The Evenflo Symphony is a new 3-in-1 child safety seat–rear facing, front facing, booster (there is also a newer version called the
Symphony 65). It has an amazing new LATCH system called “SureLATCH”, the same Infinite Slide harness adjustment system that Evenflo introduced with the Triumph Advance, and boasts that it is “Side Impact Tested”, but does it live up to its “all-in-one” hype?
Rear Facing Seat
The Symphony has a 35 lb rear facing weight limit, matching Britax and Cosco for the highest limit in the class. Its respectable seat height (1″ taller than the Roundabout with the headrest in position for rear facing) means that most toddlers will be able to use the Symphony rear facing until they weigh at least 30 lb.
The Symphony comes with removable padding for infants, and it’s a good thing! It is a roomy seat that even my 11 month old seemed to “swim” in it without that padding. With the padding, the low bottom harness setting (approximately 7.5″-8″) makes the Symphony a potentially good choice for use from birth.
Front Facing Seat
If there’s one major flaw in the Symphony, it’s the low, 40 lb weight limit on the integrated harness. With more and more high weight limit harnessed seats on the market–including Evenflo’s own Triumph Advance and Titan Elite, both of which can be used to 50 lb with the internal harness–the standard has been raised.
The good news is, the top setting on the harness is relatively high, and many kids will actually fit until they reach a full 40 lb, rather than outgrowing the seat by height before they hit the weight limit.
Belt Positioning Booster
I think the thing that most surprised me about the Symphony was how well it worked as a booster. Those other 3-in-1 seats have a less than spectacular reputation when it comes to their fit in booster mode. The Symphony held the lap belt low on the hips and the shoulder belt across the center of the shoulder. There was no gap between the child and the seatbelt.
Although the height is easy to adjust (squeeze the handle and pull up or down), it’s not a particularly tall booster, making the 100 lb weight limit merely hypothetical (children will outgrow it by height well before they they reach 100 lb), and it’s rather shallow, so it doesn’t provide much thigh support to children as they near the upper height limits, either.
The single most impressive feature of the Symphony is its ground-breaking SureLATCH system. SureLATCH uses two LATCH connectors with built in retractors that take up the slack in the LATCH straps when the parent presses down on the seat. The result is a secure installation with minimal effort in virtually no time! While I was able to get an adequate install (no more than 1″ movement) by following the instructions in the manual, which said to press down on the seat with my hands, I could only get a rock-solid install in my Honda Odyssey by putting my knee in the seat and rocking it slightly while pressing down with my full weight. Really, this is a minor quibble; it was still the easiest install I’ve ever done with LATCH in any vehicle.
Unfortunately, the seatbelt install isn’t nearly so simple. Rear facing, one must lift the cover to access the belt path, and once the seat is snuggly installed, it’s difficult or impossible to put the cover back in place. The front facing belt path isn’t quite as inconvenient, but one must still thread the belt under the cover, which I find slightly irritating.
Changing the Symphony from rear facing to front facing (or vice versa) is pleasantly simple. The LATCH connectors are easy to flip into the correct position, and the “Infinite Slide Harness Adjustment System” works just as advertised; just grab the red tabs and slide the harness up or down until it fits the child. The headrest is also easy to adjust (and must be in the lowest position when the seat is used rear facing).
Switching from harnessed to booster mode is quite a bit more complicated–remove the base, remove the crotch strap and stow in the base, remove the headrest, rethread and stow the harness, replace the headrest, and remove the cover on the shoulder belt guide(s).
Minor Irritation and Well Done Indeed
The red release button on the buckle is unusually large, and if you do not press it exactly in the center, only one side of the buckle will unlatch. I’ve gotten in the habit of pressing the button twice each time to make up for this flaw.
For me, this is more than made up for by the harness adjuster that tightens “like butter”. None of the tug-tug-tug nonsense of many other seats; no need to build up your biceps to muscle it snug; just pull firmly once, and watch the slack disappear from the harness. Parents should be aware that unlike almost every other seat on the market, the Symphony pulls slack out of the lap portion of the harness, not the shoulder portion. This isn’t a problem, but it can be confusing until one gets used to it and especially the first time one tries to loosen the harness by pulling on the shoulder strap.
The Evenflo Symphony raises the bar for 3-in-1 child restraints. While not right for everyone (no seat is!), the Symphony is impressively well-rounded. It may work especially well for families who need a seat that can easily be converted for use by several different children and families whose children probably won’t hit 40 lb before they are mature enough to sit in a booster, as well as families who need a convertible seat that can be installed with LATCH quickly and with minimal effort. Overall, I think it’s a seat worth considering!