Learning Curve’s The First Years/Lamaze True Fit C630 convertible seat has been on the market since the beginning of 2008 and they’ve just introduced the Premier line.  The new Premier C670 models have an anti-rebound bar for rear-facing use, which rotates forward from under the car seat and rests against the vehicle seat back.  This anti-rebound bar, which Learning Curve calls a “rear-facing rebound management bar,” keeps the car seat from rebounding or hitting the vehicle seat back after a crash.  It also translates into more energy absorption during the crash.  The Premier models also have a ball angle indicator just above the harness adjuster strap and a 2 position recline handle.

This is a convertible (rear-facing and forward-facing) child restraint for kids 5-65 lbs. who are less than 50″ tall.  Rear-facing the seat is rated from 5-35 lbs.  Forward-facing, it can be used for children over 1 year old who weigh between 23-65 lbs.

The True Fit Premier comes with an infant body support cushion, buckle cover, a head bolster, harness strap covers, and a cupholder.

Features and Advantages

5-point Harness to 65 pounds: Most convertible seats have maximum weight limits of 40-65 lbs.  The True Fit Premier has a forward-facing weight limit of 65 lbs.  The harness is good quality and is nontwisting.  The buckle tongues are narrow and do not fit the width of the harness; the harness folds over slightly as it passes through them.

High Rear-Facing Weight and Height Limits: Because the True Fit Premier has a tall shell and high rear-facing weight limit, it will allow the average child to rear-face for 2-3 years or more.  The True Fit shell is unique in that the upper seatback removes when the infant is under 22 lbs.  This is a nice feature when the restraint must be installed in a back seat with little room front to back since the total length of the seat becomes about 21.5″ without the headrest-short enough to allow for a 45° recline angle for a newborn.  When the infant is over 22 lbs. or his head is within 1″ of the top of the shell, the removable upper seatback is required to be used rear-facing until the 35 lbs. weight limit is reached.  Rear-facing is the safest way for kids to travel; for many years, experts have recommended rear-facing for as long as possible and one study has shown that it’s five times safer for children under age 2 to ride that way.   Even the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends rear-facing for children for as long as the convertible seat allows.

4 Harness Slots: There are four harness slot heights on the True Fit Premier.  For rear-facing, the bottom 3 slots may be used and the straps should be in the nearest slot at or below the level of the child’s shoulders.  The top 3 can be used for a forward-facing child and the straps should be in the nearest slot at or above shoulder level.   The lowest harness slot height is a little over 7 ½” with the infant pad in place and approximately 9 ¾” without the infant pad and the top slot is about 17 ⅜” when measured with the cover on.  A child will outgrow this seat by height when he exceeds the 50″ height limit OR when the top of his ears are above the back of the restraint OR when the shoulders are above the top slots.

The harness height can be easily adjusted while the True Fit Premier is installed.  Adjusting the harness height is accomplished by pulling the yellow handles on each side of the seat and sliding them up or down.  Make sure the handles are locked into one of the 4 positions.  When I was adjusting the harness height into the highest position for my daughter, I noticed that it didn’t quite make it into that highest position, even though I had loosened the harness all the way for slack.

Recline Adjustments: There are 2 recline positions for both rear- and forward-facing.  Recline is achieved by squeezing the yellow recline handle under the front of the restraint.  A new feature for the Premier line is a ball angle indicator just above the harness adjuster strap.  It plainly shows 3 zones for rear-facing: a red (X), which indicates too reclined, a light green (1), which indicates a 45° recline good for newborns and young infants, and a darker green (2), which indicates a 35° recline angle good for older infants and toddlers.  The anti-rebound bar does not help with recline angle.

Harness Adjuster and Use: To tighten the harness, pull on the harness adjuster strap on the front of the restraint. It is similar to the type found on many car seats and is somewhat stiff, requiring some muscle to tighten the harness.  I found it easier to tighten when I pulled slack up and out of the hip straps.  The buckle clicks audibly when each buckle tongue is inserted. The chest clip has a pictogram showing proper placement on the child’s chest.

LATCH: The True Fit Premier has one flexible strap to attach to the lower anchors found in newer vehicles.  There is an adjuster on one side of these strap.  The LATCH connectors are the deluxe push-on style connectors.  A small comment about the length of the strap holding the LATCH strap to the seat: it’s about an inch too short.  I felt like it was tugging on the LATCH strap when I was installing the restraint rear-facing.  There are clearly designated storage areas on the shell to store the LATCH connectors and tether strap when not in use.  The tether strap is to be used forward-facing only.  While tethering a forward-facing child restraint with a harness is always recommended, a top tether is not required for this seat.

Note: The First Years prohibits using the LATCH system for a child weighing over 48 lbs.  This is an issue with almost all child restraints that have a harness rated above 40 lbs. At some point, it will be necessary to use the seatbelt for installation. Seatbelt installations are just as safe as LATCH, providing that you can get a good, tight installation.  Consult your vehicle owner’s manual for more specific information.  Some vehicles have a lower, 40 lbs. weight limit for the lower LATCH anchors and you should conservatively defer to the lowest number in these cases.  The First Years does allow the use of LATCH in the center seating position of the back seat if it’s been designated in the vehicle owner’s manual as a LATCH position.

Crotch Strap Adjustment: There are two crotch strap positions located approximately 5 ½” and 6 ¼” from the back of the seat without the infant pad in place.  The strap is adjusted by pushing firmly down on a plastic piece and sliding it forward or back.

Padding, Comfort and Appearance: I’m in love with the cover!  The True Fit Premier cover is nicely padded along the bottom and back.  The cover on the restraint I tested is called Cranberry and the fabric has a luxurious plush feeling.  It’s dark brown on the sides, burgundy in the middle and on the infant pad, and has light tan accents.  I didn’t think I would like it when I saw the box, but it’s much nicer close-up.  The cover removes by unsnapping and removing 4 elastics.  It pulls off from the front and there’s no need to unthread harness straps!  To clean it, hand wash with cool water and mild soap.  The harness straps and chest clip are black.  The strap covers and head support pillows are entirely optional.  One thing I noticed right away is a label under the airbag warning label showing how to correctly position the harness for a rear- and forward-facing child.  Imagine my surprise when I lifted the cover to install the seat and saw labels showing simple installation instructions!  Give the person who thought of that a raise!

Infant Support Cushion: An infant body support is included with the seat and is well-padded.  The infant body support is styled in the same manner as the cover.  It’s to be used to boost a baby’s shoulders up to the bottom slots, but can be used until the child reaches 22 lbs. and in all rear-facing harness positions.

7 Year Expiration: The True Fit Premier has a 7 year expiration and the “Do Not Use Past” date is on a sticker on the inside back of the seat.  The First Years specifies in the manual not to use the seat if it is in a crash.

Airplane Certification: The True Fit Premier is FAA-approved for use in aircraft.  It also is a heavy restraint weighing in at 22 lbs., so if you do travel with it, you’ll want to use a luggage cart to avoid having to carry it.  It’s wide as well at over 19″, so it’ll fit on the airplane seat with the armrest up; don’t book a bulkhead seat.

Value: With high weight limits, safety testing and other safety features, and a price point ($269.99) that is competitive with other popular, high-end convertible seats you’ll definitely get your money’s worth with a True Fit Premier.

Construction: The True Fit Premier is solidly made, but made in China which may bother some people.  The cupholders are generous in size.  I didn’t feel like any part of the seat was flimsy or cheap.

Disadvantages

Weight: At 22 lbs., the True Fit Premier is a hefty seat and that’s something to consider if you move it from one vehicle to another often.

Installation Issues: I had trouble installing it rear-facing because of the lockoffs.  Both lockoffs must be used when installing the restraint rear-facing, using either the vehicle seat belt or the LATCH belt.  When I used each method for installing the seat, the belts slid down into lockoff arms thus preventing their closing.  If the lockoffs were turned around 180°, the problem would be solved in my vehicles.  The forward-facing lockoff was not a problem.

Cover & Fabric Care: The top harness slot openings weren’t cut wide enough on the cover so the harness folded over on itself.  It’s also hand wash, which is difficult to do and can take a long time for a highly padded cover like this has to dry.

Instruction Manual: One of my jobs is reading instruction manuals.  I’ve seen many of them.  I found the True Fit Premier instruction manual to have some typos and errors and an awkward organization.  For instance, in the rear-facing section, when telling the user to lock the lockoff, it says, “Rotate red lock to the locked position.”  That’s the first time a “red lock” is mentioned and there’s nothing red anywhere near the rear-facing lockoff.  That will be confusing for a first-timer.  Fortunately, the instructions on the underside of the cover are correct.  I believe it’s a copy/paste error since the regular True Fit convertible seat has a red rear-facing lockoff, but again, a parent isn’t going to have seats to compare.  The manual does have some excellent parts, like the Safe Practices and Safety Checklist sections, but it falls short everywhere else.

Conclusion

I’ve been playing with the True Fit Premier now for a week and have been enjoying it.  My 7 yr old 48″ 47 lbs. dd still fits with about ½” before she reaches the top slots and she said she was very comfy in the seat.  The anti-rebound bar addresses a concern that many parents have about rear-facing seats: they don’t want their kids rebounding into the vehicle seat, yet they don’t want to mess with a rear-facing tether.  With all the EPP foam lining the seat, the lockoffs to replace using a locking clip, non-twist straps, and other thoughtful features on the True Fit Premier, it’s definitely a restraint worth considering for your child.

The webpage for The First Years/Lamaze True Fit Premier - http://www.learningcurve.com/product/detail/Y11051?locale=en_US

For more information on child passenger safety, please visit:

http://www.car-seat.org

http://www.carseatsite.com