Reviews Archive

2016 Graco Extend2Fit Review: The “Shut Up and Take My Money” Convertible Carseat Is Here!

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Best in class legroom? A 50 lbs. rear-facing weight limit?? Superb height limits??? Under $200???? Extend2Fit is a winner!

Extend2Fit SpireWhat’s the one thing most people say when faced with an older rear-facing toddler? “What about their legs? Aren’t they uncomfortable?” Well, no, actually, but Graco has taken the bull by the horns and addressed this issue with their new Extend2Fit convertible carseat. Their engineers have designed a unique tray that slides out to accommodate growing legs as a child sits rear-facing, giving epic legroom while still maintaining legroom for the adult in the front seat. They gave it a 50 lbs. rear-facing weight limit then added 2 (count ’em!) cup holders! How do they do it and for a reasonable price point? Keep reading and see if the Extend2Fit is the seat for you and your child.

Weight and Height Limits:

  • Rear-facing 4-50 lbs. AND child’s head is 1” below gray adjustment handle
  • Forward-facing 22-65 lbs., 49″ or less, at least 1 year old*

*We recommend following the American Academy of Pediatrics minimum guidelines of rear-facing to at least age 2 before turning your child forward-facing. It’s safest to rear-face past the minimum of age 2 and with a seat that has such a high rear-facing weight limit, why not?

Extend2Fit Overview:

  • 50 lbs. rear-facing weight limit—a leader for Graco’s convertible line!
  • 4-position leg extension for rear-facing comfort: adds up to 5″ extra legroom!
  • 10-position headrest with no re-thread harness
  • Fuss Free Harness Storage pockets on both sides of seat for storing buckle tongs out of the way
  • 2 crotch strap/buckle positions
  • 6-position recline
  • Steel reinforced frame
  • InRight LATCH system
  • Two cup holders
  • Machine-washable cover
  • FAA-approved for use on aircraft
  • 10 yr lifespan before seat expires

Graco also offers an Extend2Fit 3-in-1 version at Babies R Us. That seat has all the Extend2Fit features plus the capability of being used as a belt-positioning booster seat from 30-100 lbs. Its suggested retail price is $249.

Extend2Fit SpireExtend2Fit KenzieExtend2Fit Campaign TargetExtend2Fit Gotham TargetExtend2Fit Mack TargetExtend2Fit Rosie TargetExtend2Fit Valor WM

Extend2Fit Measurements:

Harness height: 7”-18”
External widest point: 19.625”
Shell height with headrest: 27”
Shoulder width: 13.75”
Crotch strap depth: 4.5”, 6.5”
Seat depth: 12”
Seat weight: 18.4 lbs.

Installation

Installation was amazingly easy in my ’11 Acura MDX using either the vehicle seat belt or the lower LATCH strap. The LATCH strap is attached to the inside right side of the carseat with a metal bar, so it will never get tangled in the harness straps. The E2F comes out of the box set up with the LATCH strap set in the rear-facing belt path, so unless you are using it for an older child who will be forward-facing, there’s no need to move it. To move the LATCH strap, lift the cover and slide the strap up to the forward-facing belt path.

Extend2Fit LATCH move Extend2Fit LATCH install

The lower LATCH connectors on the Extend2Fit are the deluxe push-on style, called the InRight LATCH system by Graco, which easily snap onto the vehicle’s anchors and remove with the push of a button.

Rear-Facing Installation

This is a feature-rich carseat and as such, there are several things to keep in mind when setting the Extend2Fit up for rear-facing.

4 rear-facing recline settings: Infants 3 months and younger must have a recline that allows the ball in the recline angle indicator to be fully in the light blue circle, but after that age, you can make the recline as upright as your child is comfortable. The recline handle is on the very bottom of the seat and you pull on it to engage the mechanism.

4-position extension panel: If you would like additional legroom for your child’s tootsies, squeeze the handle under the front of the seat and pull the panel out to one of 4 positions. To be fair, there are really 3 extended positions, since position 1 is fully retracted. For kids over 40 lbs., any of positions 2-4 must be used (any extended position). With the extension panel fully extended, it’s the most legroom of any convertible carseat on the market.

Extend2Fit LATCH install extend Extend2Fit RF seatbelt extend

80% of the base must be on the vehicle seat: To achieve a more upright installation and allow more room for the extender to be in positions 2-4, you can move the E2F base out on the vehicle seat. However, you must maintain at least 80% of the base on the vehicle seat at all times. I don’t know about you, but I don’t walk around with a ruler in my back pocket and Graco doesn’t expect you to either: they’ve put a handy dandy sticker on the base showing you the exact amount of E2F base that needs to be on the vehicle seat for both rear- and forward-facing installs. Cool!

Extend2Fit RF overhang sticker Extend2Fit FF overhang sticker

Forward-Facing Installation

There are also some attributes to keep in mind when using the E2F forward-facing.

Use recline position 4 only for children weighing 22-40 lbs.: This is a very reclined position for forward-facing and will leave very little legroom for many kids in most vehicles. Unless your child has outgrown the carseat by height, it’s worth it to leave them rear-facing in this weight range. Kids over 40 lbs. must use recline 5 or 6.

 Extend2Fit ff recline 4 Extend2Fit FF upright

Move the crotch strap to the forward position: The crotch strap has to be all the way out when forward-facing.

No extender: Put that leg extender away. It’s for rear-facing only! No exceptions.

No harness covers: Remove the harness covers and put them in a safe place when using the E2F forward-facing. It’s as if Graco wants you to use this seat rear-facing!

As always with any forward-facing installation, don’t forget to use the top tether regardless of whether you install the Extend2Fit using the seat belt or lower LATCH strap.

For fun, I put the E2F in my dh’s Tesla Model S and it fit nicely both rear- and forward-facing. In fact, it fit better rear-facing because the back seat doesn’t have the side bolsters like my back seat does, so the Extend2Fit was able to sit further back on the vehicle seat, leaving more room for the front passenger seat. Using the E2F in its tallest position, though, won’t work in this vehicle because of the low ceiling height. Even though our back seat is stained with red softball dirt, I didn’t want to risk damaging the headliner by installing the E2F and extending the headrest to it’s uppermost position. I did get it to one position below the highest.

Extend2Fit RF Tesla Extend2Fit FF Tesla side Extend2Fit FF center Tesla

Rear-facing and forward-facing LATCH weight limit: 45 lbs.

Center LATCH installations with Non-Standard Spacing:
Graco allows LATCH installation in the center seating position if the vehicle manufacturer allows it and the LATCH anchor bars are spaced at least 11” apart.

Inflatable Seat Belts
Graco has determined that the Extend2Fit cannot be installed with inflatable seat belts found in some Ford, Lincoln, and Mercedes vehicles, and in some airplane seat belts.

Locking Clip
Like most other convertibles of its generation, the Extend2Fit does not come with a locking clip. If your seat belts do not lock at the retractor or at the latchplate, you will need to contact Graco for a locking clip.

Fit to Child

The Extend2Fit is designed to fit children from 4-65 lbs. and to fit small babies, a body support and head pillow are included. The body support must be used if the baby’s shoulders are below the bottom harness slots, and it must be removed when the E2F is turned forward-facing. The harness pads also must be removed upon forward-facing. The head pillow can be removed at any time. Though it looks puffy, the pillow actually compresses pretty easily so bigger noggins will be comfy with it too.

My 4 lbs. preemie doll did not fit well in the Extend2Fit; this is not a carseat that will work for a very small newborn. The harness was too high and there was too much space around the hips and crotch. My doll, Romeo, is about the size of an 8-9 lbs. newborn and he fits well without the body support. In the rear-facing fit section, the instruction manual specifies that the harness height must be at or below the child’s shoulders.

Extend2Fit preemie front Extend2Fit preemie side Extend2Fit Romeo closeup Extend2Fit Nora legroom Extend2Fit Emma legroom

Nora, left, is 1 and around 25 lbs. Emma, right, is 4 and about 30 lbs. You can see the abundant legroom the Extend2Fit offers both girls.

Extend2Fit Emma FF

Here’s Emma forward-facing. At age 4, she’s very safe to ride in this position.

Cover/Maintenance/Ease of Use

The cover that shipped on my seat wasn’t the easiest to remove. It was attached in 4 places with tight elastics that had me saying some not-so-nice things and since this is a family blog, there’s no need to impress you with my knowledge of sailor vocabulary (no offense to sailors intended!). Two of the elastics are attached under the extender. If you undo one of those to lift the cover to expose the rear-facing belt path, it is impossible to reattach if the extender is retracted. It is nearly impossible to reattach if the extender is extended at all. I don’t think that over time a child will work the cover up in that location getting in and out of the seat since it’s so tightly attached around the cup holders, but it is poor design.

I also don’t like elastics because they’re hard to thread through tiny holes or slits to attach to hooks and they don’t last more than a single hot season here in Las Vegas. OK, so I’m clearly not a fan of the logistical design of this cover, though I do like the look. I’m especially fond of the seafoam blue-ish Spire cover on the sample I was sent; it’s lovely, though all the E2F covers are sharp-looking. Some of the covers are mesh in the seating area and my experience with mesh is that crumbs can be ground into those little holes and never see the light of day again, so stay on top of the snacks. The cover can be washed in the washing machine on cold and air-dried.

The harness is one long length, but it has a butterfly attachment in the middle under the child’s bum area, so there’s not a possibility of one side being longer than the other. It can be cleaned like any other: dip a washcloth in water and use a drop of mild soap (Dawn, Dreft) to clean it. Be sure to wipe off that soap with the wet washcloth and let the harness thoroughly dry. Set it in full sun if it still stinks. But . . . the harness *is* replaceable, so if it’s just that nasty, buy a new one!

Graco has gone to a 1-harness-slot design on their no re-thread convertibles, which means that it will be more difficult to tighten and loosen the harness in lower “slot” positions because the headrest is pushing on it, causing friction. As your child gets older and taller, there will be less friction and it will be easier to use.

Extend2Fit without cover Extend2Fit back

FAA-Approval/Lifespan/Crash Guidelines

The Extend2Fit is FAA-approved, but you will most likely need to raise the armrests on the airplane seat to get it to fit because of the cup holders.

The Extend2Fit has a lifespan of 10 years and Graco wants you to replace it after any crash.

Advantages

  • 50 lbs. rear-facing weight limit—a leader for Graco’s convertible line!
  • 4-position leg extension for rear-facing comfort
  • 10-position headrest with no re-thread harness
  • Fuss Free Harness Storage pockets on both sides of seat for storing buckle tongs out of the way
  • 2 crotch strap/buckle positions
  • Replaceable harness
  • 6-position recline
  • Steel reinforced frame
  • Push-on LATCH system
  • Easy install in both rear-facing and forward-facing positions
  • Two cup holders
  • Machine-washable cover
  • FAA-approved for use on aircraft
  • 10 yr lifespan before seat expires

Disadvantages (In fairness, these aren’t necessarily problems but I list them here to inform potential consumers of specific Extend2Fit issues)

  • Lacks a lockoff device for installations with seat belt
  • Seat takes up more space rear-facing when the legrest panel is extended
  • Harness strap covers cannot be used when child is forward-facing
  • Recline position #4 is required when the seat is installed forward-facing for a child weighing less than 40 lbs.
  • Cover difficult to remove and reattach in front
  • Made in China

Thank you to Graco for providing the Graco Extend2Fit used for this review. No other compensation was provided. All opinions expressed are those of CarseatBlog.

 

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. THANKS FOR PARTICIPATING!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The contest will close on Friday, 4/8/16, and one winner will be chosen within 72 hours. If a winner is deemed ineligible based on shipping restrictions or other issues or does not respond to accept the prize within 7 days, a new winner will be selected.!

Aidia Pathfinder High Back Booster & Scout Backless Booster Review!

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As a mom to a 4 year old and almost 2 year old, I have spent quite a lot more time with my hands on convertible car seats than boosters, so I jumped at the chance to check out new boosters from a company near my home. Aidia, is an up and coming company that makes booster seats, and pretty darn good ones at that. They have a few different high back models and a backless booster, and for this review we’ll look at one of each category.

Aidia Pathfinder Booster Aidia Scout LBB

First up is the Aidia Pathfinder Belt Positioning Booster. It is a highback booster that not only has an adjustable headrest, but is unique in that the width of the side wings also expands as the headrest is moved. It gives bigger kids more space so they can comfortably use the Pathfinder until they transition to a backless booster or until they pass the 5 Step-Test and can safely use just the adult seat belt. The Pathfinder is just a highback booster – it cannot be used without the back.

The second seat, the Aidia Scout Backless Booster, is a narrow backless booster that can fit into tight spots, but doesn’t sacrifice quality or comfort. Both the Pathfinder and the Scout are available at Amazon and on Aidia’s website.

Aidia Pathfinder Belt Positioning Booster Specifications and Features
For children 30-100 pounds; 38-57 inches tall and top of ears must be below top of headrest when fully extended; at least 4 years old*
-7 headrest/side wing positions
-Lightweight
-8 year lifespan before expiration
*Age limit of at least 4 years is listed on the box, but it is not specifically stated in the manual
-Not one, but two(!) cupholders that are integrated into the seat and can be completely stowed when there is a space constraint. We thought these were great because they were so non-intrusive when stowed to fit 3-across in our minivan, but in a situation where you have more space, they’re available for use.
-Shoulder belt guide was designed in an S shape so it traps the buckle and doesn’t let it slip out, but it doesn’t trap extra slack in the seat belt, as can be the case with some high back boosters.

pathfinder cupholders

Pathfinder Measurements
-7 headrest positions: lowest 13.25”, tallest 18” measured from seat to the bottom of the shoulder belt guide.
-Depth:

Mifold Grab and Go Booster Review – Honey, they shrunk the booster!

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2016 mifold Grab and Go Booster Review

mifold stockFor months, the internet has been buzzing about the mifold Grab and Go booster seat, an innovative and extremely portable booster seat. CarseatBlog previewed a prototype at the ABC Kids Expo back in October, which you can read about here.

We have an actual sample now, and we’re ready to give a full review.

Specifications:

  • Weight range: 40-100 lbs.
  • Height range: 40-57 inches
  • Age: At least 4 years old
  • Vehicle head support required to the top of child’s ears

Measurements:

  • Depth: 8.25 inches
  • Internal width: 10-14 inches
  • External width: 11-14.75 inches
  • Shoulder belt guide: About 20″ of usable height

 

mifold guides 1 mifold guides 2 mifold guides 3

Folded (for storage) the mifold measures 9.5″ x 4.5″ x 2″, about the size of a clutch purse. Here’s what it looks like compared to my wallet.

mifold wallet

Fit to Child

In our preview from October we showed an adult “using” the mifold in a chair with seatbelt webbing, but obviously we were excited to try it with real kids in real vehicles!

The lower belt guides have four positions: one all the way in for storage, and three of varying widths for different sized kids. You should use the setting that is closest to, but not touching, the child’s thighs. My tiny, very skinny 7-year-old needed the middle setting.

Here’s how the mifold worked with some of our models.

Here is my 7-year-old in our 2014 Honda Civic:

mifold civic 1 mifold civic 2

Here she is in the captain’s chair of our 2010 Honda Odyssey:

2016 Diono Monterey Belt-Positioning Booster Review

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2016 Diono Monterey Belt-Positioning Booster Review

Monterey Grey

The Diono Monterey has long been a well-loved belt-positioning booster by kids and parents alike. It fits kids of a wide range of body types due to its ability to change width to accommodate growing shoulders and its adjustability to grow with the tallest child. The Monterey is a dual-mode booster, which means it can be used in either high-back or backless mode, so it has versatility built in. The cover is well-padded and soft and kids love the comfort it provides. The booster seat bottom has plenty of leg support for long-legged kiddos while the headrest provides a comfortable resting place with tons of EPS foam for heads. The Monterey is a booster that will easily last your child until they pass the 5-Step Test and can safely transition into an adult seat belt.
Editors' Pick
Because of the value you get for the size range child the Monterey will fit, we chose it for an Editors’ Pick on our Recommended Carseats List.

Weight and Height Limits:

40-120 lbs.; 38-63” tall

Monterey Overview:

  • 11 position headrest
  • Can be installed with lower LATCH connectors
  • Lined with EPS foam
  • Torso wings reinforced with aluminum
  • Torso wings adjust in width up to fit shoulders up to 20”
  • Energy absorbing AirTek™ foam provides cushioning and increased airflow for a more comfortable ride
  • 2 recline positions aids in vehicle compatibility and comfort
  • Retractable deep cup holders

Measurements:

Belt guide heights: 15 ¾”-22”
Inside shoulder width: 14”-17 3/4”
Inside hip width: 11 ¼”
Seat depth: 14”
External widest point: 19 1/8” at torso wings, 18 ¾” at armrests
Seat weight: 15.2 lbs.

The Monterey comes out of the box in 2 pieces, and it can be used backless once your child grows too tall for the back. To assemble the back securely to the base, you’ll lay the backrest face down on the ground and line the base up so the backs are facing each other. Once the hooks of the backrest are lined up to the bar on the base, rotate the base cushion toward the backrest front until it clicks.

Monterey Grey Monterey Bloom Monterey Surf

Fit to Child:

The Monterey received a 2015 IIHS Best Bet rating in highback mode only and a Check Fit rating in backless mode. It’s easy to get a customized fit for kids who may be squeezed out of other boosters.

To adjust the height, pull up on the handle on the back of the headrest to adjust the headrest height. The shoulder belt guides are on the outside of the headrest; they’re marked by red lines on the fabric of the headrest. You’ll want the shoulder belt guides to be above the shoulders so that the shoulder belt falls in the middle of the shoulder for best fit. On the back of the booster is a dial you can turn to widen or tighten the width of the torso wings. Once your child is within 1 cm (about a 1/3”) of the shoulder belt guide when the headrest is in its top setting, it’s time to take the back off and use the booster backless. If the tops of your child’s ears go over the top of the *vehicle* seat back/headrest, then it’s time for a new booster or different option. If the tops of your child’s ears go over the top of the Monterey’s headrest and there’s still a vehicle headrest behind the Monterey, the back can come off and it can be used backless.

Just because the Monterey got a Check Fit while in backless mode doesn’t mean it’s dangerous to use in that mode, it means . . . check the fit on your child. You want to look for a shoulder belt that sits in the middle of the shoulder or slightly toward the neck and a lap belt that is touching the thighs.

Bryson in Monterey Ellie in Monterey

Our models are Bryson who is 6, 52 lbs., and 46” tall, and Ellie who is 6 and about 50 lbs.

Fit to Vehicle:

The Monterey has lower LATCH connectors that can be used for installation of the booster. This is an optional feature. Why attach a booster using LATCH? It keeps it from becoming a projectile in a crash. The seat belt is what is restraining your child and we all know that once kids switch to a booster, they don’t have the time or patience to buckle their boosters in when they jump out of them, so we LATCH them in.

Monterey in MDX

The lower LATCH connectors are upside down on this booster. No, your booster isn’t defective—it was designed this way. Go with it, but be prepared that it will be hard to uninstall. That’s why the smart CPS technicians will make *you* uninstall any upside down connectors when you come to have your carseats checked ;). Here’s the great part, though: with the Monterey, you can install the lower LATCH connectors either upside down or right-side up. It doesn’t matter—I verified it with Diono and if you call them, they’ll tell you the same thing. Why doesn’t it matter in this case? See the above paragraph.

Cover/Maintenance/Ease of Use:

The cover is hand-wash in cold water and line dry. You may need a flat-head screwdriver or butter knife to pry off the plastic fasteners that hold the cover to the booster.

FAA/Lifespan/Crash:

Because belt-positioning booster seats require the use of lap/shoulder belts, the Monterey cannot be used on an airplane. That doesn’t mean you can’t take it with you on the plane, though, and tuck it into an overhead bin as you travel so your child has a safe booster to sit in at your destination.

The Monterey has a lifespan of 8 years. Diono wants you to replace it after a severe crash.

Advantages:

  • 11 position headrest
  • Can be installed with lower LATCH connectors
  • Lined with EPS foam
  • Torso wings reinforced with aluminum
  • Torso wings adjust in width up to fit shoulders up to 20”
  • 2 recline positions
  • Retractable deep cup holders

Disadvantages:

  • Fairly wide
  • Shoulder belt guides hidden by fabric
  • Requires head support from the vehicle (cannot be used in seating positions that don’t have a head restraint)

The Diono Monterey sample used in this update was provided by Diono. No other compensation was provided and all opinions are my own.