We already know and love the Chicco NextFit convertible and that’s why it’s currently one of our Editors’ Picks (aka favorite seats) from our list of Recommended Carseats. However, we wanted to review the new NextFit Zip Air model separately because it has some very unique features. Besides having the zip-off cover (which is nothing short of spectacular when you need to remove the cover for washing), this model also features 3D AirMesh™ technical performance fabric with airflow channels. Chicco claims that this cover maximizes ventilation throughout the backrest where children need it most. But does it actually help to keep hot, sweaty kids cooler? It was our goal to find out!
NextFit Zip Air Specs:
The specs for the NextFit Zip Air model are the same as for the original NextFit model
- Rear-Facing: 5-40 lbs.
- Forward-Facing: 22-65 lbs.; 49″ or less; at least 1 year old. *Chicco and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend all children ride REAR-FACING until age 2 or they reach the weight/height limits of this seat.
- FAA approved for use on aircraft
- 8 year lifespan before seat expires
- MSRP $359.99
Zip Air Features:
- Zip & Wash cover
- 3D AirMesh™ fabric with airflow channels for improved ventilation
- SuperCinch LATCH tightening system
- No-rethread harness (6 height positions)
- 2 crotch strap/buckle positions
- 2-position chest clip
- Harness strap covers plus ComfortFlex™ harness pads for the hip straps
- Energy-absorbing EPS foam
- Lockoffs for rear-facing and forward-facing installations with seatbelt
- 9 recline positions (any position can be used rear-facing or forward-facing to achieve an appropriate recline angle)
- Dual liquid bubble level indicators (one for RF, one for FF)
- Smooth bottom base with grip material won’t damage vehicle upholstery or slide around on slippery leather seats
- Thermal-insulated cup holder
- Lowest harness height setting: 5.5″ with newborn insert; 7.5″ without insert
- Tallest harness height setting: 17.5″
- Crotch strap positions: 3″ with insert; 4″ or 6″ without insert
- Seat pan depth (leg room/thigh support): 14″
- Internal seated height room (highest position): 26″
- Base “footprint”: 17″ front to back; 14.5″ at widest point across
- Weight: 26.5 lbs.
Installation in most vehicles is basically a walk in the park if you know what you’re doing. If you are using LATCH to install the seat it’s crazy easy because of the SuperCinch feature. SuperCinch is a force-multiplying system that makes it possible for anyone, even an elderly grandparent, to get a rock-solid installation in less than 1 minute using LATCH. Unfortunately, you can only use LATCH until your child weighs 35 lbs. in the rear-facing position, or up to 40 lbs. when forward-facing. Once your child exceeds these LATCH weight limits – you will have to switch to an installation using seatbelt (and tether if forward-facing). Installing with seatbelt isn’t difficult and the lockoffs are very helpful but you won’t have a force-multiplying system to help you out so it could take some effort to install properly.
I went into a lot of detail in my original Chicco NextFit Review. If you’re looking for in-depth commentary and lots of pictures of different installations (some with LATCH, some with seatbelt), I suggest reading the original review which is very comprehensive.
Tethering is required for all forward-facing installations when a tether anchor is available. If the vehicle is very old and does not have any tether anchors or if the NextFit must be installed in a seating position that does not have a designated top tether anchor then it is not considered a misuse to install without tethering. However, Chicco really wants the seat to be tethered (and so do we!) regardless of whether you are installing forward-facing using the lower LATCH anchors or the seat belt. Do NOT use the tether strap when the NextFit is installed rear-facing. In that case, store the tether hook in its storage compartment on the back of the shell.
Chicco does NOT allow center LATCH installations with “Non-Standard Spacing” so you can only take advantage of the easy LATCH installations with SuperCinch if you are installing in a dedicated LATCH seating position with standardized spacing (lower anchor bars spaced 280 mm apart). See the vehicle owners manual for information on the LATCH seating positions in your vehicle.
Chicco DOES allow installation of the NextFit convertible in Ford/Lincoln vehicles that have inflatable seatbelts if you are over the LATCH weight limit. However, you need to bypass the lockoff and lock the seatbelt. Refer to instructions in the Ford/Lincoln vehicle owners manual for specific guidance on how to lock the inflatable seatbelt system.
All NextFit models tend to fit babies, toddlers and older kids quite well. Rear-facing this seat can accommodate kids under 40 lbs. and it’s tall enough not to be outgrown first by height. If your child is under 40 lbs., it’s almost guaranteed that they will still be able to fit in this seat in the rear-facing position. For this reason, the NextFit is a very popular choice for extended rear-facing.
My only concern with this particular model came when I put the baby in it. The ComfortFlex™ harness pads that go on the hip strap portion of the 5-point harness could have easily created some slack in the harness that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. Just be aware of this potential issue when using a NextFit model that has these additional strap covers for a younger or smaller baby. If you think it’s an issue, just take them off. They are connected to each other under the cover to keep them in place but once you figure that out – they aren’t difficult to remove. You can always put them back on in the future.
Forward-facing is not recommended for kids less than 2 years old. The NextFit will fit most kids until they reach the age and size where they can safely transition to a booster seat (generally betwen 5-6 years old). The maximum height limit for the NextFit is 49″ tall or the seat can be outgrown by height once the child’s shoulders are above the harness slots in the max height setting. Kids with longer-than-average torsos will always outgrow seats more quickly just because of the way they are proportioned.
Does the cover really zip off as easily as they claim?
Yes! But it’s important to note that only the main portion of the cover zips off. The cover on the adjustable head rest and a flap of the cover that is attached to it does not zip off (1st pic below) but it was easy for me to remove and replace that part of the cover too. There is an edge of fabric with one side of the zipper that remains attached to the shell (2nd & 3rd pics below). It’s not likely that you would need to remove that edge piece too but it is possible if necessary. In the 4th picture below you can see that the ComfortFlex™ harness pads are attached to each other to keep them in place when your child is using the seat. They remove easily with velcro once the cover is off.
Is the NextFit Zip “Air” model actually cooler for sweaty kids?
This particular cover has “3D AirMesh™ technical performance fabric with airflow channels” for improved ventilation. But does it really work to help keep sweaty kids more comfortable in the heat and humidty of summer? That was the million dollar question so the Zip Air spent the summer with my friend Rob who is also a CPST-I. Rob has two young daughters already riding in Chicco products. His 3-year-old was already using a NextFit and the baby was in a KeyFit 30. I asked him to use the NextFit Zip Air during the hot summer months and see if he could notice a difference in how sweaty they were in this model compared with their regular Chicco seats. His conclusion?
The most noticeable difference between our original model Nextfit and the Nextfit Zip Air is that when taking my 3-year-old out of the seat after a long ride in warmer weather, her back isn’t sweaty. I can definitely tell she feels more comfortable in the Zip Air model and I have noticed that when she falls asleep in the car she sleeps more soundly than when she would fall asleep and wake up sweaty. I didn’t notice any difference with the baby but she doesn’t sweat in her KeyFit so it wasn’t a surprise that she didn’t sweat in the NextFit Zip Air either.
NextFit Zip Air Advantages:
- The cover zips off easily and is machine washable. This can be a godsend if you need to wash your carseat cover on a frequent basis!
- Fits a wide range of children well – including small newborns
- Deep headwings with EPS foam provide enhanced protection in side-impact crashes
- Great seat for extended rear-facing (for kids under 40 lbs.)
- Tall top harness height setting should get a lot of kids to the point where they are big enough and mature enough to transition to a booster (generally 5-6 years old)
- Super easy installation with LATCH using SuperCinch technology
- Premium “non-handed” push-on lower LATCH connectors
- Easy to switch the lower LATCH connectors from rear-facing beltpath to forward-facing beltpath and vice versa
- RF & FF lockoffs for seatbelt installations
- 6 position no-rethread harness makes it easy to adjust the harness height when your child has a growth spurt
- 9 recline positions practically guarantee a perfect recline angle in almost any vehicle without needing noodles
- Harness straps are thick and not prone to twisting
- Buckle is easy to buckle and unbuckle
- Rear-facing recline angle range of 37-50 degrees allowed
- Doesn’t take up a lot of room rear-facing (especially if you don’t need the full recline for a newborn). This makes it a good option for smaller cars and for tall parents who may need to have the front seat all or most of the way back.
- Smooth bottom base won’t damage vehicle upholstery
- Instruction manual is clear and well-written with easy-to-understand diagrams
(In all fairness these aren’t necessarily problems but I list them here to inform potential consumers of specific NextFit issues)
- Heavy & bulky
- Due to LATCH weight limits you must switch to a seatbelt installation once the child weighs more than 35 lbs. rear-facing or more than 40 lbs. forward-facing (not a big deal since you have lockoffs for easy seatbelt install but not quite as easy as using SuperCinch)
- Made in China (to be fair I should point out that so are many other high-end carseats)
- Zip Air model is currently only available at Babies R Us/Toys R Us
Thank you to Chicco USA for providing the NextFit Zip Air sample used in this review. No other compensation was provided and the opinions and comments are entirely those of CarseatBlog.
For more info on the NextFit Zip Air model see the Chicco webpage: http://www.chiccoshop.com/gear/shop-by-retailer/babies-r-us/nextfit-zip-air-convertible-car-seat—ventata/07079493990070.html