2016 Nuna Rava Review
Last December, I got a look at the Nuna Rava way back when it was just a prototype that Nuna was working on. As I put my hands on it, played with the different settings and installed it in a couple different cars, I had a feeling that I was looking at something really special in the car seat world. Every feature seemed to be well thought out, carefully designed and intentionally placed. It was clear even then with the very unfinished version of the Rava that the folks at Nuna had spent a prolonged period of time looking at what parents liked and didn’t like, and importantly, how the design of a car seat could improve safety.
Weight and Height Limits
- Rear-facing: 5-50 pounds(!) and 49 inches or less
- Forward-facing: 25-65 pounds and 49 inches or less, suggested 2 years or older
- Rear-faces to 50 pounds, one of the highest limits available.
- Extension panel at foot of the seat that can be used rear-facing for increased legroom or forward-facing for thigh support
- 10 position headrest with no-rethread harness
- 5 rear-facing and 5 forward-facing recline settings
- No bubble, level indicator, or horizontal line for rear-facing recline—if it’s on one of the rear facing recline settings (and in a newborn, if the head isn’t falling forward), the recline angle is safe per Nuna
- Infant cushion for use up to 11 pounds
- All steel frame and steel-reinforced belt paths
- Two collapsable, removable cupholders
- Retractible side impact protection (SIP) pods
- Cover over adjuster release button to keep little hands from loosening harness
- Plush shoulder harness pads and hip harness pads
- Buckle holders to keep harness out of way for loading and unloading
- 2 crotch buckle positions, with longer length in outer position and easy push-and-slide adjustment
- Lowest harness height: see Fit to Child section
- Highest Harness height: 16″
- External widest point: 19″
- Total height with headrest fully extended: 25″
- Crotch buckle width: 5.5″, 7″
- Width of base: 14″
- Depth of base: 14″
When creating this seat, Nuna wanted to decrease the widespread confusion over the new(ish) lower anchor weight limits and they decided to do this by encouraging a seatbelt installation for all kids and all cars. They did this with their “simply secure installation” using “true tension doors”—one for rear-facing and one for forward-facing. The seat comes with premium push-button lower anchor attachments, but multiple label discourage their use and encourage a seat belt installation. So how does this work for the typical parent?
With the seatbelt, literally the toughest part of the installation is unsnapping and tucking the cover out of the way to expose the true tension doors (and it’s not difficult). Also, you’ll need to flip up the integrated cupholders to access the rear-facing beltpath. (The cupholders can be flipped back down once the seat is installed.)
Next, you choose the recline angle that best suits your vehicle and child (for newborns, you will want the deepest possible recline). Next, loosen the harness, raise the headrest to the top position and unsnap the seat cushion to expose the true tension door located where the child’s bottom would go (everything for rear-facing is color coded in blue and there are directions for installation on the door). Push the button to open the compartment, thread the seatbelt through the rear facing belt path and buckle the seat belt.
Now, this is where the seat is a little different than others on the market- the true tension doors are not seatbelt lock-offs, which I will explain in more detail later, so instead of just closing the True Tension Door, you must also switch the seatbelt into locked mode (by pulling the belt all the way out of the retractor, then feeding it back in) and then just pull the slack out of the belt. You don’t need to yank the belt tight or use any significant amount of force—just make sure there aren’t any major bunches in the belt. Then close the True Tension Door. Without any tugging or knees in the seat, you get an absolute rock solid installation. It really is unbelievably easy, and I cannot overstate how simple it is.
With lower anchors, you must go through all the first steps you’d go through for a seatbelt installation because the lower anchors are stored under the rear facing True Tension Door (which means you may as well just use the seatbelt). Then, you thread the lower anchors through the rear facing belt path, remove all the slack and close the true tension door. It’s not difficult, but in this case, using the lower anchors is not easier than the seat belt, which was Nuna’s plan all along. The lower anchors may be used to a child weight of 35 pounds in rear-facing mode.
The Rava is very compact when installed rear facing. With the legroom panel stowed and with the seat in the most upright rear-facing position, it is a contender as one of the most compact rear-facing seats front-to-back. It’s also relatively narrow side-to-side, especially at the base and somewhat less so at the widest point. I was easily able to put it both in a captain’s chair and in the middle jump seat of my 2015 Honda Odyssey without side overhang and without it making contact with the seat installed next to it. The manual states that “when used rear-facing for children over 40 pounds, calf support should be in the use position.” Given that the leg room can get a little cramped for bigger rear facing kids, I suspect that you’d do this somewhat intuitively even if you missed this piece of fine print.
Forward-facing seatbelt and lower anchor installation will sound very familiar because they are essentially identical to the rear facing installation steps. You need to select your recline setting, loosen the harness, raise the headrest, unsnap the fabric and expose the Forward Facing True Tension Door (everything for forward facing is color-coded in red, there are installation directions on that door). Open the door, thread the belt through the path, lock the belt, shut the door. And of course, connect the tether and remove slack. That’s it. It’s that easy.
Forward-facing lower anchor installation is just like rear-facing: Get them out of the rear-facing true tension door by following the same steps to open up the seat cushion, route the lower anchor strap through the forward-facing belt path, remove the slack, close the door, hook the top tether and remove slack. Again, it’s just not at all any easier than using the seatbelt and the lower anchors can only be used forward-facing to 40 pounds, so it just makes sense to install with the seat belt from the start.
Fit to Child
The infant insert on the Rava has a curvature to the bottom, which is very helpful for making sure that baby isn’t too upright in the seat, but it also makes it really difficult to give you an accurate measurement of the lowest harness setting. My measurements were around 9 inches. And if you’re thinking that sounds a little high for a seat rated from 5 pounds, you’re not wrong. When I asked the folks at Nuna about this, they said that it’s possible that it just won’t fit every 5-pound baby on the market. Their requirement for fit was 5 pounds AND straps at or below baby’s shoulders. I would wager that there’s probably not a 5 pound baby out there that will have a long enough torso for this seat at birth, but you never know.
Nuna was also clear that the seat has not been designed to fit a premature infant, so the poor fit on the premie huggable images doll was as expected. For the newborn, the straps are about an inch above the doll’s shoulders. When we asked Nuna about the use of a crotch roll to improve fit, they said it is not approved. Every baby will fit differently, but most newborns will probably need a different seat for the first few weeks of life, even with the sizable infant insert.
My smallest human model was my nephew, Asher, who was 7 months at the time I tried him in the Rava. He was roughly 18 pounds and 26.5 inches of adorable. With a quick squeeze of the headrest handle I was able to easily adjust the height of the headrest/harness from where I had it set for my 2 year old to where Asher needed it to be. The seat fit him easily and comfortably.
My very petite 2-year-old (23 pounds, 32.5 inches) also fits easily in the seat rear facing, though I did notice that at the most upright recline setting, he had limited legroom, which was easily fixed by extending the panel, giving him several extra inches of legroom. The harness tightens and adjusts smoothly and easily at even the lowest settings in rear facing mode.
My 4-year-old (35 pounds, 41 inches) still fit with plenty of room to grow in rear facing and with a decent amount of leg room as well. If he wouldn’t get car sick and/or drive me completely crazy whining about being forced to return to rear-facing, I would happily use this seat for him rear-facing, as he had tons of room to grow.
In forward-facing mode, the same 4-year-old has one click of harness height left, roughly about 1.5-2 inches of torso growth. He doesn’t have a particularly long torso, so this seems likely to be outgrown earlier than some other convertibles for average height kids. (Jennie’s 5-year-old, who wears a size 5 shirt, still has about an inch of room left on the harness.)
My kid absolutely loved the thigh support offered in the extendable panel, which kind of surprised me because the panel itself doesn’t seem that substantial when you look at it. He’s not a kid who is particular about car seats (he prefers one car seat because it has red on it—that’s the kind of discerning he is), but he actually got very upset when I put the Rava rear-facing for his younger brother.
Ease of Use
If you haven’t guessed by now, the Rava is extremely easy to use. Installation with the True Tension Doors is a breeze.
Reclining the seat couldn’t be easier: Just push a button and gently guide the seat into whichever position you want. There are no complicated levers or feet to deal with: Just push and go.
The cupholders just pull out and push in. It does take some strength, but that’s a good thing: You wouldn’t want your kid to accidentally nudge the cupholders in while they’re in use. Any adult should be able to handle it just fine, though.
The leg extension panel is also quite easy to pull in and tuck away, as are the side impact cushions also flip in and out without any problem.
The crotch buckle can be shortened or lengthened by merely pushing in and sliding it in or out: No rethreading of splitter plates and webbing.
Here is a quick video showing some of the features and how they’re used:
What’s the deal with the True Tension Doors?
While the True Tension Doors closely resemble other tensioning seatbelt lockoffs, unlike those other tensioners, they are NOT lock offs. When we asked the Nuna engineering team, they gave us a pretty reasonable explanation. There is no set rule for the thickness of a seatbelt and many luxury vehicles are coming out with increasingly thin belts. Their concern is that there may come a belt that is too thin to be fully locked off within the True Tension Door and they didn’t want this to compromise safety for any family. And thus, though the True Tension doors do a remarkable job of making the seatbelt installation easy and secure, you must switch the retractor to locking mode before closing the door. (Nuna recommends locking the belt prior to closing the door because it’s too easy for people to forget that step once they hear the satisfying click of the door. A fellow CarseatBlog writer might have fallen into that trap…so just lock the belt before you close the door.)
Cover removal and care
The cover is among the nicest I’ve ever laid my hands on, no exaggeration. It’s literally like a fine Italian suit. The soft goods are extremely high quality, plush, but also well ventilated. Removing the cover isn’t terribly complicated if you follow the directions to recline the seat and get it set up just so. I will say that I found it mildly complicated to re-dress the seat as the cover needs to be carefully tucked into the shell along both sides, but I do not often remove and replace my car seat covers, so it’s possible that my struggle with replacing the cover was more about my own inadequacies than anything else. I did get it back on all the way and you’d never know it had ever been removed.
The seat cover can be machine washed with gentle soap and should be left to air dry. The infant insert can also be washed by machine, but the wedge piece must be spot-cleaned only. The harness and the shell can both be hand washed with a sponge and mild soap and then towel dried.
FAA status, Lifespan, Crash Details, Other Details
The Rava is FAA approved for for use on an aircraft. The airplane lap belt should be routed OVER the true tension doors though, not under. I brought it on an airplane earlier this month and it fit beautifully forward-facing, but I made the foolish mistake of not stowing the thigh support panel and could not get it rear-facing. Since I was on a plane and panicked about getting it in, I failed to see whether it can fit rear-facing without the support panel extended.
The Rava has a 10-year lifespan and must be replaced after any crash, regardless of whether there is visible damage.
The lower anchor limit is a child-weight of 35 lbs for rear-facing and 40 lbs for forward-facing. Nuna does allow installation in a center position (borrowing anchors from either side) if the vehicle manual also allows it.
The Rava is not approved for use with inflatable seat belts (Nuna calls them “airbag belts” in the manual).
- Rear-facing up to 50 pounds
- Dual collapsing cup holders
- Side impact protection (SIP) pods on both sides of the shell
- Push button recline with 5 rear-facing recline settings and 5 forward-facing recline settings
- No bubbles or lines for rear-facing recline angle
- True Tension Doors hold the belt tight without any yanking or significant effort
- Steel frame with reinforced belt paths
- Machine-washable cover
- 10-year lifespan
- FAA approved
- 2 crotch strap positions and lengths with easy push-button adjustment
- Buckle holders on both sides of the seat
- Compact front-to-back in rear-facing mode and relatively narrow
- Push-button lower anchors (if you insist on using them)
- Harness release button cover to keep small hands from loosening the harness
- At $449.95 (Free shipping and returns at Nordstrom), the Rava is one of the more expensive convertibles on the market
- The fit for newborns isn’t great. Only very large newborns will fit at birth. The lack of a recline indicator may complicate use for newborns, especially in a few vehicles with very sloped seats that may not allow adequate recline.
- The 16″ top slot isn’t particularly high within the convertible market right now.
- The True Tension Doors are NOT lockoffs and may cause some confusion among parents who are used to not having to lock their seatbelt with similar seat belt tensioning devices.
To be fair, these issues may not matter at all to most parents. We mention them to be complete.
Overall, the Nuna Rava is a carseat dream. It has all the convenience features parents want, a very easy and extremely secure installation with the seatbelt, and first-rate quality from top to bottom. I don’t know how else to describe it other than how I did in the header for this post: The Rava really is the carseat equivalent of a fine Italian suit. I’ve never seen a carseat quite like it, and that’s a good thing. If you loved the Nuna PIPA rear-facing only infant seat, then the RAVA is a perfect sequel.
Thanks to Nuna for providing us the Rava for review! No other compensation was provided and all opinions are those of CarseatBlog.