregivers to understand how snug the harness should be. The harness adjuster actually clicks and you can feel it “pop” (for lack of a better explanation) when the harness is adequately tensioned. It’s not a perfect system because it’s possible to trick the indicator with a bulky winter coat or with slack left in the hip straps of the 5-point harness. However, it’s still a great concept and if it helps some parents and caregivers to do a better job tightening the harness sufficiently then it’s a valuable and worthwhile feature.

Since there are many different new-generation Britax convertibles currently available with different features and different price-points, we should probably start this review off with a list summarizing the main differences.

  • Britax Roundabout:  This is the most budget-friendly Britax convertible.  It lacks the no-rethread harness found on all the other models but that’s really not a big deal unless you’re frequently transporting kids of different sizes in one carseat. It also lacks HUGS pads and the G4 upgrades.
  • Britax Marathon:  This model has a no-rethread harness and the G4 upgrades but it lacks the new HUGS pads and the deeper headwings found on the Boulevard, Pavilion & Advocate models.
  • Britax Boulevard: This model has all the features of the Marathon but also has deeper headwings for enhanced protection in side-impact crashes.
  • Britax Pavilion: All the features of the Boulevard plus the “Click & Safe” snug harness indicator.
  • Britax Advocate: All the features of the Pavilion plus Britax’s exclusive Side Impact Cushion Technology (SICT).

All the new “G4″ convertibles come with an included infant insert cushion (required for babies under 22 lbs.), optional harness strap covers, the EZ buckle pad and rubbery HUGS chest pads which are mandatory when the seat is installed forward-facing.

An anti-rebound bar is now available for all Britax G3/G4 convertibles. It is available as an accessory (for purchase separately) directly from Britax.

Britax Pavilion g4 with ARB

The pattern shown in this review is called “Sophia”.  There are several Britax fashions available for the Pavilion if “Sophia” isn’t your cup of tea. MSRP for the Pavilion is $339.99 but you can usually find much better prices online.

 

Pavilion Specs:

  • Rear-facing 5-40 lbs, or until there is only 1″ of main shell (not headwings) above child’s head
  • Forward-facing 20-65 lbs, 49″ or less, at least 1 year old*
  • FAA approved for use on aircraft
  • 7 yr lifespan before seat expires
  • Made in the USA!

*Britax recommends that children ride rear-facing to the highest weight or height specified

Features:

  • No-rethread harness. Britax refers to this feature as the “Quick-Adjust Harness”
  • 2 crotch strap/buckle positions
  • Integrated steel bars strengthen the seat and keep it from flexing forward in a crash
  • SafeCell™ Technology in the base – these cells compress in a crash, which lowers the center of gravity of the child and reduces forward head excursion
  • Dual lower LATCH attachments (one strap for each side of the carseat)
  • Energy-absorbing, rip-stitch Versa-Tether®
  • Energy-absorbing EPP foam that lines the entire back and sides of the plastic shell
  • Lock-offs for rear-facing and forward-facing installs with seatbelt
  • 3 recline positions (1 position for rear-facing, 2 for forward-facing)
  • Smooth bottom base with grippy edges that won’t damage vehicle upholstery
      

 

Demonstration of Click & Safe feature:

 

Measurements:

All are somewhat subjective since nothing on this CR is a straight line

    • Harness height range: 9″ (lowest setting) to 16.75″ (tallest setting)
    • Crotch strap positions: 4.5″, 7″
    • Seat pan depth (leg room/thigh support): 13″
    • Overall height with headwings fully raised: 29″
    • Overall height of shell: 24″
    • Weight: 18.6 lbs (according to my digital bathroom scale)

 

Installation Comments:

The great news is that this seat practically installs itself, both rear-facing or forward-facing, if you’re using the LATCH system.  Really, it’s super easy to get a nice snug install thanks to the dual lower LATCH attachments (permanently attached to sides of the carseat via a metal bar) and the premium SafeGuard (IMMI) push-on LATCH connectors.  However, unless otherwise specified by your vehicle manufacturer - you can only use the lower LATCH anchors in your vehicle until your child reaches 40 lbs, then you must switch to a seatbelt [plus top tether] install.

FYI – all vehicles made since 2003 will have LATCH attachment anchors for a carseat but they might not have them in every seating position. Some seating positions may have a top tether anchor but not lower LATCH anchors. Some positions may not have anything. See your vehicle owner’s manual for specifics. Tip – look under “LATCH” in the appendix of your vehicle owner’s manual to locate the exact page number(s) that you need to reference.

Also, here’s a little tip if installing the Pavilion rear-facing with the lower LATCH anchors. After pushing the LATCH connectors onto the lower anchor bars (fat side of the connector on top so it looks like a stapler clamping onto the anchor bar), pull the loose “tail” end of the LATCH strap through the slit on the top on the cover. Apply downward pressure to the side of the seat with one hand and pull the strap tight with the other.  Repeat on the other side.  The end result should be a tight installation which is defined as less than 1″ of movement from side to side when you tug on the seat *near the beltpath*.  In this case, just grab the metal bar near the area of the LATCH strap and tug side to side.  If it moves less than 1″ when you tug with reasonable force – you’re golden! :)

Now, regardless of whether you are installing your Pavilion with the lower LATCH anchors or with the seatbelt – Britax recommends that the top tether strap be used at all times.  Of course, you can only use the top tether strap when forward-facing if you have a top tether anchor in your vehicle that is designated for that specific seating position.  Not sure if you do or where it’s located?  Check your vehicle’s owners manual!  If your vehicle was made anytime during the last 12 years, you should have top tether anchors but they are not always in obvious places. Find them!  Use them!  Shower them with love and attention! Lol!  Okay, I’m being goofy but seriously, using the top tether strap on a forward-facing carseat is so important!!! Unfortunately, most parents don’t use the tether – probably because they have no idea what it is or where it goes. But now that you know, consider yourself part of the elite group of tether-using parents!

Rear-facing tethering is a totally different concept and Britax is one of only 3 carseat manufacturers to currently allow the tether strap to be used when the seat is installed in the rear-facing position. The pictures below show the  Britax Pavilion tethered “Swedish style” down to the floor using the tether connector strap (aka D-ring), and also “Aussie style” tethered back towards the vehicle’s real tether anchor.  All Britax convertibles, even the original generation models, can be tethered in one of these two ways. Only use the D-ring if you are tethering Swedish style down to the floor. Make sure you carefully read and follow the instructions in the Britax manual. Most parents choose to tether using the Swedish method because the Aussie method can get in the way of loading and unloading the child.

Tether connector strap (aka D-ring):

 

Swedish tethering method: Use tether connector strap to create an anchor point. Wrap the strap around a solid, unmovable structural metal part that is bolted to the floor of the vehicle and does not interfere with vehicle seat adjustment.    

   

 

Aussie tethering method:  Do NOT use the tether connector strap. Attach the hook on the end of the Versa-tether directly to the tether anchor behind the vehicle seat. 

    

 

Recline positions:

Fully reclined (#3) position MUST be used for rear-facing, semi-reclined (#2) & fully upright (#1) positions are for forward-facing.  As you can from the Marathon 70 pics below (that I borrowed from my Marathon 70 blog review), there is very little difference between the fully upright #1 position and the semi-reclined #2 position.

  

 

When installing any Britax convertible in the rear-facing position, make sure the seat is fully reclined first.  Depending on your child’s age and developmental abilities, and also on the slope of your vehicle seat cushion, you may want or need to adjust the recline angle if you don’t think it’s reclined enough for your child.  If the rear-facing seat is too upright, you can use one or more pieces of foam pool noodle, or a tightly rolled up towel under the carseat.  Just make sure you place them near the bight of the vehicle seat and remember that you never want to recline more than 45 degrees.  If your older baby or toddler likes sitting more upright and the seat installs that way due to the slope of your vehicle seat cushion then that’s fine, as long as it’s within the allowable rear-facing range of 30-45 degrees.  There’s a nice diagram in manual showing what a 30-45* range looks like.

 

Pics of the Pavilion installed in a 2005 Ford Freestar minivan:

 

 

Fit to Child Comments:

Below are pics with my 20″ newborn-sized doll.  This doll is roughly the size of a big 8-9 lbs newborn. I took comparative pics with and without the HUGS pads and optional harness strap covers. Personally, I subscribe to the less is more theory.  The extra stuff just tends to get in the way more than anything else but I know most parents subscribe to the more is better theory so if it comes with the seat then they’re probably going to use it.

  

  

 

Petite almost 3-year-old rear-facing in Pavilion: 

    

 

Pavilion Advantages:

  • Deep headwings provide enhanced protection in side-impact crashes
  • Durable EPP foam, rip-stitch tether, HUGS pads and SafeCell Technology in base all work together to absorb energy in a crash
  • Click & Safe snug harness indicator provides audible and tactile feedback to let you know when the harness is sufficiently snug
  • Super easy installation with LATCH (in most cases)
  • “Non-Handed” lower LATCH straps allow you to easily switch the connectors from rear-facing to forward-facing and vice versa
  • Center LATCH installations with non-standard spacing are allowed as long as the spacing is between 11-20″ and the vehicle manufacturer specifically allows it
  • No rethread harness makes it easy to adjust the harness height when your child has a growth spurt
  • Relatively easy to tighten and loosen harness straps
  • Harness straps are thick and not prone to twisting
  • Velcro on harness keeps straps out of the way when loading and unloading child from seat
  • EZ-Buckle System keeps belly pad and buckle out of the way when loading child in the seat
  • Buckle style is easy to buckle and unbuckle
  • Harness straps are replaceable if necessary
  • HUGS pads may be removed when the child is rear-facing (but they are required for forward-facing)
  • Ability to tether in the rear-facing position (Aussie or Swedish method)
  • Rear-facing recline angle range of 30-45 degrees allowed
  • Doesn’t take up a lot of room rear-facing (especially if you don’t need a full 45* recline).  This makes it a good option for smaller cars and for tall parents who may need to have the front seat all or most of the way back.
  • Easy to remove cover
  • Premium fabrics and extra padding for comfort
  • Optional infant positioning insert is available for purchase if seat is going to be used for a baby weighing less than 12 lbs
  • Made in the USA!

 

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

  • May be difficult to clamp the lockoffs closed in some vehicles if installing with seatbelt
  • Seatbelt installation using lockoff  is not intuitive – read and follow directions carefully
  • Rear-facing leg room is generally less than some other competitive (non-Britax) convertible models
  • Rear-facing height maximum is limited to 1″ from top of *shell*, not from the top of the headwings if extended beyond the shell
  • Click & Safe snug harness indicator can be helpful but isn’t foolproof

 

Conclusion:

Overall the Britax Pavilion is a well-designed convertible seat with many bells and whistles. Innovative safety features and quality components provide peace of mind and ease of use continues to be an area where Britax convertibles really shine. It’s definitely one of the easiest convertible seats to install properly, especially if you can take advantage of the simple LATCH installation. My only real complaint (and it’s not a huge issue) is with the HUGS pads on smaller, rear-facing babies. The good news is that they’re removable and not required when the seat is being used in the rear-facing position. Removing the HUGS pads is fairly easy and intuitive just remember to put them back on before using the seat forward-facing!

Britax webpage for the Pavilion: http://www.britaxusa.com/car-seats/pavilion

Thank you to Britax USA for supplying the Pavilion used in this review.