My first child was born in 1998. We used our Century Smart Fit infant seat for about a year. That’s when I began my journey as a child passenger safety advocate. After having great difficulty finding a convertible that fit rear-facing into my Saturn SL2, I ended up with a Britax Roundabout. Sometime later, I had similar difficulty in finding a combination seat and finally happened upon the Century Next Step.
So, here is a blast from the past, about a month after I started Car-Seat.Org and Car-Safety.Org in 2001. It was my very first online carseat review at Epinions. at the same time as my original Britax Roundabout review. We all have to start somewhere! I was a top reviewer for the Kids & Family category for a while and made at least a few hundred bucks over the years. I’m glad I deleted the vast majority of my reviews before Epinions shut down its community earlier this year and locked out authors from their accounts. Yes, Epinions is now a throwback too!
NextStep DX with EZ-LATCH kit
May 06 ’01 (Updated Jun 27 ’02)Author’s Product Rating
Durability: Ease of Use:
Front harness adjuster, straps shouldn’t twist, LATCH compatibility
Somewhat expensive, belt positioner awkward, harness release takes a good tug
The Bottom Line
After a rear-facing convertible seat, the NextStep DX/MX may be the last carseat you ever need. It is loaded with features that improve safety, comfort and ease of use.
Full Review Key features for this seat:
1) Front Harness tightness adjuster. Many seats have adjustments that are difficult to do, and require removing the seat to adjust. This one is a simply pull of a strap from the front of the seat while it is installed. Loosening is almost as easy, but takes a strong upward tug on the release strap. A tight harness keeps your child safer, so this is a great feature. The 5-point harness is the type recommended by most experts. I will never again buy a seat without a front adjustment, after being burned by a Consumer Reports recommendation for an inferior model without this feature (and most of the others below)..
2) LATCH compatibility. Century’s new EZ LATCH retrofit kit works with all Century seats made after 9/1/97. With some MY 2000 and 2001 vehicles with the new LATCH/ISOFIX anchor system, you no longer need to use the seatbelts for installation. I purchased the retrofit kit ($25) and installed the NextStep DX with it. The fit was very good with the tether, and was easier to do than a typical seatbelt installation. Unlike some other brands which require you to install the tether, the tether on this model is pre-attached. Ease of installation with the LATCH kit (or seatbelts) is even easier with the flip-up cover that lets you do the belt routing through from the front. If your vehicle has LATCH, this may be a key selling point. In our minivan, we can pull the captain’s chair out with the carseat still installed, or we can move it to another position without re-adjusting the carseat. Plus, the seatbelts aren’t in the way of rear seat access.
3) Flexibility. This seat fits children over 1 year AND over 20 pounds, but under 40 pounds with the included harness. After that, it will fit children up to 80 pounds as a belt positioning booster. It also has 3 sets of harness slots and 2 sets of slots for the buckle at the crotch. This makes it easy to use for many size children. Unlike some convertible seats which MUST use the top set of slots while forward facing, the all the slots on this type of seat can be used, which may lead to a better fit. Use of a slot at or just above shoulder level is recommended. The slots on this model go up to 17″, which is relatively high and should accommodate most children up to 40 pounds.
4) Harness Straps resist twisting. Unlike some other models, the harness straps on this model should resist strap twisting. Tightly twisted straps may increase the chances of a burn or injury in a crash. The NextStep DX has a two-piece chest clip and a wide shield at the buckle which should keep the straps flat. This is a very nice feature.
5) Miscellaneous features: The seat is reasonably well padded, and wide enough for larger children. The fabric is a thick velour-type, which should resist stains and excessive heat fairly well. An included headrest pad can be used with smaller children to keep their heads more upright. The armrests are adjustable to a high position for sitting, and a low position for getting into and out of the seat. Not really a big feature, but it might interest some parents. There is also a 2-position recline, which is not a common feature for this type of seat. The padded carrying handle is also a minor advantage.
A) This seat is on the expensive end of high back, harnessed boosters. I found it online for $99, and there was a coupon code for 20% off.
B) The threaded shoulder belt guides can “catch” the belt if the child pulls on it. That could leave slack in the shoulder belt and leave it unsafe. This is typically only a problem if the shoulder belt is threaded incorrectly, so please read the manual carefully and observe if this is ever a problem.
C) When used as a belt positioning booster, the mechanism to change the positioner to a different level is a little more awkward than some other models. It is not difficult, though.
D) As mentioned, to loosen the harness, you have to give a strong tug upward on the release strap and then pull the harness. A better grip on the strap would have been useful.
E) The tether isn’t anchored at the very top of the seat. This means it may not pull as tight as tethers on some other models, and tends to gouge your fabric at the top of your seat a little more. I recommend some type of plastic to prevent permanent damage to the seats.
F) I have not had any problems yet, but I note the armrest mechanism doesn’t seem robust, and the clips and loops to hold the cover also seem like they may not wear well. Others have reported a couple different minor problems. While none of these impact the safety or function of the seat, I only rated it a “Good” in this category. I may revise this if it holds up well over time.
Overall: A great seat that you can use for many years, once your child is over 1 year old AND heavier than 20 pounds. This seat cannot be used for infants, since it cannot be put rear-facing which is safer for children under 1 year and less than 20 pounds. The NextStep MX is also a very good seat for somewhat less cost. I believe it does not include the rubber shields on the buckles. I happen to like these shields, but others find them inconvenient. Based on Century’s website, I believe the MX may not include the flip-up cover for the seatbelt routing, another minor feature that may not be worth the cost of the DX. Please note that other (older) NextStep models will not have some of the convenient features I mentioned. For more information, try these sites for questions LATCH, and on the selection and installation of carseats:
Resources for free checkup events and inspections:
Finally, I also recommend iowamommy’s epinion, as it contains all the relevant information and answered all my questions before deciding on this seat:
Amount Paid (US$): 80
Age Range of Child: 12 to 36 Months