RECARO has been in the booster seat business since at least 2000, when the innovative Recaro Start was first introduced. Three of Recaro’s previous boosters – the Vivo, the ProBOOSTER, and the ProSPORT (combination seat) – were all rated “best bets” in the IIHS 2012 booster ratings. Its latest entry into the booster market, the Performance Booster, makes its debut in a few weeks.
Performance BOOSTER Specifications:
The weight rating for the Performance Booster is 30-120 lbs. It can be used by kids who are 37-62” tall. Recaro does not list a minimum age for this booster, instead stating in the manual, “A child is always safest in a child restraint system that has a 5-point harness system built in. Recaro cannot recommend what age your child has to be in order to ride in a belt-positioning booster, please refer to your state’s law, as each state is different.” Neither the Recaro website nor the manual indicated a seated shoulder height, but I measured it at 14”-21”. The side impact protection “wings” of the seat extend up quite tall – even when the headrest is in the top position, the top of the wings nearly reaches the bottom of the headrest. The Recaro site does list seat cushion measurements – at 22” wide and 18” deep, it has quite a large footprint. The seat does not taper significantly toward the back, so “puzzling” opportunities for three-across situations may be limited.
Fit to child and vehicle:
After about a week of frequent use (10+ hours of use over the week), I’ve found that the seat fits my 7-year-old daughter very well. She is 49” tall and weighs about 51 lbs. With the headrest adjusted about halfway up, the shoulder belt was placed nicely over her shoulder, away from her neck. The lap belt lay properly over the tops of her thighs, nowhere near her belly. (And the manual indicates several times that the lap belt should not be over the belly.) The deep seat provided good thigh support as well, and the deep headrest was not so deep as to be difficult to see around.
In both our 2003 Ford Focus wagon (driver side) and my dad’s 2009 Honda Odyssey (driver side) the fit was good. The seat is easy to install in both vehicles. The Performance Booster is wide and filled the captain’s seat in the Odyssey, but she had no trouble buckling. I expected her to have trouble buckling in our Focus, where the seatbelt anchorages are fairly close together, but she actually had no trouble at all. However, because the seat is so wide, it basically turned my 3-passenger back seat into a 2-passenger back seat, even when paired with a narrow convertible for our preschooler.
I have three kids who pretty much represent the entire height and weight range of the Performance Booster. It was perfect for my 7-year-old, and she will fit in it for quite some time. My nearly 4-year-old is near the bottom of the limits, at 38.5” and 32 lbs. The seat did not fit her well at all – it was too wide, and so deep that I’m sure she would slide forward to bend her legs at the edge of the seat. I would not use this seat for a child her size, regardless of age. In fact, I plan on keeping her harnessed for a while yet. My 12-year-old, on the other hand, is near the top of the limits at 58” and 115 lbs. He has always had a short torso (a car seat mom’s dream!) but even so, his shoulders were several inches above the booster’s belt guides. It’s a shame the seat doesn’t have a backless mode, though, because he said it was wide and deep enough that it probably would have fit him quite well as a backless. (Unfortunately, it can easily be taken apart at the hinge like other similar boosters that do have a backless mode, which may lead parents to improperly use it as a backless booster.)
Of course, fit can vary greatly depending on the child and the vehicle, so it’s always best to try before you buy, if possible.
Recaro’s special “CoolMesh” fabric is intended to allow air to flow through the seat to help keep the rider cool. We did not use the Performance Booster during extremely hot weather, but it did get warm and my daughter did not complain about being hot, even without the a/c turned on. The rest of the fabric feels similar to nylon – not plush at all – and comes in seven great colors. Sapphire, Plum, Redd, Vibe, Rose, Marine & Knight.
The Performance Booster includes push-button lower LATCH attachments. The LATCH webbing is not adjustable, and the manual makes it clear that the LATCH attachments are intended only to prevent a “tossed object” in the event of a crash. The LATCH attachments measure about 11.5″ long, including the webbing and connectors. The seat is definitely not snug with the LATCH connectors attached to the lower anchors. There are two handy storage pockets on the side of the seat for use when transporting the seat or using it without LATCH. One advantage of the flexible LATCH over rigid LATCH is that the connectors won’t be in the way when installing without LATCH for whatever reason. I found it a little tricky to unhook the LATCH attachments in my Focus – I needed to move the booster out of the way to reach the attachment that was farther away, but the size of the booster and the size of the backseat resulted in me bumping my head on the vehicle both times that I had to remove the booster from the car.
- Good height range to fit kids until they pass the 5-Step Test
- The side of the headrest support is labeled in increments of 1-11, which make it easier to adjust.
- High and deep side wings with tons of EPS foam for head and torso protection in side-impact crashes
- Well padded and comfortable
- Deep base provides good leg support for older kids
- LATCH attachments for securing booster
- Does NOT require support from either vehicle headrest or high seatback
- Dual integrated cupholders
- Clear, well-written manual
- Assembled in the USA
- Very wide
- No backless mode
- May not fit kids at the upper/lower ends of the height and weight limits well
- Flexible LATCH attachments can not be adjusted
- No minimum age for use
Kids’ point of view
Being 7 years old, my daughter has plenty of opinions and is more than happy to share them with me. She says that she loves the Recaro Performance Booster. The headwings aren’t so deep that she has to lean forward to see around them. The seat is well-padded and comfy under her rear end. The arm rests give her a perfect spot to lean her arms, and it’s easy to buckle. She also loves the cupholders. And don’t forget the color – purple (“Plum”) is one of her two favorite colors.
Overall, the Recaro Performance Booster is a very nice seat. My daughter and I had a hard time finding anything to dislike about it. My biggest complaint was its sheer size, but not everyone has a five-passenger vehicle for a five-person family. We’ll just switch to a narrower booster when we’re all in the car. Barring issues due to vehicle space, this seat will probably work well for most average-sized kids in the 5-10 age range.
Thank you to RECARO Child Safety for providing the Performance Booster used for this review. No other compensation was provided. All opinions expressed are those of CarseatBlog.
Note: We initially stated that the Recaro Performance BOOSTER required buckling when unoccupied even when attached with the LATCH attachments to the lower anchors in the vehicle. This was a misunderstanding on our end. That information was incorrect and the review was edited to remove the misinformation. To clarify – if the Performance BOOSTER is secured to the vehicle’s lower LATCH anchors using the LATCH connectors then you do NOT need to secure the booster with the seatbelt when it is unoccupied. We apologize for any confusion we created!