I’ve decided to document how various combination (harness/booster) seats fit my 4-year-old, 41 lb, 43″ tall son in booster mode. He’s at the size where most parents would be switching from the 5-pt harness to the vehicle’s lap/shoulder belt in booster mode if they had a combination seat with a 40 lb limit on the harness. In each case I’ll use the same seating position in my van – driver’s side captain’s chair in a 2005 Ford Freestar.
The IIHS booster study compared the fit of various boosters using the 6-year-old Hybrid lll dummy who weighs 51.6 lbs (23.41 kg) and has a standing height of almost 45″. I thought it would be even better to show belt fit on a child who was just over the 40 lb weight limit for the 5-pt harness. I’ve decided to focus exclusively on combination seats because of their popularity.
This week we’ll be looking at the Evenflo Generations as a booster. This seat has also been sold as the Evenflo Bolero.
The seat is very deep which means that it offers good thigh support for kids with longer legs. However, the depth of the seat when combined with the unique contours of the design seem to create problems with slouching which negatively effects the fit of the lap belt portion of the seatbelt. Ideally, the lap belt should be sitting low – on the lap – touching the tops of the thighs. It shouldn’t be anywhere near the soft abdomen. In the 3rd row of pictures you’ll see how the back of the Generations/Bolero seating area is contoured and how, when my son sits in the seat, there is a gap in that area because he’s not sitting ALL the way back. When I forced him to scooch ALL the way back – you’ll see that the fit of the lap belt was improved. But because of the contours of that design and the depth of the seat – I seriously doubt he’d stay in that position for the entire trip. In the last picture I had him climb back in and get himself seated without any guidance from me. He naturally just chose a comfortable position and I buckled him.
The Good: When the adjustable headrest is positioned appropriately, the fit of the shoulder belt is very good. When the child sits all the way back – the fit of the lap belt can be decent. Not great – but not horrible.
The Bad: The lap belt is positioned too high when he sits in a natural and comfortable position. The depth of the Generations/Bolero is approximately 13″ which is much deeper than most other combination seats. While this might be a benefit for an older child with long legs – it’s actually too deep for the average 40 lb child who is probably only 3-5 years old. In these cases, the depth of the seat may actually promote slouching which will increase the risk of injury.
Bottom Line: Considering that most parents are not going to micro-manage how their kids sit in a booster – the fit of the lap belt should be considered marginal. Since this is a relatively new design, I’m disappointed. There are some elements of the design that work well and yet the lap belt fit (which is so important) leaves much to be desired.