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Rollover Tested Infant Carseat with ARB

In recent years, Evenflo has been pushing the boundaries of carseat safety. They were an early adopter of side-impact testing and they were the first in the industry to implement rollover testing of their carseats. Their new SafeMax Infant Carseat with anti-rebound bar has passed all their arduous crash testing and features advanced safety and convenience features that will surely endear it to new parents all over the country.

Evenflo SafeMax Infant Specs & Features:

  • Rear-facing only
  • 4-35 lbs.
  • 17-32 inches, at least 1” shell above head
  • 4 harness height positions
  • 3 crotch buckle positions
  • 3 hip width positions
  • Anti-rebound bar on base
  • Lockoff for easy seatbelt installs
  • Thick energy-absorbing EPS foam
  • Cover and soft goods (strap and buckle covers) are machine washable
  • Dual zone weight recline indicator
  • FAA-approved for use in an airplane
  • 6 year lifespan before expiration
  • Made in China
  • MSRP $179.99

 

SafeMax Infant Measurements:

  • Harness slot heights: 5”, 7”, 9”, 11” without the insert
  • Lowest harness slot height with body insert: approximately 4” (the curved nature of the insert makes it a little tough to measure)
  • Crotch strap/buckle positions (without insert): 4”, 5.5”*
  • Hip width positions: 5”, 8”**
  • Internal shell height: 19”
  • Length of seat with base with handle in car position: 30”
  • Length of carrier without base: 28.5”
  • Width of base at widest point: 15”
  • Width of carrier at widest point: 17.5”(outside of handles)
  • Carrier weight: 7 pounds (on my home scale)

* There are 3 crotch buckle positions, but only 2 spots in the cover for it to emerge. So while you can make the buckle a little bit shorter for a newborn, it will still be emerging 4 inches from the back of the seat.

**There are 3 hip widths, but again, only 2 slots in the fabric. So once again, you can get the harness a little shorter by routing through the inner most hip slot, but they will still emerge 5” apart.

Fashions:

Shiloh (Black/Grey), Nico (Black/Seafoam Green), Noelle (Black/Pink)

   

Fit-to-Vehicle:

SafeMax Infant has a seatbelt lockoff in the base that allows the base to be installed with the seatbelt without locking the belt itself. The lockoff is also used for the lower LATCH anchor installation, but should never be used with both the seatbelt and LATCH at the same time.

Recline Angle Indicator

The base of the SafeMax has 2 different weight ranges for proper recline of the infant. The light blue area is for smaller infants (4-20 pounds) and the green is for larger infants (20-35 pounds). If the deepest recline provided by the recline foot is inadequate for the child’s size, a towel or small blanket can be rolled and placed under the foot of the base to increase the recline angle. While the indicator is easy to read, it is unfortunately only on one side, making it tough to install on the driver’s side of the car, especially if there are adjacent seats.

Handle Positions

Evenflo has never allowed the handle to be left up in the vehicle and the SafeMax Infant is no exception to this. The handle must be down in position 3 when it is used in the car, except in Canada, where position 1 is required. The result of this handle position is that the seat takes up a full inch more front to back and it’s not a terribly compact seat to begin with. I have some concerns about the fit in a compact car with a non-compact driver/passenger.

1.5″ Clearance Rule

Evenflo mandates that there be 1.5″ of clearance space between any part of the infant carrier and the driver or front passenger’s seat directly in front of it. However, the 1.5″ clearance rule applies only to installations in the outboard seating positions of a vehicle. If you are able to install the SafeMax Infant in the rear center seating position, you do NOT need to have 1.5″ of clearance space.

Lower LATCH Anchor Installation

To use the lower anchor connectors, detach them from the bottom of the base. Ensure that the recline angle will be adequate by pressing down on the base to simulate it being fully tightened and adjust the recline foot by turning the knob, as needed, to get to the right color on the recline angle indicator. Open the lockoff by pushing down on the lockoff door itself and pushing the button at the same time (I tried to open the lockoff without reading the manual and had a very tough time opening it because I was not pressing down on the door, so this is a good trick to note). Attach the hooks to the lower LATCH anchor bars, tighten the strap as much as possible, then close the lock off door. If the lockoff won’t close, you may need to loosen the strap slightly. Check for tightness at the beltpath to ensure that you have less than an inch of movement side-to-side and front-to-back. Evenflo does allow you to borrow the anchors from the outboard seats for a center install as long as the spacing between the anchor bars is between 11″ – 20″ AND your vehicle specifically allows it (check the manual!).

Seatbelt Installation

To install with a seatbelt, place the base on the vehicle seat and press down to simulate the installation to determine if the recline is adequate for the size of the child. If more recline is needed, turn the knob on the base to drop the foot down, if less is needed, rotate the knob and press down to collapse the recline foot. Open the lockoff by pushing down on the lockoff door and pushing the button at the same time. Route both the lap and shouler portions of the seatbelt through the beltpath and buckle. Pull all the slack out of the seatbelt and close the lockoff. If the lockoff won’t close, you may need to loosen the seatbelt slightly. Check for tightness at the beltpath to ensure that you have less than an inch of movement side-to-side and front-to-back.

If you have a lap-only seatbelt, route the loose tail end of the vehicle belt under the lockoff as well. If you have a seatbelt “button” that interferes with the closing of the lockoff, slide the base slightly to one side or the other to move the button out of the way. Again, check at the beltpath to ensure that you have less than an inch of movement side-to-side and front-to-back.

Inflatable Seatbelts – At this time, Evenflo does NOT allow installation with inflatable seatbelts found in some Ford, Lincoln or Mercedes Benz with their carseats. If you have a vehicle with these types of seatbelts, use LATCH to install the base of this seat.

Installation Without Base

To install the SafeMax carrier without the base, route the lap portion of the seatbelt through the guides on the side of the carrier, leaving the shoulder portion flat against the vehicle seat back. Make sure the seat is properly reclined per the line on the carrier. Lock the vehicle belt (most lap and shoulder belts have a switchable locking mechanism at the retractor, so if you pull the belt out all the way, it will switch to locking mode). Then press down on the carrier and remove all slack from the belt. Like with the base, you should have less than an inch of movement side-to-side and front-to-back at the beltpath.

Fit-to-Child:

I don’t have a newborn for my uses right now (give me a few more months), but the fit on the Huggable Images preemie doll was great using the lowest harness setting, tightest hip setting, smallest crotch buckle setting and with the infant insert. The smallest settings on this seat are phenomenally small and should easily fit a 4 pound preemie or small newborn. Just keep in mind that if you have a preemie or low-birthweight newborn that you will likely need to make 3 separate adjustments (for harness height, buckle position and hip straps) in order to achieve an ideal harness fit.

For an average-sized newborn, you will likely need to make one adjustment before using the seat for the first time. Most newborns will need the harness straps set in the 2nd (from bottom) set of harness slots to get the straps at or just slightly below shoulder level, as required. It makes no sense that the SafeMax Infant currently ships with the harness routed in the 3rd set of harness slots. Evenflo is aware of the issue and hopefully that is something that will change in the near future. The buckle and hip positions should be fine for most average newborns in the middle positions, which is how they are set when the seat comes out of the box.

My human model is my adorable nephew Asher, who is 14 months old. He’s 30.5 inches and 22 pounds and he also had a pretty good fit. He still has about several inches of shell above his head (I know it’s tough to tell because of the canopy and his amazing hair) and was right at the top harness slot. The only not great thing about the fit (other than the strap covers pinching his adorable cheeks, which we remedied quickly by removing them!) was that there just wasn’t much slack in the harness for loading/unloading. I’m one of those people who likes to loosen my harness a lot to get kids in and out and I had barely an inch of slack left in the harness, which was surprising since he had an inch and a half and/or 13 pounds to grow per the stated seat limits.

For fun I threw my very petite 2.5 year old into the seat. Now, let me be clear- I am not advocating that you put 2.5 year olds in infant carriers, especially since he’s outside the stated limits, making it illegal for him to ride in this seat. I just wanted to see how generous the size of the seat was and he’s good for testing those sorts of things. Will is 34 inches and 24 pounds and while it was very tough to get him into the seat because of the aforementioned lack of slack in the harness, he actually had a scant inch of shell above his head. What I’m saying is, the heigh of this seat will easily accommodate kids to 32”, even if they have a long torso.

Cover/Maintenance/Adjustments:

The cover of the seat is machine washable and can be partially tumbled dry on low. Here’s a thing you should know about me: I am terrible at undressing and redressing carseats, but I do it for you anyway. The cover was not hard to remove, but it took several steps. Replacing the cover was equally straightforward when I followed the directions.

Adjusting the harness is…not all that easy. Also, the seat does not come out of the box with the harness routed in an appropriate height setting for a newborn which means you probably have to adjust things right off the bat. I timed myself when I transitioned it from the largest settings to the smallest and it took me 9 full minutes. It would have been shorter, but I got everything set and then realized that the infant insert, while great, cannot be put into place without removing the harness from the splitter plate and routing it through the insert.

The shoulder straps and crotch buckle adjustments are pretty standard, but the hip width adjustment is a bit tricky as you have to route the harness through two different slots. And on my model, which may not be true of most, one side was very difficult to adjust due to the foam lining the shell being nearly in contact with the outer harness slot.

FAA-Approval/Lifespan/Crash Guidelines:

  • FAA certified for use on airplanes
  • 6 year lifespan before expiration
  • Must be replaced after any crash

Stroller Compatibility:

The Evenflo SafeMax Infant seat is available for purchase on its own or as a part of the Pivot travel system. The Pivot stroller can hold children up to 50 pounds and can be used with the SafeMax infant seat or the standard stroller seat, which can be transitioned to a bassinette if desired and both the carseat and the regular stroller seat can be used facing inward or outward.

SafeMax Infant Advantages:

  • Very low lowest harness setting fits small babies well and generous shell height also accommodates tall babies
  • Several different settings for strap height, hip width and buckle
  • Plush seat cover, shoulder strap covers, buckle cover and infant insert
  • Generous canopy
  • Lockoff can be used for seatbelt or for lower LATCH anchor installations
  • EPS foam lines the entire inside of the carrier
  • Anti-rebound bar on the base
  • Side-impact and rollover tested

Disadvantages:

  • The seat comes out of the box with the harness routed in the 3rd set of slots (3rd from the bottom) which is too high for a newborn. This means most parents will have to make an adjustment (moving the straps down to the 2nd set of slots; or the lowest slots for a preemie) before they can use the seat for their newborn.
  • The adjustments themselves are a bit cumbersome.
  • The harness is relatively short for how long lasting the seat itself could be.
  • The handle must be rotated down to the #3 position, when in travel. This makes the seat significantly longer front to back, meaning the front seat passenger or driver will need to move their seat even further up.

Conclusion:

Evenflo has been a reliable member of the carseat community for many years and their new SafeMax Series, including this new SafeMax Infant Seat, ups the bar again by offering robust crash testing (side impact, rollover and higher speed). The seat features an easy to use seatbelt lockoff and plush inserts and fabrics, as well as an easy to read dual weight recline indicator. The fit to child for very small infants couldn’t be better and the wide variety of sizing on the shoulders, hips and crotch buckle allow the seat to grow with the child easily and for the duration of their time in it. Between the safety features, the fit and the overall quality of the seat, I would whole-heartedly recommend the SafeMax Infant Seat to parents in the market for a new infant seat. I have a feeling we’re going to see a lot of companies following in Evenflo’s footsteps, both in crash testing and quality.

For more information on the Evenflo SafeMax Infant Seat, you can visit Evenflo’s website.

Thank you Evenflo for providing the SafeMax Infant Seat for this review.  No other compensation was provided and the opinions in this blog are entirely my own.