Previews Archive

2016 Chicago Auto Show: What’s New

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Darren and I just got back from a fun-filled day at the Chicago Auto Show. Top on our list of things to see was the redesigned 2016 Honda Pilot, which you can read about here.

There were a lot of other vehicles to examine, though.

sedonaRedesigned Kia Sedona: This is the vehicle I was most impressed with. Darren will have a review of the 7-passenger Sedona shortly, but neither of us had seen the 8-passenger model, and there was a lot to drool over.

The styling is sleek, and the interior (at least on the higher trim models we saw) was gorgeous, with two-toned leather. It looked and felt luxurious.

The middle seat in the second row appeared to be a decent width, although the contoured bolsters of the two outboard seats mean that it doesn’t provide for a typical flat “bench,” which could potentially cause issues when installing a child restraint that doesn’t fit within the footprint of that center position.

The 8-passenger Sedona has three LATCH positions (both captains chairs, plus the third-row passenger) plus a fourth tether anchor in the center of the third row.

The absolute coolest thing about the 8-passenger Sedona, though, was the effortless system for accessing the third row. Simply turn a lever, and the seat practically moves itself out of the way. Another turn and the seat moves back into position. It is by far the easiest method I’ve ever encountered. Watch how easy!

Chevy Volt

This popular plug-in Hybrid gets a big redesign for 2016. For starters, they removed a couple hundred pounds of weight to make the car lighter, and they increased both the electrical range and the fuel milage. All good stuff.

They also added a fifth seating position to make the car more appealing to families!

Now, Chevy admits the rear center seating position has “no legroom,” and that’s not an exaggeration. The battery runs right through the center of the car, so there’s no way around that. A small boostered or forward-facing child might be okay sitting there, but a rear-facing seat is probably going to be the best option for that position.

Chevy Double-Cab Trucks

Chevrolet’s trucks come in Single Cab, Double Cab, or Crew Cab body styles. The Double Cabs are the ones with the very small, fold-down back seats. As many people know, those can be notoriously difficult to install car seats on due to the shallowness of that fold-down seat. Chevy has come up with a solution, though: a removable headrest that can be inserted into the seat bottom, parallel to the ground, to extend the depth and make it more car-seat friendly. They didn’t have any available for us to see, but we’re intrigued by the possibility.

Mazda5

People asked us to take a look at the Mazda5, mainly to see if it still existed, as there were rumors it was being discontinued. It was there, so fans don’t need to fret. The 5 took some hits recently when it performed abysmally in the small overlap frontal crash test. The model at the show didn’t have crash test data listed, leading us to believe that something has changed. That could be good news for people who had been considering the 5 but were scared off by the previous crash-test results.Mazda5 sticker

Honda HR-V

HRVA few people asked us to take a look at this new crossover from Honda. We weren’t able to get too close to it since it was on a turntable, but it looked nice from what we could see—sort of a CR-V/Accord mashup.

 

 

VW Sportwagen

sportwagenThis is another one people asked us to look at. This 5-seater hatchback had a generous amount of cargo room, although the back seat (at least in the leather version we saw) had funky seatsportwagencargo bights with LATCH anchors located well above the bottom seat cushion.

 

Hyundai Santa Cruz

This is Hyundai’s foray into the truck-crossover market, a market that typically has not had much success. We couldn’t get a good look at the interior as the truck(ish) was up high on a turntable, but it does appear to have half-doors that presumably lead to some sort of back seat. All in all, it wasn’t the most attractive vehicle we saw all day. It reminded Darren of a Subaru Brat.

Hyundai Santa Cruz Subaru Brat

 

Random Fun Stuff

Toyota had a Sienna all decked out for the SpongeBob movie. The bright yellow van included a ship-like steering wheel, seats colored like SpongeBob characters, a bubble wand on the roof, and a flatscreen TV in the cargo area. Sorry, you can’t purchase it.

SpongeBobSienna

And in case you didn’t see it on our Facebook page, Darren and I got to dance with some Kia hamsters:

2016 Honda Pilot Preview: Chicago Auto Show

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The 2016 Honda Pilot, Bigger and Better for Kids?

You may have seen some previews of the all-new Honda Pilot already, so we’ll focus on carseats for this quick preview.  We reviewed the current generation Honda Pilot and found it to be arguably the best midsize SUV in terms of carseats and child seating flexibility.  How does the all-new 2016 Honda Pilot compare?

As for styling, gone is the rugged, boxy appearance.  This is good or bad, depending if you prefer the sleeker, minivan-like styling of the new model.

2016HondaPilotFront 2016HondaPilotRear 2016HondaPilotSide

While the current model is an 8-passenger SUV, the 2016 version will have 7-passenger and 8-passenger trim levels. The fully loaded 7-passenger model on display had the optional captain’s chairs with an aisle/console between (below, left).  A 3-seat 2nd row bench will also be standard.  The easier, push-button mechanism to slide/tilt the 2nd row chairs forward is quite similar to the current Acura MDX (below, right).  Honda says it gives 2.5 more inches of access room at the bottom.  Lower step-in height makes access easier for the little ones, too.

2016Pilot2ndrowchairs 2016Pilot3rdrowaccess

The third row remains a 3-seat bench.  It appears to be similar in width to the current Pilot, but has an update in the design.  Specifically, the passenger side seat with LATCH appears to be a hair wider, at the expense of the narrow middle seat. The passenger side seatbelt buckle stalk is also revised, also an improvement for installation of wider carseats.  The problem is that the hardware for folding the 40/60 bench is taller and more pronounced than before, likely making carseat installation even more difficult in the narrower middle seat.  On the plus side, Honda has resolved some of the seatbelt crossover issues which may make it easier for an smaller adult, teen or pre-teen to ride in the middle next to a narrow carseat.

2016Pilot3rdrowbench

 

In the 7-passenger model on display, there are a total of 3 LATCH positions for the two 2nd row captain’s chairs and the third row passenger seat.  As for top-tether anchors,

Britax B-Safe 35 Unboxing and Giveaway

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B-Safe 35 redBritax B-Safe 35 Features and Unboxing

Britax has updated their rear-facing only infant seat, the B-Safe 35, and we have the full review here! Stay tuned for our review of the B-Safe 35 Elite model, coming soon.

B-Safe 35 Overview:

  • Complete Side Impact Protection – deep protective shell is designed to absorb crash forces
  • SafeCell Impact Stabilizing Steel Frame base – these red cells compress in a crash to absorb crash energy
  • Removable head pillow
  • 2 crotch strap/buckle positions (before 11 lbs./after 11 lbs.)
  • Ergonomic handle to make carrying comfortable
  • Deep seat pan
  • Deluxe push-on style lower LATCH connectors
  • Built-in lockoffs
  • Extra-large canopy
  • Smooth bottom base
  • FAA approved for use on aircraft
  • 6 yr lifespan before seat expires
  • Made in the USA!

Our Britax B-Safe 35 review is coming soon! See why the new B-Safe 35 made our 2015 Recommended Seats List.

Now that you’ve seen all the features, enter our GIVEAWAY! We’re giving away ONE B-Safe 35 in your choice of Red, Black, or Sandstone (depending on availability, out-of-stock fashions subject to 4-6 week shipping delays).

This promotion is now closed. Thank you for participating – a winner will be announced soon!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
*Does not include Slate Strie fashion found at BRU. Order a B-Safe 35 at Amazon.com Now for the fine print (these may be in addition to the rules listed in the Rafflecopter terms) Winner must have a USA shipping address to claim the prize. Only one prize will be awarded. You are not eligible if you have previously won a carseat or any sponsored giveaway at CarseatBlog.com during 2013 or 2014 (our own giveaways of goody bags and such don’t count if no sponsor was mentioned). Our blog writers and editors are also not eligible. Only one entry per household/family, please. If you leave more than one comment, only the first one will count. We reserve the right to deem any entry as ineligible for any reason, though this would normally only be done in the case of a violation of the spirit of the rules above. We also reserve the right to edit/update the rules for any reason. The contest will close on February 29, 2015, and one random winner will be chosen shortly thereafter. 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. Good luck! Please note: If this is your first comment at CarseatBlog, or if you are using a different computer/device or a new email address, your comment may not appear immediately. It will not be lost; it may just take a few hours for it to be approved. Thank you for your understanding and patience as this is the only way we have to reduce comment spam.

Celebrating the Brand New Cosco Scenera NEXT

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Scenera NEXT FionaThis story begins back in August at the KIM Conference, when Dorel Senior Product Marketing Manager, Ryan Hawker, pulled Kecia and me aside and told us excitedly he had something to show us. That something was the Scenera NEXT and the official launch for this awesome little seat was on Saturday at the Dorel Technical Center in Columbus, IN, where they manufacture the NEXT and other Dorel carseats. Honored for the invitation to the launch, I had to battle Darren, Kecia, and Jennie for who would go to the event. Unfortunately for Darren and Kecia, they had already visited the Dorel Technical Center several years ago when it first opened; Jennie’s daughter, it turns out, had a recital that day. Win for Heather!

Technical center sign

The Dorel manufacturing facility is indeed enormous at 1.1 million square feet. They do everything here from designing carseats to 3D printing for testing to manufacturing to storage and shipping. We started our tour of the facility at the Technical Center. Everyone had done a great job of setting it up for fun! There were balloons anchored by locking clips everywhere. All employees were wearing Scenera NEXT t-shirts. The launch event wasn’t just a tour for the blog and two other invited dignitaries (That makes us sound important, doesn’t it? Ha!). No, it was for the families of those who work on the NEXT to come in and see what their family members do at work. This was the first time Dorel had done an event like this and also the FIRST time they’d gotten a carseat from idea to production in a YEAR. That’s unheard of in carseatland.

Scenera NEXT Fiona Scenera NEXT Minnie Scenera NEXT Realtree Pink Camo Scenera NEXT Bloom

We started in the foyer of the Technical Center where they had a few NEXT fashions shown, then we moved into a room with a big screen where they were showing a video of kids explaining the features of the NEXT. All 13 fashions of the NEXT were there—unfortunately it was very dark and there was no way I could get a good picture. Trust me, you’ll love them all. They had face painting for the kids off to the right in the open offices—you can tell this is a carseat company since there are carseats laying about everywhere. They weren’t just new carseats either. Ancient carseats in pristine condition lined one wall—oh wait, they’re still a few years younger than me.

1972 Cosco seat old seats 2 old seats 1

We next visited the 3D printing room where 2 printers work to make test pieces. When an engineer designs a part and wants to know if it will work a certain way, he or she sends a CAD file here and it’ll get printed up. Sometimes the part is sturdy enough to be installed on the test seat located in the room.

3D models

Just a few feet down the hall is the crash testing lab. They were running crash tests about every 5 minutes so everyone could get a chance to see one. The crash tests happen so fast you have to be standing and looking at just the right spot to see it happen. Even then, if you blink, you miss it. That’s truly how fast it happens. Fortunately, they had a slo-mo video at the other end of a different test that we all shuffled down to watch. Because they weren’t setting up a new seat after each test, I asked Ryan if they had ever done multiple crash tests on a seat before. He said they hadn’t and were using this as an opportunity to see how this carseat held up. I didn’t look carefully at the seat they were using, but I believe it was Safety 1st Complete Air.

On our way to see the NEXT actually being molded, we came across 2 carseat mold forms—about 4′ tall—sitting on the floor. Ryan explained that the mold comes in 2 halves, which are pressed together under great pressure. The plastic is injected into the mold, cooled, then removed from the mold by robots for more cooling, removing of sharp plastic bits, and label application. Next the seat shells are transported by conveyor belt to human hands for wicked fast assembly of the rubber plugs that help the NEXT grip the vehicle seat, harness adjuster strap, tether assembly, harness, LATCH strap, and cover. The final step in the process is a computerized camera and laser quality assurance check that makes sure *everything* on the carseat has been assembled perfectly. If it hasn’t, an alarm is sounded and it gets pulled and checked for errors. Each carseat is stored in a database so it can be tracked if a customer calls about it.

mold injection mold machine injection mold machine 2 injection mold machine 3 injection mold machine 4 injection mold machine piston assembly line

We ended our tour where most employees begin their day: at the Shining Star wall. When they clock in, employees pass a wall filled with stories where Dorel carseats have saved lives. Handwritten thank you letters with pictures of carseats and crashed vehicles are posted on the wall and a notebook is kept to the side to keep older letters as new ones arrive. It goes to show that when you share your story with the people who create the carseat your baby rides in, whether your baby is a few hours old or several years old, they know about it and appreciate it.

Dorel Shining Star wall

After going through the facility and meeting the people behind Dorel and Cosco, I came away with a powerful feeling of family and pride. We ran into many 2nd generation employees as we made our way through and they were so proud to share their jobs with us and their families, who had never been to the factory floor before. All the families were dressed up and it was clearly an important and fun day for everyone and all for the launch of a new little carseat destined to take the carseat world by storm.

We have a mini-review of the Cosco Scenera NEXT in our Comparison of Budget Priced Convertibles under $100 and will have a full review soon. Stay tuned for a giveaway! The NEXT is available for purchase for $49 from Walmart.com.

Of course, my trip to Indiana would not have been possible if not for the invitation from our Cosco friends and 360 Public Relations. Thank you for sharing the day with me and allowing me to see your processes and the pride behind the products.