Nuna Pipa Infant Carseat Review
The PIPA infant carseat from Nuna delivers everything you could ask for in a high-end carseat. Nuna produces a collection of modern and stylish baby gear inspired by Dutch designers who wanted to combine cutting edge safety technology with style and functionality. The idea is to keep things simple, practical and stylish while still being innovative. PIPA is Nuna’s first carseat and while they may be the new kid on the block – they did their homework and it shows. With rigid lower LATCH attachments, a load leg, lots of padding and a canopy bigger than Texas – this seat could set the bar for all future high-end infant carseats.
As Heather and Darren can attest, I usually have lots of “feedback” to offer carseat manufacturers when we talk to them in person at trade shows and conferences but when it comes to the Nuna PIPA – I’m uncharacteristically quiet. Of course, there is no such thing as one perfect carseat for all parents because we all have different tastes, opinions, preferences and budgets to work with. However, for me, PIPA comes very close to being that elusive “perfect” carseat. It’s almost enough to make me want another baby. Okay, so that’s a bunch of baloney but seriously – new moms today have all the good stuff and they should consider themselves very lucky to have so many excellent carseats to chose from in various price ranges.
The Pipa retails for $299.95 and is available at many specialty baby retailers. Nordstrom offers free shipping and free returns (just in case it doesn’t work out for some reason).
Nuna PIPA Specs & Features:
- Rear-facing only: 4-32 lbs and 32″ or less (1″ rule also applies)
- 3 harness height positions
- 2 crotch strap/buckle positions (plus adjustable crotch strap length for smaller babies and preemies)
- Adjustable base with “stability leg” (a.k.a load leg)
- Base has rigid lower LATCH anchor connectors
- Base has sturdy lock-off for installations using seatbelt
- Can be installed without base using standard or Euro beltpath routing
- Thick energy-absorbing EPS foam lines entire upper portion of shell
- Canopy with unique “dream drape” feature
- FAA approved for use in an airplane
- 7 year lifespan before expiration
So why all the excitement for an infant seat?
Each Nuna PIPA comes standard with an infant insert, a buckle pad and harness strap covers. It also comes with plastic funnel guides in case your vehicle’s lower anchors are recessed and it’s difficult to attach the rigid lower anchor connectors. All of these extras are entirely optional but the infant insert is recommended for smaller newborns and should be removed before you need to move the crotch strap/buckle to the second position. Low birthweight babies and preemies will benefit from the additional low birthweight pillow which is inserted into a pocket on the backside of the infant insert. The low birthweight pillow will not be necessary for most full-term newborns and should only be used to boost a very small newborn a little higher if his or her shoulders are below the bottom harness slots.
2016 Nuna PIPA fashions
PIPA has all the bases covered when it comes to features. In addition to everything listed above, it has the following convenience features:
- Very easy to attach and remove carrier from base
- Harness strap adjustment is officially “smooth as butter”
- Handle can be in any locked position while in the vehicle
- Best-in-class canopy
- Nice harness straps – not continuous and not prone to twisting
- IMMI buckle
- Infant-sized chest clip
- Memory foam for comfort
- Can be paired with several high-end strollers to create a “travel system”
- Cover is well padded for comfort
- Cover is machine washable (wash separately in cold water, delicate cycle, mild detergent – air dry in the shade)
Rigid lower anchor attachments with red/green indicators so you know it’s properly attached to the lower LATCH anchors in your vehicle, load leg (Nuna calls it the “Stability Leg”) with red/green indicator, nice lock-off for seatbelt installations, 2-position recline adjustment and bubble level indicators on both sides of the base. The load leg can be folded and stored in a locked position underneath the base but it’s a great feature and you want to use it unless there is some incompatibility with your vehicle (unlikely but possible).
PIPA “Dream Drape”:
One of the unique and innovative features of this particular seat, the “Dream Drape,” is tucked into the canopy in a zippered compartment. The magnets that hold the Dream Drape in place are located on the sides of the seat – not inside the drape. Large metal washers are carefully sewn into the drape. The washers are too large for a baby to choke on and they are double-compartmentalized to ensure your baby won’t somehow manage to get them out of the drape.
- Harness slot heights: 7″, 9″, 10.5″
- Lowest harness slot height with infant insert and low birthweight pillow: about 6″
- Crotch strap/buckle positions (without insert): 5″, 6.5″
- Internal shell height: 19″
- Width of base at beltpath: 12″
- Width of base at widest point: 12.5″
- Width of carrier at widest point: 16.5″
- Carrier weight: 9.4 lbs. with infant insert and low birthweight pillow; 8.6 lbs. without infant insert
The low bottom harness slots combined with the inner buckle position and the adjustable crotch strap length ensures that PIPA will fit the vast majority of newborns and even preemies very nicely.
The 1-piece infant insert is optional but helpful for smaller newborns. The low birthweight pillow won’t be needed for most newborns but can be used as necessary for low birthweight babies who need an extra little boost to get their shoulders even with the bottom harness slots. The low birthweight pillow is inserted into a pocket in the back of the infant insert and should only be used until the baby doesn’t need it to fit well in the harness. Most newborns will use the infant insert without the pillow. Larger newborns won’t need the infant insert at all. The harness strap covers are purely optional and remove quickly and easily thanks to the Velcro on one side. For what it’s worth, I almost always remove the harness strap covers on a newborn (if they’re optional) because they just tend to get in the way more than anything else.
4 lbs., 17″ preemie doll with crotch strap shortened and infant insert with low birthweight pillow inside. Harness straps covers and buckle cover removed.
How to shorten the crotch strap length for smaller newborns: Start with the crotch strap in the inner-most position; take the metal anchor from the back of the shell and route it up into the opening for the 2nd buckle/crotch strap position.
20″ Newborn-Sized Doll: No inserts needed – pictured with and without crotch strap shortened
Baby Daniel: 11 months, 24 lbs, 28.5″ tall
Recline angle indicator on both sides of the base – bubble should be touching the line.
2-position adjustable base – flat vehicle seats won’t need the little kickstand to be down but sloped vehicle seats will need this flipped down in order to achieve a proper recline angle as per the bubble level indicator. For very sloped vehicle seats (like the 3rd row of a newer Grand Caravan/T&C), you will need to use pieces of foam pool noodles or a large rolled towel to get a proper recline angle.
Stability leg – the load leg vastly improves crash protection by limiting the seat’s ability to rotate downward during a frontal crash. Having the crash forces spread out over the baby’s entire back, rather than having them concentrated on the shoulders during peak rotation greatly reduces neck loads. The load leg also reduces the likelihood that the carseat will contact the back of the front seat or strike the hard center console in a crash. In addition to all that – a load leg also greatly diminishes rebound. Since the seat barely rotates downward – there just isn’t much energy to cause a rebound effect. The load leg “takes the wind right out of the sail.”
Adjust the load leg so that it’s making contact with the floor (the indicator on the bottom will turn green) but don’t jack the base up off the vehicle seat.
Installation with lower LATCH connectors:
Quick and simple are an understatement. The installation in my minivan takes me less than 10 seconds. Removing the base – detaching the rigid LATCH connectors from the lower anchors, takes even less time. No joke.
When connecting the LATCH connectors to the lower anchors in the vehicle – confirm that they are properly secured by checking the indicators on each connector. Red turns to green when they are attached properly. This is very helpful in situations where your lower anchors are recessed in the seat bight and you can’t see them to visually confirm that you’re properly latched on. The plastic funnel guides that come with this seat are also very helpful if you have recessed lower anchors. To release the connectors from the anchor bars push the grey release button located near the red/green indicator.
Since this base has rigid LATCH connectors, you cannot install using lower anchors in a center seating position with non-standard LATCH spacing. In these cases you will have to install the base with a seatbelt.
Nuna also allows the PIPA base to be installed using both rigid LATCH and seatbelt (together!) unless your vehicle manufacturer specifically prohibits this type of installation. I’m honestly not sure how much benefit, if any, this combination provides but we know from field experience that parents love to use both systems simultaneously so the fact that this isn’t a misuse with this particular seat is just another bonus.
Installation with seatbelt using lockoff:
The lockoff is required to be used if installing the base with a seatbelt.
Overhang – The rule of thumb that Child Passenger Safety Technicians are taught is the “80% Rule.” Unless otherwise specified by the carseat manufacturer, at least 80% of the base (or footprint of the carseat) must be over vehicle seat cushion. In other words – no more than 20% of the base can hang off over the edge of the vehicle seat. Since the PIPA base is long this was an issue in the center of my husband’s 2012 Dodge Ram 1500 Crew Cab and it was also a concern in my neighbor’s 2010 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. I asked Nuna for clarification and they confirmed that if you’re using the load leg, you don’t have to worry about overhang. However, if you’re not using the load leg for some reason, then follow the 80% rule.
Installation without base:
European beltpath routing is recommended (but not required) for installations without the base.
PIPA can be paired with the Nuna PEPP stroller (adapters sold separately) to create a “travel system”. Using various adapters, PIPA is also compatible with the following strollers:
For more info on which stroller adapters work with which strollers, check out this link.
Nuna PIPA Advantages:
- Fits a wide range of baby sizes, including preemies very well
- Extended usage thanks to generous weight & height limits
- Innovative base with load leg and rigid LATCH connectors
- Very easy to install base properly (rigid LATCH installation or with seatbelt)
- Very easy to attach and detach carrier from base
- Lock-off for quick and easy seatbelt installation
- Euro beltpath routing allowed for baseless installs
- Harness is easy to adjust properly and “smooth like butter”
- One-piece shell doesn’t promote head slump
- Thick energy-absorbing EPS foam and memory foam
- Best-in-class canopy thanks to innovative “dream drape”
- Harness straps are removable and replaceable if necessary
- Compatible with several high-end strollers using adapters
PIPA Disadvantages (In fairness, these may not be a problem for everyone but I list some potential disadvantages that may be an issue for some parents):
- Not widely available
- Made in China (although to be fair, so are most other high-end infant carseats)
- Adapters for PEPP stroller sold separately
- Lacks a no-rethread harness – which really isn’t a big deal; it just means that you have to detach the harness from the splitter plate and route the straps through the next set of harness slots as baby grows. The trade-off is that the harness is very easy to tighten and loosen and it can be removed and replaced if necessary – something that isn’t an option for many infant seats with a no-rethread harness feature.
The Bottom Line:
The Nuna PIPA is an exceptional infant seat and a welcome addition to the U.S. carseat market. Currently, it’s the only infant seat here in the States to feature both rigid LATCH connectors and a load leg. Two highly desirable features that when combined, make one very safe, very secure installation. Honestly, if it’s in your budget, there isn’t much to dislike about PIPA other than the fact that it isn’t widely available so it might be difficult to try one in your vehicle before you commit to the purchase. If you can’t “try before you buy,” make sure you research the store’s online return policy – just in case it doesn’t work out for some reason.
The Nuna PIPA is on our list of Recommended Carseats! Since it fits preemies and low birthweight babies so well, PIPA is also on our separate list of Recommended Infant Carseats for Preemies & Multiples.
Thank you Nuna for providing this seat for review. No other compensation was provided and the opinions and comments are entirely those of CarseatBlog.
Updated May 20, 2016