I purchased this seat about 3 months ago to rear-face Liam in my husband’s 2001 Toyota 4Runner. Liam has an insanely long torso, and has outgrown most seats rear-facing. He just turned 3 years old in July, and is 34lbs and about 39 inches tall (give or take…good luck wrangling him to get a spot on measurement).
My first impression right out of the box was that it was a very nicely built seat. Everything was very well thought out, from storage compartments to placement of the LATCH straps. Installation was a breeze, in both the sloped seat of the 4Runner and the flat seat of my 2005 Honda CR-V. Front to back space is about average; not quite as compact as the Britax seats but definitely not requiring as much space as the Radian.
The cover is very nice and has not snagged or pilled in the 3 months we have had it with almost daily usage. Liam climbs in and out of it himself and puts his shoes all over it (velcro!) without any issues. The chest clip and buckle are very easy to use and the harness adjuster is seamless and easy to tighten and loosen.
-The build. I’m a huge fan of the shape of it (granted, I’m also an Evenflo Momentum/Triumph lover) and I really dig the deep sides WITH the headwings. Shaun’s truck is older and I just appreciate the extra feeling of protection the sides give. Remember, all seats on the market are perfectly safe to use in vehicles without all the fancy schmancy safety gadgets, especially with the added protection of facing rearward, but as far as personal preferences go, it was a big perk to me on a personal/parental level.
-The harness. We have had a string of bad luck lately with seats in Shaun’s truck being difficult to tighten or tighten evenly. His truck sits very high up, and that made it more difficult for me to mess around with a stubborn harness adjuster. This seat tightens easily and evenly with one firm tug of the adjuster strap.
-The install! While we are not currently using it with a LATCH install, I did attempt it for fun (nerd alert!) in my CR-V and it is amazingly easy and simple. However, so is the seatbelt install for those of us kicking it old school! Threading the belt is very simple with no knuckle casualties. For a lap/shoulder just buckle, tighten the lap portion, close the lock off, and you’re golden! The lock-off actually gave me a “duh” moment because for some reason it looked complicated to me. I stood there and contemplated it and the manual until I realized uh, well, you just flip it open and push it closed. Maybe that’s just me and always looking for at least one catch to something seemingly easy, but trust me, it truly is.
-The fit. It is a nice deep seat that provides a decent amount of leg room. It’s not the Captain Legroom of all seats but it fits the bill for us as parents of a long gangly toddler. Liam comfortably sits with his legs slightly bent, usually crossed or propped up on the seat. He is not eating his knees by any means or forced to keep his knees bent at 90 degrees. Shoulder room is fine, and the headwings are deep enough for parents to like them but not so deep that your kid is going to freak out that they are blocking his view of the semi-truck you just passed on the freeway.
-The chest clip. The chest clip on the NextFit has two settings: one for rear facing and one for forward facing. The rear facing setting positions the two shoulder straps fairly close together and while it’s not an issue for us, in bigger kids it may be slightly annoying to them.
-Not being able to easily remove the harness to clean it.
Honestly there is very little I dislike about the seat. I do realize that some concerns have been raised over various things I haven’t already discussed, so I’m going to do my best to address them.
The harness pads seem to be a hot button issue right now. Lots of people are concerned about them digging into the child’s neck due to the harness straps being relatively close together, and also about them getting hot during the warm months. Personally we have not had a single issue with the harness pads. They are closer to Liam’s neck than any other seat we have had, but they do not dig in, rub on him, or irritate him in any way. You can see in the pictures that they sit on the inner parts of his shoulders, but do not rub his neck. We live in North Carolina, and it’s been in the 90’s and extremely humid. The car gets hot. Despite frequently riding shirtless in the car on the way home from swimming, he has not complained of hot harness pads. There have been some reports of kids complaining of the pads being too hot, and Julie Prom from Chicco has addressed this with the following statement:
“As is the case with most car manufacturers’ instructions, Chicco recommends to always cover the car seat when a vehicle is parked in the sun. This will prevent burning from the components on the car seat. This information can be found on page 14 of the NextFit User Guide, http://www.chiccousa.com/nextfit/images/NextFit%20User%20Guide.pdf.
It is important to note that vehicle interiors can get extremely hot when parked in the sun. Here is a video that Safe Kids uses to demonstrate how quickly a car heats up: http://www.safekids.org/video/simulation-rapid-and-extreme-car-heating-direct-sunlight
Here is one item that has been suggested by many safety advocates for covering car seats:
Mommy’s Helper Car Seat Sun Shade
In addition, I will forward your email to our Quality Team for review. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.”
I’ve also read questions on the quality of the fabric and whether it is a “hot” seat. Personally, I like the fabric. It is slick, somewhat like the feeling of a wetsuit. I would definitely say it is cooler than the plush fabric of many seats out there. Liam was a sweatbox in the plush Britax Boulevard he previously rocked, but seems less so in the NextFit. It also doesn’t get the same damp feeling as a cotton cover. He’s spilled many a sippy of water back there and it mostly beads up and drips off. It is very easy to spot clean, and the squirts of applesauce pouches seem to wipe off rather than get rubbed in like they do in other seats.
As far as loading goes, I don’t think it is any more difficult than any other seat with high sides. Liam is easily able to climb in and out himself, as demonstrated in the video below, and the seat sits low enough that he never received a whacking on the door frame when being lifted into the seat unless he was being particularly squirrely.
Lastly, there have been questions of the crotch strap length being adequate. As the mom of a boy, I can honestly say there have been no near misses involving the crotch strap. My child is long, and tends to slouch quite a bit yet still doesn’t have crotch strap smoosh. Granted, we use the seat rear facing so he has the recline to his advantage, but given the amount of space he has, I don’t see it being an issue forward facing either.
In summary, this seat is easy to install, use, and will last a very long time. There’s not much more you could ask for. Well, there is, but as far as reality goes, this is pretty dang good pick. I frequently get the itch to buy and try new seats but this has scratched that itch very well for the time being. And bonus? It comes in purple (aka “Gemini”). Or ‘eggplant’ if you need an alternative description when telling your husband what color seat you are buying for his truck. 🙂 It fits great in different vehicles, the manual is easy to read, the cover is easy to wipe clean, it has a decent amount of rear facing leg room, and while there have been people reporting issues with the harness pads, it seems to be very selective. And, as usual, Chicco’s amazing customer service is looking into what they can do to improve on the issue to help the small number of people who have had problems. The headrest adjusts extremely high and is an extended rear facer’s dream! The NextFit can be purchased from Amazon.com for $279.99 with free shipping and free returns if necessary.
Here are some pictures. They will be rear-facing for the sole purpose of not informing my kid it is possible to forward face in this seat- he’s a smart one! For a more thorough review and installation photos of forward facing use, refer to Kecia’s official NextFit review.