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2015 Britax Marathon CT Convertible Carseat Review

MA CT twilightClickTight isn’t a new-new technology anymore, since it was introduced on the Frontier and Pinnacle combination seats almost 2 years ago, but what *is* new is how it’s being applied to Britax’s convertible carseats. Britax has taken ClickTight and made it so that it takes seconds to install a ClickTight convertible seat. The new Britax Marathon CT is a Euro-styled, well-padded carseat designed to fit newborns to preschoolers.

Here’s a quick overview of the differences between the three new ClickTight convertibles.  All Britax CT convertibles have the ClickTight Installation System, an impact-absorbing base with 7 recline positions, rip-stitch energy-absorbing tether, HUGS harness pads, a steel reinforced frame, EPP foam, and other side-impact protection features.

 

  • Britax Marathon ClickTight – This model has a no-rethread harness and standard rubber HUGS pads. The top harness slot height and the overall height are about 2 inches shorter than the Boulevard CT and Advocate CT models.  MSRP $329.99

MA vs BV

  • Britax Boulevard ClickTight – All the features of the Marathon CT plus SafeCell HUGS pads; deeper, plastic-surrounded headwings; “Click & Safe” snug harness indicator, top harness slots and overall height 2″ taller than Marathon CT. MSRP $369.99

Britax also markets a less expensive series of smaller convertibles.  We recently reviewed the 2015 Britax Boulevard G4.1 that often sells for less than $270 at Amazon.  Its sibling, the Roundabout G4.1 can be found online for under $170, and sometimes less when on sale.

Weight and Height Limits:

  • Rear-facing 5-40 lbs. AND child’s head is 1” below top of head rest
  • Forward-facing 20-65 lbs., 49″ or less, at least 1 year old*

*Britax recommends that children ride rear-facing to the highest weight or height specified

MA CT - CowmooflageMA CT - RioMA CT - TwilightMA CT - VerveMA CT - Vibe

Marathon CT Overview:

  • ClickTight installation system (also acts as a built-in lockoff device)
  • Complete Side Impact Protection – deep protective shell
  • 12 position headrest with no-rethread harness
  • 2 crotch strap/buckle positions
  • 2 position buckle with EZ-Buckle System to keep buckle to the front and forward of the child when loading
  • Steel reinforced frame
  • SafeCell impact-absorbing base – these cells compress in a crash, which lowers the center of gravity of the child and reduces forward head excursion
  • Energy-absorbing, rip-stitch Versa-Tether®
  • 7 recline positions to help achieve a proper recline angle in any vehicle
  • Smooth bottom base with grippy edges that won’t damage vehicle upholstery
  • FAA-approved for use on aircraft
  • 10 yr lifespan makes it a good value; sells for under $280 at Amazon
  • Made in the USA!

Marathon CT Measurements

Harness slots: 7 ½”-17 ½”
External widest point: 17 ½”
Shell height with headrest: 27”
Shoulder width: 14”
Crotch strap depth: 5”, 7”
Seat depth: 12”
Seat weight: 28 lbs.

Installation

No lockoffs! What? I am celebrating no lockoffs from the brand that introduced lockoffs to the American public?  Yep. It actually has the ultimate seat belt lockoff in the ClickTight panel, which closes down on top of seat belt, locking it. The panel unlocks by pushing the dimple at the top of the CT dial and turning it clockwise.

Recline: There are 7 recline positions for rear-facing and as long as you stay within the proper zone for either your rear-facer or forward-facer, you’re golden. I wish there were one more for my 2011 MDX, but I could have used a noodle to get there. I don’t have a steep back seat, but I was 1 recline position away from being where I think a newborn should be. The Marathon can be adjusted as upright as you want for rear-facing, which is fantastic for those older kids who don’t sleep, and it gives front seat passengers more legroom. For forward-facing, the MA provides a nice recline as long as you stay within the indicator’s forward-facing zone AND the base isn’t pushed more than 3” off the vehicle seat. This recline is nice for kids who have special needs or if you’ll be traveling on a long trip overnight, but it really cuts down on the child’s legroom if you put it at the most reclined. Leg injuries are quite common in forward-facing children because their legs get smashed into the front seat in a crash, so put the seat as upright as possible for your child.

Marathon CT ff seat belt reclined 2 Marathon CT ff seat belt upright

Seat Belt: Installation with the seat belt is easy peasy. Probably the most difficult part for me was threading the seat belt through the slots and into the belt path because the cover has so much padding that it impeded the belt going in. So I had to wiggle the belt a bit—it’s better than my hand not fitting in the belt path, getting permanent scars from scratches and skin scraped off my hand, fighting with lockoffs that don’t want to stay closed, and so on, that I’ve dealt with on other seats. Simply pull the slack out of the lap belt, make sure the seat belts are laying flat, and close the ClickTight panel. If the MA moves more than 1 inch, remove more slack from the seat belt. If it takes you more than a minute to do this process, there’s something wrong. But I’ll cut you some slack if it’s the first time you’re installing the seat 😉 .

Marathon CT rf Marathon CT rf seat belt open CT panel

Marathon CT ff Marathon CT ff seat belt CT panel open

LATCH: Britax almost scoffs at LATCH with the CT system, especially in these convertibles. Gone are the deluxe push-on style lower connectors with which Britax has spoiled us and in their place are standard clip-on style connectors, just like what’s found on the end of the tether strap. Huh. They’ve done this for 2 reasons: 1. to save storage space and weight on the seat, and 2. to discourage the use of the lower connectors. With the new LATCH regulations that have gone into effect, lower anchor weight limits have been drastically lowered on some carseats (heavy ones, like Britax seats) and since it’s so incredibly easy to install the CT carseats using the seat belt, it makes sense to discourage the use of the lower LATCH connectors. Of course, there are always times where you might want to use those connectors—when you install it in a van where the seat belt would stretch across the pathway to the back row—is one instance that immediately comes to mind. The lower LATCH connectors are stored tidily in a small compartment on the back of the base.

Marathon CT LATCH storage

But does the switch to the clip-on style LATCH connectors make installation with LATCH difficult? Heck no! Many of us have experience with the clip-on style lower connectors because they came on our rear-facing only infant seats, so it’s not new technology. Just clip on, making sure to always put the LATCH belt through the child’s left side of the seat, pull the slack out of the belt, and close the ClickTight panel, just like when utilizing a seat belt install. The only thing to watch out for is the weight limit.

Rear-facing LATCH weight limit: 35 lbs.
Forward-facing LATCH weight limit: 40 lbs.

Center LATCH installations with Non-Standard Spacing:

Britax only allows lower LATCH connector installation of their ClickTight convertible models in the center seating position when the vehicle manufacturer has designated it as a LATCH location.

Inflatable Seat Belts

Britax has determined that the Marathon ClickTight cannot be installed with inflatable seat belts found in some Ford, Lincoln, and Mercedes vehicles, and in some airplane seat belts.

Marathon CT rf LATCH Marathon CT rf LATCH open CT panel

 

Marathon CT ff LATCH Marathon CT ff LATCH CT panel open

Tether*

The tether on the ClickTight models has been shortened significantly. If you’ve had a Britax convertible or combination seat before, you know that the tethers on these seats have been so long as to be able to fit in the car behind you—in fact, people have run over the excess tether webbing that accidentally fell out a door. I found the new MA tether to be just long enough for me to tether rear-facing in my 2011 Acura MDX and have a little left over. I had plenty of tether length for tethering forward-facing to my seat backs.

Because it has been shortened so much, Britax offers tether extenders in case you need them in your vehicle. When you call customer service, 1-888-427-4829, with your date of manufacture and model number, you will be asked if you want a rear-facing extender or forward-facing extender. The rear-facing extender is 3” shorter than the forward-facing extender—16 ½” vs. 19 ½”. If you’d like information about tethering rear-facing*, we’ve got a blog written all about how to do it.

The most popular style of rear-facing tethering is Swedish style and Britax includes a tether connector strap for creating a tether point to set this up*. We can’t really call this a D-ring anymore because this strap is all webbing now; there’s no more D-ring attached to one end. To be honest, I nearly threw the thing across the street in frustration trying to attach the tether hook to it until I followed Jennie’s advice (from her Boulevard CT review) of folding the loop into thirds and then clipping the hook on. Worked like a charm—thanks, Jennie!

UPDATE: Britax changed their stance in 2015 and rear-facing tethering is no longer an option with their new convertible carseats. Now an anti-rebound bar is available as an accessory (sold directly from Britax) which serves the same purpose and function as a RF tether.

Britax Blvd CT RF tether connector strap Britax Blvd CT RF tether connector strapMarathon CT rf tether connector strap Marathon CT rf tether

Britax Boulevard CT with ARB - lifestyle

Fit to Child

The Marathon CT comes with an infant insert, which puts the lowest harness position at about 7.5”. Fit to Romeo, my 20” newborn doll was good and made even better by taking off the standard rubber HUGS pads, which are optional rear-facing, but mandatory forward-facing. Because the back of the MA is entirely closed, threading the harness ends back through to the metal splitter plate after removing the HUGS may seem tricky, but it really wasn’t. There’s a metal tube visible through the harness slots in the front that the harness is fed over from the front. A different tube is visible from the small opening on the back of the seat. Simply feed the harness over both tubes; the harness will come out the back of the seat to grab and you’re ready to reattach it to the splitter plate.

Marathon CT Romeo with HUGS Marathon CT Romeo without HUGS Marathon CT harness tube

The infant insert, called the “comfort pillow” in the manual, is nicely designed to fit under the tuck in the back pad when it’s in the lowest position. There are no weight or height limits on its use, but I would remove it as soon as the child no longer needs it for a boost to the bottom harness slots. A very common sight we see at checkup events is kids crammed into carseats that are seemingly too small because they still have infant inserts in them. Once the inserts are removed, the children are much more comfortable and have more room to grow in their carseats.

Older children will find the MA very comfy too. My models, ages 4 and 5, loved the seat and said it was very padded. Despite not having the extra height that the Boulevard CT and Advocate CT have, my 5 year old model sat comfortably rear-facing in the MA for about 15 minutes while waiting for me.

Quinn is 4 and weighs 44 lbs.
Addie is 4 and weighs 43 lbs.
Ava is 5 and weighs 38 lbs.

Marathon CT Quinn Marathon CT Addie

Marathon CT Ava rf Marathon CT Ava sleeping

Cover/Maintenance/Ease of Use

The buckle strap is 3” long. Britax has historically preferred a low lap geometry on their convertibles, so that’s not unusual. But what is unusual is just how short this buckle strap is. With Romeo using the infant insert, it was very difficult to unbuckle him because of the low angle at which the buckle was. Put a real kid in the seat and that rear buckle slot practically becomes unusable because of, well, the uncomfortable situation for the caregiver, if you know what I mean. Here’s a picture comparing the new buckle to the old buckle I pulled off a Pavilion 70 G3.

Marathon CT buckle comparison txt

The cover is in 4 pieces so you can pick and choose which part to wash, and is easy to remove and put back on. There are relatively few elastics to hold it on and the hard part is remembering to tuck it in all the way around, though a couple of the elastics that hold the front edge piece on are tricky to get attached. There’s no need to remove the harness (yay!) to take off the back portion for cleaning. Most important to remember is to tuck in the side cover where the CT panel locking mechanism can catch. There are red tabs and even warnings on the panel itself about tucking in the cover.

Marathon CT cover tab-2

Instructions for cleaning the cover are to hand wash with mild soap and water and to line dry. The cover is very padded and I suggest rolling it tightly in an absorbent towel to get the extra wet out before hanging to dry.

Also different is where to find the date of manufacture (DOM) and model number sticker. Britax has long had the sticker on the top outside of the shell next to the child’s left ear, but it’s moved to the front of the CT panel, under the cover. You’ll want to know where this is because if you contact Britax with a question, they’ll ask you the DOM and model number.

Marathon CT DOM label

 

FAA-Approval/Lifespan/Crash Guidelines

The Marathon CT is FAA-approved; however, because of the unique belt path and the different seat belts airplanes use, installation is altered. For rear-facing, keep the ClickTight panel closed and run the airplane seat belt over the top of the cover in the rear-facing belt path. Pull tight. For forward-facing, keep the ClickTight panel closed and run the airplane seat belt under the cover (pull the seat pad back forward) before placing the seat belt in the forward-facing belt path and tightening. Think about it: this keeps the bulky latchplate from being directly on your child’s back.

The Marathon CT has a lifespan of 10 years and Britax follows NHTSA’s crash guidelines of replacing after a major crash only.

ClickTight Troubleshooting

I thought I’d include a troubleshooting section specific to ClickTight carseats. Because they’re different than the average carseat in installation, different situations may pop up that leave you scratching your head.

Stuck CT panel: There’s probably too much tension on the seat belt/LATCH belt or the cover didn’t get tucked in behind the red tabs.

  • Unbuckle the seat belt, then turn the CT dial.
  • Try pressing down on the CT panel as you turn the CT dial.
  • Don’t install the seat so tightly. Hopefully you’ve read this *before* installing your CT carseat! You can feel the tension on the seat belt/LATCH belt as you’re closing the CT panel and if it feels like you’re going to have to use your weight to get it closed, the belt is too tight. Loosen up a bit.
  • Try to gently press the cover down on the sides as you lift the CT panel up, then tuck cover in behind red tabs. You’ll probably need 3 hands for this.

Harness different lengths: There can be multiple reasons for this problem.

  • The harness is attached to the CT panel in its shortened length on one side and its long length on the other side. Take the harness off one anchor and match it to the other side.
  • The harness got caught in the CT panel on installation. Open the CT panel, and while making sure the harness is out of the way, close it again.
  • The harness is loosened all the way and somehow twisted behind the seat. Raise the headrest all the up and pull the harness tight. Then slowly lower the headrest back into position, pulling the harness tight as you lower the headrest.

Advantages

  • Better than average height and weight limits for rear-facing: even though the MA’s height doesn’t match the Boulevard CT or Advocate CT, it is still tall enough to get children rear-facing all the way to the 40 lbs. limit without outgrowing the seat by height first
  • Super easy seat belt installation with ClickTight System
  • ClickTight also acts as a built-in lockoff device so you don’t need to understand the pre-crash locking features of your vehicle seatbelt
  • No re-thread harness makes it easy to adjust the harness height when your child has a growth spurt or when you need the seat for another kid
  • Harness straps are thick and not prone to twisting
  • EZ-Buckle System keeps belly pad and buckle out of the way when loading child in the seat
  • IMMI buckle is easy to buckle and unbuckle
  • Rip-stitch tether, HUGS pads, and impact-absorbing technology in base all work together to absorb energy in a crash
  • Harness straps are replaceable, if necessary
  • HUGS pads may be removed when the child is rear-facing (but they are required for forward-facing)
  • Ability to tether in the rear-facing position*
  • Range of rear-facing recline angles allowed
  • Doesn’t take up a lot of room rear-facing if installed more upright for an older baby or toddler. 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.
  • Easy to remove cover
  • Premium fabrics and extra padding for comfort
  • Made in the USA!

Disadvantages

  • Lack of EPP foam lining sides of seat
  • Limited rear-facing leg room for older children near the upper limits of the seat
  • Short buckle strap that can be uncomfortable
  • Newborn recline angle may be difficult to achieve in some vehicles without a pool noodle

Conclusion

Despite being 2” shorter in usable height than the Boulevard CT and Advocate CT models, two models that we include on our Recommended Carseats list, the Britax Marathon CT shouldn’t be discounted in the winning lineup Britax has with the ClickTight technology. It’s a great option for children who aren’t in the 90th percentile for height or for parents who aren’t interested in rear-facing until their children reach grade school. The ClickTight panel makes installation a breeze; as long as you thread the belt through the correct belt path, the carseat practically installs itself. Britax didn’t miss any marks on quality in build, fit, or finish. Does the ClickTight system live up to the Game Changer hype promised when it was released last fall? Yah-huh, you betcha!

* Editor’s Update: Rear-facing tethering no longer permitted for ClickTight covertibles made on or after January 28, 2015.

You know you want one now. You know you do. I’m such a tease ;). I guess you’ll just have to stick around a bit longer to see what we have up our sleeves next week . . .

 

Thank you to Britax for providing the Marathon ClickTight used for this review. No other compensation was provided. All opinions expressed are those of CarseatBlog.