The Recaro ProSport Combination Harness To Booster seat is the new combination seat from Recaro, essentially replacing the YoungSport.  It offers increased weight ratings over the previous model, from 20 to 90 pounds in harness mode and 30 to 120 pounds in booster mode.  It also is a little roomier overall and adds a nice, no-rethread harness height adjustment system.  It accommodates kids from 27 to 50 inches in harness mode and 37 to 59 inches tall in booster mode.  New for 2011 are “luxury” fashions, Envy and Hanna (named after its designer, Hanna Cushing).

Recaro touts its key features such as Side Impact Protection (it passes the European standards, since there is no USA standard).  In addition, there are EasyGuide, color-coded belt paths, the EasyAdjust 5-point harness system, the ErgoShell structure for comfort, a SoftTouch seat cushion insert and EPS foam throughout.  I’ll add to that list with some things I like.

As I mention in the video, Recaro uses a premium, smooth-adjusting harness system as well as LATCH components from SafeGuard/IMMI.  That’s always a plus, in my opinion.  They include an adjuster for each side of their LATCH attachments, making installations even easier.  The ProSport feels very solid all around, with no loose or flimsy parts.  It’s assembled in the USA, too.  The weight limit of 90 pounds is very generous, especially for big kids.  Most kids will outgrow it by height long before 90 pounds, but the top harness height setting is just under 18.5 inches and should get most kids past 6 years old in the harness and some well beyond that.  There are also three adjustments for crotch strap depth.  The outermost adjustment is very generous at almost 8.5″, equal to the best in this segment!  As a booster, it received a “Best Bet” rating from the IIHS, given to models that should provide a good lap and shoulder belt fit for various sized kids in a variety of vehicle types.  Also, the top tether can be used in booster mode (but not the lower LATCH attachments). So, what more can you ask for? 

Okay, there is more.  In addition to the luxury fashions already mentioned, the standard fashions, like the Blue Opal I received, are very stylish with durable fabrics that don’t appear to pill or snag.  You also have the softer ”Misty” gray suede fabric and the very plush “Midnight” black in the microfiber fabric many parents love.  The comfort is quite good with generous padding, especially when used with the SoftTouch insert (optional in either harness or booster mode).  Similarly, the harness comfort pad covers are also optional in harness mode.  The handle at the top is great for carrying such a large seat.  The LATCH system can be used until 52 pounds (see installation section below).  Finally, a recline foot is attached to the base and may be moved to a more upright or more reclined position in either mode, as desired.

What’s not to like?  Very little, really, and mostly minor nit-picks!  As with any large combination seat, it is bulky and heavy (22 lbs.).  That can be an issue for travel, though it is FAA certified for airplane use when using the 5-point harness.  As mentioned, the top harness height setting that is over 18″ is very reasonable, though it is not the highest on the market.  Similarly, the head restraint does not adjust as high in booster mode as some other options.  Parents should expect that the 90 pound harness weight limit will only be reached by kids that tend to be well above average in weight, but not in height.  Even though no harness strap rethreading is required, like many combination seats, the harness height adjustment must be done from behind.  So, the ProSport must be uninstalled to raise or lower the harness or head restraint.  The 6-year lifespan is a lower than some competitive products, especially at a price point of around $279.  And last, and probably also least, there is no cupholder.  Not a big deal, in my opinion, as most vehicles have plenty of them.  There are a couple mesh pockets for other items. 

Installation was generally not a problem in the vehicles I tried, including a 2006 Honda Odyssey, a 2010 Toyota Prius, a 2011 Chevrolet Cruze and a 2011 Toyota Highlander.  With dual adjusters on the LATCH system, it was very easily installed everywhere I tried.  In a couple cases, the LATCH adjuster had to be rotated slightly to allow it to move past a corner of the shell as I was pulling the strap.  The only real quirk is with a lap and shoulder belt installation.  I was able to get an acceptable fit in all cases, though it usually required a little more effort.  Also, the belt path for both lap and shoulder belt sections is behind the padding and looks like it could push forward a bit on the child.  The lap belt is right at the level of the small of the back so that doesn’t appear to be an issue, but I’m not sure if this is any kind of comfort concern long-term or not.  The LATCH strap has the same routing, but seems even less of a potential issue as it appears to be slightly narrower and more flexible than the seatbelt, plus it is behind a layer of the fabric cover.

There is a lot of unnecessary confusion among all the child seat manufacturers, auto manufacturers and advocates about limits of the lower anchors and tethers right now.  The ProSport is no exception.  The LATCH system can only be used until 52 pounds, unless otherwise limited to a lower weight by the vehicle owner’s manual.  According to Recaro, “The LATCH and top tether MUST be used at the same time“.   In other words, once you reach the 52 pound limit, you may continue to use the ProSport in harness mode, but only with a 3-point lap and shoulder belt installation.  The shoulder belt is routed such that it restrains the top section of the seat.  They clairfy, “If you have a top tether anchorage, it can ONLY be used for children weighing less than 52 pounds” (page 32 in the manual).  Yes, that means you must remove the top tether at 52 pounds, even though this may seem counter to safest practice.  In the case where a shoulder belt is not available, “The top tether anchorage MUST be used with your lap belt (2 point) system for children weighing less than 52 pounds“.  So, if you have only a 2-point lap belt system, the ProSport may not be used at all for children 52 pounds or higher.

Here are a few photos showing some general dimensions.  You can find more information at the Recaro website.

Overall, I like the ProSport.  In fact, we will feature it again in a followup review later this summer, so stay tuned!  I think it offers a great alternative to other combination seats on the market.  The harness limits are enough to last many kids well beyond 6 years old.  It will be the last seat many kids ever need, as they will continue to use it in booster mode once they’ve outgrown the harness.  Taller kids may not quite yet fit into the vehicle seatbelt without a booster once they have outgrown the ProSport, though this will depend a lot on the child and vehicle.  Othewise, I think most parents will be very happy with the Recaro ProSport, too!

Thank you to theidagency (and Recaro) for providing the ProSport used for this review.