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More on New Britax Advocate, Marathon and Boulevard ClickTight: Sneak Peek Review

 

 

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Our comprehensive review of the Britax Boulevard ClickTight is now posted here: http://carseatblog.com/30080/britax-boulevard-clighttight-convertible-review-sometimes-things-just-click/

With the announcement of the ClickTight Installation System in the 2015 models of the Marathon, Boulevard, and Advocate convertible carseats, Britax has indeed introduced a Game Changer into the convertible carseat market. Gone are the days of huffing and puffing and yanking on seat belts and LATCH straps to get carseats installed tightly. As technicians in the field, we know a loose install is one of the top 2 mistakes we’re going to see in a vehicle when it comes to a checkup event.  ClickTight was a big deal with the Frontier 90 and is just as big of a deal for any carseat rated above 40 pounds or so, due to new federal standards limiting the use of the LATCH system.

Britax ClickTight convertibles

Do these convertibles hold the cure for all possible misuse? Of course not. There may be some incompatibilities and the price may put it out of reach for many families but we can’t make advances in child passenger safety without advances in technology and those advances often come with a hefty price tag – at least initially.  For that price tag, you also get increased height limits and a 10-year expiration date, so there is some value added!

Kecia, our lucky reporter in the field, got to touch and feel and see these cool new seats.  We will have a full review coming in September.

*UPDATE – our comprehensive Britax Boulevard CT Review is now posted here.

For now, she took a ton of pictures for us and a video and reports that baby Jack fits beautifully in the new Marathon without the lower body insert (see pics). With the lower body insert, the bottom harness slot measures about 6.5″.

 

20" doll in Marathon CT - no lower insert needed  20" doll in Marathon CT - no lower insert needed  Marathon CT lowest harness ht measurement - with lower body insert

These pics below show the preemie doll using the lower body insert. The Britax convertibles are rated from 5 lbs. to 40 lbs. rear-facing, so our 4 lb. Huggable Images preemie doll is too small to fit in any of them, but Kecia wanted to get an idea of harness slot fit.

CTMApreemiefront  CTMApreemieside

 

Installation:

Comparisons

The Marathon CT is going to be a smaller seat for Britax while the Boulevard CT and Advocate CT have a growth spurt (see photos below).

Britax Marathon, Boulevard & Advocate ClickTight Preview: Game Changers for Installation, and Rear-Facing Too?

marathonct

Britax Marathon CT

The big news in the carseat world is that Britax is introducing a new line of convertible carseats with their patented, ultra-simple seatbelt installation system.  These models with ClickTight are new designs from the ground up and have some important other differences too.

*Update: Our complete review of the Britax Boulevard with ClickTight is now posted here: Britax Boulevard ClightTight Convertible Review: Sometimes Things Just Click

The current “G4″ Convertible lineup will continue to be sold at present price points alongside the somewhat more expensive ClickTight models.  That is great news because the Britax G4 convertible models have a great LATCH installation system and fit into small spaces very well.  Check out our review of the Britax Advocate G4 and stay tuned for our full review of the Britax Boulevard ClickTight next month. So, you know about ClickTight, but here’s what a lot of advocates and parents really want to know.  First, when can you get one?  Britax plans to begin shipping to stores in the first week of September, with product appearing on many virtual and brick&mortar shelves by mid-to-late September.  And second, what are the height limits?!  Are they a “gamechanger” or a dud? The new Britax Marathon ClickTight is only modestly taller than the current Britax Marathon G4.  The top harness slot height increases from 17.5″ to 17.7″ and the top seated shoulder height from 16.75″ to 16.95″.  The overall standing height limit is 49″ tall.   The rear-facing height limit will also increase somewhat, to about 25.5″ tall to a point 1″ from the top of the head restraint. That point was just below the red adjustment handle at over 26.5″ tall.  Somewhat taller than the Marathon G4, with the main addition of the great ClickTight installation system.  (Editors note: Measurements updated for production model). Now the BIG news: The Britax Boulevard ClickTight and Advocate ClickTight get a significant height increase!  The top harness slot height increases from 17.5″ to 19.5″, among the highest for current convertibles.  The seated shoulder height increases from 16.75″ to 18.65″ tall in the top adjustment.  The standing height limit is also 49″ tall.

Britax Advocate ClickTight

Click To Enlarge

Perhaps the biggest news of the day, these two models will no longer use the top of the outer shell as their reference level for rear-facing height limits!  That limit will now reference 1″ from the top of the inner head restraint “shell” instead.  That point is defined as roughly 1″ below the red adjustment lever for the harness height adjustment. Please keep in mind that these are approximate measurements from a final prototype, but the estimated usable rear-facing height limit should be almost 28″ tall for the Boulevard and Advocate with the head restraint in the highest position.  Bam!  (Editors note: Updated for production models. We measured about 29″ to the bottom of the red level for maximum height adjustment, so one inch below that gives a 28″ usable rear-facing seated height limit to the top of the child’s head). Other notable changes?  They all have an new 7-position recline system with an automatic level indicator.   The Marathon gets a 12-position harness height adjustment, while the Boulevard/Advocate have a 14-position adjustment.  All have two crotch strap positions, similar to current G4 models.  The Pavilion G4 model is being phased out, and the Click & Safe harness tension adjustment system will now be standard on all Boulevard models.  These new ClickTight convertibles are a lot heavier than the G4 models, due to the ClickTight system and steel reinforced shell.  They are a little bigger as well, so they won’t be as handy for travel than the non-ClickTight G4 models.  And, of course, there new fashions! Stay tuned for video and more photos later today.  You can also find our comparison to the current G4 models.

Consumer Reports Updates Convertible Carseat Ratings – July 2014

CR rockThe updated ratings on convertible carseats are published and the results are going to make some people happy and others not so happy. There’s just no way around that. Parents who already own top-rated convertible seats are going to be happy while those that own seats at the bottom of the lists may be less-than-pleased. Some may even question whether they made a mistake buying “X” carseat instead of “Y” carseat.

Before we get to the CR top rated picks, let’s talk about what the “BEST” convertible carseat is. We say this all the time as Child Passenger Safety Technicians, but it’s the truth, hence why it’s repeated so often. The BEST carseat is the one that fits your vehicle (installs tightly), fits your child (is appropriate for their age/weight/height), and that you can use correctly on every single ride. And of course it needs to fit your wallet too. The best carseat is not necessarily the most expensive carseat you can (or can’t) afford. And it’s not necessarily the carseat that matches the rest of your nursery collection or the one that everyone raves about online.

While we think our Recommended Carseats list is a great place to start, the seats on our list aren’t going to work for everyone and every situation. Remember – what works best for *your* child in *your* vehicle might not be the best choice for your sister or your neighbor or your friend, and that’s important. For example, a loosely installed carseat or one where you can’t easily adjust the harness to be snug on your child is not safe. A convertible carseat that doesn’t fit rear-facing in your car is not going to be the best choice for your child either.

The Ultimate Rear-Facing Convertible Carseat Space Comparison – Size Matters!

It’s important to point out that this round of ratings is based on crash test results using their previous testing methodology (30 mph, FMVSS 213 standard bench, testing with 3-point lap/shoulder seatbelt or LATCH and no blocker plate). Convertible seat testing with their new crash test methodology is underway, but those results will not be published until some time early next year. For more info on Consumer Reports’ new crash testing program please see our previous blog on the subject:

The Safest Infant Carseats? New Crash Protection Ratings and Methods from Consumer Reports

Currently CR evaluates carseats on several points, including fit-to-vehicle, ease-of-usage, price and crash test performance. We can’t comment on specific scores but after our meeting with CR last year, we do have a general idea of how their ratings are assigned within these categories.

They brake down the convertible carseat ratings into 3 categories:

  • Convertible seats rated to 40 lbs.
  • Convertible seats rated to weights higher than 40 lbs. (what we call “higher-weight harness” convertibles)
  • All-in-One seats that can be used rear-facing, forward-facing and also as a belt-positioning booster.

In the up to 40 lbs. category, the Cosco Scenera, Scenera 40RF, Cosco Apt 40RF and Safety 1st onSide Air were their top rated picks. I don’t think the Scenera 40 RF is still being made or sold anywhere but the “regular” Cosco Scenera, the Cosco Apt 40RF and the Safety 1st onSide Air are all widely available and they are all budget-friendly seats (under $100) too. Just don’t expect them to fit your child for as long as larger competitors. These are basic, budget-friendly seats for infants and toddlers that should last many kids until at least age 3 and some to age 4. They also make great travel seats.

Cosco SceneraCosco Apt 40 RFSafety 1st onSide Air - stock

In the over 40 lbs. category, the Chicco NextFit is the top rated convertible seat followed closely by the entire Britax convertible lineup – Britax Advocate G4, Britax Boulevard G4, Britax Pavilion G4, Britax Marathon G4 and Britax Roundabout G4. The Britax Roundabout G4 and the Evenflo SureRide were rated as “Best Buys” because they offer good value for their price but they also received good scores in all categories.

Chicco NextFit - blogBritax Advocate G4 - OnyxBritax roundabout G4 - onyx

In the “All-in-One” category – the Evenflo Symphony was the top rated seat among the 5 models tested.

Evenflo Sym65 - Ocala

You can find their newest ratings on convertible seats at their website, www.consumerreports.org. Unfortunately, you have to be a paid subscriber to see the full ratings report.

Breaking News! The First Years Leaves the Carseat Business

tomyTOMY has decided to pull all its carseat brands from the market. These brands include Compass, The First Years, JJ Cole, Lamaze, and Learning Curve.

Carseat companies have gone out of business in the past, most notably Fisher Price. It doesn’t necessarily mean the product was bad; either the company decided to go in a different direction, the cost of production was too high, or there were too many problems with a seat. In the case of TOMY, it was a financial decision. After all, when a single crash test is thousands of $ per seat, you can see how it requires a lot of money to be in this business. TOMY will continue its production of strollers under The First Years and JJ Cole brands.

  the-first-years-ialert-true-fit-C685-stock    

 

Statement from TOMY:

“TOMY has made the difficult decision to exit the car seat business. Despite very positive consumer reviews, based in part on our five star NHSTA ratings, we have determined that the economics of the category will prevent us from reaching the level of success necessary for continued investment. We have stopped production and are currently working with our retail partners to sell remaining inventory. We will continue to market our collection of lightweight strollers sold under the First Years and JJ Cole brands. Our customer service team remains available to you to assist with any questions or concerns you may have through this transition period.”

 

What does this mean to you as an owner of a TOMY carseat?

Eventually all replacement parts will be depleted either over time as owners call and request them or if a recall happens.

What should you do?

Continue using your carseat as normal. It’s still fine, right? It’s going to be fine tomorrow. The seats made by TOMY are quality products. There may be some nice sales in the near future on True Fit Convertibles, Contigo Infant Seats and B540/B570 Folding Boosters — and if you find one, consider it, but know that replacement parts likely won’t be there in the future should you need them (maybe I’m an oddity, but over the course of my kids being in carseats, I didn’t need replacement parts for any of my carseats, so . . .).