2021 Nuna Rava Convertible Carseat Review
I had my first experiences with the Nuna Rava years ago when it was just a prototype. As I put my hands on it for the first time, worked through the various settings and installed it in a couple of vehicles, I had a feeling that it was something really special. Every feature seemed to be well thought out, carefully designed and intentionally placed. It was clear to me, even back then, that the folks at Nuna had spent a prolonged period of time evaluating what parents wanted and how car seat design could improve safety.
Now that the final product is in my car, I can happily confirm my earlier suspicion- the Rava is indeed special.
Rava Weight and Height Limits
- Rear-facing: 5-50 pounds and 49 inches or less
- Forward-facing: 25-65 pounds and 49 inches or less, suggested 2 years or older
- Rear-faces to 50 pounds, one of the highest limits available
- Extension panel at foot of the seat that can be used rear-facing for increased legroom or forward-facing for thigh support
- 10-position headrest with no-rethread harness
- 5 rear-facing and 5 forward-facing recline settings
- No bubble, level indicator, or horizontal line for rear-facing recline—if it’s on one of the rear-facing recline settings (and in a newborn, if the head isn’t falling forward), the recline angle is safe per Nuna
- Infant cushion for use up to 11 pounds
- All-steel frame and steel-reinforced belt paths
- Two collapsible, removable cupholders
- Retractible side impact protection (SIP) pods
- Cover over adjuster release button to keep little hands from loosening harness
- Plush shoulder harness pads and hip harness pads
- Buckle holders to keep harness out of way for loading and unloading
- 2 crotch buckle positions, with longer length in outer position and easy push-and-slide adjustment
2021 Rava Fashions:
There are 5 fashions: Caviar, Frost, Granite, Lake, & Rose
All 2020 & 2021 fashions are free of flame-retardant chemicals.
- Lowest harness height: see “Fit to Child” section
- Highest harness height: 16″
- External widest point: 19″
- Total height with headrest fully extended: 25″
- Crotch buckle width: 5.5″, 7″
- Width of base: 14″
- Depth of base: 14″
When creating this seat, Nuna wanted to decrease the widespread confusion over the lower LATCH anchor weight limits and they decided to do this by encouraging a seatbelt installation for all kids and all cars. They did this with their “simply secure installation” using “true tension doors”- one for rear-facing and one for forward-facing. The seat comes with premium push-on lower anchor attachments, but multiple labels discourage their use and encourage a seatbelt installation. So how does this work for the typical parent?
Using the seatbelt, the toughest part of the installation is unsnapping and tucking the cover out of the way to expose the “True Tension Doors” (and that’s not difficult). Also, you’ll need to flip up the integrated cupholders to access the rear-facing beltpath. (The cupholders can be flipped back down once the seat is installed.)
Next, you choose the recline angle that best suits your vehicle and child (for newborns, you will want the deepest possible recline). Next, loosen the harness, raise the headrest to the top position and unsnap the seat cushion to expose the true tension door located where the child’s bottom would go (everything for rear-facing is color-coded in blue and there are directions for installation on the door). Push the button to open the compartment, thread the seatbelt through the rear-facing beltpath and buckle the seat belt.
Now, this is where the seat is a little different than others on the market: the “True Tension Doors” are NOT seatbelt lock-offs, which I will explain in more detail later. Instead of just closing the True Tension Door, you must also switch the seatbelt into locked mode (by pulling the belt all the way out of the retractor, then feeding it back in). You don’t need to yank the seat belt tight or use any significant amount of force–just make sure there isn’t any slack in the belt. Then close the true tension door. Without any tugging or knees in the seat, you get an absolute rock-solid installation. It really is unbelievably easy, and I cannot overstate how simple it is.
With lower anchors, you must go through all the first steps you’d go through for a seatbelt installation because the lower anchors are stored under the rear-facing True Tension Door (which means you may as well just use the seatbelt). Then, you thread the lower anchors through the rear-facing beltpath, remove all the slack and close the true tension door. It’s not difficult, but in this case, using the lower anchors is not easier than the seat belt, which was Nuna’s plan all along. The lower anchors may be used to a child weight of 35 pounds in rear-facing mode.
The Rava is very compact when installed rear-facing. With the legroom panel stowed and with the seat in the most upright rear-facing position, it is a contender as one of the most compact rear-facing seats from front-to-back. It’s also relatively narrow side-to-side, especially at the base and somewhat less so at the widest point. I was easily able to put it both in a captain’s chair and in the middle jump seat of my 2015 Honda Odyssey without side overhang and without it making contact with the seat installed next to it. The manual states that “when used rear-facing for children over 40 pounds, calf support should be in the use position.” Given that the legroom can get a little cramped for bigger rear-facing kids, I suspect that you’d do this somewhat intuitively even if you missed this piece of fine print.
Forward-facing seatbelt and lower anchor installation will sound very familiar because they are essentially identical to the rear-facing installation steps. You need to select your recline setting, loosen the harness, raise the headrest, unsnap the fabric and expose the Forward Facing True Tension Door (everything for forward-facing is color-coded in red, there are installation directions on that door). Open the door, thread the belt through the path, lock the belt, shut the door. And of course, connect the tether and remove slack. That’s it. It’s that easy.
Forward-facing lower anchor installation is just like rear-facing: Get them out of the rear-facing true tension door by following the same steps to open up the seat cushion, route the lower anchor strap through the forward-facing belt path, remove the slack, close the door, hook the top tether and remove slack. Again, it’s just not at all any easier than using the seatbelt and the lower anchors can only be used forward-facing to 40 pounds, so it just makes sense to install with the seat belt from the start.
Fit to Child
The infant insert on the Rava has a curvature to the bottom, which is very helpful for making sure that baby isn’t too upright in the seat, but it also makes it really difficult to give you an accurate measurement of the lowest harness setting. My measurements were around 9 inches. And if you’re thinking that sounds a little too high for a seat rated from 5 pounds, you’re not wrong. When I asked the folks at Nuna about this, they said that it’s possible that it just won’t fit every 5-pound baby on the market. Their requirement for fit was 5 pounds AND straps at or below baby’s shoulders. I would wager that there’s probably not a 5-pound baby out there that will have a long enough torso for this seat at birth, but you never know.
Nuna was also clear that the seat has not been designed to fit a premature infant, so the poor fit on the premie huggable images doll was as expected. For the newborn, the straps are about an inch above the doll’s shoulders. When we asked Nuna about the use of a crotch roll to improve fit, they said it is not approved. Every baby will fit differently, but most newborns will probably need a different seat for the first few weeks of life, even with the sizable infant insert.
My smallest human model was my nephew, Asher, who was 7 months at the time I tried him in the Rava. He was roughly 18 pounds and 26.5 inches of adorable. With a quick squeeze of the headrest handle, I was able to easily adjust the height of the headrest/harness from where I had it set for my 2-year-old to where Asher needed it to be. The seat fit him easily and comfortably.
My very petite 2-year-old (23 pounds, 32.5 inches) also fits easily in the seat rear-facing, though I did notice that at the most upright recline setting, he had limited legroom, which was easily fixed by extending the panel, giving him several extra inches of legroom. The harness tightens and adjusts smoothly and easily at even the lowest settings in rear-facing mode.
My 4-year-old (35 pounds, 41 inches) still fit with plenty of room to grow in rear-facing and with a decent amount of legroom as well. If he wouldn’t get car sick and/or drive me completely crazy whining about being forced to return to rear-facing, I would happily use this seat for him rear-facing, as he had tons of room to grow.
In forward-facing mode, the same 4-year-old has one click of harness height left, roughly about 1.5-2 inches of torso growth. He doesn’t have a particularly long torso, so this seems likely to be outgrown earlier than some other convertibles for average height kids. (Jennie’s 5-year-old, who wears a size 5 shirt, still has about an inch of room left on the harness.)
My kid absolutely loved the thigh support offered in the extendable panel, which kind of surprised me because the panel itself doesn’t seem that substantial when you look at it. He’s not a kid who is particular about car seats (he prefers one car seat because it has red on it–that’s the kind of discerning he is), but he actually got very upset when I put the Rava rear-facing for his younger brother.
Ease of Use
If you haven’t guessed by now, the Rava is extremely easy to use. Installation with the True Tension Doors is a breeze.
Reclining the seat couldn’t be easier: Just push a button and gently guide the seat into whichever position you want. There are no complicated levers or feet to deal with: Just push and go.
The cupholders just pull out and push in. It does take some strength, but that’s a good thing: You wouldn’t want your kid to accidentally nudge the cupholders in while they’re in use. Any adult should be able to handle it just fine, though.
The leg extension panel is also quite easy to pull in and tuck away, as are the side impact cushions also flip in and out without any problem.
The crotch buckle can be shortened or lengthened by merely pushing in and sliding it in or out: No rethreading of splitter plates and webbing.
Here is a quick video showing some of the features and how they’re used:
What’s the deal with the True Tension Doors?
While the True Tension Doors closely resemble other tensioning seatbelt lockoffs, unlike those other tensioners, they are NOT lock-offs. When we asked the Nuna engineering team, they gave us a pretty reasonable explanation. There is no set rule for the thickness of a seatbelt and many luxury vehicles are coming out with increasingly thin belts. Their concern is that there may come a belt that is too thin to be fully locked off within the True Tension Door and they didn’t want this to compromise safety for any family. And thus, though the True Tension doors do a remarkable job of making the seatbelt installation easy and secure, you must switch the retractor to locking mode before closing the door. (Nuna recommends locking the belt prior to closing the door because it’s too easy for people to forget that step once they hear the satisfying click of the door. A fellow CarseatBlog writer might have fallen into that trap…so just lock the belt before you close the door.)
Cover removal and care
The cover is among the nicest I’ve ever laid my hands on. It’s literally like a fine Italian suit. The soft goods are extremely high quality, plush, but also well ventilated. For extra peace of mind, all 2021 fashions are also free of flame-retardant chemicals.
Removing the cover isn’t terribly complicated if you follow the directions to recline the seat and get it set up just so. I will say that I found it mildly complicated to re-dress the seat as the cover needs to be carefully tucked into the shell along both sides, but I do not often remove and replace my car seat covers, so it’s possible that my struggle with replacing the cover was more about my own inadequacies than anything else. I did get it back on all the way and you’d never know it had ever been removed.
The seat cover can be machine washed with gentle soap and should be left to air dry. The infant insert can also be washed by machine, but the wedge piece must be spot-cleaned only. The harness and the shell can both be hand-washed with a sponge and mild soap and then towel dried.
FAA status, Lifespan, Crash Details, Other Details
The Rava is FAA approved for use on an aircraft. The airplane lap belt should be routed OVER the true tension doors though, not under. I brought it on an airplane earlier this month and it fit beautifully forward-facing, but I made the foolish mistake of not stowing the thigh support panel and could not get it rear-facing. Since I was on a plane and panicked about getting it in, I failed to see whether it can fit rear-facing without the support panel extended.
The Rava has a 10-year lifespan and must be replaced after any crash, regardless of whether there is visible damage.
The lower anchor limit is a child-weight of 35 lbs for rear-facing and 40 lbs for forward-facing. Nuna does allow installation in a center position (borrowing anchors from either side) if the vehicle manual also allows it.
The Rava is not approved for use with inflatable seat belts (Nuna calls them “airbag belts” in the manual).
- Rear-facing up to 50 pounds
- 10-position no-rethread harness
- Side impact protection (SIP) pods on both sides of the shell
- Push-button recline with 5 rear-facing recline settings and 5 forward-facing recline settings
- No bubbles or lines for rear-facing recline angle
- True Tension Doors hold the belt tight without any yanking or significant effort
- Steel frame with reinforced belt paths
- 2 crotch strap positions and lengths with easy push-button adjustment
- Buckle holders on both sides of the seat
- Compact front-to-back in rear-facing mode
- Push-on lower LATCH connectors (if you insist on using them instead of seatbelt)
- Harness release cover to keep small hands from loosening the harness
- Dual collapsing cup holders
- Machine-washable cover
- All 2020 & 2021 fashions are now free of flame-retardant chemicals
- FAA approved for use on airplane
- 10-year lifespan
In fairness, these aren’t necessarily problems but we list them here to address RAVA-specific issues.
- At $449.95, the Rava is one of the most expensive convertibles on the market.
- The fit for newborns isn’t great. Only very large newborns will fit from birth. Most babies will fit by 4 months old.
- The lack of a recline angle indicator may complicate use for young babies, especially in vehicles with very sloped vehicle seats that may not allow adequate recline for babies without good head and neck control.
- The 16″ max harness height is shorter than most competitive convertible seats from other manufacturers.
- The True Tension Doors are NOT lockoffs and may cause some confusion among parents who are used to not having to lock their seatbelt with similar belt-tensioning devices.
Overall, the Nuna Rava is a carseat dream. It has all the convenience features parents want, easy and secure installation with seatbelt, and first-rate quality from top to bottom. I don’t know how else to describe it other than how I did in the header for this post: The Rava really is the carseat equivalent of a fine Italian suit. If you loved the Nuna PIPA infant seat, then the RAVA is a perfect sequel.
Updated February 2021
Thanks to Nuna for providing us the Rava for this review! No other compensation was provided and all opinions are those of CarseatBlog.
CarseatBlog Experts Rating
My son was just over 5lbs when he came home from the hospital and fit perfectly in his Rava! I’m a former CPST myself and felt great about his fit.
Hi, we bought this car seat and love it except it seems the straps have zero slack. Our little guy is 20lbs (and he’s small for his age) and it looks like he barely has any room to grow with it. Have you heard of this issue, and how do you get more strap? We’re thinking we may have to get something else! Any help is appreciated.
Hi Monica. When the harness is in lower positions, the harness will have less slack in it. As the headrest is raised, the harness will have more length to it. If you still have the infant padding in the seat, you can remove that and you’ll gain some slack as well.
Do you have a sense of when the average boy would outgrow a 16″ harness height? I love everything about the Rava except that shorter harness height and am worried my inexplicably tall baby boy (~31″ at 13 months, which is the 79th percentile) will outgrow it before I’d like to transition him to a booster (around 6).
We have this seat and I love it but we have a big problem, which is my (nearly) 2 year old continually disconnects the top chest strap. Because the strap doesn’t have a split attachment, there is no way to remove it and replace with something harder to open.
Hi Nick. No, there’s no way to replace the chest clip. You’ll have to keep reinforcing the idea that it shouldn’t be touched while the car is in motion. Some parents have had luck with letting their kids buckle themselves in: “Here, you buckle yourself in, mom and dad unbuckle.” You can also have special car toys that you rotate to keep hands busy. Some that are fun are: Mobi Zippeee https://amzn.to/2H2yWPR, Manhattan Sensory Toy https://amzn.to/3jZ1PLB, Buckle books https://amzn.to/377LKj4. HTH!
I want to absolutely love this car seat but alas it has one HUGE flaw in my book… We have had the Nuna Rava since 2016 and there is so much I love about it, safety, easy to install, cup holders, the overall look but the huge issue we have come across is during potty training. I love that the car seat has the locking doors under the seat for super easy seat belt installation but as we learned with our potty training toddler, in creating an easy install Nuna also created the perfect pee trap. My son has had a few accidents in the car while potty trainjng and despite promptly removing the car seat and taking it all apart and washing it as best as I could, either the latch straps were too saturated or there is some pee hiding somewhere in the little compartments that I can’t get too and now my car is forever plagued by the faint smell of old pee. I have tried EVERYTHING to get the smell out but alas I’m defeated. I love everything else about this car seat but this seems to be a huge design flaw. Anyone else have this problem?
Yes! We actually took ours apart and gobs of mold came out everywhere and nuna wouldn’t do anything about it. HUGE design flaw!
Yes. I just spent a number of days cleaning mine out. I’m a little shocked it doesn’t drain better, I love the seat’s design otherwise. I flushed mine out with water, possibly a bad idea since you then have to invert the pee-water into the rest of the seat- and let baking soda sit everywhere possible for a couple days after the water dried. Some suggested Biokleen enzymes, I’d do that next time, too. Such a hassle, and then the next time we were in the car, another accident!
Nuna Rava verses Graco 4 ever all in one, although Rava is a little more cushy , the Graco is far better and lighter to haul.
I am in love with this carseat, yet I am having a hard time convincing my husband about getting this carseat because he keeps finding all over the place that “The Britax” is the number one convertible car seat in safety. Have you seen any information about safety on the Rava?
Thanks so much!
Hello, I’m curious if the carseat has held up over time? We have the Nuna Pipa Lite LX and have been super disappointed with the quality of the material on it. After just a few weeks of use there was a loose thread that formed a small tear by the trigger to losen the belts and after just a few months of use the material started to pill. Have you experienced this at all? It makes me nervous to buy another Nuna.
Hi Jennie! The fabric on the Rava is quite a bit thicker than on the Pipa. My Nuna Lite is less than a year old and has some snags on the corners but the Rava has been in constant use in our car since this review was published and the fabric is in pristine condition. It helps that, unlike an infant carrier, it stays in one place so it hasn’t been bumped up against stucco walls (I wanted to cry after I did that) or other things that damage the fabric, but the fabric and soft goods are definitely thicker on the Rava, so you shouldn’t encounter the same issue. Hope this helps!
Hello! I was able to fly in economy comfort with this car seat rear facing. The person in front of us had about an inch of recline left. (Flight attendants tried to get me to flip the seat but I stood my ground saying it was safest for my then 18 month old). It also BARELY fit in regular coach on Hawaiian. Barely. It was on a hopper flight so it didn’t really bother the person in front of us.
Thanks for the great review of this seat! It is convincing me to get a second one for our 3 mo old.
Hi there. I was wondering what airline you flew with? Was it easy to get it in the seat forward facing? Thank you
Do you know when the Nuna Rava may be coming to Canada? It looks wonderful:)
How far does the headrests stick forward from the back of the car seat? My daughter doesn’t do well with her head being pushed forward. She does fine with a radian with the straight flat back but something like the foonf which has maybe an inch of head push does not work well for her.
How can it “extend” when the car seat is already snug to the backseat as pictured with the 2yr old? Wouldn’t the 2” of extension be blocked by the back of the backseat?
Larry, you extend the leg extension panel before installation. By doing that, it pushes the carseat out on the vehicle seat giving more leg room. Of course, you have to have the front-to-back space to accomplish this or put the Rava more upright.
I think that is for front facing position. As you said if you put your car seat rear facing and want your car seat to be safely attached it will touch to the back of the seat and that extension won’t make much difference. I think even you open it before you install won’t make much difference.
May I ask what airline you flew with? I am flying soon and plan on using my Nuna Rava on the airplane and I am nervous it won’t fit on the seat. Was it a hassle lugging on and installing?? Thamk you!
I flew southwest. It’s a pretty compact seat and it will fit easily forward facing on just about any plane and with the recline foot in it should fit rear facing on many if not most.
I wanted to get the Rava for my son, he will be 7 months old. My question is, did you put the 7 month old in your article in the most upright position?
I just got Nuna Rava. I’m living in GA and it can be super hot in summer time (HOTLANTA)
I want to buy canopy to cover or block sunlights on my baby. Any suggestions?
I know that people always say that for car safety, we should not add any accessories for car seat. However, I do think that adding canopy will outweigh the CON. My husband has melanoma skin cancer and my baby son could inherit the same skin issue according to our dermatologist. Obviously, I worry about skin cancer more than about unsafe of adding canopy during car accident.
The issue is…..which canopy is compatible to Nuna Rava? Can I get maxi cosi convertible car seat canopy for Nuna Rava? Thanks!
Do you know if the Nuna Rava allows any overhang? I know the Pippa allows up to 20%.
Looking for used nuna rave convertible car seat
You’re not likely to find a used Rava because they’re relatively new to the market and people tend to really like them so they won’t be selling them. We don’t recommend buying a used carseat because you don’t know the history of the carseat; you don’t know if it’s been in a crash or handled in a way the manufacturer doesn’t approve of, if the straps have been washed in the washing machine, etc.
Does this car seat have a way to secure the straps as your putting your child in so they’re out of the way?
Yes, on each side at elbow level, there’s a spot where the buckle tongs can be placed.
I have been trying to decide between this seat and the Graco Extend2Fit. My 2.5 year old is just under 40 pounds and in the 99th percentile for height. I noticed that in your review, the Extend2Fit highest harness height is 18 inches, whereas the Rava is 17 inches (according to an email they sent me; not the 16 inches listed in your review). Do you think the Rava will last us as long (or close to it) rear-facing as the Graco?
I had a chance to play with one at a baby show. I agree it is very nice but mentioned the lack of rebound control. The rep said “that’s all built in.” I asked if that meant they passed the Canadian rebound standard without alteration. She said she didn’t know but it passed the US. I pointed out we don’t have one… It left me less than confident in her answer that it passed EU testing. I would love to hear confirmation from an engineer or designer that this US version of the seat also passed EU testing without alteration.
Thank you so very kindly for such a thorough and detailed review of the Rava (and great photos)! Currently have the KeyFit 30 with our first child (7 months) and trying to decide on a convertible. Budget aside… What do you see as the most important features on a convertible, and How would you compare Rava to the NextFit and ClickTight?