The Graco SnugRide 30 Classic Connect is a fairly recent addition to the Graco infant carseat line.  Graco still sells the original SnugRide Classic Connect (22 lbs. max) and the SnugRide 35 Classic Connect as well as their newest offerings of SnugRide 35 Click Connect, SnugRide 35 LX Click Connect and SnugRide 40 Click Connect. All of these models are listed on the Graco Children’s Products website.  That may be a bit intimidating for parents.  Are the 35 or 40 models naturally the best because they have the highest number?  Not necessarily!  They all vary a bit in features and price as well.  The number refers to the maximum weight limit of the infant seat. “Classic Connect” carseat models attach to older Graco Strollers to create a travel system. “Click Connect” carseat models will only attach to Graco’s newest Click Connect strollers.

 

The SnugRide 30 has a couple advantages over the other models.  With a 4 pound minimum weight limit and no stated minimum height requirement, it should fit small newborns and premature infants a bit better than Graco infant seat models that have 5 lb. weight minimum ratings.  It also has a relatively narrow design and squarish base that could help it fit next to other carseats a bit better in some cases.  The SnugRide 30 is rated from 4 to 30 pounds in weight and up to 30″ in height.  Like other Graco infant seats, it is also outgrown by height when the baby’s head is within 1 inch of the top of the plastic shell of the carrier.

Unless you are having multiples, you don’t always know to expect a small birth weight newborn.  That can be a problem in some cases, because while most infant seats fit most full term newborns well, only a few the tiniest babies in an acceptable manner.  Does the SnugRide 30 make the cut?  Read on to find out!

The original Graco SnugRide is perhaps one of the best-selling infant carseats ever.  While it doesn’t necessarily stand out in any one specific area, it does tend to fit a lot of babies and vehicles pretty well.  Graco’s SnugRide 32/35 expanded their infant seat products to fit much bigger babies for a longer time and combined that with a great base that had a very nice lockoff system for seatbelt installations.  Of course, bigger isn’t always better!  The SnugRide 32/35 takes up more room in cars, both in terms of legroom and in width, too.  Plus, if baby arrived a bit earlier than expected, that Snugride 32/35 you received from your registry may not fit the baby very well!

Enter the SnugRide 30.  We’re going to try something new and split this up into a “He Said, She Said” type of review, as Kecia got her hands on a Snugride 30 right after Graco generously provided CarseatBlog with a review sample.  So, Kecia is going to cover the fit to baby, while Darren covers fit to vehicle and some pros and cons.  We both finish with some final thoughts.

First, a few basic measurements.  The lowest harness slot is just under 7″ tall, depending how you measure.  Additional harness strap slots are at 8.5″, 10.5″ and 12.5″, as you can see in the photo (below, left).  Two crotch strap slots are provided at 2.5″ and 5.5″ (photo below, center).  In addition, the harness waist and shoulder straps have additional loops on the webbing that allow further adjustment.  Care must be taken to stow away the tail of the hip straps on the shortest setting such that they do not interfere with the connection of the carrier to the base.  The same is true of the excess LATCH strap when installing the base.  Overall, the SnugRide 30 is relatively narrow, inside and out.  Taller toddlers may have little room to the sides of their head before they outgrow the seat, though perhaps this is beneficial from a side impact point of view.  You can see the shape of the energy absorbing foam in the photo (below, right).

Enough with measurements, let’s start with baby!

Kecia Says:

Out of the box, the harness straps are routed in the 2nd to lowest slots with the splitter plate attached to what I always refer to as ”the newborn loops” (pic right) which reduce the harness length and make it easier to get a snug harness fit on a newborn.  The hip straps, which are also length-adjustable for the same reason (similar to the set-up on the SnugRide32/35), are set in the middle position with the excess webbing tucked into a slot in the shell.

For Low Birth Weight Infants (who weigh at least 4 lbs.) the instruction manual states on page 24: “For Low Birth Weight Infants, shoulder straps should be in the lowest set of harness slots ….. “.  No mention is made of the “at or below” rule for harness height in this section.  However, in at least two other places in the manual - it clearly states to use the harness straps that “are even with or just below the child’s shoulders.”  Nowhere in the manual does it state what you should do if your baby’s shoulders are below the 7″ bottom harness slots.  We asked our Graco contacts for clarification and they stated that ”even with or just below” must always be followed.  Therefore, it is our opinion that this infant seat just isn’t going to work for the smallest preemies or small term infants.  We were hoping that Graco would be willing to allow the lowest harness slots to be above the newborn’s shoulders since this seat otherwise provides a decent fit on the Huggable Images preemie doll which is 4 lbs. and 17″ long.  But they don’t, so it’s kind of a moot point.

For the preemie doll pictured below, I adjusted the waist straps to the smallest position, moved the crotch strap to the inner position and routed the harness through the lowest slots attaching the splitter plate to the newborn loops.  I was careful to make sure I routed the harness straps under the plastic bars in the back of the shell (as shown in the first pic above).  When I put the doll in the seat, the crotch strap was really too long and there was a big gap in this area.  Ideally, there should be a way to shorten the crotch strap.  The chest clip was as far down as it would go – touching the top of the buckle.  The harness slots were considerably higher than the preemie doll’s shoulder level which is not ideal even if it was allowed.  However, for the record, the harness was sufficiently snug on the little doll and I was not able to pinch any slack near the collar bone area (the correct way to determine if the straps are snug enough to contain and protect baby in a crash).  The head support insert on this particular model fit the tiny head of the preemie doll quite nicely and since there is no padding at all in the portion of the insert that goes behind the head, it didn’t push the doll’s head forward at all.  I also liked the plush fabric on the sides of the insert.  That was a nice touch!

Honestly, if I was expecting to have a small or pre-term baby (i.e., multiples or a history of pre-term and/or small babies) this seat would not be first on my list.  However, if you already own the seat and you happen to have a small or pre-term baby who weighs at least 4 lbs. at discharge but does not meet the lowest harness strap slot height requirement, you can always make a “parental decision” to use it anyway.  I don’t believe you’d be putting your baby in any grave danger if you used it for a few weeks with shoulders below the bottom slots.  Let me be clear, as a CPS Technician-Instructor I can’t recommend using the CR against manufacturer’s instructions but as a Mom I know how fast little ones grow and I’d probably be okay with using this seat *for my own child* even if he/she didn’t quite reach the bottom slots at birth.  A rolled up wash cloth tucked behind the crotch strap will help to fill the gap in that area and prevent a tiny baby from slumping down in the seat.

Next, I tried my large newborn doll which is 20″ long and roughly the size of an 8-9 lb. baby.  This doll’s size reminds me of how both of my boys looked as newborns.  DS1 was 8 lbs., 8 oz and 20 1/2″.  DS2 was 9 lbs., 8 oz and 21 1/2″.  If you want to know why I stopped after two kids – that’s the reason!  Anyhow, I used the same harness strap set-up as I had used on the preemie doll but I moved the crotch strap to the outer position.  With the exception of the crotch strap position, the smallest harness settings fit the larger newborn doll perfectly!  The harness straps were just “at” the doll’s shoulder level in the bottom slots and there was still plenty of extra harness webbing to loosen the straps and get the doll in and out easily. Graco really should consider shipping the seat in its smallest harness configurations.

The infant head support (which worked so nicely with the preemie doll) seemed too tiny for the bigger head of the larger newborn doll.  Granted, a hard plastic doll head is nothing like a real newborn’s head (Thank God!) but for what it’s worth, I did have to cram the bigger newborn doll’s head into the insert.  The good news is that it’s not required and you can remove it if you don’t need it or if it doesn’t fit your child’s head.

After seeing how the larger newborn doll fit in the smallest settings, I was curious to see how the harness would fit in the out-of-the-box settings.  This is what it looked like without the head cushion insert:

Finally, I had and still have some reservations about how narrow the SnugRide 30 is at the top.  It narrows significantly at the top of the shell because extra EPS foam has been added in that area.  This means that bigger, older babies are going to have significantly less head room than a newborn would have in the seat.  I’m not sure why Graco designed the seat like this but I would expect that it has to do with enhancing side-impact protection (SIP) for bigger, taller babies.  While I’m all for improving and increasing SIP, I do think this design is going to create some complaints for Graco.  Both of my boys had huge noggins and I struggle to imagine what they would have looked like in this seat once they were tall enough to have their head in that reduced space.  I raised the doll up just to try to show the amount of room up top compared with the doll’s head.  I think this might be the first infant seat that could be outgrown by head circumference before weight or height!

Kecia’s additional, random SnugRide 30 comments:

When the hip straps are let out fully, the stitched areas are exposed.  The back side of the webbing in this area is rough and while I don’t think it will cause any issues if baby’s skin is covered in this area, it could potentially cause some discomfort if it contacts baby’s skin directly.

 

Darren’s Comments, Fit to Vehicle:

As I mentioned in the video, I found no particular installation issues.  One minor complaint is that sometimes once you installed the base securely, especially with LATCH, the far end would tilt up a bit off the vehicle seat slightly.  The weight of the carrier, once clicked into the base, resolved the issue.  The lack of a built-in lockoff on the included base is a minor drawback, but it still installed well both with LATCH or the seatbelt in a variety of vehicles, including a 2011 Acura TSX, 2011 Chevrolet Volt, 2011 Chevrolet Cruze (below, left), 2011 Toyota Highlander, 2011 Toyota Prius and 2011 Honda Odyssey (below, center).  In the Odyssey, the narrow base means it fits nicely on the 2nd row center seat, without overlapping onto the adjacent captain’s chair.  The nice, narrow base and belt path is also part of the reason seatbelt installations still tend to work well without a lockoff.  Of course, getting the carrier into the base in the center of a 3-across is a bit more difficult, even though it can puzzle there in a compact car like the Chevrolet Cruze (below, right).  The LATCH system is very basic, providing only simple hooks and a single tilt-release adjuster.

As I mentioned in the video, you can also use the SnugRide 30 carrier with an accessory Snugride 35 base, if you intend to purchase one for a second vehicle or if you already happen to have one.

A few other comments: Like the other Graco infant seats, there are five positions for the handle.  The handle may be left in the upright carrying position while in the vehicle.  Operation of the handle and harness system are relatively smooth and easy.  The base includes three recline positions by virtue of a foot that can be lowered and retracted.  There is also an angle indication on one side of the base and a level line on the carrier for when the base is not used.  The manual is relatively clear with good illustrations.  The Snug Ride 30 is made in China.

Darren’s Pros and Cons:

Pros:

  • Fits smaller newborns better than other Graco infant seats that have 5 lb minimum weight ratings
  • Narrower base and carrier may puzzle better than other Graco infant seats
  • Relatively light weight carrier (about 7.5 pounds)
  • Compatible with Graco Snugride 35 base
  • Nice infant head insert and comfortable padding
  • Compatible with most Graco strollers

Cons:

  • Does not fit very low birthweight preemies as well as competitive models
  • Base lacks seatbelt lockoff system and premium LATCH components
  • Relatively narrow carrier won’t fit toddlers as well as the Snugride 35
  • Canopy is not particularly big or smooth in operation

Final Thoughts:

With the original SnugRide, the SnugRide 30 and the SnugRide 35, Graco has a variety of infant seats to appeal to almost everyone.  The SnugRide 30 was intended to fit smaller newborns better than the other Graco infant seat models and it does accomplish that, although there is room for improvement.  Graco’s internal research indicates that it fits the majority of low birthweight babies down to its minimum rating of 4-pounds.  We note that it doesn’t fit the smallest preemies as well as other infant seat models that we’ve recommended for that purpose, specifically when tested with the Huggable Images preemie doll that is supposed to be typical of a 4-pound low birthweight newborn.  Even for average full-term newborns it may be necessary to move the harness straps down to the lowest harness slots to satisfy the necessary “at or below” requirements.  Beyond that, it’s a very nice infant seat that should work well for most baby registries!  While the base isn’t as fully featured as other models, it may fit where others won’t.  It is also compatible with the Snugride 35 base that you can purchase separately for a second vehicle.  The Graco SnugRide 30 Classic Connect retails for around $119.99 or less at Amazon.com.

Thank you to Graco Baby for providing one of the samples used in this review.  No compensation or content were provided by Graco or any other entity for this review.

  • Carseat Swap

    Have Questions?  Ask at the Car-Seat.Org Forums

    Buy/Sell Used Carseats

  • RSS IIHS News

  • Blogroll

  • Other Websites