Nuna EXEC Review: The King of Kid Carseat Comfort?

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2021 Nuna EXEC All-in-One Carseat Review


I got our Nuna EXEC All-in-1 in March. Yes, March of 2020. It has taken me 13 months to finish the review for it, which I’d like to blame on…something, but mostly it’s just that being home full time with 3 small children is exhausting beyond words and so when I have a moment, I never choose anything productive. I was actually almost finished with this, just at the take-the-dang-pictures stage, when my youngest child threw up all over the seat, which meant a lot of cleaning, sunning and a ton of bribing to get my kids back in it for pictures even though it cleaned up fine. I think we can definitely blame at least like 6 months of the delay on that, right? Maybe we can blame the other 7 months on somehow losing some of the padding…twice.

Despite the intense delay, I really want to tell you about this seat. My slow speed in writing this review isn’t about the EXEC, in fact it maybe inversely related. We’ve had the EXEC installed in our car since the day we got it. I have zero intention of using any other seat for a while, because honestly, the EXEC is great. Nuna took the Rava, which continues to be an outstanding seat, and then added a bit and subtracted a bit to make the EXEC a better version of an already great seat, with some booster function as well. I’ve procrastinated writing this, but the truth is, it’s one of the easier reviews I’ve written. Maybe I should just use every seat for 13 months before reviewing? Just kidding. Kind of.

Measurements and Numbers:

Height limits:

  • For harness mode, the child must be 49 inches or less.
  • For booster mode, the child must be 38 to 57 inches

Weight limits:

  • For rear facing, 5-50 pounds
  • For forward facing, 25-65 pounds
  • For booster, 40-120 pounds (child must also be at least 4 years old)
  • Infant insert: required for use between 5 and 11 pounds.
  • Lower anchor limits: 35 pounds rear facing, 40 pounds forward facing

Seat width: 18.5 inches

Harness heights- there are 12 positions ranging from about 8.75 inches (without infant insert) to 17.5 inches. The infant insert is somewhat curved, so it’s really hard to accurately measure what the lowest harness height is with it in place.

Top seatbelt guide height- 19 inches

Crotch buckle positions: 2 positions, about 4.5 inches from the back of the seat and 6″ inches from the back of the seat.

Weight: 26.5 pounds

Depth of ARB: The ARB can extend outward from the seat by about 2.5 inches.

MSRP: $699.95 – 749.95

Features:

  • The EXEC is gold certified by Greenguard, an internationally recognized labeling program for companies with indoor products, for low chemical emissions.
  • The EXEC features Aeroflex side impact protection system, in addition to foam within the shell, to provide impact protection during a crash.
  • Simply Secure installation system: No bubbles, clear labels, and True tension doors do most of the work. Nuna boasts that it’s “bubble-free, hassle-free and muscle-free.”
  • Dual flip open cupholders: These are collapsible, removable, and easy to wipe clean.
  • Merino wool inserts and organic cotton insert, harness covers and crotch cover are provided in addition to the standard set.
  • No added fire retardant chemicals throughout the seat.

I’m going to divide this review up a little differently today, rather than vehicle fit and child fit, I’m going to go through the modes of use and hit vehicle and child fit in each mode of use. I promise it’ll make sense. Just trust me.

Rear Facing
This is the mode where I have the most experience because for the first year of use, my 3 year old was the primary user of this seat and until the car sickness event, he was rear facing. The EXEC is kind of revolutionary in it’s rear facing set up. There is an anti-rebound bar that is adjustable (and has future uses in forward facing) and it is designed to improve vehicle fit. When you install the seat, you can adjust the anti-rebound panel to meet the angle of the seat back, so it can fit an endless variety of seat angle configurations. The panel also has the ability to extend and retract into the seat to provide extra leg room. This has been a lifesaver for extended rear facing. My 3 year old isn’t the compliant brand of 3 year old, he’s the brand that rushes to the car, jumps in his brother’s booster and spend 5 minutes screaming as he’s put into his seat each time we have to drive somewhere. Giving him more leg room definitely softened the blow of his mean mother forcing him to stay rear facing. Perhaps my favorite feature is that the anti-rebound panel comes with a special cover that can be easily slipped off and cleaned, which keeps the panel from getting destroyed by muddy shoes.

Now, my one big gripe about the EXEC has to do with rear facing. The seat comes with shoulder and hip strap covers and a crotch buckle cover- they are, frustratingly, required in rear facing. I had to reorder the crotch buckle cover because someone in my family (cough*my husband*cough) took it off and it was then lost. You can reorder these, but you have to get a full set, so be careful to keep track of them.

In terms of vehicle fit for rear facing- The installation is essentially just like the Rava here except that you need to adjust the angle of the anti-rebound panel before you buckle the seat in. Also, Nuna has upgraded the True Tension door with a tab that makes it much easier to open, which is greatly appreciated by my fingernails. I’m sure some of you are wondering if Nuna still requires the seat belts to be locked when doing a seatbelt installation (as they do on the Rava) and the answer is yes. When a group of techs met to see the prototypes we pushed Nuna a bit on this, but they remain firm. They’ve never had a belt failure on the EXEC (or the Rava), but they feel strongly that since the trend of luxury vehicles using thinner and thinner seat belts shows no sign of slowing down, locking the belt is the safest way to know that the True Tension door will always work. The True Tension door does a great job of tensioning the belt without any pulling or tugging and prevents the seat from tipping, so it’s not as though it’s not doing a lot already. And from a tech perspective, locking the belt also eliminates the risk of danger from an unlocked, potentially accessible seat belt.

The lower anchor use is nearly identical in terms of belt path, but honestly, it provides zero ease of use improvement and Nuna strongly advocates for use of the seatbelt so that parents don’t have to remember to switch to seat belt installation when the child reaches 35 pounds rear facing or 40 pounds forward facing. The seat is delightfully narrow and because of the array of recline options, it’s really pretty compact front to back, especially for a seat with extra leg room. The recline is like the Rava in that there are no bubbles, there are just 4 rear facing settings and 4 forward facing settings and you’ll need the seat more reclined for an infant and more upright for a toddler.

I no longer have an infant, so here is a teddy bear, who measures 17 inches, which is a little smaller than even my tiniest babies. He still got a pretty decent fit, the harness was a sniff above his shoulders, but they’re also pretty easy to compress, which your baby won’t be. It is well reclined with the infant insert in place especially.

Jennie was able to try the EXEC with her cousin’s (adorable) 5 month old, and it’s clear that they fit comfortably in the seat at this point. The harness was able to be tightened snugly, even with all the shoulder and hip covers in place.

Here is Ben, my maximally 3.5 year old child, rear facing in the EXEC. He is 34 pounds and 39 inches. We have the leg panel extended fully to give him some more leg room here, and he has ample room for growth.

This is William, my petite 6.5 year old. He is 40 pounds and 44 inches and he still has several clicks of growth in this seat, rear facing. He does not normally ride rear facing, but he easily could in this seat.

Forward Facing

The EXEC is very similar to the Rava in forward facing with 2 exceptions- First, it’s several inches taller, second, the leg rest. What was the anti-rebound bar in rear facing is now an optional, adjustable leg support in forward facing. The leg rest can be used in any locked position while forward facing (or in booster mode, with limits), as a comfort feature, which is pretty cool. I let my kids play around with it to find out what their preferred position was and they were very excited. Having some flexibility for longer trips, should we ever be able to safely travel again, would be a real bonus.

For vehicle fit, the EXEC is functionally just like the Rava, but the true tension door has been improved for ease of use. You still have to lock the belt (see rear facing for explanation) and they still prefer you use the seat belt to the lower anchors, but lower anchors can be used until the child is 40 pounds in forward facing mode. You may have to remove your vehicle headrest to get a good fit, but the headrest on the EXEC sits somewhat forward, so it’s not a much of a guarantee as many other seats.

Here is Ben, still maximally 3.5, 34 pounds, 39 inches, forward facing in the EXEC. The fit is great, he has been so happy and seems really, really comfortable in this. He was pretty mad when I gave it to his brother as a booster.

This is William again, age 6.5, 40 pounds, 44 inches. William is on the top click of the seat in forward facing. He has a solid inch (probably closer to 1.5 inches) of torso growth available still, and it’s also worth noting that he has a very long torso. We don’t make long legs in this family.

Booster Mode

The final frontier of the EXEC is booster mode. It is historically the case that all-in-one seats tend not to make the longest lasting boosters, and the same is true here. The EXEC makes a perfectly fine booster, but there’s absolutely no chance that it will get any kid to a 5 step test. It’s just not tall enough. I have yet to meet a 3-in-1 that can do this, so it’s not a great surprise, but I had hoped it might.

Fit to vehicle- Like in forward facing, the vehicle headrest may have to be removed to get a proper fit. The leg rest can ONLY be used in booster mode IF the lower anchors are used (and notably, lower anchor sharing IS allowed, ONLY in booster mode). The reason for this leg rest rule is that if the leg rest is extended and the seat isn’t attached to the car, it basically creates a giant lever that will tip the seat over onto the child when they climb in/out.

To use the seat in booster mode, the harness has to be stored, NOT removed. Which, personal preference here- I really hate removing harnesses, so I am a very happy car seat reviewer here. To store the harness, you raise the headrest fully, then tuck the buckles into harness storage slots. My models did not complain about the harness being stored and I couldn’t feel any appreciable lumps, so it seems a pretty effective storage method. The shoulder belt guide on the EXEC is one of my favorite features of the EXEC. They are spring loaded, which makes it easy to use, but hard for the belt to slip out. We currently use a different booster for my oldest and even though it has a good belt guide design, the belt does occasionally slip out over time. The only time the belt has come out of the EXEC was when the 3rd row passenger pulled on the belt from behind while his brother was trying to buckle, but otherwise it hasn’t been an issue.

I’ve got 2 models for this version.

Elijah is 9 years old, 51 inches and 60 pounds and he can baaaaaaaarely fit in the booster. His torso is a little on the long side but not aggressively so. He’s 6 inches below the stated maximum height and he just cannot comfortably use this and even a whiff of a growth spurt and it wouldn’t work at all.

William (6.5) at exactly 40 pounds has been using this booster since the day he hit 40 pounds. The fit is good, he has 1 click left to grow, which, with torso growth, should last him a bit. William also has sensory processing disorder and the car can be a struggle for him. Anything too rough or firm or just vaguely uncomfortable can make car rides really distressing. We’ve switched him to the EXEC (rather than leaving it forward facing and harnessed for the 3 year old) because the leg rest gives him more options for comfort and can relieve some of the pressure off his bottom (a complaint he often has). The leg rest as a comfort measure is definitely a big asset for this seat and I’m not sure it’s gotten enough attention.

All the Other Pertinent Details

Crash replacement- the seat follows NHTSA guidelines for replacement following a moderate to severe crash.

Expiration- The EXEC has a 10 year expiration.

LATCH- The EXEC has a 35 pound lower anchor weight limit for rear facing and a 40 pound lower anchor limit for forward facing. In harness mode, the EXEC requires standard spacing of lower anchors (11 inches), which means it generally does not allow for lower anchor borrowing (use of outboard lower anchors for middle seating position). In booster mode, the EXEC allows lower anchor borrowing/non-standard spacing of lower anchors, if lower anchors do not exist for the seat position, but exist for the positions adjacent, provided they do not interfere with the vehicle seat belt. Tether may not be used in booster mode.

Airplane- The EXEC is certified for use in an aircraft in harness mode. Boosters are not appropriate for use in airplanes, so it is not certified for use in booster mode.

Cover removal/cleaning/maintenance- After the aforementioned car barf, I got a good lesson in removing the cover. Which, and I’ve mentioned this a hundred times before, I hate undressing car seats. It’s not more fun when vomit is involved. However! The EXEC undresses really easily and more remarkably- it redresses really well. The EXEC cover is kept in place with snaps, rather than tucking and looping straps, which is REALLY great. One of the things I dislike about removing covers for reviews, is that they never seems to stay as securely once they’re removed, but not so with the EXEC. The snaps are easy to use and they hold the cover really nicely. The cover can be washed on gentle and left to air dry.

 

Summary

The EXEC is really a well thought out, well crafted seat. It is a breeze to install, easy to use and has a variety of great comfort and ease of use features. My family has enjoyed using it and intends to continue as long as at least one of the kids fits in it.

Pros:

  • Anti-rebound bar/leg room extension/leg rest- this thing is great. I want one for my vehicle seat. Truly.
  • Easy to install
  • No flame retardant chemicals used
  • The cover comes off and goes back on better than any other seat I’ve tried. I never expected to put something like this on a pro list, but here we are and it’s magic. Would recommend for a car barfer.

Cons:

It is difficult to nitpick one of the nicest products on the market today, but to be fair, we always point out things that might be of concern to some parents.

  • We cannot have a serious conversation about this seat without discussing its price tag. The Nuna Exec All-in-1 retails for $699.95 to $749.95 at upscale department and specialty baby stores, so it’s no small investment. It’s obviously not a seat for every family, especially considering…
  • The booster function is not as long lasting as it may seem. My 51” 9 year old cannot use it and he’s 6” below the limit. This isn’t unusual in a 3-in-1 booster, but it is a bummer that this can’t be your one and only seat.
  • The crotch buckle cover must be used in rear facing mode, but it doesn’t attach in anyway and falls off easily.
  • As mentioned, the TrueTension system is not considered a lockoff, an ease-of-use feature that helps prevent misuse and is something we expect in premium level car seats.

If the Nuna EXEC All-in-1 is in your budget and fits your family’s needs, I strongly recommend it. The installation, the ease of use, the comfort and safety measures are top of the line. It is limited by its short booster height, but it makes an excellent extended rear facing, standard forward facing, and early booster option. If you liked the Rava but wanted more from it, this seat is for you. I know that it will live in my car for many years to come and be the cause of great distress that not everyone can have a leg rest built into their seat.

2 Comments

  1. Levi September 6, 2021
  2. Emma August 13, 2021

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