Let me preface this review by saying “Finally, something that Consumer Reports and I can agree on!” In case you missed it – they recently rated the KeyFit and KeyFit 30 as the two best overall infant carseats among the models they tested. Now, if you follow this blog, you’ll understand how unusual it is for me to completely agree with Consumer Reports on anything related to child restraints. However, the KeyFit is a well-thought-out, well-designed and well-constructed infant carseat and CR was right to load heaps of praise upon it.
The KeyFit and KeyFit 30 are infant carseats from Chicco (pronounced KEEK-koh). The original KeyFit model (aka the KeyFit 22) is generally only sold with the Chicco Cortina stroller as a “travel system” while the newer KeyFit 30 model is usually sold separately but can be paired with any compatible Chicco stroller (Cortina, Cortina Together Double, Trevi, or S3 All-Terrain) to create a travel system, if desired. The brand new Chicco KeyFit Caddy is a great option if you want a snap-n-go type product that has many of the same great qualities found in a full-featured stroller.
The original KeyFit is rated for babies from 4 to 22 pounds and 30” or less in height. The newer KeyFit 30 model is rated for babies from 4-30 lbs and 30” or less in height. Both seats are the same size and shape – the only differences at this point are the maximum weight limit, cover options and a small price differential. With either model, you should discontinue usage once the child reaches either the weight limit OR the 30” height limit OR if the top of the child’s head is less than 1” from the top of the restraint. Current models of both the KeyFit and KeyFit 30 utilize the same base. These bases have a sticker on the side indicating that they can be used with either the 22 lb or 30 lb models. If you happen to own an older, original KeyFit model, you cannot use that base (meant only for the 22 lb model) with a newer KeyFit 30 carrier. The original bases are NOT compatible with the newer KeyFit 30 seats.
The model I have is the KeyFit 30 in the “Romantic” pattern. This demo model is strictly for training purposes and was provided by Chicco for use in our local Child Passenger Safety Technician certification courses. The fabric is 100% polyester in a nice, neutral black/gray color scheme. It’s not a soft fabric like a cotton or plush microfiber but it does seem like it would be fairly resistant to frequent spit-up. This particular model comes with a seasonal boot cover, which is easy to snap on and off. It also comes with a newborn insert, a head support insert and harness strap covers. The KeyFit 30 retails for around $179.
The newborn insert that comes with both the KeyFit and KeyFit 30 models is used for babies who weigh between 4-11 lbs. The insert provides additional support, as well as a secure harness fit for smaller infants. It should be removed once the baby weighs more than 11 lbs. In the near future, KeyFit manuals will allow the newborn insert to be used beyond 11 lbs (as long as the harness is still in the bottom harness slots), however this change will NOT be retroactive. If your KeyFit manual states to discontinue usage of the insert after 11 lbs – you should comply with those instructions. It’s worth mentioning that the head support cushion can still be used, if desired, even when the newborn [body] support cushion has been removed. The head support pillow may be used until the child needs to use the top harness slots. The velcro attachments that secure the head support to the shell of the seat must be threaded through the unused harness slots above the ones currently being used for the child. Therefore, once the child needs to use the top slots for the harness – there’s no safe place to attach that head pillow anymore.
Harness slot heights with newborn insert (approximate): 7”, 9”, 11”
Harness slot heights without newborn insert: 8”, 10”, 12”
The combination of the bottom harness slots and the newborn insert help the KeyFit and KeyFit 30 models to fit newborns of all sizes and even small premature babies very well. On the opposite end of the spectrum – the KF30 model can accommodate many babies up until their 1st birthday, or even beyond that – although obviously there are no guarantees. My youngest son (now 5 years old) would have exceeded the 30” height limit by 9 months old but he was way above average in both weight and height as a baby.
“Key” Features of both KeyFit models:
- 5-point harness with nice straps that aren’t prone to twisting
- Energy absorbing EPS foam
- Small, unobtrusive chest clip
- Standard metal buckle (nothing funky or difficult to use)
- Premium “push on” lower LATCH connectors
- Unique, single strap, one-pull LATCH strap adjuster
- Built-in lockoff for lap/shoulder seatbelt installations
- Smooth-bottom base won’t damage vehicle leather or upholstery
- FAA-approved for airplane use
- Can be installed without the base
- 6 year “lifespan” from date of manufacture
The KeyFit and KeyFit 30 models have all the important bases covered when it comes to features. In addition to everything mentioned above, these seats also have the following comfort & convenience features:
- Handle can be left up while in the vehicle
- Well-padded, machine washable covers (cold water, delicate cycle, mild detergent – hang to dry)
- Easy to attach and detach carrier from base and from compatible Chicco strollers
- Super-smooth harness adjuster makes it easy to tighten and loosen harness straps
- Easy to rethread harness straps to different height positions
- Extended canopy visor
- Cold weather boot (on certain models)
The KeyFit instruction manual is clear and well-written with plenty of good diagrams. The manual is English on one side & Spanish on the other. As long as you read and follow the instruction manual carefully – the KeyFit and KeyFit 30 models are generally VERY easy to install properly regardless of whether you are using your vehicle’s lower LATCH anchors or the seatbelt. FYI – use only one method of attachment. Do not install the carseat with both LATCH & seatbelt. Use of lower LATCH anchors in the center seating position with non-standard spacing between the bars (more or less than 280 mm) is prohibited.
The base has a spring-loaded “foot” that adjusts to several different heights in order to achieve an appropriate recline angle in wide variety of vehicle seating positions. Adjust the foot on the base until the bubble in the level is positioned somewhere between the black lines with the base installed tightly.
If using the vehicle’s lap/shoulder seatbelt, thread the shoulder belt portion of the belt through one of the lock-offs on the base. It’s optional, but if the vehicle’s lap/shoulder seatbelt has a switchable retractor, you may switch the seatbelt into locked mode after sliding the shoulder belt through the lock-off.
If using a lap-only seatbelt to install – do NOT use the built-in lockoff device.
If installing the carrier directly (without the base), use the red line on the sticker label to guide you in achieving an appropriate recline angle. Use a tightly rolled towel, if necessary, to help achieve or maintain the appropriate recline angle. Make sure seatbelt is locked (see vehicle owners manual for details).
The handle can be in any locked position when the seat is in the vehicle. If it’s more convenient to just leave it up, then leave it up. If you’d rather put it down – that’s fine too.
Chicco prohibits the use of most additional add-on products not made specifically by them for this carseat. Items such as Bundle-Me type covers, additional head-support cushions, toys that hang from the handle, Mighty-Tite seatbelt tighteners, etc., are all currently prohibited. It isn’t just Chicco, almost all carseat manufacturers prohibit using these types of products with their seats (for many good reasons that I won’t go into right now) but unfortunately that doesn’t deter parents from using this stuff. To their credit, Chicco recently began to approve specific after-market accessories in an attempt to steer parents towards some sensible products that are unlikely to have a negative impact on crash performance. The FAQ section of the Chicco website has all the details.
These aren’t necessarily problems, but I list them here to inform potential consumers of specific KeyFit issues.
It’s made in China. Then again, almost all other infant carseats are too. Realistically, if it were manufactured in the USA or in Europe it would probably cost a lot more than it does. Despite its geographic origin, the quality of the construction and components are high grade. Nothing about the KeyFit seems cheap, flimsy or lacking.
Carrier weighs 9.6 lbs with the infant insert and head support (according to my digital bathroom scale). Some might consider this on the heavy side but it’s comparable to other well-made, popular infant carseats. Truthfully, all infant carseats are heavy to lug around when you have a 15+ lb baby inside it. Spare your back, arms and thighs by using a stroller or invest in a good sling/baby carrier and leave the carseat in the vehicle.
Also, since I’m on the subject – please remember that babies shouldn’t spend too much time in their infant carseats. With the rising popularity of the carseat/stroller “travel system” it seems that more and more infants are practically living in their infant carseats. Consider: all the time spent in the car, plus all the time spent in the stroller (when using the carseat instead of the stroller seat), plus all the time spent napping on the living room floor, etc. No one is suggesting that you shouldn’t let baby finish his/her nap in the carseat but try to make a concerted effort to limit the amount of time that baby spends in the carseat each day. As an alternative, consider using a sling or other type of baby carrier or just leave the carseat in the car and use a stroller with an appropriate recline.
The canopy is not as big as some other carseat models but the extended visor on the KeyFit 30 model does help.
Removing the cover can be a little cumbersome. The main issue in the removal process is getting the fabric out from under the plastic adjuster cover. What worked best for me was to pull the bottom portion of the cover loose and then start at the top of the adjuster cover and work the fabric free from that point down. When putting the cover back on – start by sliding the openings in the cover over the seatbelt guides on the shell (where you would thread the seatbelt if you were installing without the base), first. Then work the fabric back under the plastic adjuster – again starting at the top and working your way down. It takes a little bit of work but isn’t too complicated (although I was having flashbacks to the old FPSE convertible – LOL). The rest of the removal/replacement process is simple if you follow the instructions in the manual.
Finally, an important disclaimer: If this is your first carseat, it may spoil you and make other future carseats seem difficult and annoying to use by comparison. Consider yourself warned!