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Monthly Archive:: June 2013

Chicco NextFit Review: Convertible Carseat Nirvana!

Chicco NextFit - IntrigueI guess it’s true that good things come to those who wait. It seems like we waited an eternity for Chicco to debut a convertible carseat but clearly it was worth the wait. I’ll admit that I was a little worried – the Chicco KeyFit 30 is a well-loved infant seat and the bar was set pretty high for any convertible that would wear the Chicco name and have to please current KeyFit owners who were already “spoiled” by a carseat that was easy to use correctly and ridiculously easy to install properly in almost any vehicle. There was no doubt that the expectations were high and they needed to nail this one or else it was going to go down in the carseat history books as the biggest disappointment since the Nania Airway. Thankfully, my anxiety was for nothing because the Chicco NextFit convertible exceeds every expectation that I had for ease of use and ease of proper installation. Chicco people, you can pat yourselves on the back for another job well done! :)

*Update - All Chicco NextFit convertible carseats made during or after October 2013 have some minor updates.  Please see our blog HERE for the full scoop.

 

So what makes the Chicco NextFit stand out in a crowded field of high-end convertibles?

One word – SuperCinch. Well, technically that’s two words but Chicco has made it one word and trademarked it so that’s what I’m going with. SuperCinch is a force multiplying system that makes it possible for anyone, even an elderly grandparent, to get a rock-solid installation in less than 1 minute using LATCH. It’s so easy that even my husband can do it properly! Without me hovering. Or coaching. Or leaving post-it notes in the seat. Seriously, it’s that easy. This seat could not only save lives – it could save marriages!  ;)

In addition to the incredibly innovative force-multiplying SuperCinch system, Chicco has really gone out on a limb to design and engineer a seat that is very easy for parents and caregivers to use correctly and equally difficult to misuse if you’re actually making an attempt to “do it right”.

 

NextFit Specs:

Rear-Facing: 5-40 lbs;  outgrown by height once there is only 1″ of shell above the child’s head with the head rest portion fully extended

Forward-Facing: 22-65 lbs; 50″ or less; at least 1 year old. *Chicco and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend all children ride REAR-FACING until age 2 or they reach the weight/height limits of this seat.

FAA Approved for use on aircraft

8 year lifespan before seat expires

Naked Chicco NextFit  Naked NextFit - tallest setting  image  image  image

 

Each NextFit model comes with harness strap covers (optional),  an infant insert which is only for babies who weigh between 5-11 lbs and an accessory cup holder.

The pattern shown in this review is called “Gravity.”  It is a gender-neutral black and grey cover. There are other NextFit fashions available at different retailers and etailers. Amazon sells the Mystique, Studio, Rose & Juno fashions. Seats sold and shipped directly from Amazon come with free shipping and free returns in case it doesn’t work out for some reason. Pulse & Gemini fashions are BRU exclusives.  The Gravity cover is a Target exclusive. And Intrigue & Mystique are available at Kids-n-Cribs.

MSRP for the NextFit is $279-$299.

Hello from Florida: Be Safe on Your Summer Vacay!

Greetings from sunny Florida!  I was planning to take a week off from the interwebz, but couldn’t resist posting a couple photos.  On a trip to Legoland, we happened to see the full-size LEGO Ford Explorer and I wondered how well it would do in a crash test?  The real 4800-pound, 2013 Explorer does quite well, earning an IIHS Top Safety Pick for 2013 and a 5-star overall rating from NHTSA.  Would the 2500-pound LEGO version even hold up against an 1800-pound,  Smart ForTwo?

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And now a public service reminder for the upcoming holday driving season:

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BoostAPak Vs. BubbleBum – A Comparative Review

Going on vacation and not sure whether to take the BubbleBum or the all-new-to-the-US Safety 1st BoostApak? We put them head-to-head to help you decide which of these ultra-portable booster seats is best for you.

The BubbleBum is for children over 4 years old who weigh between 40-100 lbs; height range 40-57″

The Safety 1st BoostAPak is for children over 4 years old who weigh between 40-80 lbs; height range 43-52″

BubbleBum black and purpleSafety 1st BoostApak

In this corner, wearing purple (and now also available in black) and weighing in at 1.1 lbs, is the BubbleBum. In the other corner, wearing lime green and weighing in at 3.5 lbs, is the BoostApak. Which one will come out on top?

Here are the two side by side. You can see the overall height of the BubbleBum is somewhat lower. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is a matter of preference. The BubbleBum doesn’t have arm rests, but the ones on the BoostApak aren’t very substantial, so that one’s probably a toss-up.

BuubleBum / BoostApak

The BoostApak is a bit deeper overall.

BoostApak / BubbleBum  BoostApak / BubbleBum

 

The BubbleBum has the advantage of being lighter than the BoostApak, but it needs to be carried separately or shoved into a backpack, whereas the BoostApak IS a backpack.

My son doesn’t like having to thread and unthread the seatbelt from the BubbleBum’s belt guides each time, but the required belt guide on the BoostApak also proved problematic (at least the first time–the seatbelt can stay in the guide if the booster is staying in the car). He preferred the BubbleBum’s cushiness to the hard seat of the BoostApak, but the BoostApak provided a little more leg support.

Because of the BoostApak’s low height limit, older boostered kids will likely outgrow it early, so that’s an important factor to keep in mind. The BubbleBum, of course, requires you to blow it up, and squishing it back into its carrying pouch can sometimes be a challenge.

 

How does this battle break down?

The BubbleBum wins three categories: Overall Product Weight, Child Height Limit and Padding/Cushiness.

The BoostApak wins three categories, too: Leg Support, Effort Required to Prepare the Booster, and Ability to Multitask.

Ease of Buckling was a Draw.

So the overall advantage is: It’s a tie!

 

For more help in deciding which seat is for you, see our full reviews of the BubbleBum and Safety 1st BoostApak.

Currently the BubbleBum is available in stores at Target and at select Brookstone Airport stores. It’s also available online at Amazon, ToysRUs.com, Brookstone.com, Target.com, directly from BubbleBum and various other e-tailers.

The BoostAPak is currently a BuyBuyBaby exclusive.

Breakthrough in safety or breakthrough in paranoia?

drop side crib with bumperThere has recently been a wildfire spread of safety recommendations when it comes to infant sleep. First it was dropside cribs, now it’s crib bumpers. The following article from Parenting.com states  that according to the AAP, crib bumpers do not offer any type of protection against injuries but they do increase the risk of suffocation or becoming entangled and strangled. SIDS Prevention – Crib Bumper Safety – Parenting.com.

 

Being popular for many many years, bumpers come in many forms- some included in a bedding set as more of a decoration, and others in the form of mesh to be “breathable”. According to the article, all types are equally dangerous and should be avoided.

 

Part of me thinks it’s great that despite not really knowing what causes SIDS in most cases, great efforts are being made to reduce the number of deaths and heartbreaks for parents. The other part of me wishes the same type of wildfire spread happened with child vehicle safety. Can you imagine the advances we could make if as many people knew about rear facing recommendations as they did about drop side cribs and not using crib bumpers? The infant that is lovingly placed on their back on a smooth as glass sheet in a completely bare crib wearing appropriately skin tight flame retardant pajamas is quite possibly being strapped into an unstable seat traveling 65mph in a 2-ton weapon on wheels the very next morning. Where is the attention to that little detail? Why are consignment shops dutifully declining/trashing drop side cribs and bumpers but continuing to sell used or expired car seats?

Are we making advancements in all the right areas?

 

Smooth Sailing: 2013 Nissan Pathfinder – Kids, Carseats & Safety Review

pathfinderI got off to a rocky start with the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder I recently test-drove for a week, but in all fairness, it wasn’t really the car’s fault.

See, it has one of those push-button ignitions, and when I went to take it for a spin, I guess I didn’t notice that the car wasn’t completely on. I had just gotten done selecting my radio station and connecting my phone via Bluetooth. Then I threw the car into reverse and started backing down my driveway. I soon realized that the car seemed sluggish, and it was hard to turn.

Finally, just as the car finished inching out of my driveway, it stopped and wouldn’t move anymore, no matter what I tried. In a panic, I called my husband (using my freshly paired phone and the car’s speakers). Even though the Pathfinder was now blocking my entire street and I had visions of someone plowing into this borrowed car, I did see the humor in the situation, and I half-laughed, half-cried to my husband, “The car is stuck! I need your help!”

It turns out my husband had been watching me from the window the whole time and couldn’t figure out why I had parked the car in the middle of the street. He came out, got in the car, started it up, and had it back in the driveway three seconds later.

“How did you do that?!” I demanded.

“You have to step on the brake while you press the button. Didn’t you notice the engine wasn’t on?”

“I thought it was just really quiet,” I answered sheepishly. In my defense, the last car I drove with a push-button ignition was a Prius, which is silent. “How did I get down the driveway, though?”

“Gravity?”

And so began my week. My husband was worried about letting me drive alone after that, but I assured him I’d be fine.

Despite the rough start, so to speak, I soon fell in love with the Pathfinder, as did the rest of the family.

I had the Platinum edition, which comes fully loaded with leather, navigation, DVD, heated and cooled seats, heated steering wheel, etc. Obviously all that luxury helped a lot. But even without all the extras, we were very impressed with the Pathfinder, both in terms of driving and easily seating the kids.

The 2013 Pathfinder is redesigned, with a sleeker exterior and roomier interior. It’s less truck-like but still big enough for most people’s needs, and it gets better fuel mileage than the previous incarnation. It boasts a 5-star rating for side impacts, with 4-star ratings for frontal and rollover.  The overall average from Safercar.gov is a 4-star crash rating.  The IIHS has not yet completed its testing.  So far, the 2013 Pathfinder has received the top “Good” ratings in both the moderate overlap frontal crash test and the IIHS side impact test.

 

DRIVING

You know how some people know a lot about wine, and they say things like, “This one is fruity, with oaky undertones”? I don’t know anything about wine, so I say things like, “Yeah, I like that,” or “Oh my god! It burns!!! It burns!!!”

You’ll have to forgive that I’m like that with cars, too. I’m not a car-person in the sense that I can discuss “suspension damping” or “throttle response” (I had to go read some Edmunds reviews just to come up with those terms). So how was the Pathfinder to drive? I liked it. (And it didn’t burn.)

To try to give a bit more description: I was nervous at first because it felt big, even though it’s comparable in size to the Honda Odyssey I drive now, and the Honda Pilot I drove previously. It handled very nicely, though, and I soon found I loved driving it. It had smooth, quick acceleration from a stop, and handled turns great. I discovered, upon having to make a u-turn on a narrow Chicago street, that it has a nice, tight turn radius.

The drive was very quiet, especially compared to the not-so-quiet Odyssey. I also found the brakes to be nice and responsive. (The Edmunds review described the brakes as “spongy.” Not being a wine/car person, I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but I didn’t experience anything I’d describe as sponginess. The day after I got the car, though, Nissan issued a recall for a brake issue on some Pathfinders, so maybe they got a dud?)

According to the car’s control panel, my gas mileage for the week was around 22 mpg, which is the combined city/highway fuel mileage estimated for the vehicle. I drove 207 miles and used about half a tank of gas. Not bad.

 

PARKING

I wouldn’t normally include a section on parking, because…why? But this truly deserves its own section.

Confession: I’m a good driver, but a terrible parker. I’m not just talking parallel parking: I mean ANY parking. I always wind up too far over to one side or another, and I’m NEVER straight. It’s pretty embarrassing.

Anyway, when I was sitting there at a stop light on my virgin trip, I noticed a “camera” button and decided to push it. In Heather’s review of the Tesla S, she mentioned you could see out of the backup camera while driving, so I thought that might be the case here, too. Turns out that’s not quite what it did, but it might be even cooler. When I pressed the camera button, the screen changed to show the view from a forward camera and also a “birds-eye view” of the car that showed what was behind, in front of, and on both sides. Perfect for parking? Yes, especially for someone with such meager parking skills.

Once I started going above a couple miles per hour, the camera view turned off, but I turned it back on when I got to the parking lot at the grocery store. As I turned into my spot, the “overhead” camera showed me the lines in the pavement and also showed computerized lines marking the direction of my front wheels.

photo 1[1]

Using these tools, I effortlessly parked PERFECTLY, possibly for the first time in my life.

My car also came equipped with sensors that beep when you have obstacles (including people) behind you while you’re in reverse. Very handy, and a great safety feature for keeping kids safe around cars. Nissan calls this the “Around View Monitor System with Camera Aided Sonar.” I guess that describes it pretty well.

 

CAR SEATS

Overall, the Pathfinder was great for transporting kids. Typically, I much prefer minivans over SUVs for transporting more than two kids, mainly because of third-row access issues, but if I had to own an SUV, the Pathfinder would be high on my list specifically because of the great third-row access.

The Pathfinder has a feature that allows the second-row seats to fold slightly forward and move up, even with a child seat installed! Best of all, it’s easy enough for my child to do. (I’ve found a lot of second-row seats rather difficult to move, even for an adult).

There are limitations to this.