We were first introduced to the Cybex Aton Q at last year’s ABC Kids Expo where it won the JPMA Innovation Award. The Q has safety features other rear-facing only seats don’t have, as well as a sleek Euro design that makes it appealing for parents who want a top-end look. Cybex took the same easy-to-use base from the original Aton, added a load leg for energy management, and greatly redesigned the Aton carrier to make the Q a seat that competitors will look to for ideas. By adding the Q, Cybex created a tiered system of products: Gold (Aton), Silver (Aton 2), and Platinum (Aton Q), with each level adding extra safety features and allowing consumers to purchase an Aton in their price range.
Aton Q Specifications and Features
- Weight limits: 4-35 lbs.
- Height limits: 30” or less and with a min. of 1” above head
- No re-thread harness with 8 height positions from 7.5” to 12.5”
- 1 buckle slot position
- Load leg built into adjustable base
- Telescopic Linear Side-Impact Protection™ transfers crash energy to the carrier shell
- Energy-absorbing EPS foam
- Specially designed Perfect Positioner™ fabric insert stays in the carrier to help properly position small infants
- Recline positions for 2 weight ranges: 4-22 lbs. and 22-35 lbs.
- Carrier can be installed both standard-style and Euro-style without the base
- Measured Carrier weight: 11.3 lbs.
- Dimensions: 17¼” at widest part of handle, 14 7/8″ at widest part of base (just past belt path)
The Aton Q is available in 5 can’t-miss colors: Autumn Gold (reviewed here), Charcoal, Storm Cloud, Ocean, and Lollipop.
As for safety, the Q comes equipped with a couple fairly unique safety features:
Telescopic Linear Side Impact Protection
On either side of the carrier near the child’s head are two telescoping arms that come out from the seat that are designed to absorb crash force energy before it reaches your child and disperse it throughout the flexible carrier shell. Consider this Linear Side Impact Protection “active” protection since you have to “actively” engage it vs. “passive,” like EPS foam, which protects your child without you having to do anything at all (Where have you heard these terms before? That’s right! Airbags and seat belts: airbags are passive protection while seat belts are active protection since you have to put them on yourself. Darn if I’m going to teach you something yet!).
Since the L.S.P. is for side impact protection, it’s only extended on the side closest to the vehicle door. Don’t extend the L.S.P. when using the Q in the center seating position or you’ll impale whoever sits next to the seat. That can be deadly. And of course, you don’t want it whacking you in the thigh, so push it back in when it’s out of the car.
Q Base with Load Leg
The base is one of only 2 on the market now that has a load leg built-in. The benefits of load legs are vast and include greatly enhanced energy management. When the load leg is engaged, downward rotation is limited to only 30%. This means there’s less ramping up of the child into the harness in the carseat, which reduces the stress on the child’s head, neck, and spine. And that’s the entire goal of rear-facing, isn’t it? Another benefit of the greatly reduced downward rotation is that since all that energy is dispersed, there’s little left for pushing it to rebound.
Because the load leg stopped the downward rotation of the carseat into the vehicle seat cushion, the cushion doesn’t push the carseat back up (physics! Newton’s Third Law: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction).
Installation/Fit to Vehicle
Installation with Seat Belt
Installation with the vehicle seat belt is pretty easy. I believe in my first review of the original Aton I said it could be the easiest base to install. It might not still have that rank anymore thanks to rigid LATCH, but it’s still pretty darn easy. Thread the seat belt under the belt tensioning plate, remove any slack from the belt, and close the belt tensioning plate. If your seat belt is on the thicker side, it will require some force to get the belt tensioning plate closed and if you removed too much slack from the seat belt (making it too tight), the belt tensioning plate won’t want to close either. And there’s the issue that the plate doesn’t act as a lockoff so you still need to lock your seatbelt at the retractor if your vehicle has this feature.
Installation without the Base
A growing number of parents are educating themselves on how to install their carriers without the base and that’s great. Did you know that infant seats didn’t always have bases? If you’re around one of us techs long enough, you’ll hear us ask, “Can you do a Euro install with it?” So, what does that mean? Kecia explains and demonstrates it nicely in her blog, but briefly, it means taking the shoulder belt and wrapping it behind the carseat when installing without the base. It helps secure and stabilize a rear-facing carseat that can be installed in that manner. So, can you do a Euro install with the Q? Sure. It’s a fine German carseat last I checked, and it’s actually Cybex’s preferred baseless installation method. But why would you want to do a baseless install? Well, you might want to travel on a plane and not drag a heavy base along in your suitcase. Or you might want to go with a friend in her car to eat lunch. Or you might want your mom to pick up your child from daycare. Doesn’t the list grow exponentially when you know you have the option?
I had no problems achieving a Euro install in my MDX. The shell of the Aton Q is very rounded, so while it’s easy to install, the Q likes to roll like a ball under the seat belt. A few noodles or a rolled towel would hold it in position. My dh’s Tesla has much shorter seat belts in the back seat, so I can only do a traditional baseless install in that car. That’s an acceptable install as well.
Installation with LATCH
Can I just say “ditto?” Nah, guess not as that would be cheating. The lower LATCH connector strap is built right into the belt path, so all you have to do is open the belt tensioning plate and remove the connectors from their secret storage space by extending the recline foot all the way. Take the connectors out, then adjust the recline to where you need it to be for your child’s weight. The Aton Q comes with deluxe push-on lower connectors where you simply push them onto the lower anchors in your vehicle seat bight (fancy word for the crack in your seat). Like the seat belt installation, pull the tension out of the LATCH belt and close the belt tensioning plate down on top of the LATCH belt. That’s it!
Center LATCH installations with Non-Standard Spacing:
Cybex allows center LATCH installation only if the vehicle manufacturer specifically allows it.
Inflatable Seat Belts
Cybex has determined that the Aton Q cannot be installed with inflatable seat belts.
Front Vehicle Seat Interference
Cybex allows the Aton Q to touch the vehicle seat in front of it, but only if the vehicle manufacturer allows it and if the recline angle of the Q isn’t affected.
Once you’ve completed the actual installation of the base, now you’ll turn your attention to the load leg. Hopefully you’ve remembered to leave that load leg hanging down; of course, that’s not hard since its natural position is to hang down. Squeeze the adjustment handle until the leg extends and locks into place. You want the load leg to be straight to the floor and not pushing the base up off the vehicle seat. If there is some incompatibility with your vehicle or the seating position you need to use —for instance, if there’s a “waterfall” blocking the load leg from the floor or a hump that pushes it up too high—tuck the leg back under the base and install without.
This is what I wish the angle indicator looked like (angle altered from the manual to match my actual pic):
This is what the angle indicator actually looked like:
The white text on a green background is just too hard to read. Replacing the white text with black text would be better or even enlarging the font size. I don’t think we need both pounds and kilograms on each side of the indicator; I’m able to read upside down (and have even been known to read the Spanish labels when the English labels are on the opposite side of the seat).
The vehicles I used for installation included my 2011 Acura MDX, my dh’s 2013 Tesla Model S, and a 2014 Kia Rio. The only thing that really varied in installation was the recline angle and position of the front passenger seat. Due to the compact shell shape of the Q, I had 2” of space behind my normal driving position in my MDX. I did have to move the passenger seat up a bit in the Tesla, but not much.
Cybex Aton Q vs. Nuna Pipa
Chances are that if you’re looking at the Q, you’re also considering the Pipa because they’re currently the only rear-facing only seats with load legs. Both are lovely seats and if you can’t make a decision, buy one of each! Hey, I never said I wasn’t an enabler ;). My dh will gladly share with you that I have a carseat problem. Anyway. Kecia wrote a review of the Nuna Pipa, so I don’t need to go in that direction. I will, however, share some pictures and comparisons.
Despite appearances, when I measured (quad- and quintrupled checked), the Pipa is only 1/4″ longer than the Aton Q when both are on their bases on my floor. When installed in a vehicle, of course, this may change.
But look how much longer the Pipa base is than the Q base.
These pictures were taken in a 2014 Kia Rio. The driver’s seat was placed in a position where I was comfortable driving. Notice that the passenger seat is further back for the Q. From the back window, the Pipa sits up higher as well.
Fit to Child
The Aton Q comes with a built-in insert that you adjust as the baby grows. When baby’s a newborn, the headrest is adjusted to one of its lowest positions and the insert must be folded under itself in order to fit properly in the seat. This helps boost baby up to ensure his shoulders will fit properly to the harness slots. Remember that on a rear-facing carseat, harness slots must be at or below shoulders. The design of the Q is also such that as the harness positions are moved down, the interior bottom of the seat is raised up by 1″. What this does is places the baby at a more reclined laying angle inside the carrier, which helps open up a newborn’s airway. On the flip side, it can be really rough for a noob with reflux who needs to sit more upright.
Because the minimum weight limit is 4 lbs., I put my Huggable Images preemie doll in the seat with the harness adjusted to the lowest position. In this position, the insert is folded under so the doll’s shoulders are boosted to the harness slots. Because of the rounded design of the inside of the carrier, the baby will lie right up next to the buckle, eliminating the need for rolled washcloths. Fit on the preemie doll was nice, but not ideal, and the chest clip is just too big. The harness covers are on the long side for the preemie doll and need to be tucked into the cover in order for the chest clip to be placed at armpit level. The harness straps fit just above the preemie doll’s shoulders. I’m not going to sweat that fit because it is a pretty close fit and because preemie parents aren’t typically hauling their preemies all over the place in the car. Their little babes will grow into the harness very quickly and the chance of them ramping up in this carrier if the load leg is used is low. Fit is better with the harness pads in place (tucked into the cover), but I generally prefer leaving the pads off such small babies.
Fit of my larger doll, Romeo, who is about the size of an 8-9 lbs. 1 month old (or the size of my newborns, lol), was excellent. I even put my Huggable Images 16 mo. old doll in the seat, even though he’s an inch taller than the limits. With the doll, it’s a tough call because of the flat shape of his head, but his head ends up even with the top of the shell. According to the manual, he must have at least an inch of shell over his head. His feet hanging over the edge of the seat are not a safety issue.
Integrated canopy offers SPF 50+ sun protection and is larger than the canopy on the Aton and Aton 2 models.
Cover/Maintenance/Ease of Use
The Q’s cover attaches with snaps and is a tight fit for that nice, Euro look. Because of the fit, it’s not super easy to remove for cleaning, but I wouldn’t classify it as difficult either. I took my time removing it because I didn’t want to damage the EPS foam in the headrest or along the sides. The material is soft and reminds me of polyester jersey. I took the Q to a tech class and it got a bit “tech-handled,” so I washed the cover following directions: machine wash on gentle cycle with cool water, hang to dry. It cleaned beautifully and the pen marks came right out. I actually took the cover off a few times and each time it was an easier process for me and only took a couple of minutes.
Removal from Base
I’ve seen comments that some parents are daunted by the dual-step process (Cybex calls it a dual action release) of pushing 2 buttons in succession to remove the carrier from the base. Let me reassure you that this process is an easy one and even my somewhat klutzy 14 year old ds can remove the carrier quite easily. You know the saying: if he can do it . . .
The manual is well-written and offers good up-to-date child passenger safety advice. On the welcome page, the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for rear-facing to age 2 are listed in easy-to-find print, not buried in warnings or an installation section. The Safe Car Practices after the Care and Cleaning section is great!
If an extra base is needed for another car, the Q will fit on any Aton base. The Aton 2 base is identical to the Q’s base whereas the Aton base doesn’t have a load leg.
The Aton Q is FAA-approved, but only if you use the carrier. Leave that heavy ol’ base installed in the car and practice up on your carrier-only installs. Think about it: the airplane seat belt buckle would interfere with the belt tensioning plate on the base.
The Q has a 6 year lifespan. That’s pretty standard for rear-facing only seats.
After a crash, Cybex wants you to replace the Q. The load leg is attached to a metal plate within the base, which can be damaged in a crash. The EPS foam and L.S.P. can also be damaged in a crash, not to mention the plastics.
In addition to being able to attach to the Cybex Gold line Callisto and Onyx strollers, the Aton Q is compatible with a variety of strollers and uses the Maxi-Cosi adapters. In combining the Q with a stroller, you have a nifty, custom-built travel system.
Baby Jogger, City Mini
Mamas & Papas,Urbo
- Broad weight range of 4-35 lbs.
- Compact shell means it fits in small back seats
- No re-thread harness with 8 height positions
- Built-in fabric insert adjusts with harness height to position small infant up to harness slots
- Sleek Euro-style canopy that completely hides away
- Recline positions for 2 weight ranges
- Loaded with EPS foam
- Linear Side-Impact Protection™ adds another layer of crash protection to the carrier
- Carrier can be installed Euro-style without base
- Base has load leg to reduce downward rotation in a crash
- Manual is well-written
In all fairness, these aren’t necessarily problems but I list them here to inform potential consumers of specific Aton Q issues
- Price, currently $349.95 at Albee Baby and Regal Lager
- Fit on 4 lbs. preemie doll is not ideal; chest clip could be smaller
- Carrier is on the heavy side
- Angle indicator is hard to read in poor lighting conditions found in vehicles
- No lockoff for installations with seatbelt
- Made in China
The Cybex Aton Q has taken the bar for safety features on rear-facing only seats and lifted it to the clouds. Child passenger safety technicians used to drool over seats with load legs; now that we have load legs, we’re drooling over Linear Side-Impact Protection™ that channels side impact crash energy into the seat shell. The unique no re-thread harness that automatically adjusts the seat depth so that newborns lay at more of a reclined angle internally without having to adjust the base angle is something we haven’t seen before. Cybex pulled out all the stops for the Aton Q and came up with an impressive seat for parents who are willing to spend the money for it. For the improvements, the Q earns a place on our Recommended Carseats List as well.
If you’d like to see the official Aton Q website, here it is: http://cybex-online.com/us/carseats/atonq.html.
Thank you to Regal Lager for providing us with the Cybex Aton Q for our review. No other compensation was provided. All opinions expressed are those of CarseatBlog.