IMG_2245Continuing with their consistently Duggar-esque nomenclature, Magna Clek recently welcomed it’s newest–and largest–baby yet, Oobr.  Baby Oobr follows on the footsteps of older siblings Oto (now discontinued), Olli, and Ozzi.  Clek boosters have thus far been famous for four things: rigid LATCH attachments, Paul Frank fashions, hefty price tags, and being the cutest little things to come out of Canada since Avril Lavigne.  But after hype extending back to 2008, does the full-sized sibling really measure up?

First thing I did was visit the gals down at Baby’s World to pick up my brand new Paul Frank Skurvy version of the Oobr.  I already had my Parkway SG patiently waiting at home, and have been using the Sunshine Kids Monterey for my 6 year old since Christmas.  I walked out of the store $319.99+tax lighter–uhh Nadia, I think I owe you $30.  MSRP is $319.99 CDN for the regular version of the Oobr, but you’ll pay $30 more for the two Paul Frank colour options.  Y’all down south will pay $274.99 for regular fashions and $299.99 for Paul Frank options at online retailers such as KidsNCribs (sponsor of CarseatBlog),  elitecarseats.com and Amazon.com.  I’ll do the math for you–that’s $287 and $313 in Canadian dollars, so despite Magna being a Canadian company the pricetags in Canada are still more than 10% higher.

Lugging the Oobr out to the parking lot with my husband, 6 year old, and 4.5 year old in tow, we unpacked the seat from it’s box.  I’ve got to give the folks at Magna credit where credit is due–this was by far the best packing job I’ve seen on a carseat to date.  Finally, I had the Oobr sitting on one of the captains chairs in my Odyssey, trying to find the LATCH adjuster release…located in about the same place as it is on the Monterey, I had the seat installed within 10 seconds.  Threading the seatbelt, however, took well over a minute and resulted in some minor damage to the belt webbing when it snagged in the guide.  I was later disappointed that a seatbelt so difficult to get in was actually quite easy to remove as I’d rather see easy in-difficult out after some of that Transport Canada footage last month.  After adjusting the headrest up so the guides were just above my son’s shoulders, off we went.

IMG_2253The best way I can think to see how the Oobr compares to other seats on the market was to put them side-by-side on the floor of my shack with the other two half-decent contenders currently available here in Canada: the Britax Parkway SG, and the Sunshine Kids Monterey.  Fortunately, my carseat collection/obsession has yet to result in divorce.  Yet.

Let’s talk about shell height first.  Mason, my helpful 12 year old assistant of both above average torso height and weight, sat in all three seats.  His shoulders were a good inch below the beltguides on the Oobr in it’s topmost position but at 120lbs he exceeds the maximum weight limit of the seat by 20lbs.  Despite testing Mason out in the Monterey exactly 12 months ago and having room to spare, his shoulders are now squished between the bottom portion of the beltguides on our contender #2.  Number 3, the Parkway SG, is only slightly taller than the Oobr and fits Mason just fine.  Just a side note here–Mason has passed the 5-step test in even the largest of vehicle seating positions for well over a year now so that extra height might’ve been overkill.

The width of each of the seats was also suitable for my 12 year old (who has a little extra chub as compared to his friends) although the Monterey width adjustment allows a more suitable fit for my significantly smaller 6 year old.  The Oobr differs from our other contenders in that it has a more squared off rump-area versus the tapers of the Parkway SG and Monterey.  Although I don’t have a pre-teen girl, I suspect this might provide a little more comfort in the “boot-tay” department.

IMG_2252The seat depths are difficult to compare, as the three all went with a completely different design.  The Monterey offers the most contouring up at the sides, with the Parkway offering a slight incline and the Oobr being quite flat to the sides.  The armrests on the Monterey also have the greatest up-turn and seem more practical as belt guides versus armrests for your child.  The Parkway SG armrests extend somewhat, but also look questionably functional as armrests.  The Oobr, by contrast, has armrests that function both as an armrest and as lapbelt guides seemingly without any obvious compromises.

If your kid has a giant noggin, you’ll be pleased with the side bolsters on each of the headrests.  If your little one doesn’t resemble an alien you’ll probably be most impressed with the closer quarters of the headwings on both the Monterey and the Oobr.  The Oobr, however, has the beltguides so integrated into that head portion that you’ll find yourself adjusting the headrest portion upwards to avoid shoulder/headwing contact.  My son shrugged his shoulders a few times, and did mention that the way the beltguides are submerged into the wings it doesn’t allow for any additional distance between the wing and his shoulders.  The Monterey has the least recessed shoulder belt guides of the three, allowing a comfortable distance between the shoulders and the seat.  But it also lacks a little height, by comparison.

IMG_2250The fabrics on the three seats are all quite different.  Magna advertises that their Oobr fabrics will “resist moisture, stains and bacteria” but I have to admit that I really don’t want to test it out in that regard.  Especially the bacteria part.  The Monterey, which my 6 year old son has in the cute pink/grey combination, has a soft suede-like fabric that does tend to get a bit grungy and is far more difficult to wipe down as compared to our Onyx Parkway SG.  But damn, that Paul Frank Skurvy skull on the Oobr backrest is adorable.

So far we’ve got our three contenders running towards the finish line, neck-in-neck-in-neck.  So, I’m saving my best observation for last, especially because so many of us have a little voice nagging at us over this one.  To LATCH or not to LATCH.  The lightweight Parkway SG doesn’t have any method by which to connect the seat to your vehicle.  This means that in a crash, it could go flying–unless you’ve taken that extra step to ensure it’s buckled in even when unoccupied.  The Monterey has a webbing-based LATCH belt that, even when fully tight, seems to allow for a bit of movement away from the seatback when installed.  And excuse my Canadian here, but it’s an absolute bitch to get those tether-hook like LATCH clips off of the anchors deep in the seat bight of my Odyssey’s centre row.  It took me a full 10 minutes once;  And I’m a tech…in two countries.  Finally–the LATCH on the new Oobr.  If you have an Oto, Olli or Ozzi, you’re familiar with these rigid LATCH attachments.  In fact, a few infant seats over the years have also had these same rigid LATCH attachments.  Now, considering the Oobr is quite the beast to lug around I do have to say that I’m pleased there won’t be that additional weight loading up against my child in a crash…but on the skirt tails of Transport Canada’s testing, I do have concerts about the rigid LATCH attachments having an impact on how the seatbelt performs and how weight is distributed in a crash.  It seems logical that having a booster seat firmly connected to the vehicle, without any give, will provide the greatest protection–but is this REALLY the case?  There’s only one way to know–and that’s for Magna to put MY money where THEIR mouth is, and release us some solid data on how their rigid LATCH performs in a crash.  All the bells and whistles in the world don’t mean a damn thing if the seat isn’t at least as safe as our other contenders, and I hope to God that the skull on my son’s new seat isn’t foreshadowing anything.

IMG_2251So Michael@Clek, if you’re listening–put my $319.99 where your mouth is.

So now you’re wondering what the heck to buy for junior’s 6th birthday?  I haven’t drawn any conclusions here, have I?  That’s because until we have more information about the actual performance of these seats, you’ll still need to pick the seat that best fits your child, fits your vehicle, and fits your budget.