Booster seats are an important step after a child outgrows a harnessed seat because they aren’t big enough to fit into an adult seatbelt. A booster seat raises the child up so that the lap portion of the lap/shoulder belt falls across the bony hips, not the soft, easily injured abdomen. High back boosters, like the Chicco Strada, have headrests with shoulder belt guides to keep the shoulder belt from irritating a child’s neck and more importantly, keeps the shoulder belt on the hard bones of the shoulder. Booster seats should always be used with a lap/shoulder seat belt.
Who should use this seat?
Chicco recommends this seat for children who are about 4-10 years old, weigh 33-100 lbs., and are between 38″ and 57″ tall. The back can be removed and used for children who weigh 40-100 lbs. The versatility in having a highback booster with a removable back is that if you travel by plane, the back can be removed and you can take the base with you as a carry-on. I would never recommend a booster for a child under age 4 and really would aim for closer to age 5 or 6 as my preference.
I’m easily swayed by neat-looking covers, I’ll admit . I like the Strada’s cover and the fact that it’s not a boring gray or even worse—pink! The seat we were sent is called “Fuego” and has little “Made in Italy” tags on it. I’m burning up here. The fact that the seat has oodles of energy absorbing EPS foam everywhere? I’m on fire.
Through years of trying to find the “perfect” booster for each of my kids, I know that it’s not a matter of just buying the first one you see and plunking it in the car. First, you have to find a booster that has shoulder belt guides that will work with your shoulder belt anchors in your vehicle. Unfortunately for me, I can’t switch boosters between vehicles for my 51″, 52 lbs. dd because in my Sienna, the shoulder belt comes from directly behind her (it’s mounted on the vehicle seat) and in my dh’s Lexus, it’s mounted on the C pillar forward of the buckle (perfectly sideways and in front of her shoulder). So, for my van, I need a booster that has the belt guides on the back of the seat, just like the Chicco Strada. It’s led me to try many boosters to find one where the shoulder belt won’t get caught in the belt guide yet still has a lap belt guide that’s easy for dd to slide the belt through, plus have good head and torso protection. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find that combination in today’s boosters!
The Strada requires some assembly and comes in 2 pieces: backrest and base. Most boosters that come with removable backs require that the backs be attached, so I was prepared for that. I wasn’t prepared for the difficulty in putting the 2 pieces together. This booster is made so that when the backrest is put on the base, it’s not coming apart accidentally. There’s a lock on the base that slides out, then two spring tabs on the backrest fit into the base, and the lock is pushed back in. It’s a process, but it’s also nice to know that you can pick the booster up by the backrest and know that the base isn’t going to fall off either.
- thick EPS foam in the headrest (EPS foam is the stuff bicycle helmets are made of), in the torso wings, in the bottom of the base
- supportive headrest with ventilation holes
- width-adjustable torso wings
- entire backrest adjusts up/down to 9 height positions
- molded base
- one deep cup holder that can be placed on either side of the seat, swivels to adjust for seat angle (and cappucinos)
- deep seat for long-legged children
- shoulder belt positioner strap for use when booster is used without the backrest
The instruction manual is pretty good. There are easy to understand illustrations and it’s ordered pretty logically.
Cover and padding
There are 2 covers available for the Strada: the red and gray cover we have (Fuego) and a gray cover called Pearl. Both covers are mesh and very good for warm weather. The cover is attached to the backrest with zippers—most excellent. It was so easy to remove. To remove the cover from the base, on the other hand, you have to remove the backrest and turn the base upside down. There are dials on the bottom that you turn to an open position. The dials on my base were very stiff (or I am a wimp) and I needed pliers to get them to move. Once opened, the base comes apart and the cover can be removed. The manual says the cover can be sponged off. Haha! I did that and was left with water blotches, just like the water marks I was trying to remove. It is unrealistic to sponge off an entire carseat cover; submersion at the very least is required, especially if dealing with mesh and vomit (BTDT on a different booster).
Installation and use
Boosters are very easy to use: just plop them on the seat and buckle the child into the vehicle belt. When buckling a child into the Strada, the shoulder belt must be routed through the red open-loop design shoulder belt guide. This is easily done just by sliding the belt into the guide. The open-loop design means that the shoulder belt won’t get caught on it if the child leans forward; in the Strada, the shoulder belt will remain snug on the child. The lap belt should fit under the arm rests, snugly over the child’s thighs and hips; again the belt path is marked in red.
The back of the Strada should be adjusted so that the shoulder belt guides are slightly above the child’s shoulders. To adjust the height of the back, simply squeeze the gray handle on the back of the headrest and lift up. There are 9 height adjustments from which to choose. At the highest setting, the shoulder belt guide is about 20″. The lowest setting is about 14”. I’ll toss in some pictures comparing the Strada in a lineup with the Cybex X-Fix, Sunshine Kids Monterey, and original Britax Parkway so you can see how it fares heightwise.
The torso wings adjust in width with a dial on the back of the headrest. Turning it clockwise widens the wings; counterclockwise makes them narrower. Even though we have side curtain air bags, I do prefer my 8 year old daughter to have the safety of a highback booster with EPS foam in the headrest. A major study showed that highback boosters are beneficial in side impacts over backless boosters: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2005-09/chop-htb090905.php.
Airplane use and expiration
The Strada is not FAA-approved and cannot be used on an airplane because it doesn’t have an internal harness. The back can be removed and the base can be carried by the child as a carry-on. Some parents like to pack the backrest of some highback boosters in luggage when they travel (I’ve done it before too), but I think the Strada’s backrest is too bulky to get away with doing that. The Strada expires after 6 years from when it was manufactured. That’s a pretty short lifespan.
We’ve had the Chicco KeyFit Strada all summer now and I’ve been trying to come up with something I don’t like about the booster. Sheesh! It’s so hard! OK, OK, the cover washing thing. That’s irritating. But, a quick rinse, a roll in a towel and some drying time in the air (with 7% humidity helps too! ) simply makes it irritating. Perhaps if Chicco offered a cover in something other than mesh it wouldn’t be so bad?
The final word
I’ve been waiting for the Strada for many years, to which the Chicco rep can attest (in fact, this isn’t the child I was expecting to use the seat). I’m glad that my daughter likes the Strada and I like it too. It’s a perfect fit for our Sienna seatbelt that comes from directly behind her (hard to find boosters that fit shoulder belt anchors like this—look back at the pics to see what I mean). Plus, it’s kind of neat to have a carseat Fatto in Italia since I probably won’t set foot in Italy for many years to come. Since the Strada doesn’t have LATCH, your child will need to remember to buckle it in when she gets out or it will become a projectile in a crash. Don’t forget that booster use is very important until a child fits in the vehicle belt. Here’s Kecia’s excellent article (http://carseatblog.com/?p=3966 ) on how to do the 5-Step Test, a test to see how your child fits in the vehicle belt. My smidge-from-5-feet-tall son still needs a booster, so test your kids too!
Here’s the webpage for the Chicco KeyFit Strada – http://www.chiccousa.com/gear/car-seats/keyfit-strada-booster/keyfit-strada-pearl.aspx
The Chicco KeyFit Strada booster was supplied to CarseatBlog.com by Chicco.
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