2016 mifold Grab and Go Booster Review
For months, the internet has been buzzing about the mifold Grab and Go booster seat, an innovative and extremely portable booster seat. CarseatBlog previewed a prototype at the ABC Kids Expo back in October, which you can read about here.
We have an actual sample now, and we’re ready to give a full review.
- Weight range: 40-100 lbs.
- Height range: 40-57 inches
- Age: At least 4 years old
- Vehicle head support required to the top of child’s ears
- Depth: 8.25 inches
- Internal width: 10-14 inches
- External width: 11-14.75 inches
- Shoulder belt guide: About 20″ of usable height
Folded (for storage) the mifold measures 9.5″ x 4.5″ x 2″, about the size of a clutch purse. Here’s what it looks like compared to my wallet.
Fit to Child
In our preview from October we showed an adult “using” the mifold in a chair with seatbelt webbing, but obviously we were excited to try it with real kids in real vehicles!
The lower belt guides have four positions: one all the way in for storage, and three of varying widths for different sized kids. You should use the setting that is closest to, but not touching, the child’s thighs. My tiny, very skinny 7-year-old needed the middle setting.
Here’s how the mifold worked with some of our models.
Here is my 7-year-old in our 2014 Honda Civic:
Here she is in the captain’s chair of our 2010 Honda Odyssey:
And here she is in the third row outboard in our Odyssey:
In all three seating positions, the lap and shoulder belt fit her well.
Here is our 10-year-old friend in the 2014 Civic:
The fit on her is also good.
Here are an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old in a 2002 Ford Windstar. (It should be noted that ideally 4-year-olds would still be in harnessed seats. These photos were taken for the purpose of seeing how the booster worked with a wide range of kids.)
The belt fit is good on them, too.
However, some people have run into issues with the way the mifold positions the seatbelt on their children. These are some photos from participants on our forums at car-seat.org:
Ideal positioning of the lap belt is low on the hips, touching the thighs. In all three of the pictures above, it appears that the lap belt may be positioned too low. While we do feel uncomfortable about the way the lower guides seem to position the lap belt in those photos, we also recognize that mifold is unique in how it adapts the adult seatbelt to fit children. Ultimately, we will reserve our final judgement on the lap belt fit until the official IIHS Booster Fit Rating for mifold is released in the Fall. (Thanks to car-seat.org members Lemonade, Suzibeck, and griffinej5 for sharing their photos.)
As is the case with all boosters (especially backless boosters), it’s important to check how the seatbelt fits the child when using the product. Seating contours and seatbelt geometry can impact the fit of any booster and mifold is no exception.
Fit to Car
Because it’s so little, the mifold won’t have much issue physically fitting in almost any seating location, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t incompatibilities. For example, the mifold appeared incompatible with the third row center of the 2010 Odyssey due to the way the seatbelt has to attach from the ceiling. The extra “mini-buckle” interfered with the mifold’s belt guides and prevented me from pulling it taut. That’s unfortunate, because it’s hard to find anything that will work in that narrow seating position.
Because the mifold sits so low, it might work in seating positions with low seatbacks/no headrests. Children always need head support when using a backless booster, but sometimes the booster winds up boosting them above where the head support ends. The mifold might keep kids low enough that they’ll still have that head support, although that will depend entirely on the particular vehicle and particular child.
Probably because most seatbelts are situated fairly far back, and the mifold’s belt guides are so low and so far forward, the seatbelt tends to route weirdly between the mifold’s guide and the buckle, at least in my experience. I didn’t have a problem removing extra slack, so that’s good, but it’s something to be aware of.
The mifold is supposed to sit on the bottom of the vehicle seat, with the back of the booster resting at the seat bight (where the back and bottom of the vehicle seat come together). I wondered how that would work in vehicles with a slanted bight, but luckily the mifold manual addresses that. In vehicles with a sloping bight, you place the back of the mifold at the top of the slant. Because the seat folds, this allows the front half of the mifold to sit flat on the vehicle seat.
Ease of Use
Lap Belt Guides
The mifold is definitely portable and easy to set up. There are two buttons at the front of the seat that need to be pulled out in order to extend the lower belt guides (this can be done one at a time). That’s very simple to do. However, the buttons do not need to be pressed in order to push the guides back in. In a way that’s convenient as it allows for quick storage. On the other hand, it’s very easy for the guides to be accidentally pushed back in, either while a child is climbing in or while they’re trying to buckle. It seems even more likely if there is another person/car seat next to the mifold, or with contoured vehicle seats with an “edge” the belt guide could bump against.
Unlike most other booster seats, only the lap belt goes through the lower belt guides. The lower belt guides are designed in a way that allows a child to slide the lap portion of the seatbelt inside with very little effort, yet the belt holds in position well. Initially my 7-year-old had a bit of trouble getting the seatbelt out of the guides, but that’s because she kept pulling it straight ahead. Once I showed her how to push the belt down and then forward, it was no problem at all.
Here’s video of my daughter buckling herself in:
Shoulder Belt Guide
Also unlike most booster seats, the shoulder belt guide is required on the mifold. The shoulder belt guide adjusts up and down in a unique way: To lengthen or shorten it, you open a plastic lock, pull on the webbing to make it longer or shorter, then close the lock to hold it in place. This adjustment took a bit of effort, but that’s better than it being too easy since you don’t want the webbing to accidentally adjust itself. If you plan on using the mifold in a hurry (like getting into a cab on a busy street), or if your child will be using the mifold on his/her own in a friend’s car, you might want to have the shoulder belt guide pre-adjusted to your child’s torso height.
Also note that there are labels sewn onto the shoulder guide webbing but you are NOT supposed to have those parts of the webbing inside the guide. The label-free zone indicates the allowable range for positioning the shoulder belt. By my measurements, the webbing starts to enter the guide at 19.5 inches and that puts the opening of the shoulder belt guide at 21 inches max. Because the manual says the Shoulder Belt Slot should be at least an inch over the child’s shoulder, this results in a usable height of about 20 inches.
The part that holds the shoulder belt snaps closed to help keep it in place. My daughter had some trouble opening and closing it, although she probably would have improved with practice. If kids will be using this on their own, I strongly recommend having them practice using the shoulder belt guide ahead of time.
The kids I tested did have some trouble climbing into the seat because it’s so little that it wouldn’t stay still. It actually took my daughter longer to get her bottom situated in the mifold than in any other seat we’ve used because it kept sliding around. It wasn’t a terrible inconvenience, but keep in mind that kids might need a few extra seconds and/or someone to help hold the seat in place and guide them in. You also need to make sure the seat is nice and straight once they’re situated.
Comfort was one of my main concerns with this seat. With so little padding and no leg support, would kids actually like sitting in the mifold?
I had my daughter use the mifold during several trips over the course of a few days. At first she commented (though didn’t complain) that she couldn’t see out of the car very well, but that was the only remotely negative thing she had to say about it. I repeatedly asked her what she thought of the seat, and she always said that she loved it. She insisted she was very comfortable and wasn’t happy when I put her back in her everyday seat.
Her legs did stick out more than they do in a regular booster, but she didn’t complain about that at all, nor did I see her slouching. I did need to move the passenger seat forward a tad to give her feet more room.
FAA APPROVAL/INFLATABLE SEATBELT POLICY/CRASH REPLACEMENT/EXPIRATION
Mifold is NOT approved for airline use (nor is any other belt-positioning booster seat). Mifold is also NOT approved for use with inflatable seatbelts found in certain Ford, Lincoln or Mercedes vehicles. Mifold must be replaced after any crash if it was occupied at the time of the collision, and it has a 7-year lifespan from the date of manufacture.
- Extremely lightweight and portable for travel, carrying in a backpack, leaving in a car console, storing in a locker, etc.
- Very narrow so could work in tight spots where other traditional seats might not fit
- Less “booster-looking,” so might appeal to older kids who balk at the idea of using a “baby seat”
- Lower belt guides are easy to thread
- Shoulder belt guide locks in place to prevent detaching from the belt
(In all fairness, these aren’t necessarily problems but I list them here to inform potential consumers of specific mifold issues)
- Belt fit on children may vary considerably
- Shoulder belt guide can be difficult to adjust and use
- May not be compatible with center seating positions that have a “mini-buckle” because of a detachable seatbelt
- Small size can make it hard for kids to get situated
There’s a lot to love about the mifold, but it’s important to recognize its possible limitations, too. It is easily one of the most portable seats out there, which makes it perfect for vacations or for toting to school for an after-school outing. When you consider how many children ride without a traditional booster seat on some occasions simply because it’s not convenient, you start to realize how important it is to have safe, legitimate products that are small and lightweight to fill this niche. As with traditional booster seats, individual seating positions can impact how the mifold positions the seatbelt on children of different sizes. If you know ahead of time what vehicle your child will be riding in, it should be fairly easy to assess how he or she fits. All in all, mifold is an innovative new product that redefines what we thought a booster seat needed to do to protect a child using the adult seatbelt.
The mifold Grab and Go Booster is available for $49 through the mifold website.
Thank you to mifold for providing a sample for our review. CarseatBlog was not compensated for this post, and all opinions are our own.