Chicco NextFit - IntrigueI guess it’s true that good things come to those who wait. It seems like we waited an eternity for Chicco to debut a convertible carseat but clearly it was worth the wait. I’ll admit that I was a little worried – the Chicco KeyFit 30 is a well-loved infant seat and the bar was set pretty high for any convertible that would wear the Chicco name and have to please current KeyFit owners who were already “spoiled” by a carseat that was easy to use correctly and ridiculously easy to install properly in almost any vehicle. There was no doubt that the expectations were high and they needed to nail this one or else it was going to go down in the carseat history books as the biggest disappointment since the Nania Airway. Thankfully, my anxiety was for nothing because the Chicco NextFit convertible exceeds every expectation that I had for ease of use and ease of proper installation. Chicco people, you can pat yourselves on the back for another job well done! :)

*Update - All Chicco NextFit convertible carseats made during or after October 2013 have some minor updates.  Please see our blog HERE for the full scoop.

 

So what makes the Chicco NextFit stand out in a crowded field of high-end convertibles?

One word – SuperCinch. Well, technically that’s two words but Chicco has made it one word and trademarked it so that’s what I’m going with. SuperCinch is a force multiplying system that makes it possible for anyone, even an elderly grandparent, to get a rock-solid installation in less than 1 minute using LATCH. It’s so easy that even my husband can do it properly! Without me hovering. Or coaching. Or leaving post-it notes in the seat. Seriously, it’s that easy. This seat could not only save lives – it could save marriages!  ;)

In addition to the incredibly innovative force-multiplying SuperCinch system, Chicco has really gone out on a limb to design and engineer a seat that is very easy for parents and caregivers to use correctly and equally difficult to misuse if you’re actually making an attempt to “do it right”.

 

NextFit Specs:

Rear-Facing: 5-40 lbs;  outgrown by height once there is only 1″ of shell above the child’s head with the head rest portion fully extended

Forward-Facing: 22-65 lbs; 50″ or less; at least 1 year old. *Chicco and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend all children ride REAR-FACING until age 2 or they reach the weight/height limits of this seat.

FAA Approved for use on aircraft

8 year lifespan before seat expires

Naked Chicco NextFit  Naked NextFit - tallest setting  image  image  image

 

Each NextFit model comes with harness strap covers (optional),  an infant insert which is only for babies who weigh between 5-11 lbs and an accessory cup holder.

The pattern shown in this review is called “Gravity.”  It is a gender-neutral black and grey cover. There are other NextFit fashions available at different retailers and etailers. Amazon sells the Mystique, Studio, Rose & Juno fashions. Seats sold and shipped directly from Amazon come with free shipping and free returns in case it doesn’t work out for some reason. Pulse & Gemini fashions are BRU exclusives.  The Gravity cover is a Target exclusive. And Intrigue & Mystique are available at Kids-n-Cribs.

MSRP for the NextFit is $279-$299.

NextFit Features:

  • SuperCinch LATCH tightening system
  • No-rethread harness (6 height positions)
  • 2 crotch strap/buckle positions
  • 2-position chest clip
  • Energy-absorbing EPS foam lines the sides and the headwings
  • Lock-offs for rear-facing and forward-facing installations with seatbelt
  • 9 recline positions (any position can be used rear-facing or forward-facing to achieve an appropriate recline angle)
  • Dual liquid bubble level indicators (one for RF, one for FF)
  • Smooth bottom base with grip material won’t damage vehicle upholstery or slide around on slippery leather seats

RF & FF recline angle indicators  NextFit 9 Recline Positions  nextfit chest clip - wider ff position

Inner Crotch Strap Position  Outer Crotch Strap Position

 

NextFit Measurements:

  • Lowest harness height setting: 5.5″ with newborn insert; 7.5″ without insert
  • Tallest harness height setting: 17.5″
  • Crotch strap positions: 3″ with insert; 4″ or 6″ without insert
  • Seat pan depth (leg room/thigh support): 14″
  • Internal seated height room (highest position): 26″
  • Base “footprint”: 17″ front to back; 14.5″ at widest point across
  • Weight: 25.2 lbs. (according to my digital bathroom scale)

 

Installation Comments:

The NextFit passed every challenge as I installed it in a wide variety of vehicles and seating positions both rear-facing and forward-facing using either LATCH or seatbelt. I installed it in bigger vehicles, smaller vehicles, old jalopy vehicles, new luxury vehicles with contoured rear seats and protruding head restraints, crew cab pick-up trucks with funky tether routing and even in the 3rd row center of my 2005 Ford Freestar minivan which is notoriously problematic for most FF carseat installations due to lousy belt geometry. The only installation that gave me any trouble at all was the 3rd row center of my minivan (pic below). The shoulder belt in this seating position originates from the ceiling and the lap portion of the belt is anchored forward of the bight by a good 2″. That combination makes it extremely difficult to install any forward-facing carseat securely. Typically what happens in this seating position is that the carseat appears tight (doesn’t move more than 1″ from side-to-side) but when you test for tightness from front-to-back, the carseat slides forward several inches. I ran into this exact problem when I first tried to install the NF forward-facing with the seatbelt in this seating position. However, I don’t give up that easily. I’ve been installing carseats for over 16 years and I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade along the way. I’m not going to go into too much detail but suffice to say that I went “old school” on the installation (with both knees in the seat and using the reclining seat back trick) and I wound up with a tight install that didn’t move at all side-to-side and moved less than 1″ from front-to-back. Having a lock-off on the NF really helped in that situation. Honestly, that was the only installation in the multiple vehicles that I tested that gave me even the slightest bit of trouble. Rear-facing in that same seating position using seatbelt (pic below) wasn’t a problem. Every other installation was basically a walk in the park.

FF 3rd row center - Ford Freestar  RF 3rd row center Ford Freestar

 

Installing with LATCH:

You can only use the LATCH system in your vehicle to install the NextFit if your child weighs between 5-40 lbs. If your child weighs between 40-65 lbs then you must use the seatbelt plus the top tether strap to install this seat. Also, the NextFit does NOT allow center LATCH installations with “Non-Standard Spacing” so you can only take advantage of the easy LATCH installations with SuperCinch if you are installing the NF in a dedicated LATCH seating position with standardized spacing (280 mm). The lower LATCH connectors are the premium push-on connectors made by SafeGuard. The connectors are also “non-handed” which just means that you don’t have to remove the LATCH belt from the beltpath to switch the orientation of the lower anchor connectors. You can simply slide the LATCH belt from the rear-facing beltpath to the foward-facing beltpath and your lower anchor connectors will always be facing the right direction as you attach them to the lower anchor bars in your vehicle. Just to clarify, the lower LATCH connectors have an “up” side and they need to be attached to the lower anchors facing the right direction. It should look like a stapler (with the fat side on top) clamping down on the anchor bar.

Push-on lower LATCH connector  Lower LATCH connected

 

Installation using SuperCinch is literally… a cinch! Check out our previous video on installation with SuperCinch:

 

 

Tether:

Tethering is required for all forward-facing installations when a tether anchor is available. If the vehicle does not have any top tether anchors or if the NextFit must be installed in a seating position that does not have a designated top tether anchor then it is not considered a misuse to install without tethering. However, Chicco really wants the seat to be tethered (and so do we!) regardless of whether you are installing forward-facing using the lower LATCH anchors or the seat belt. Do NOT use the tether strap when the NextFit is installed rear-facing. In that case, store the tether hook in its storage compartment on the back of the shell.

 

Installing with Seatbelt:

The openings on the sides of the shell for the beltpath are small but it’s not an issue because you access the beltpath from the access panel in the front of the seat.

Access to beltpath from front of seat

I tried numerous rear-facing and forward-facing installations using the seatbelt and ran into very few issues. The lock-offs seem to work well regardless of belt geometry and they even clamped shut over the thicker-than-average seatbelts in my Freestar minivan. Make sure you position the shoulder belt in between the little protruding “tabs” inside in the lock-off before you attempt to close the lock-off. If your seatbelt has a switchable retractor you may opt to switch it into locked mode after you lock the seatbelt inside the lock-off. It’s redundant and unnecessary (and I wouldn’t recommend doing this with a RF install because it could cause the seat to start tilting) but it’s not considered a misuse if you lock the seatbelt by switching it into ALR mode after securing the belt in the lock-off. Again, it’s just redundant and unnecessary because locking the seatbelt using the lock-off provides all the necessary pre-crash positioning.

Lock-off open  Lock-off closed

 

In general, the NextFit doesn’t take up too much room in the rear-facing position – especially if you don’t need a maximum recline angle for a newborn. Below are pictures (left to right) of RF installations in an Audi Q5, Ford Freestar and Volvo S60 R-Design.

RF NextFit in Audi Q5  RF NextFit in Ford Freestar  RF NextFit in Volvo S60 R-Design

 

The design of the shell and the headwings seems to work well with a variety of head restraints when the seat is installed forward-facing.

FF NextFit with head restraint

 

2012 Ram 1500 Crew Cab: The NextFit installed beautifully both RF and FF in the outboard positions of this vehicle. Tethering was a challenge but that was due to the funky tether routing required in this vehicle. I was able to fit the tether and the tether adjuster hardware through the loop of webbing directly behind the seating position and attach the tether hook to the tether anchor behind the center seating position (as required in this vehicle) but getting it back out proved to be a little time consuming. Definitely not something I would want to have to wrestle with on a frequent basis – but none of that is the carseat’s fault. The NextFit was incompatible with the center seating position in this vehicle because for some odd reason the rear center seat in a Ram 1500 is considerably more shallow than the outboard seats. This caused too much overhang. Chicco is very specific that no more than 3″ of the footprint of the base may hang over the edge of the vehicle seat.

FF NextFit in Ram 1500 Crew Cab  NextFit tethered in Ram 1500 Crew Cab  NextFit tether in Ram 1500 Crew Cab RF NextFit in Ram 1500

 

Speaking of pick-up trucks, it is worth mentioning that Chicco prohibits installation on vehicle seats that fold out. The backseat of the Toyota Tacoma Access Cab has this type of rear seat. It’s crazy and weird and I don’t blame Chicco from prohibiting installations on this type of vehicle seat. I’m not sure if this set-up exists in any other vehicle besides the Tacoma Access Cab.

Installation with inflatable seat belts is allowed but only if using LATCH in that seating position isn’t a option because the child is over 40 lbs. You must follow specific instructions for installation which include skipping the lock-off and locking the lap belt portion of the lap/shoulder belt according to the vehicle owner’s manual. This is good news for owners of Ford vehicles with inflatable seatbelts!

 

Fit to Child Comments:

With Infant Insert:

NextFit Infant InsertThe infant insert is recommended (but not required) for babies who weigh between 5-11 lbs. If your under-12 lbs. baby fits fine without the insert than you can skip it. In general, the smaller the baby – the more likely it is that you’re going to need the infant insert to get a proper fit with the harness straps being positioned at or slightly below the baby’s shoulders. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that the Nextfit with the infant insert provides a good harness fit on the very tiny preemie doll from Huggable Images that we use to assess whether a seat is really likely to fit a small newborn or a preemie. The minimum weight rating on the NextFit is 5 lbs. but the fact that it does fit the 4 lbs. 17″ preemie doll pretty well means that it should provide a good fit even for smaller-than-average newborns if you decide that you want to skip the infant seat and use a convertible right from the start. If you need to use the NextFit in the lowest harness height setting then you need to fold the back padding panel under to allow the headrest to lock into its lowest position. If you don’t fold it under then the cover will actually get in the way and the headrest won’t lower all the way down.

Preemie doll in Chicco NextFit  Preemie doll in Chicco NextFit

NextFit back panel cover - fully extended  NextFit back panel - cover folded up

 

20″ Newborn Doll – Without Infant Insert (fit beautifully)

20" Newborn Doll without infant insert  20" Newborn Doll - without infant insert

 

Rear-facing 3 year old:

Rear-Facing 3 year old in NextFit  Rear-facing 3 year old in NextFit

The NextFit allows any headrest position to be used when the seat is installed rear-facing as long as the harness straps are positioned at or slightly below the child’s shoulder level and there is at least 1″ of the shell of the headwings above the child’s head. The rear-facing height limits are so generous that children will almost certainly fit height-wise in the rear-facing position until they reach the max RF weight limit of 40 lbs.

 

Forward-Facing 5 year old who weighs 45 lbs and is 43″ tall. She had at least 2″ of torso growth in the harness before reaching the top harness height setting. The maximum height limit for the NextFit is 50″ tall or the seat can be outgrown by height once the child’s shoulders are above the harness slots in the highest height setting. Kids with longer-than-average torsos will always outgrow seats more quickly just because of the way they are proportioned.

FF 5 year old in NextFit

 

NextFit Advantages:

  • Deep headwings with EPS foam provide enhanced protection in side-impact crashes
  • Fits a wide range of children well – including small newborns
  • 2-position chest clip provides optimal harness strap positioning on small babies and big kids alike
  • Great seat for extended rear-facing (for kids under 40 lbs)
  • Tall top harness height setting should get a lot of kids to the point where they are big enough and mature enough to transition to a booster (roughly age 5-7)
  • Super easy installation with LATCH using SuperCinch technology
  • Premium “non-handed” push-on SafeGuard lower LATCH connectors
  • Easy to switch the lower LATCH connectors from rear-facing beltpath to forward-facing beltpath and vice versa
  • RF & FF lock-offs for seatbelt installations
  • 6 position no-rethread harness makes it easy to adjust the harness height when your child has a growth spurt
  • 9 recline positions practically guarantee a perfect recline angle in almost any vehicle without needing noodles
  • Relatively easy to tighten and loosen harness straps
  • Harness straps are thick and not prone to twisting
  • Buckle style is easy to buckle and unbuckle
  • Rear-facing recline angle range of 37-50 degrees
  • Doesn’t take up a lot of room rear-facing (especially if you don’t need the full recline for a newborn).  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.
  • Premium fabrics with extra padding for comfort
  • Cover is relatively easy to remove
  • Cover and infant insert can be machine washed in cold water (delicate cycle, mild detergent, hang to dry)
  • Smooth bottom base won’t damage vehicle upholstery
  • Instruction manual is clear and well-written with easy-to-understand diagrams

 

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

  • Heavy & bulky
  • Harness straps are not removable or replaceable
  • Harness strap covers on models made prior to October 2013 do not have velcro for easy removal if you want to take them off (*see NextFit Update here)
  • Removing the original harness strap covers is a process (*see NextFit Update here). The process isn’t that difficult but it has to be done a certain way.
  • Must switch to a seatbelt installation once child weighs more than 40 lbs (not a big deal since you have lock-offs for easy seatbelt install but not quite as easy as using SuperCinch)
  • Made in China (to be fair I should point out that so are many other good quality, high-end carseats)

 

Conclusion:

As you can see the “pros” far outweigh the few “cons” of the Chicco NextFit. And while there is no such thing as a perfect carseat, the Chicco NextFit is clearly a well-designed and well-thought-out convertible. Nothing on the NextFit seems cheap or flimsy or lacking in any way. Yes, it’s heavy and bulky but it’s clearly a good quality, high-end carseat. The premium padding is the ultimate icing on the cake, in my opinion. If you want your child to feel like he or she is sitting on a cloud – the NextFit can definitely deliver. Of course, the best advice for any carseat is to try before you buy, whenever that’s possible. If that just isn’t an option for you then keep in mind that ordering directly from Amazon will usually give you the benefit of free shipping and free returns if it doesn’t work out for some reason.

Please see Alicia’s NextFit Follow-Up Review for additional info and comments relating to daily usage, child comfort, etc. (basically, all the things I wasn’t able to cover in this review because I don’t have children small enough to use a convertible). Keep in mind that there have been updates and revisions made since the product was first released and since Alicia wrote her follow-up review. These updates were made in response to feedback that Chicco received from parents using the NextFit. Kudos to Chicco for listening to customer feedback and making changes to address specific issues.

Thank you to Chicco USA for providing the NextFit sample used in this review. No other compensation was provided and the opinions and comments are entirely my own!

For more info (and some great instructional videos) see the Chicco webpage for NextFit:  http://www.chiccousa.com/nextfit/