It’s finally here! Not only the highly anticipated Britax Frontier 90, but also our review of the all-new and improved Harness-2-Booster combination child safety seat. Please stay tuned for our full review that will include the very similar Britax Pinnacle 90 (with Side Impact Cushion Technology), coming soon! What’s the big deal? The frustrations of having to use a seatbelt to install a carseat are now a thing of the past, as you will see in our video demonstrations. Without further ado, here is a recap of the features:

Britax Frontier 90 Overview

  • ClickTight installation system for easy and secure installations using the seatbelt
  • EZ buckle system holds belly pad out of the way when loading and unloading child
  • Standing height 30″ – 58″ tall in harness mode, 45″ – 62″ tall in booster mode
  • 25-90 lbs. (and over 2 years of age) with harness
  • Belt-positioning booster from 40 to 120 lbs.
  • BritaxFrontier90FusionIndustry-leading 20.5″ top harness height (photo, right)
  • SafeCell technology in base
  • Integrated steel bars reinforce the shell
  • Quick adjust no-rethread harness
  • Front adjust recline feature
  • Easy remove cover
  • 9-year lifespan
  • MSRP $329.99, currently around $280 at Amazon.com.
  • Fashions include ZebraOnyxCactus FlowerCongo (Red) & Desert Palm

Of all these features, the one that really sets the Frontier 90 apart from its competition is the new ClickTight seatbelt installation system.  It’s basically an automatic seatbelt tensioning system that does the work of tightening the seatbelt for you.

Britax Frontier 90 LATCH StorageYou simply lift up the cover to open up the ClickTight panel (photo, left), route the seatbelt through the appropriate green routing path, buckle it, then close the ClickTight cover and presto!  In most vehicles, the installation should be secure in just a few minutes and the only other task is to attach the top tether strap to the tether anchor for that seating position.  No worries about locking a retractor, using a locking clip, complex vehicle seat belt routing paths or LATCH anchor weight limits.  All those things that most parents never even realized might be a potential problem!  With a few exceptions, it really should be that easy to install in most vehicles.

You can order at Amazon.com and other stores that now have them in stock.  The Britax Frontier 90 MSRP is $329.99.  Other retailers should have them very soon and Canada is reportedly to follow with the Frontier CT in a month or so.

Main Features and Advantages:

5-point Harness to 90 pounds and 20.5″ tall: A great improvement is the slight increase in both seated shoulder height and weight limit, extending what is already the industry-leading top harness height setting to a whopping 20.5″!  Many combination seats are outgrown by height well before weight because their top harness height limit is only 18″ to 19″ tall.  So, the Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 will outlast the competition in harness mode, even though kids in the tallest percentiles will outgrow it before they reach 90 lbs.  It’s also easy to use, so older kids can do it themselves, with adult supervision, of course!

 

ClickTight Seatbelt Installation System: With LATCH becoming nearly useless for extended-weight seats beyond 40 pounds, many 5-point harness models will be using seatbelts again for installation.  Fortunately, the era of locking clips and putting your entire body in the carseat to tighten it are over.  The ClickTight system is as simple as it sounds, as you will see in the video:

 

Multiple Harness Height Settings with Front Adjust: The other great improvement is BritaxFrontier90Blazerthe front adjustable harness height system, making it much easier to adjust as your child grows, even with the carseat installed in your vehicle.  There are nine height adjustments, from 20.5″ down to about 12.5″.  Unlike the previous model, you no longer have to uninstall the seat to adjust the harness height!

Crotch Strap Adjustment: Two settings for crotch strap depth, adjustable even while installed.  Plus, the EZ-Buckle system flips the crotch strap buckle forward when not in use.  That means it’s always easy to find and you are never digging around under your child to find it.  It’s also easier for older kids to buckle themselves.  In booster mode,  you may still replace the harness buckle with the optional SecureGuard lap belt clip.

 

Other changes:  Along with steel reinforcement, the patented SafeCell system is present in the base to improve crash performance.  BritaxFrontier90BeltPathandSafeCellThere are new fabrics, of course.  The head restraints on the Frontier/Pinnacle models are slightly deeper than the previous models for improved side impact protection.  There is also improved labeling to help parents find the right belt path, green for harness mode and red for booster mode (photo, right).  The cover is somewhat easier to remove and this can now be done without removing the harness or uninstalling the carseat!   The armrests and cupholders are redesigned, also.

Booster Use: The Frontier 90 isn’t as tall as the Frontier 85 in booster mode. It’s still one of the tallest boosters among combination seats, though. I measure almost 23 inches to the shoulder belt guide at the top setting. Plenty of room for my almost-8-year old son on the second highest setting and also a good fit on the highest setting, one that will barely fit in some vehicles!

 

Measurements:

Frontier90BoosterAs mentioned, the maximum booster height is decreased somewhat, but should still be among the industry’s tallest models.  If you’ve ever adjusted the previous Frontier 85 version to the maximum booster setting, you may have found it won’t even fit in your vehicle!  Britax claims seated shoulder height in booster mode is now 23″, down from 24.5″, still plenty tall for an 8-year old (photo, right).  The Frontier 90 weighs roughly 25 pounds, with the Pinnacle weighing slightly more.  Overall dimensions are fairly similar, with the new Frontier 90 being just a hair narrower externally than the previous model, but about the same internally at the shoulders.  Below you can see the top harness height, booster shoulder height and shoulder width measurements, roughly 20.5″, 22.5″ and 19″, respectively.

BritaxFrontier90HarnessHeight BritaxFrontier90 BoosterHeight BritazFrontier90ShoulderWidth

There are now only 2 buckle strap positions, one about 7″ depth, roughly the same as the middle crotch strap slot on the Frontier 85.  The outer setting is almost 9″ depth according to Britax, slightly deeper than the outermost crotch strap slot on the Frontier 85.  Here is the seat width and depth below, along with inner crotch buckle position.

BritaxFrontier90Width BritaxFrontier90SeatDepth

Below are some comparison photos with the Britax Frontier 85, which is now being phased out of production and likely represents a great deal at clearance prices!  We note that the Frontier 90 uses the same HUGS harness pads as the Frontier 85, rather than the thicker version found on the new Britax G3 convertibles.

FrontiersFusion FrontiersFront FrontiersBacktoBack

Frontier90TopFoam FrontiersBottom FrontierBacks

With the forthcoming changes from NHTSA in regard to LATCH, Britax will indicate a 40 lb. weight limit for the lower anchor system, as ClickTight will be the preferred method of installation.  LATCH storage is hidden under the ClickTight compartment cover, in order to encourage seatbelt installations.  The top tether will be strongly recommended to the upper harness weight limit and required for kids above 65 lbs.

Installation and Fit:

While it’s impossible to say how universal the ClickTight system is until the Frontier 90 has been around a while, we have already tried it in a few vehicles for this review.  These include a 2010 Toyota Prius, a 2011 Toyota Highlander, a 2003 Chevrolet Trailblazer and a 2013 Ford Fusion. In every seating position tested so far, the install was rock solid within a few minutes, regardless of the experience level of the installer!  How about a center seat in a compact car? No problem, as you will see in the Toyota Prius:

 

I can definitely recommend the Frontier 90 based on what I have seen so far.  It has a lot of great advantages and really only a handful of minor issues that we mention for sake of completeness.

Advantages:

  1. BritaxFrontier90SideGenerous 20.5″ harness height, best in class!
  2. Front height adjustment usable even when installed
  3. ClickTight system seatbelt installations easier than LATCH!
  4. Deep side impact wings for head and torso (photo, right)
  5. Reasonably tall booster mode provides good fit
  6. EZ-Buckle keeps the harness buckle easy to find
  7. Made in USA with IMMI harness components
  8. Two position recline in harness mode
  9. 9-year Lifespan
  10. One word:  Zebra

 

Disadvantages:

  1. notcertifiedforpetsHarness adjuster hard to find at first for short fingers, but this makes it hard for kids to inadvertently loosen themselves
  2. LATCH limited to 40 lbs., but who needs LATCH with ClickTight?
  3. Relatively large and heavy, as are most combination seats
  4. Relatively expensive
  5. Not suitable for aircraft use
  6. Not suitable for pet use (photo, right)

 

Kudos to Britax for requiring top tether use for kids above 65 pounds.  This instruction may conflict with some vehicle owner’s manuals, though we recognize that relatively few children use a 5-point harness system beyond 65 pounds.  At that weight, many kids will be nearing 8 years of age or above and most are likely using the Frontier 90 in booster mode.  We would still like to applaud Britax for taking this stance on using an important safety feature for the biggest kids who need it the most!  We’ll have more detailed coverage of the Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 in the full review appearing later in May.  In it, Heather and Jennie will have some more photos and videos of installations in more vehicles and with kids of different ages, including booster mode fit.  They will also detail some topics I didn’t cover, like conversion to booster mode, the recline system, the instruction manual and more!

BritaxFrontier90ChevyTrailblazer

 

Conclusion:

With a return to seatbelt installations inevitable for high weight harness combination carseats, the ClickTight system on the Britax Frontier 90 is just plain awesome.  The trickiest part of using it the first time is simply locating it behind the cover!  While many advocates loved the long belt path installation of the previous Frontier models, there is no denying that it was complex and sometimes a 2-person task for most parents.  Combined with the best-in-class weight and height limits, the front harness adjustments and all the other improvements, the ClickTight system makes this harness/booster carseat an excellent choice for children over the minimum requirements of 2 years old and 25 pounds!  The Frontier 90 will definitely be added to our Recommended Seats list when it is updated next and I believe it will be a very safe and easy to use option that will also be the last carseat most kids will ever need until they can safely transition to using just the adult seatbelt.

 

 

Thank you to Britax for providing the Frontier 90 used in this review.  No other compensation was provided and all opinions are my own!  Please visit them at the Britax USA website!