2016 Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Carseat Review
The new generation of 3-in-1 carseat from Dorel is here and it’s a solid success in practicality, installation, and fit. From a 5-position no-rethread harness, to protective head wings, to user-friendly features such as harness holders, the Safety 1st Grow and Go shows it’s up to the challenge of taking children from rear-facing through early grade school. Read on to learn how the successor to the aging Alpha Omega Elite platform is raising the bar.
Weight and Height Limits
- Rear-facing: 5-40 lbs., and child’s head is 1” below top of headrest, and 19-40”
- Forward-facing: 22-65 lbs., and 29-49”, and at least 1 year old (models made prior to 10/2016 had 2-year age minimum)
- Belt-positioning booster: 40-100 lbs., 43-52”, and at least 4 years old
What are the differences between the various models of Grow and Go and similar convertibles?
*Tip – turn your phone sideways to see all the columns
|Carseat Name||RF Weight Limit||FF Weight Limit||BPB Weight Limit||IIHS Rating||Features||MSRP|
|Multi-Fit||5-40 lbs.||22-40 lbs.||40-100 lbs.||Best Bet Rating||Costco exclusive; harness height adjustment levers on headrest; 3-position recline; 1 cup holder||$99.99|
|Ever-Fit||5-40 lbs.||22-40 lbs.||40-100 lbs.||Best Bet Rating||Sam's Club exclusive; harness height adjustment levers on headrest; 3-position recline; 1 cup holder||$99.86|
|Continuum||5-40 lbs.||22-50 lbs.||40-80 lbs.||Best Bet Rating||harness height adjustment levers on headrest; 3-position recline; 1 cup holder||$149.99|
|Grow and Go||5-40 lbs.||22-65 lbs.||40-100 lbs.||Good Bet Rating||harness height adjustment levers on headrest; 3-position recline; 2 cup holders||$169.99|
|Grow and Go Air Sport||5-40 lbs.||22-65 lbs.||40-100 lbs.||Best Bet Rating||harness height adjustment button on headrest; Air Protect®; cover unsnaps to machine clean and dry; 3-position recline; 1 cup holders||$189.99|
|Grow and Go EX Air||5-50 lbs.||22-65 lbs.||40-100 lbs.||Best Bet Rating||harness height adjustment button on headrest; Air Protect®; cover unsnaps to machine clean and dry; 3-position recline; 2 cup holders||$199.99|
Grow and Go Overview
- No-rethread harness with 5 height positions and a separate infant position
- 3 crotch strap positions
- Infant cushion
- Versatile harness holders
- Machine washable and dryable cover
- 2 integrated cup holders
- IIHS “Good Bet” Rating for booster mode
- Made in the USA!
- Harness height range with no-rethread harness: 10” – 17 ¼”
- Separate newborn harness slot: 5 ¾” bottom slots with infant cushion
- Highest belt-positioning booster belt guide: 18″
- External widest point: 18″
- Usable shell height with headrest: 26″
- Shoulder width: 14 ½”
- Crotch strap depth: 3 ½”, 4 ¾”, 6″
- Seat depth: 12 ½”
- Seat weight: 15.4 lbs.
Grow and Go has 3 recline positions. For babies who cannot sit upright without support, the red level line on the sticker must be parallel with the ground. For older babies and toddlers you may use recline position 2 or 3 on the base and the seat can be installed rear-facing at a more upright angle. For forward-facing and booster mode you must place the seat in the fully upright (#1) position.
This seat does NOT have a built in lockoff feature for installations with seatbelt. Therefore, if you need to install with seatbelt, you must understand how the belts in your vehicle lock. Read your vehicle owners manual for guidance and consult a CPS Technician if you’re still unsure.
Installation is color-coded for ease: blue for rear-facing, red for forward-facing. One nice thing about installing the Grow and Go rear-facing is that the recline angle can be more upright for kids who can sit up unassisted. For the younger, less coordinated crowd, the level line must be parallel to the ground. When it’s installed more upright in my vehicle, a 2011 Acura MDX, it gives the front passenger seat nearly normal legroom. Unfortunately, when installed in the full recline position for younger babies, it created a knees-in-the-dashboard situation. It also required something additional (pool noodle or rolled up towel) to achieve that required recline angle. For more info on how to properly use a pool noodle or rolled up towel to adjust the recline angle of a rear-facing carseat, see our article HERE.
Forward-facing LATCH weight limit: 40 lbs. Children weighing between 40-65 lbs. using the harness must have the seat installed with a seatbelt and tether. The tether must be used when the seat is installed forward-facing using the 5-pt harness.
LATCH in Booster Mode: The lower LATCH connectors and tether may NOT be used when the carseat is used in booster mode.
Center LATCH Installations with Non-Standard Spacing: Permitted only in designated LATCH positions; if your vehicle doesn’t have dedicated lower LATCH anchors in the center seating position, you cannot install this carseat with LATCH.
Inflatable Seat Belts: Safety 1st does NOT allow the Grow and Go to be used with inflatable seat belts found in some Ford, Lincoln, and Mercedes vehicles, and in some airplane seat belts.
Fit to Child
The infant cushion MUST be used for children using the separate, bottom harness slots. Its use is optional at other times. The buckle cover MUST be used at all times. The harness strap covers are optional and may be removed at any time.
Rear-facing: Use the harness slots that are “at or slightly below” the child’s shoulder level. The seat comes out of the box with the harness straps in the no-rethread harness system (lowest height position is 10″ high). 10″ is way too high for a newborn but since most parents use an infant seat first, babies are usually 6-12 months old before they are transitioned into a convertible seat. By 6 months old, most average-sized babies can fit “at or below” in harness slots that are 10″ high.
For newborns or smaller infants, the carseat must be set to a separate set of lower harness slots (approximately 6″ high) outside of the no-rethread headrest. If you need to use these lower slots, be prepared for the reality that you will need to use this single set of low harness slots until your baby can fit in the next set of slots that are 10″ high. There is a 4-inch gap between those 2 harness height positions. If you wait until your baby is tall enough to use the seat the way it comes out of the box – you avoid these potential issues.
On the sample seat I received, the cover was not aligned properly by about a ½” and it made for an extremely frustrating task of threading the harness through the slots. I couldn’t follow the instructions; average parents without knowledge of how to re-thread harnesses will probably end up doing it incorrectly. My suggestion is not to use this carseat for small infants. Since most parents will likely start with an infant seat anyway and transition baby into a convertible at some point after 6 months, this won’t be an issue for the majority of users.
Setting up Grow and Go for small baby:
If you choose to use the Grow and Go from birth, you will need to make sure that the harness is threaded correctly through the infant insert cushion, through the separate bottom slots of the adjustable headrest, through the bottom slots in the carseat shell and attached to the splitter plate using what we refer to as the “newborn loops” on the harness.
Make sure the headrest is in lowest position to align the lower set of harness slots on the adjustable headrest (blue arrow in pic below) with the bottom harness slots on the shell. There’s a sticker on the back of the seat that references this. Do NOT move the headrest up from the bottom position while the harness is routed through these slots. Leave the headrest in its lowest position when using the newborn harness slots. In addition, the harness straps must be shortened when using the lower slots. The metal splitter plate should be attached to the upper loops on the harness. This leaves a long “tail” of excess webbing hanging down from the splitter plate (see 2nd pic below). If you don’t shorten the straps this way – you won’t be able to get a snug harness fit on a small baby.
If you wind up using the lower slots, move the harness back to the original out-of-box settings once your baby is tall enough that their shoulders are level with the regular slots in the headrest (see green arrow in pic above). On the back of the seat, you will see the harness come through the red plastic slot in the adjustable headrest – above the metal reinforcement bar. Now you can take advantage of the no-rethread harness feature as your child continues to grow!
When tightening the harness on my newborn doll, I noticed that the straps got stuck and wouldn’t tighten all the way. Kecia was having a similar issue with her Grow and Go model when the seat was installed RF using those separate newborn harness slots. Since this is occurring between the bottom of the shell and the base, it’s hard to figure out what’s going on. However, we determined that there are plastic ribs under the seating area of the shell and the splitter plate sometimes gets stuck on those ribs when the harness is routed through those newborn slots. We did not experience this problem when the straps were routed through the no-rethread harness system. Because of this, and the complicated nature of re-routing the harness straps, we don’t recommend any of the Grow and Go models for babies who aren’t tall enough to use the seat the way it comes out of the box.
Those issues aside, harness fit on my newborn doll, Romeo, was excellent, though I did find that buckle adjustment for smaller infants to be too short. Adjusting it back to the normal length was just right. Using the buckle adjustment for smaller infants is optional, so adjust it to fit your child.
Nora, my smaller rear-facing model below, is 1 and around 25 lbs. Emma, my older model in the purple shirt, is 4 and around 30 lbs.
Forward-facing: With a 17″ top harness height position, the Grow and Go harness should accommodate many kids until they are the age and size where they can safely transition to booster mode. Almost all kids will outgrow the harness by height before reaching the 65 lbs. weight limit.
Models below are 2 years old, 24 lbs. and 34″ tall. And 5 years old, 48 lbs. and 43″ tall.
Tethering the seat is required when forward-facing (if a tether anchor is available). Use the tether strap regardless of the installation method (LATCH or seatbelt). Tethering a forward-facing carseat is a critical step that many parents miss. Figure out where the tether anchors are in your vehicle and use them with any forward-facing carseat!
The seat I have is labeled with a 2 year minimum age for forward-facing but current Grow and Go models have labels and instructions that state that the minimum age for forward-facing is 1 year old. We recommend that children ride rear-facing until at least age 2 as per the AAP recommendations but we also acknowledge that there are some families with compelling circumstances who may chose forward-facing before 24 months and those families will now have that option with newer production models (unless they live in a state with a higher legal age minimum age for forward-facing).
Belt fit was excellent on our model below who is 6 years old, 48 lbs. and 47″ tall. This seat isn’t particularly tall or wide so it won’t be the last booster your child needs before they are tall enough to pass the 5-Step Test, but it does a good job in this mode for kids over age 4 who weigh at least 40 pounds. The Grow and Go received a “Good Bet” rating from the IIHS in their most recent round of belt fit testing.
Converting the Grow and Go into a booster is a pretty simple procedure. On many seats that convert from a harnessed carseat to a belt-positioning booster, the harness must be removed and stored somewhere. Then promptly lost, right? Not in this case. Safety 1st made room for the harness storage behind the headrest/backrest panel. Unfortunately, you will have to remove the buckle and harness covers and store them somewhere safe if you want to use the carseat in harness mode again. A gallon size Ziploc bag is great for holding all the padding and the buckle.
Cover/Maintenance/Ease of Use
I opened the manual and the first 2 pages blew me away—in a good way! I can tell a lot of thought went into making it easier for parents and caregivers to navigate. The iconography throughout is outstanding.
The cover has harness holders so you can keep the harness out of the seat while you put your child in it. If you’ve never had this feature before, you’ll never be able to use another seat without it!
The cover removes very easily. It literally is one of those covers you can unsnap and rip off in less than 10 seconds after your kid pukes or has a poop explosion and you’re gagging on the sidelines. After you wash it in the washer in cold water in a gentle cycle, you can dry it on low heat for 10-12 minutes to jump start the drying process. The harness can be wiped down with a wash cloth and sudsy water. The cover simply slides back on and there are 4 snaps to secure it.
The Grow and Go is FAA-approved for use as a harnessed seat only. Boosters are not allowed to be used on airplanes because they require lap/shoulder belts.
The Grow and Go has a lifespan of 10 years and Safety 1st wants you to replace it after any crash.
- 3 modes of usage: rear-facing, forward-facing & booster
- Fits a range of children well
- Relatively narrow
- Easy to convert to booster
- Cover is easy to remove, machine washable and dryer safe
- Versatile harness holders
- 2 integrated cup holders that are removable and dishwasher safe
- 10 year lifespan before expiration
- Made in the USA
- Requires manual adjustments to use for newborn or smaller infant. Those adjustments create many opportunities for misuse.
- On my seat, the harness was extremely difficult to thread through the separate lower slots due to the cover sizing
- Splitter plate can catch on the bottom of the seat when the separate lower harness slots are used; we don’t recommend the Grow and Go models for infants until they are large enough fit in the bottom setting of the no- rethread harness
- Takes up a lot of space rear-facing when reclined to the level line, but can be positioned much more upright once child is older and able to sit upright without support
- Cannot use LATCH in booster mode (lower anchor connectors and tether hook must be stored in booster mode)
- Kids with long torsos may outgrow booster mode before they are ready to switch to an inexpensive backless booster
For older infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, the Safety 1st Grow and Go is a vast improvement over the previous generation of Dorel 3-in-1 models. These new seats are easier to install, fit kiddos and vehicles so much better, have improved covers with much better padding and we love that they are easy to remove, machine washable and even dryer safe! Dorel has also made great improvements in their manuals and labeling and we applaud them for that. As an added bonus – all Grow and Go models are Made in the USA!
Even though we don’t recommend any of the Grow and Go models for use with newborns or smaller babies, overall these seats offer what many consumers are looking for. An affordable convertible + booster seat that will keep their child safe and comfortable through different ages and stages!
Thank you to Dorel for providing the Safety 1st Grow and Go used for this review. No other compensation was provided. All opinions expressed are those of CarseatBlog.