Reviews Archive

2016 Kia Sorento Video+Photo Review: Kids, Carseats and Safety


2016 Kia Sorento SUV Review

2016KiaSorentoThe all-new 2016 Kia Sorento is a great option for families who want a slightly smaller vehicle with a third row of seating.  It’s bigger and safer than the previous Sorento.  That gives it a big advantage over compact SUVs, and it’s more maneuverable with better handling than the larger midsize models.  Perhaps best of all, it gets top crash test results.  That means a “Good” score in every rating from the IIHS and a “5-star” rating in all 5 crash test results from the NHTSA.  It earns an impressive 5-star overall NHTSA rating AND a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS*.  The 2016 model would have qualified as a Top Safety Pick+ on Limited models with the Technology package under previous year’s IIHS requirements, but their new ratings require a front crash prevention system with “advanced” performance to qualify for the “Plus” award.  The optional system on the Sorento Limited only earns a “basic” performance rating.


*Correction: Sorento Limited w/ Tech package does NOT earn a Top Safety Pick+ award

As for carseats, there are a couple quick takeaways.

Graco Contender 65 Convertible Carseat Review: Contend with This

Graco Contender 65 Review


Contender PiedmontThe Graco Contender has been on the market now for a while and has proved to be a solid, easy-to-use convertible worthy of a look by parents considering that next-step carseat. It has great rear-facing capabilities, turns into a forward-facing carseat that will take most kids to booster age, easily installs, and has that ubiquitous cup holder. The Contender’s lower price point than its cousins, the Size4Me/My Size/Head Wise (aka “Clones”) puts it in that desirable position of being nice enough to be a main carseat yet inexpensive enough to be a backup seat.

Weight and Height Limits:

  • Rear-facing 5-40 lbs. AND child’s head is 1” below red adjustment handle
  • Forward-facing 20-65 lbs. (2016 models have a ff min. of 22 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.

Contender Overview:

  • 8-position headrest with no re-thread harness
  • 2 crotch strap/buckle positions
  • Color-coded recline flip-foot takes guesswork out of reclining carseat
  • FAA approved for use on aircraft
  • 7 yr lifespan before seat expires

Jane Montecarlo R1 Booster Review – European Luxury Returns


Jane Montecarlo - with logoJané is by no means a new name in car seats – based in Barcelona, they have offered high-quality infant seats, convertibles, and booster seats in Europe for years. In fact, CarseatBlog named the Jané Indy Plus (manufactured 2006-2009) one of the best child restraints of the decade in 2010, noting that it was the first highback booster available on “this side of the pond” to offer rigid LATCH attachments. After exiting the US car seat market for several years, Jané is back with their luxurious Montecarlo R1 booster!

The Montecarlo R1 is a highback belt-positioning booster seat. It does not convert to a backless booster. MSRP is $190. Current fashions include “Klein” (Black/Gray), “Yale” (Blue/Gray) & “Flame” (Burgundy/Gray).

Montecarlo Specs & Features

  • For children 30-100 lbs.; up to 57” tall; at least 1.5 years old up to about 12 years old and “who are capable of sitting upright alone” (Our rep at Jané USA says these guideline will be updated with next year’s model.)
  • 5 height positions
  • Two-position reclining seatback
  • Rigid LATCH attachments
  • LATCH funnel guides for recessed lower anchor bars
  • Ventilation channels
  • Adjustable headrest/backrest “wings”
  • Three-position adjustable armrests
  • 7 year lifespan before expiration


  side tall with cover


Rigid LATCH attachments – The Montecarlo R1 has rigid lower anchor connectors which is a unique and highly desirable feature although it does add weight and cost to the product. Let’s face it, most kids getting out of the car do not remember to buckle in their unoccupied booster – with rigid lower anchor attachments, there’s no need to do that. Plus, the added stability of a metal-to-metal connection to the vehicle may provide additional benefits during certain types of crashes.

Lil Fan High-Back 2-in-1 Booster Review – Child Passenger Safety for the FANatical


Lil Fan - YankeesWe know the Lil Fan High-Back Booster Seats will be a big hit with die-hard fans all across the country – moms, dads and kids alike. Both high-back and backless versions of the booster seats are available in fashions featuring about 75 college and Major League Baseball teams. So whether you’re a fan of the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, or some other team, you’re likely to find a seat for your little fan. (Fans of other leagues and teams should watch for new fashions to come out in the future.)

Personally, I’d have a hard time choosing between the Michigan State University (my alma mater) and University of Michigan (where I’ve worked for years) seats. But mostly I’m just glad that Kecia, Darren and Heather didn’t get funny and send me an Ohio State seat.

The Lil Fan Booster is a dual mode product. That means that it can be used as a highback booster until the back portion is outgrown, then you can continue to use the bottom portion as a backless booster until your child can pass the 5-Step Test and safely transition to using the adult seatbelt. The Lil Fan booster is available at Amazon,, and other retailers.

Lil Fan Boosters

Lil Fan High-Back Specs & Features

  • Highback: 30-110 lbs.; 38-57” tall; at least 4 years old*
  • Backless: 40-110 lbs.; 40-57″ tall; at least 4 years old*; with proper head support from the vehicle’s head restraint
  • 7 height positions
  • Lightweight
  • Unique shoulder belt guide design helps keep belt from slipping out
  • 6 year lifespan before expiration

*Age limit of at least 4 years old is listed on the box, but not in the owner’s manual or on labels on the booster.

short with cover from front

tall with cover from frontshort from side









no cover - from front

no cover - from side









Shoulder Belt Guide – The shoulder belt guide opens at the top and has a “lip” on the bottom to keep the shoulder belt from slipping out accidentally. Even though my five-year-old pulls the belt out most of the way when she buckles, she had no trouble keeping the belt from slipping out of the belt guide, as sometimes happens with other boosters.

belt guide









The removable cupholder can be used on either side of the seat. This flexibility is nice when you want a cupholder (and what kid doesn’t?) but can’t use it on one particular side because it adds to the width of the seat. (For instance, if you’re using the seat “outboard” or next to another car seat, you’ll probably want the cupholder to be on the opposite side.)

Lil Fan Measurements