Carseat aficionados in the United States have long drooled over foreign seats with load legs that extend to the floor of the car to provide extra stability in a crash. Seats with that feature have slowly started to become available in the US market, and now there’s another one: The gb Asana 35 DLX infant seat. In addition to the load leg, the Asana also features a belt-tensioning lock-off, a no-rethread harness, and more. Let’s take a closer look!
gb Asana 35 Specifications
- Weight range: 4-35 lbs
- Height limit: 32″ and at least 1″ of shell over the head
- Lowest harness height: 7″ (measured without infant insert)
- Highest harness height: 11″
- Crotch buckle positions: 4″, 5″, 6″
- Interior shell height: 20″ (1″ of clearance would allow a child’s bum-to-head height of about 19″)
- Interior seating width: 9″ at hips, 9″ in shoulder area
- Interior seating depth: 12″
- Exterior width at widest point (handles): 17″
- Exterior width at narrowest part of base (near belt path): 14″
- Overall length of carrier from foot to back: 27″
- Weight of carrier: 9 lbs.
- Load leg (on DLX model)
- Fit-loc belt tightener/lock-off
- Multi-position recline foot
- Premium LATCH connectors
- Two acceptable recline angles, one for babies under 20 lbs. and one for children 20-35 lbs.
- Infant insert
- Lots of EPS foam to help absorb energy and enhance side-impact protection in a crash
The Asana 35 comes in DLX and LTE models. The difference between the models is that the DLX version has the load leg and the LTE does not. This review is for the DLX version (with the load leg) but the rest of the information here pertains to both models. Prior to October 2015, the Asana was available in the Asana 35 and Asana 35 AP models. Those seats had a different harness-adjusting system (more on this below) but are otherwise the same as the current models. The Asana 35 AP had a load leg; the Asana 35 did not. We believe load legs for rear-facing only infant seats are an important crash safety feature and the Asana DLX is one of the least expensive models to feature a load leg in the USA!
Installation/Fit to Car
The Asana has an easily adjustable recline foot with four positions to help the base recline into one of two allowable angles: one for children 4-20 lbs, the other for children 20-35 lbs. A window on the base displays different colors to indicate what recline the seat is in: blue for children up to 20 lbs, green for children over 20 lbs, red (not allowed), or a combination of any of those colors (also not allowed–the indicator needs to be solidly blue or green).
Now, sometimes even seats with an adjustable base still need a pool noodle or towel to get the seat reclined enough. In this case there are two allowable recline angles (rather than a range). In all the vehicles I tested in, I was able to achieve the perfect angles using various settings on the recline foot without the need for pool noodles, rolled up towels, or swearing. 😉
I tested the Asana in a 2010 Honda Odyssey, 2014 Honda Civic, 2016 Subaru Forester, 2016 GMC Sierra, 2010 Toyota Prius, and 2011 Toyota Highlander.
Here is a video with information on installing the base and using the load leg:
I typically needed the foot on the adjustable base to be fully extended or almost fully extended to get the perfect newborn angle. Having the foot extended only one click usually gave me a perfect larger-baby angle. In all cases, I didn’t need to fiddle or finagle the seat, which was a big relief. Of course, I can’t say that the seat will work perfectly in all cars, and there are probably some cases where a pool noodle will be needed, but having such great results in my test cars is a positive sign!
Here is the Asana in the Prius with the seatbelt, and in the Odyssey with LATCH:
Even in the most reclined position, the Asana didn’t take up an unreasonable amount of front-to-back space. In some cases I needed to move the front seats up a bit from where they were positioned before, but not to much that it would be uncomfortable or unreasonable for most passengers. Again, your results might vary based on your particular vehicle and passenger size. Here it is in the Prius and Forester:
With a widest point (at the handle) of 17″, and a base that is 14″ at the beltpath, the Asana is on the narrower side and therefore might be a good option for tight seating situations, like trying to fit three car seats in a row.
Installations using the lower LATCH anchors or with seatbelt were both typically very easy. The base includes a tensioning-type lockoff called the Fit-Loc Belt Tightener. You route the seatbelt (or LATCH strap) under the lever, remove most of the slack (but don’t tighten too much!) then push down on the “lever” to close the lock-off and cinch the belt tight. An indicator on the seat will change from red (unlocked) to green (properly locked) when it’s closed.
The Fit-Loc usually allowed me to get a rock-solid installation on the first try. I did find the arm to be difficult to close a few times, but loosening the belt just a tad helped. Over-tightening the belt before closing the mechanism is a common issue with other seats that have this type of lock-off/tensioning system. Always test the base for tightness at the beltpath by giving it a good tug. If it moves less than an inch, you’re good.
One potential issue to note is that if you have a small plastic “convenience button” or sewn loop of fabric on your seatbelt (to keep the latchplate from sliding too far down) that might interfere with the Fit-Loc’s ability to close. In two vehicles, the 2016 Sierra and the 2010 Odyssey, these features initially kept the panel from closing properly. However, in both cases I was able to loosen the belt just enough to get the button/webbing out of the way while still maintaining a tight installation. There might be vehicles or seating positions where those features make the seat incompatible, though.
The LATCH connectors store away conveniently within the base. There is a small tab near the beltpath that the LATCH strap should be tucked under when not in use. If you’re using the lower anchors, make sure to bring the strap up from under that tab.
It’s also very important to make sure the LATCH strap is routed under the base for storage. If it’s routed on top of the base, the strap can interfere with the carrier snapping in properly.
The Asana does allow use of non-standard LATCH spacing (borrowing anchors from the side for a center install) if the spacing is at least 11″ and the vehicle manufacturer specifically allows it.
The load leg was also easy to use. The leg folds and stores in the bottom of the base when you don’t need it. To use it, you just rotate it out of its storage unit, install the base, and extend the leg. The leg can be extended by pulling down on the lower leg and/or by pushing the side of the large black area to release the center of the leg. Which method you use will depend on the height of your vehicle seat. You want to make sure the leg rests firmly on the floor without pushing the base upward.
The leg needs to rest on a flat surface, so if the floor of your car is uneven, you’ll need to make sure it’s on a flat portion or you’ll need to keep the leg stored. In this photo of the 2016 Sierra, you can see how the floor is uneven, and the leg needs to go forward of the “hump.”
The leg also cannot be used above a built-in storage compartment if the vehicle manufacturer warns against it.
The Asana allows the carrier to be installed without the base using typical American belt routing. You route only the lap portion of the seatbelt through the belt guides near the handle and lock the seatbelt at the retractor. A level line on the carrier indicates that the seat is properly reclined. Installing the Asana without the base took a little more work than I’ve needed with some other seats, but it was certainly doable. Here it is in the Civic:
Fit to Child
The Asana comes with removable body support for smaller babies, three widths for the hip straps, and three positions for the crotch strap, meaning that it should be easy to get a solid fit on a range of children. We tried the Asana with a few real-life kids and a couple Huggable Images dolls.
The infant support must be used for children under 6 lbs. There isn’t an exact weight when it must be removed, but the manual says it can be used until the child is around 8-10 lbs., and should be removed if it causes the buckle to press uncomfortably agains the baby’s legs. The crotch strap should be in the position closest to, but not under, the child, and a rolled washcloth can be used for a small newborn if there’s a gap between the crotch strap and the child’s body.
The infant insert provides a contoured surface for the child to sit on, meaning that it can be hard to know exactly where to position the baby’s bottom. We used a Huggable Images premie doll to test the fit. With the doll resting against the buckle, the harness wound up above the doll’s shoulders. (The harness should always be at or below the shoulders for a rear-facing child.) However, when we placed the doll higher on the insert (which is considered the correct placement, according to gb’s technical representatives), the fit was perfect. In this situation, a rolled washcloth might be necessary between the baby and the crotch buckle if there is a gap between the two.
The Asana fit the Huggable Images newborn doll fine.
This 25″, 13-lb. 6-month-old also fit well. Because the Asana is pretty narrow, she looked a little cramped in it but didn’t seem to mind.
Finally, this is a 30″, 23-lb. 12-month-old. She still had plenty of room over head but also seemed a bit cramped width-wise. How much this bothers a child—if at all—will obviously depend on the particular kid.
The seat comes with the hip straps positioned in the middle setting, which is probably fine for most newborns, especially when using the infant insert. Very small babies might benefit from the smaller setting, and older babies might need the widest setting. In each case, the hip strap goes down through one set of holes and then back up through another set. You’ll want to have the manual handy because there are three slots on each side, and you need to make sure they go up and down through the right ones because there’s a specific way of doing it. (Darren and I inadvertently messed it up at one point because we weren’t paying attention—but just for one of the dolls, luckily.)
The metal plate was generally pretty easy to move in and out of the slots, but the webbing did get hung up a couple times. Changing the hip strap position isn’t hard, but it can be a bit tedious. If parents have the manual handy and follow the instructions, there shouldn’t be a problem, but I do worry that some people might decide to “lengthen” the straps by not routing the metal plate back up through the shell as they’re supposed to.
Ease of Use
It’s important to point out that when the Asana first came out, it had a different harness system than it does now. Initially, on the Asana 35/Asana 35 AP, the headrest/harness would always start off in the highest position. As you tightened the harness, the headrest would move down with it, automatically positioning the straps at the child’s shoulders, thereby reducing the possibility for misuse. This was a fantastic concept, but unfortunately we found it impractical in real-life. When we tested it, we found that by the time the shoulder straps had moved down to an acceptable level, the harness wound up overtightened and uncomfortable for the babies we tried it with. With a newborn, we needed to manually move the headrest/harness down with one hand while tightening with the other, but it also required holding the child’s head forward to move the headrest behind them, a feat that was difficult to accomplish with only two hands.
We expressed our concerns to gb, and we were pleasantly surprised when they showed us the new version (in which the height of the harness adjusts separately from the tightening feature) just a few months later. We give the company huge kudos for not only taking our concerns into consideration but for working so quickly to incorporate changes.
The new version of the Asana in this review has a more traditional harness system: tightening the harness tightens only the harness and does not move the headrest with it. The headrest/harness height is easily adjusted by squeezing a button on the headrest and moving it up or down into the desired position, so there is no need to fiddle with splitter plates and manually adjust the height of the straps.
All in all, the new system in our DLX model works smoothly and is easy to use.
A simple but very helpful feature is that the belt guides on the carrier (for use when installing the seat without the base) can be used to hold the harness straps out of the way when getting the child in and out.
The Asana’s canopy is nice and large, with velcro strips to hold it in place at the back of the seat. The carrier itself is lightweight (only 9 lbs according to my scale) and relatively comfortable to carry.
The handle may be in any locked position in the car, so parents can use whichever position is most convenient for them.
I didn’t have any issues snapping the carrier into the base, nor did I have any difficulty removing it. The carrier is removed in a manner similar to many other infant seats: You pull up on a lever on the back of the seat, which releases it and allows it to be lifted out.
The Asana’s cover is extremely easy to remove—one of the easiest I’ve encountered. Most of the cover is held in place by the elasticized contours of the cover itself, with a couple plastic tabs and a couple elastic loops. For the most part it just peels off, but it also feels secure when it’s on, so I don’t think the cover will slip during normal use. To completely remove the cover, it is necessary to unhook the harness from the splitter plate and slide the straps out through the hip slots, but that was relatively easy.
Two potential downsides: 1) The cover on the headrest is not removable. 2) The washing instructions for the cover say to wipe the cover clean with a damp cloth. I called customer service and also checked with GB’s spokesperson to make sure that those washing instructions are accurate, and that people aren’t even supposed to hand-wash the items. Both representatives said that indeed those instructions are accurate: spot-clean only, no hand- or machine-washing of the cover.
FAA Approval/Lifespan/Crash Guidelines/Misc.
The Asana is approved for airline use (mentioned on page 5 of the manual, and on a sticker on the seat itself). The carrier and base should be replaced after any crash, even if the seat was unoccupied. The Asana has a lifespan of 6 years from the date of manufacture.
I want to commend gb for excellent labelling on the seat and also on an excellent manual. If parents read the manual (which they should) they’ll find the information laid out clearly and in an approachable way. The manual also tackled some issues that CPSTs deal with a lot: There’s a warning against bulky clothes (that can interfere with proper tightening), a prohibition against using the seat on top of a shopping cart (fall hazard), and a prohibition against using the seat with LATCH and a seatbelt at the same time. The manual even says that people should not let anyone else use the seat or base without also giving them the instruction manual, and that people should never buy second-hand seats if they don’t know the history of those seats.
I think the coolest part is that the manual includes a one-inch diagram that people can use to measure if there’s enough shell over their child’s head. It’s a small but helpful inclusion.
The manual stores in a clearly marked and easily accessible compartment on the top of the base.
The Asana can be found as part of the Lyfe, Alara, and Evoq travel systems. It is also compatible with the gb Zuzu, Qbit and stand-alone Evoq strollers. The Qbit comes with a car seat adaptor, while the Zuzu and Evoq have the adaptors built in. Third-party adaptors for other strollers are available, but they have not been tested and approved by gb.
- Load leg!
- Belt-tensioning lock-off
- Easy-to-adjust, no-rethread harness
- Smooth harness tightener
- Multiple hip and crotch positions to fit children of different sizes
- Narrow footprint for tight seating locations.
- Easy and effective recline foot
- Comfortable handle
- Wide canopy with velcro to hold it in place
- Easily removable cover
(In all fairness these aren’t necessarily problems, but could be an issue for some parents)
- Somewhat complicated hip-strap adjustments
- Plastic button/webbing loops on some seatbelts might interfere with Fit-Loc panel
- Cover is spot-clean-only and the fabric on the headrest is non-removable
- Narrow internal seating area might be uncomfortable for bigger/older babies
- Made in China (although, to be fair, so are most other high-end infant carseats)
Overall, the gb Asana 35 DLX is a well-designed infant seat with great safety and convenience features. It is easy to adjust the recline, easy to install, easy to adjust the harness height, and easy to tighten the harness on the child. Also, it’s one of the few infant seats with a load leg, which gives it a huge advantage over many other seats on the market. The narrow interior space might be an issue for some larger babies or ones close to outgrowing the seat by height, but the narrow exterior dimensions can also be a benefit for people needing to fit the seat in a tight spot. When it comes to space – there is always a tradeoff.
Currently the gb Asana 35 DLX can be found as a stand-alone seat in 3 fashions (Twilight, Sterling, or Midnight) or as part of the gb Lyfe, Alara, and Evoq travel systems. The seat retails for around $249.
Additional info can be found on the gb website: http://gbchildusa.com/products/asana-dlx-infant-car-seat/
Thank you to gb for providing a sample for our review. As always, we did not receive compensation for this review, and all opinions are our own.