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Small Car, Small Baby or Both? Recommended Convertible Carseats for Newborns & Compact Vehicles

While convertible carseats can be used rear-facing for babies and toddlers, only a few models are suitable for newborns. The benefit of finding one of these is that you can save some money by skipping an infant carrier altogether. Of course, the downside is that you lose the convenience of simply clicking the carrier into the base when leaving and simply removing it to bring inside when you arrive. What many parents don’t realize is that some convertibles also take up less room in the back seat when installed rear-facing, compared to the average infant carrier plus base. This means more legroom for mom or dad up front, especially in a small car or compact SUV.

So, here’s a look at a handful of models we feel are worth trying if you are looking to use a convertible from birth AND want to maximize the legroom for the driver and front passenger as well. We’ve sorted through a wide array of convertibles that not only have harness systems that should fit a newborn, but are also smaller in size or, for larger models, performed well in our survey of convertibles that fit in tight spaces. Some provide even more legroom up front when installed more upright for older rear-facing kids!

Keep in mind that even though a convertible may be rated from 5-70 pounds does not mean it will actually fit a 5-pound newborn or a typical 70-pound child. Many convertibles don’t even fit an average 7-pound newborn well, despite their claimed minimum weight rating of 5 pounds. Even models rated up to 65- or 70-pounds are likely to be outgrown by height well before that weight limit is reached.

1) Combi Coccoro  Perhaps the ultimate for convertible carseats to fit small spaces and tiny babies.  It is rated from 3 pounds, so it is also great for multiples and low birthweight infants!  Plus, its small size means you have a better chance to fit it next to another Coccoro for twins or triplets in the back seat.  The downside?  That space you gain is precisely because it is a smaller seat.  The tradeoff is that it will be outgrown much faster by height and weight (33 lbs., 36″ tall rear-facing limits) than the average convertible. It also offers a tether that can be used rear-facing to prevent rebound.  It is one of our Recommended Carseats and you can find our full review of the Combi Coccoro here.  (Retails for around $180 at Amazon).

2) Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 with Tiny Fit  The Pria (model with the TinyFit insert system) is one of the best convertibles for preemies and low birthweight infants. It fits tiny babies as low as 4 pounds with the TinyFit insert. The Pria isn’t as compact as the Coccoro in terms of extra legroom for front seat passengers when installed for a newborn, but it is a top performer later. For rear-facing toddlers that prefer to be seated more upright, we found that the Pria installed in the semi-reclined #2 position offers a lot of extra space for those in the front seat. For all that you do pay a premium, though. Check out our full review of the Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 and it is also one of our Recommended Carseats. (Pria model with TinyFit retails for around $289 at Amazon).

3) Cosco Apt 40 RF  This is the budget-friendly choice for under $60 at Diapers.com, Babies R Us or K-Mart. While it isn’t rated for preemies under 5 pounds like the Coccoro or Pria with TinyFit, it should fit most full term newborns very well with its 5″ bottom harness slots and 3″ shortest buckle strap slot. This is a very basic seat with few deluxe features. Like the Coccoro, it is also a smaller seat with a 40-pound weight limit (rear-facing and forward-facing), so it will be outgrown faster than the average higher-weight convertible. You can find our full review of the Cosco Apt here.  (Retails for as low as $50 on sale at Babies R Us).

4) Chicco NextFit  The NextFit is another great model overall for small babies in small cars.  It’s rated from 5-40 pounds rear-facing and has very low bottom harness slots to help fit even small newborns quite well.  The fact that it allows for a range of recline positions to be used when installed also helps this seat to fit well in smaller back seats. Of all the seats on this list, it is arguably the best choice for extended rear-facing and forward-facing, as it adjusts slightly taller than other models here. It installs very easily with LATCH thanks to its unique “SuperCinch” force-multiplying system. It’s also somewhat expensive for all its great features.  Check out our full review of the Chicco Nextfit. (Retails for $279 on Amazon).

5) Britax “G4″ Convertibles. All 2014 Britax convertibles (“G4″ models) include a new infant insert that is mandatory for babies less than 22 lbs. This new insert helps newborns get a proper fit from the harness. These convertibles are smaller than some other higher-weight convertibles on the market today, meaning that they also tend to take up a lot less space when installed rear-facing. While the Britax convertibles will last much longer rear-facing than the Combi Coccoro, they won’t last as long as the Chicco NextFit or Maxi-Cosi Pria with TinyFit, due to shorter height limitations. If you have LATCH, the Britax convertibles offer very easy installation. Like the Coccoro, they have a tether that can also be used rear-facing to prevent rebound.  These models are on our Recommended Carseats List and we have a full review of the new Britax Advocate G4 . (Retails starting near $160 for the Britax Roundabout up to  $279 for the Britax Advocate, with the Marathon, Boulevard and Pavilion models in between)

2014 Britax Advocate G4 Review: USA and Canada

G4Advocate06The very first convertible seat I purchased was a Britax (a classic Marathon, in crocodile); I loved it, used it for two children, and it has since expired :-( . I’m now a little nostalgic and pleased to be reviewing the latest in the Britax convertible line-up with this evaluation of the 2014 Britax Advocate in Zebra, commonly referred to as the G4 (4th generation). Looking for information on previous versions of the Advocate? Read our Advocate 70 G3 review here.

With the G4 lineup, Britax has added a few convenience features to their well-loved convertibles (Marathon, Boulevard, Pavilion, and Advocate). They have also streamlined the model names by dropping the ‘65/70’ from the end, and due to impending February 2014 NHTSA regulation changes in the US, have reduced the upper weight limit to 65 lbs. Those familiar with these seats won’t be startled by the changes made by Britax, which is well-known for their ease-of-use features and premium options. The basic shell and shape remain the same as the previous G3 models, and continue to fit well rear-facing in small spaces. Although not the longest lasting of convertible seats by height, the Britax Advocate and its sister convertibles continue to be very easy to install and use, frequently fit in tiny back seats where many others won’t, and fill a niche for those not needing to rear-face their tall or long-torsoed children to kindergarten age.

Although Britax has dropped the upper weight limit and generation numbers from the product names, retailers may refer to the newest versions as the 2014 or “G4″ models. All the convertibles share the same shell and basic safety features. Here is a list summarizing the main differences:

  • Britax Roundabout:  This is the most budget-friendly Britax convertible.  It lacks the no-rethread harness found on some higher models, but that’s really not a big deal unless you’re frequently transporting kids of different sizes in one carseat.  It has a 55 pound weight limit and a 15.75″ seated torso height limit.
  • Britax Highway: Essentially similar to the Roundabout, it also lacks the no-rethread harness.  It is sold only at select retailers like BuyBuyBaby and Bed Bath & Beyond.  The weight limit is increased to 65 pounds and it has a higher 16.5″ seated torso height limit.  It adds basic HUGS harness chest pads.  The XE version is bundled with an extended warranty (7 years), a cup holder and a storage pouch.
  • Britax Marathon:  This model adds a no-rethread harness, up to 65 pounds and 16.75″ seated torso height.  Compared to the Highway, it also adds the EZ-Buckle crotch strap and an easy-remove cover.  It lacks the deeper headwings found on the Boulevard, Pavilion & Advocate models.
  • Britax Boulevard: This model has all the features of the Marathon, but also has deeper internal headwings for enhanced protection in side-impact crashes.  It also includes advanced HUGS pads with SafeCell technology.
  • Britax Pavilion: All the features of the Boulevard plus the “Click & Safe” snug harness indicator.
  • Britax Advocate: All the features of the Pavilion plus Britax’s exclusive Side Impact Cushion Technology (SICT).

Al the G4 convertibles come with an included infant insert cushion (required for babies under 22 lbs,).  The Britax Advocate I received also includes optional harness strap covers, the EZ buckle pad and rubbery HUGS chest pads which are mandatory when the seat is installed forward-facing.

Britax Advocate G4 Specs:

Rear-facing:  5-40 lbs., outgrown by height when head is within 1” of the top of the main shell (not head rest)

Forward-facing: 

  • U.S.: 20-65 lbs. or up to 49” tall, seated shoulder height of 16.75” or less, tips of the ears below the top of the shell

  • Canada: 22-65 lbs., or up to 49″ tall, seated shoulder height of 16.75” or less, tips of the ears below the top of the shell, and able to walk unassisted

Lowest harness position with infant positioning pillow (required for children under 22 lbs.): 6”

Lowest harness position without infant positioning pillow: 8.5”

Highest harness position: 16.75”

Clek Foonf Review: Modern Style Meets Advanced Safety Features

foonf-snowberryMy 2014 Foonf is here! Pardon me while I get over being giddy. This isn’t just any ol’ carseat. This is a FOONF. I won’t bore you with any Foonf jokes, because it’s hard to get the play on words across when they’re written anyway. What’s the Foonf? The model I have is the latest and greatest, the convertible carseat from Clek with the dual position crotch strap, improved anti-rebound bar, and REACT Safety System that pushes other carseat manufacturers to find newer, better technologies so in the end, all carseats are better.


Weight and Height Limits

Rear-facing: 14-50 lbs., 25-43”, able to sit upright alone, head is 1” below top of headrest

Forward-facing: 20-65 lbs., 30-49”; age 1 minimum, age 2+ recommended

Foonf Overview

  • Rigid LATCH forward-facing installation
  • Anti-rebound bar designed to limit rebound in the aftermath of a crash
  • Built-in lockoffs for both rear- and forward-facing
  • Rigid sub-structure: Foonf has a steel and magnesium sub-structure
  • Structural headrest: headrest is lined with energy absorbing foam and connected to seat frame with steel rods
  • Energy absorbing foam both inside and outside the frame of the carseat
  • Designed for extended rear-facing: designed to accommodate rear-facing kids to age 4
  • Three recline positions
  • Adjustable crotch strap: crotch strap has 2 different lengths to accommodate bigger kids
  • REACT Safety System: The Rapid Energy Absorbing Crumple Technology Safety System is an aluminum honeycomb that sits under the child, designed to absorb crash forces.
  • Crypton Super Fabrics: Crypton covers are waterproof, wipe clean, resist bacteria
  • Narrow footprint: Foonf is one of the narrowest convertibles currently on the market
  • 10 covers from which to choose, including exclusive Tokidoki prints (Note: Paul Frank fashions are discontinued so if you really want one of those, you’d better get it now while you still can)

foonf-snowberry  foonf-flamingo  foonf-blue-moon  foonf-ink

foonf-shadow  foonf-dragonfly  foonf-tank  

foonf-tokidoki-all-over  foonf-tokidoki-rebel  foonf-tokidoki-travel

Chicco NextFit Convertible Updates – October 2013

All Chicco NextFit convertible carseats made during or after October 2013 have some minor updates. The harness strap covers are now entirely optional and remove easily thanks to Velcro on the sides. These new strap covers lack the grippy material that lined the back of the original strap covers. The new strap covers are also slightly shorter as you can see in the comparison picture.

 

 

The 2-position chest clip can now be used in either the more narrow or wider setting with no restrictions – use your best judgement. Newborns and younger babies with narrow shoulders will benefit from the more narrow setting which will draw the harness straps closer together and keep them positioned properly over the baby’s small shoulders. Older babies and bigger kids can use the wider setting. When you switch is entirely up to you.

DSCN5376

 

The crotch strap has also been lengthened just a little bit. The new crotch strap is almost (but not quite) 1″ longer. Replacement [longer] crotch straps will be available after March 1.

  photo (64)

 

You can order NEW style harness pads directly from Chicco here.

Chicco NextFit -new harness strap covers

If you own a Chicco NextFit made prior to October 2013 – you may remove the harness strap covers that came with your seat, if desired. Please carefully follow the removal directions provided by Chicco here:  http://www.chiccousa.com/nextfit/pdf/NextFit_Pad_Installation.PDF

The replacement directions in the link above were written prior to the update so you can ignore the language that says “Never use your NextFit car seat without shoulder pads”. Just follow the directions on how to remove them, put the chest clip and buckle tongues back on properly and reattach the harness safely. *At the end of the process, once the harness pin has been fully re-inserted, check to make sure that the plastic tab is back in its original position preventing the pin from moving forward again.

There is also a video detailing the process here: http://www.chiccousa.com/nextfit/installation.aspx  (the link to the video can be found in two places: on the left side of your screen under “Shoulder Pad Replacement Kit” or under the Rear-Facing Videos “Installing Shoulder Pad Replacement Kit”) Again, this is an existing video meant to detail the process of swapping out the original harness strap covers with identical replacement strap covers so you can ignore the language that warns you to never use this product without the harness pads.

 

2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid Video Review: Kids, Carseats & Safety

2013 & 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid Video Review:  Kids, Carseats & Safety

Don’t want a big minivan or midsize SUV that is lucky to get 20 mpg around town under ideal conditions?  Looking for something less expensive with great fuel economy that can still fit three kids in back?  Also want this vehicle to have good crash test results and the latest advanced safety features available?  It’s the 2013-2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid!  A fuel efficient, safe family sedan that also gives you the warm, “green” fuzzies.

 

 

As a midsize sedan, the second row seat is comparable in legroom and width to a typical midsize SUV.    A few minor compatibility issues: non-removable head restraints, very short and rigid buckle stalks, recessed LATCH anchors and some seatbelt crossover for the middle seat.  All relatively minor, so most carseats should install well.