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2018 Nuna PIPA lite and PIPA lite lx Review

I think one of the biggest challenges for a car seat company is when they already have an exceptional product on the market. Typically, it’s not that difficult to find ways to improve your existing product. But when you already have a great seat, like say, the Nuna PIPA, it’s tough to find ways to make it better. Nuna seems to have been working hard on this and for a great majority of families, I think they’ve knocked it out of the park.

First, I’d strongly recommend you read our original Nuna PIPA review because the PIPA lite is, at the most basic level, a PIPA, and that review is a very thorough look at it. I’m not going to waste words retelling the PIPA story because I want to highlight the features of the “lite” model.

The Nuna PIPA lite and PIPA lite lx have the same exceptional base, the same stroller adaptivity, and basically the same dimensions. If you looked at one from a distance, you might not notice it wasn’t an original model PIPA. But when you get closer and especially when you get your hands on it, you can see the ways they’ve taken an already outstanding rear-facing-only seat and thoughtfully upgraded it.

PIPA lite Specs & Features

  • 4-32 pounds; 32” or less AND at least 1” of shell above baby’s head
  • 3 harness height positions, 1 crotch buckle position
  • PIPA base with rigid lower LATCH connectors, seatbelt lockoff AND “stability leg” (otherwise known as a load leg)
  • Energy-absorbing EPP foam through entire top and back of shell
  • FAA-approved for use in an airplane WITH the base
  • 7-year expiration
  • Luxe leatherette carry handle
  • Weight of carrier is only 6.7 pounds including infant insert and canopy
  • The entire seat, foam, fabric, and inserts are flame resistant but contain zero chemical flame retardants
  • Infant insert is now 2 separate pieces
  • 2 sets of inserts/strap covers, one of which is certified organic cotton. The head support insert contains tailor tech memory foam to make it fit and grow with baby.

PIPA lite Measurements

  • Harness slot heights: 6”, 8”, 10”
  • Lowest harness slot height with infant insert and low-birthweight pillow: approximately 4”, the curved nature of the insert makes it tough to measure precisely, but it’s looooow.
  • Crotch strap/buckle position (without insert): 6”
  • Widest point (at the outside of the carrying handle adjuster): 17”
  • Internal shell height: 19”
  • Carrier weight: 6.7 pounds with canopy and inserts (5.3 pounds without)

What Makes it Lite?

So the base is the same, the shell is essentially the same and you might be tempted to dismiss the PIPA lite as nothing new, but you’d be wrong because there are some substantial differences between the original PIPA and the PIPA lite and these differences are big deals.

PIPA lite on left, original PIPA on right

The original PIPA model weighs in at a very reasonable 9.4 pounds, but the PIPA lite (without the inserts) is only 5.3 pounds, making it the lightest rear-facing-only car seat out there. When the seat is empty, it’s almost unbelievably light for an infant seat, especially for such a solid seat made of quality materials. It’s so light you can literally carry it with a single finger. Once you put a baby in it, it’s not quite as light, but I will tell you, without hesitation, the difference in weight between my 4-month-old baby in the PIPA and in the PIPA lite is noticeable. Those 4 pounds make a difference.

I routinely have to carry several handfuls of kid paraphernalia out of the car in addition to the baby, and the PIPA lite is so much easier to carry than other infant seats. I often carry it with 2 fingers or hook it in the crook of my arm and even with Ben in it, it’s generally not the heaviest item in my arms. You might be tempted to dismiss the weight reduction as insignificant, but you would be wrong. I really mean that.

To make the PIPA lite so light, the folks at Nuna had to trim some “fat” from the original PIPA and adjust some of the materials.

What’s missing from the original PIPA?

The PIPA lite cannot be installed without the base. This is probably the most significant change and for some people, this change is a deal breaker. If you routinely use Uber/Lyft or taxis, or if you can’t just swap the base between cars (and if you haven’t used a PIPA base before, it literally, no exaggeration, takes less than 15 seconds in install), then you should look at the original model PIPA instead, which is a truly outstanding car seat.

If, like me, you only use the same two vehicles and virtually never any other kind of car service, the baseless installation isn’t something you’ll miss. I’ve been a mom for 5 years and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve installed my infant seats without the base and each time it was because I didn’t want to bother swapping my base, not because I couldn’t. Further, as a CPS Technician, I can say that in four years, I’ve never seen a baseless installation done correctly on the first try. I’m not suggesting we get rid of this installation option, but I’m also not going to say that I disagree with Nuna’s choice here.

If you’re in an emergency with your PIPA lite, it would not take any more time to install the base than it would to install baseless like you could with the original PIPA model. And by always using the base, you have the safety bonus of the stability leg, which we know improves crash performance. The total time it takes me to install the base with the rigid lower LATCH connectors was 10 seconds. I’m not exaggerating. I made my husband take a video (and if there’s public outcry I’ll upload it, but otherwise, let’s all be grateful to not spend 10 seconds staring at my butt while I install a car seat base). The total time it takes me to install the PIPA lite base with the seatbelt was 58 seconds and I tried to do it somewhat leisurely. Installing the original PIPA carrier without the base took me 59 seconds. I did it twice and both times I somehow ended up with a twist in my seatbelt. Basically (pun intended) the base is quick and easy to install and it makes no sense to lament the loss of a baseless installation unless you plan to travel by plane, taxi or car service and don’t want to drag the heavy base around with you.

The other feature that you won’t find on the PIPA lite model is the “dream drape”. I was substantially sadder about this than the seatbelt routing omission on the carrier, if we’re being totally honest. But now that I’ve used the PIPA lite for a while, I find that I don’t miss the dream drape that much after all. The standard canopy, plus a fold-out flap to extend it, has been more than adequate to block the sun.

What’s new on the PIPA lite?

To lighten the PIPA lite, Nuna looked to new, lighter materials first. They replaced some of the existing materials with aerospace aluminum, which is exceedingly lightweight for a metal, and swapped out the regular EPS energy-absorbing foam with “Aeroflex” foam. This EPP foam is lighter, but it’s specially made to absorb and diffuse energy.

PIPA lite on left, PIPA on right

The PIPA lite also sports new fabric and it’s no ordinary car seat cover/padding. The cover and padding are both totally free from chemical flame retardants, yet they still pass all FMVSS 213 flammability tests. And, if that wasn’t enough, one of the inserts/strap cover sets that comes with the PIPA lite is made of organic cotton. As the mother of babies who love to spit up in car seats, having 2 sets of inserts was the best surprise!

PIPA lite insert on left, original PIPA insert on right

Nuna was able to accomplish a flame-retardant-free seat by choosing materials that were naturally flame retardant so they didn’t have to add anything to the seat to make it pass the flammability standards. I was excited about the lack of flame retardants, but I anticipated a kind of rough fabric and I was shocked. The seat cover is absolutely gorgeous looking and it’s also really soft. The cotton insert is super snuggly, I kind of wish someone would make me a seat out of it. I have also been amazed at how cool it has been, often feeling cool to the touch when I would expect it to be overly warm.

Fit-to-Child

The harness slot heights on PIPA lite and lite lx are the same as the original PIPA, but there is only one crotch strap/buckle position on the lite and lite lx models. The major difference is the insert. The original PIPA has a 1-piece insert with a low birthweight pillow. The PIPA lite/lite lx models have a 2-piece infant insert, with the same style low birthweight pillow that can be added for preemies. The insert on the lite/lite lx has a separate head portion, which allows you to remove the lower portion when baby is bigger while still giving some head cushion/support. This seems small, but it’s one of my favorite improvements on this seat because I wasn’t really wild about the newborn insert on the original PIPA. The soft goods are plush and functional, though the strap covers are a little bulky on small babies or babies with spectacular cheeks. We still aren’t using the strap covers for Ben, who is 4 months and around 15 pounds, most of which is stored in his cheeks.

The fit on a smaller infant is excellent. When Ben first tried out this seat, he was barely 7 pounds and 19 inches and it fit him so much better than the seat we were using that I immediately swapped it out for the PIPA lite. He could’ve been several pounds and inches smaller and he still would have fit well. Because the shell is all one piece (i.e. there’s no separate adjustable headrest), there’s nothing pushing the head forward and no airway concerns. As Ben has grown, the fit has continued to be outstanding, just as it is on the original PIPA. Given the height of the top slots and the length of harness webbing, I can’t see any reason that the PIPA lite wouldn’t have an excellent fit to the limits of the seat, just as the original PIPA does.

Fit-to-Vehicle

Again, I’d recommend checking out the original Nuna PIPA review, as the coverage of the fit to the vehicle there is very comprehensive. I’ll only reiterate that the PIPA is a narrow seat, fitting well in cramped situations, with a very reasonable front-to-back size. The base installation is insanely simple and secure with rigid LATCH connectors that you can only find on a handful of other US seats.

Stroller Compatability

PIPA, PIPA lite, and PIPA lite lx are all compatible with the Nuna TAVO, Nuna DEMI grow and Nuna MIXX2 strollers. Adapters are available (for purchase separately) to make them compatible with the Bugaboo Cameleon, and 2015 or later models of the UPPAbaby VISTA and CRUZ. PIPA seats may also be compatible with other strollers that utilize Maxi-Cosi car seat adapters.  

PIPA lite Advantages

  • The lightest infant seat carrier on the market
  • Chemical flame-retardant-free
  • Outstanding fit on smaller babies, with room for growth
  • Uses the original PIPA base with rigid lower LATCH anchors, seatbelt lockoff, and a stability/load leg
  • Infant insert is now two pieces, allowing use of just head support or just lower portion for better fit/flexibility
  • Comes with two sets of high-quality infant inserts, both free of chemical flame retardants and one made of certified organic cotton with no dyes
  • Memory foam in headrest for comfort
  • Compatible with the same strollers as the original PIPA

PIPA lite Disadvantages

  • PIPA lite & lite lx models cannot be installed without the base. For frequent users of public transportation or airplane travel, the original PIPA is a great alternative.
  • There is no dream drape on the lite model canopy (though it is available on the PIPA lite lx model)
  • The strap covers may be too bulky for smaller infants
  • Made in China
  • While I firmly believe it to be worth every penny, the PIPA lite is not an inexpensive car seat at $349.99 from independent baby stores

Conclusion

The original Nuna PIPA is a truly outstanding car seat and the new Nuna PIPA lite and PIPA lite lx carry on and improve upon that tradition. The thoughtful use of materials and trimming of some extras combine to make the seat featherlight while still being incredibly safe. Each detail feels carefully thought-out for safety and for ease of use, and the result is a gorgeous, high-quality, lightweight and safe seat. If you’re not a frequent Uber/taxi/airplane traveler and you want a lightweight, chemical flame-retardant-free seat, look no further. You won’t find a seat that manages safety, style, and function the way that the Pipa Lite does. And your carrying arm will thank you, too.

Thank you to Nuna for providing this PIPA lite for review. No other compensation was provided and the opinions and comments are entirely those of the author.

For additional information on the PIPA lite see Nuna’s website: https://www.nuna.eu/usa/pipa-lite