Harmony Defender 360° 3-in-1 Harness to Booster Combination Carseat Review
US customers can purchase from Walmart.com for less than $100, and Canadian customers can purchase from Walmart.ca for $169. The Defender is a well-priced seat that comes with features seen more often with a higher price tag.
Samples shown in this review are primarily Canadian. Differences between countries will be noted where relevant.
Defender 360° Specs:
- With 5-point harness: forward facing from 22-65 lbs. and 27-57″ tall
- As a booster (high back or backless with lap/shoulder belt): 30-110 lbs. and 34-57″ tall (US) / 40-110 lbs. and 34-57″ tall (Canada)
- No-rethread harness height adjustment through nine positions
- Smooth harness adjuster
- Two crotch buckle positions
- EPE energy-absorbing foam in headrest, backrest and base
- Harness covers included
- May use lower LATCH anchors in booster mode
- Cup holder swivels and can be used on either side of seat
- Infinite recline system to best mesh with the vehicle seat shape
- IIHS Best Bet Booster rating
- Approved for use on aircraft (in harness mode)
- Machine washable cover
- Ten year life span before expiration
- Available in Moon Rise in the US – black/grey/red, and in Midnight in Canada – navy
- Lowest harness height: approximately 12″
- Highest harness height: approximately 18.5″, plus an extra 0.5″ if the seat pan pad is removed after a child weighs 50lbs (optional)
- Highest high back booster belt guide: approximately 20.5″
- Crotch strap positions: 5.25″, 7″
- Seat pan depth: approximately 13.5″
- Exterior width at arm rests: approximately 18″
- Exterior width at shoulders: approximately 17.5″
- Weight: 18.4lbs says my luggage scale
Fit to Child Comments
Fit in harness mode is truly excellent through the entire range of the harness height and weight requirements. The harness is height adjustable through nine positions, and can be done on the fly when the seat is installed. The squeeze handle to access the adjuster is hidden in the head pad but once you know where it is – voila! Easy peasy. The head pad/head rest piece adjusts as the harness is raised or lowered and is always optimally positioned relative to a child’s head provided the harness is at or slightly above the shoulders as directed.
Carseatblog recommends rear facing as long as possible and there are many seats on the market that can accommodate your child and vehicle with ease. However, once your child is ready to forward face — ideally not before age two — you can bet that they will be comfortable and fit well in the Defender 360°. A range of models shown here demonstrates the range of fit with the easily adjustable harness height and crotch buckle; the youngest at just-turned-two and 24 lbs. through a 7.5 year old at 45 lbs. Great fit, including a nice place to rest a sleeping head!
Booster mode provides excellent belt fit but kids may require some practice or adult help before they are able to buckle the lap/shoulder belt with ease. The arm rests of the booster are quite close to the seat pan and so there isn’t much space for a child to thread the seat belt across the lap – but, once it’s there, it’s nice and low and well-positioned. The arm rests are also situated quite far forward of the seat belt buckle so shorter kids will have a harder time reaching to buckle. Booster mode is best for kids who are consistently over the weight minimum and who have the maturity to remain seated properly at all times. For most kids this isn’t until at least age 5-6. The harness height of the Defender will easily allow harnessing until well past that point.
The Defender 360° comes with an “infinite recline system” that allows for easy adjustment of the recline of the seat. In my experience installing in many vehicles I found the best fit is usually with the Defender most upright. Having the option to adjust it is always a nice feature though, if needed! Use the up-front knob and rotate to find the sweet spot to best mesh with the vehicle seat shape. Note that it may be possible for a child to disrupt the seat’s installation if they fiddle with the knob so teach them to leave it alone, and check your installation regularly (good advice for all seats!).
The Defender 360° comes with basic hook-style lower anchor (LATCH) attachments, and a push-button tether hook adjuster. The instructions require tether use when installing in harness mode (a legal requirement in Canada, a strong recommendation in the US). The seat can be installed with lower anchors until a child weight of 46 lbs., unless your vehicle states a lower limit. After that point install with the seat belt.
When installing the Defender 360° I found it easiest to peel the cover back to expose the belt path. This gave me maximum leverage for minimum effort and is a handy technique to use on many seats.
Up to 2″ of overhang is permitted when installing this seat. Its slim design and low profile meant it installed well in a wide variety of vehicles. The way the head rest sits relative to the seat’s shell means it doesn’t tend to get in the way of the fixed or forward-leaning head restraints in many vehicles. I was able to fully raise the head rest and still avoid hitting the ceiling of my Civic, a common issue with high capacity seats, and something to test in your own vehicle.
The Defender 360° comes partially assembled. Instructions for complete assembly are clear, but must be done with care and attention because unlike IKEA furniture, all parts are important. You will need two Phillips screwdrivers, 15 minutes, and a clear spot on your floor to work. Once assembled for harness mode check the tightness of the screws periodically to make sure they’re secure.
Conversion to booster mode requires harness removal, and should be done slowly and carefully. Store the unused harness in a labelled bag for future reference. Conversion to backless booster means more tools – but at that point we figure most parents would prefer to save the Defender for its fabulous harnessing abilities and instead pick up a dedicated backless booster instead, possibly even one of Harmony’s other great offerings.
Removal of the cover for cleaning is unnecessarily complicated as described in the manual, but Harmony has approved this alternate method as outlined at the bottom of the page here.
- great value for the price
- long lasting fit in harness mode means even the tallest kids can remain harnessed until booster readiness
- smooth harness adjuster
- narrow, making it a good option for three-across
- widely available online or in-store
- IIHS Best Bet Booster rating
- assembly required
- conversion from harness to booster mode is tedious
- limited options for covers
- more practice needed as kids learn to buckle due to shape of arm rests
- made in China
Harmony has done a nice job of producing a slim seat with long term harnessing capabilities, complete with features seen most often on pricier seats. While some assembly is required it isn’t difficult – but this may put some parents off. The Defender 360°’s place in the market in the US compared to Canada is largely dependent on what else is out there. Americans have more options and may not pay as much attention to the Defender as they could as the US market is more saturated with options; Canadians have less to choose from and the Defender 360° stands out as a star with outstanding value in its class and available at Walmart.com. However, it’s narrow design makes it very appealing for anyone on either side of the border.
Updated May 2019