2023 NUNA PIPA URBN REVIEW
“Groundbreaking”. “Game-changer”. “Revolutionary”. These are terms sometimes tossed around in the car seat world. Maybe it’s a seat narrow enough to allow three across in cars where it wasn’t previously possible. Maybe it’s a travel seat that can fold up to fit in a backpack. Maybe it’s a small inflatable booster. Each of these changed the car seat world in different ways.
I’m here to tell you today that the Nuna PIPA urbn is THE most groundbreaking, game-changing, revolutionary seat that I’ve seen on the market since I started in this field almost 9 years ago. Why? The installation is virtually error-proof. It really is. Just click on the pipaFIX™ rigid LATCH, adjust the angle, and you’re set. When it’s installed with LATCH, there is zero pulling or tightening needed. And of course, rigid LATCH is a safety feature in and of itself, as it limits side to side movement and downward rotation of the seat and eliminates the extra movement that occurs with even the tightest LATCH strap stretching in a collision.
The PIPA urbn is not compatible with any Nuna base and does not have its own base, but I wouldn’t consider that to be a drawback, as in most vehicles it will take the same amount of time to install it with the rigid LATCH as it would to click it onto a base. Since it does not use a base, that’s also one less point of possible error or failure.
A correct installation is a safe installation. Nuna has made it possible to easily install a car seat in about three seconds with very, very little chance of error. We’ll go through the particulars in this review, but we need to start off by commending them for this design.
The PIPA urbn is marketed to any parent or caregiver who needs to be able to take a seat in and out easily (think: those without their own vehicles, urban families who frequently use rideshare or taxis, parents who switch seats around often for carpool, etc.) but I’d recommend it to anyone who has the budget for it and desires an installation that leaves virtually no room for error.
- Rear-facing only: 4-22 lbs and 29″ or less (1″ rule also applies)
- 3 harness height positions
- 1 crotch strap/buckle position
- Lightweight Aeroflex™ foam
- Baseless-only installation with steel-reinforced pipaFIX™ rigid LATCH
- Auto-reclining foot to aid in proper installation
- Lower anchor guides included to help with rigid LATCH installation
- Can be installed baseless with seatbelt using European or standard (American) routing
- Installation with pipaFIX™ rigid LATCH and seatbelt together is permitted
- Greenguard Gold certified
- Machine washable seat fabrics and inserts
- Full-coverage UPF 50+ canopy with flip-out eyeshade and XL peek-a-boo window
- Popular Nuna Sky drape™ feature on canopy
- Integrated magnetic buckle holders
- FAA certified for aircraft use
NUNA PIPA URBN MEASUREMENTS:
- Harness slot heights: 5″, 7″, 9″
- Lowest harness slot height with infant insert and low birthweight pillow: about 4″
- Crotch strap/buckle position (without insert): 5″
- Internal shell height: 18″
- Width of carrier at widest point: 16.5″
- Carrier weight: 9.3 lbs. with canopy, infant insert, head inserts and low birthweight pillow; 8.4 lbs. with canopy but without any inserts
The PIPA urbn is sold only as a travel system in 3 configurations:
Installation with LATCH:
There’s a current style of expressing something which contains a short statement, followed by “that’s it”, or “send tweet”. That type of language comes to mind here. “Easiest installation of any seat. Send tweet.” The installation of the PIPA urbn just could not be easier.
Basically, if you are aware that the vehicle you’re in has LATCH (virtually every car in America of model year 2003 or later, most cars in Western Europe, and many vehicles in other parts of the globe), and you intend to install the urbn with LATCH, the installation is error-proof in many vehicles. As mentioned above, this statement is not made lightly.
The LATCH installation has two, maybe three steps. Connect the rigid LATCH connectors to the lower anchors. Push them on so the little window turns green. Check the level line, and pull the end of the seat up or down if necessary to get the line level. Done.
A recline foot comes down automatically when the LATCH is extended, and the seat may also be manually manipulated if needed to achieve the correct angle. A line on the side must be level with the ground; there is no bubble.
A gap between the car seat and the seat back is permitted. This may seem disconcerting to some caregivers, but Nuna has assured us that the seat still passes testing this way. Indeed, even if you try to flip the back end of the seat upwards, it can only be raised an inch or two. Unlike a typical infant carrier installed without a base using a seatbelt, the innovative LATCH design prevents the seat from flipping toward the back of the vehicle.
To release the LATCH, squeeze the handle on the back of the seat right under the canopy. I found this step easier than releasing a seat from the base!
As with any child safety seat, there are always going to be difficult or impossible vehicles. I did encounter two unique issues when I tried the PIPA urbn in different vehicles. It’s important to note that neither of these issues precludes a correct installation, as the seat may still be installed with the seatbelt.
My Subaru Forester has center LATCH. This is usually not that useful, since the middle lower anchor is shared with the passenger side position, and the passenger side buckle cannot be used if the center LATCH is in use. Nevertheless, I decided to give the PIPA urbn a try in the center. I found an issue doing this, as the urbn was too reclined. I was unable to make it more upright, because I had to angle it reclined in the first place to connect the LATCH, and then the middle seat vertical bolster prevented me from moving the foot end downward. However, I contacted Nuna, who checked the angle of my install and said it was acceptable in my particular situation. We encourage anyone to contact Nuna for guidance if they are unable to get the level line level.
The other vehicle that presented difficulty was my friend’s previous generation 2017 Toyota Sienna. This car has long been the nemesis of many car seats, as the captains chairs are extremely sloped and the lower anchors are far inside the seat bight (seat crack). Nuna approved the following method when we contacted them for this particular situation. If you have a similar issue, please contact Nuna directly to see if this or another option may help with installation:
- Recline the vehicle seat
- Attach the PIPA urbn rigid latch
- Adjust the urbn to the correct angle using the level line
- Put the vehicle seatback upright. It may be necessary to apply pressure from behind the seat to make it upright.
It’s important to note that the Sienna was redesigned for the 2021 model year, and the newer ones do not have this issue.
What if you can’t find the lower anchors, or you’re having trouble manipulating the rigid LATCH connector so that it’s in the right place to click on to the lower anchor? Nuna has solved this problem as well.
Nuna has always included LATCH guides with their rigid LATCH bases. To be honest, I’d never found these particularly easy to use. The LATCH guide is a square plastic casing that exposes the lower anchor and makes it easier to attach the rigid LATCH connector to it. By the time I was done getting the LATCH guide situated, I could have used my hand to guide the rigid LATCH connector onto the lower anchor.
But no more! Nuna has included a newly designed LATCH guide with the PIPA urbn, and in a word, it’s fabulous. It has a serrated type of design, where you put the end of it anywhere near the lower anchor, and push. It situates itself on the lower anchor bar, and the rigid LATCH connector will now be lined up perfectly when you attempt to attach it. This is VERY handy in some vehicles whose lower anchors are hidden behind fabric and are difficult to access with one hand.
It’s important to note that in most newer vehicles, the lower anchors are either already encased in plastic, or they’re much nearer to the “surface” and not buried in the seat crack. However, especially where the PIPA urbn will come in so handy for travel, we’d recommend having a set of the LATCH guides on hand, as a cab or lyft/uber could very easily be an older model car.
I was trying to think of how to best keep track of the LATCH guides. A “mommy hook” type of carabiner or one of those bracelet-sized key rings would probably work well, perhaps looped around a diaper bag handle.
Installation with seatbelt:
The PIPA urbn features European belt routing. This type of routing is recommended but not required; standard or “American” routing is allowed. Nuna also allows both seatbelt and rigid LATCH together. I tried European routing in my vehicle, a 2021 Subaru Forester, and it was a breeze. Because the PIPA urbn shell is about an inch shorter than the shell of the other PIPAs, it was even easier to wrap the belt around the back of the seat.
Nuna does allow rigid LATCH and seatbelt together on the PIPA urbn.
Because it does not have a base, the PIPA urbn will save front to back space in many cars. I compared it with the Nuna PIPA lite rx, and depending on the placement of the lower anchors in the vehicle, there will be up to 3″ of space saved. (If the lower anchors are very prominent, then the PIPA urbn will not be flush against the vehicle seat as mentioned above, and less space will be saved.) Also, as the PIPA urbn is lower to the vehicle seat, it will fit better against the back of the front seat, since many front seats have a natural recline.
The urbn would also be an excellent choice for two-door vehicles or sportscars where front to back space is at a premium.
FIT TO CHILD COMMENTS:
I noticed right away that the lowest slots on the urbn are very, very low. This is terrific, as the straps need to be coming out of the seat from at or below the shoulders. So (so so so) many seat manufacturers casually write “4 lbs” or “5 lbs” as the minimum weight for a car seat, yet the lowest strap slot or headrest position is way above the shoulders of a 4- or 5-lb baby. This is a sore point for me personally, as my oldest child (who just turned 10!) was born at 4 lbs and fit almost none of the baby gear we got for her. Do better, car seat manufacturers – and Nuna has.
On the other end of the spectrum, however, the PIPA urbn is outgrown at 22 lbs. This means that some babies who would otherwise get to a year or more in an infant seat may not be able to in the urbn. 22 lbs is the 50th percentile for an 11 month baby boy and a 12 month baby girl. It’s not possible during pregnancy or at birth (when the seat is purchased) to know exactly where on the growth curve a child will fall, but those who purchase this seat do need to be prepared for the fact that they may need to move to a larger infant seat or to a convertible seat before the child’s first birthday.
The shell height of the urbn is 18 inches, one inch shorter than the other PIPAs at the torso. The urbn is outgrown when baby is 29 inches tall, head to toe. The urbn does follow the 1″ rule, meaning it’s outgrown when the baby’s head is 1 inch from the top.
These boy/girl twins are a week old and were born at 37 weeks. The one in the yellow shirt weighs about 5 lbs, and the one in the white shirt weighs just over 6 lbs. Their fit was stellar in the urbn. The straps came up and over the shoulders, and the head was positioned well. I took out the extra head insert as I felt it was pushing the chin down a bit. The low birthweight pillow is inside the bottom insert. I took off the strap covers as I often do for newborns, as they can get in the way of achieving the correct fit and tightness on such tiny shoulders.
This baby is exactly 3 months. She weighs 13 lbs, so we had to take out the bottom insert. She fit very well in the urbn with lots of room to grow.
This baby is 9 months old. He’s 21 lbs and 28″ tall. He also has just over an inch left above his head in the seat. In other words, he’s close to outgrowing the seat by weight, height and torso height. However, growth does slow down as the baby approaches a year; if he stays on the same growth curve, he won’t outgrow the seat until about 11 months.
This baby is one week shy of his first birthday. He’s 20 lbs and 28 inches tall, and he has a little bit over an inch left above his head in the seat. We see that babies come in all shapes and sizes! He’s 3 months older than the baby above, yet just about the same size.
The PIPA urbn features a head insert and an additional head insert that goes over the first one. I’ve never been a fan of extra head inserts. In my experience, they push the head too far forward and the chin down. Although these head inserts are not that padded internally, I did find that it pushed the chin down slightly on the newborns I put in the seat. The good news is that neither head insert is required.
The bottom insert contains a low birthweight pillow inside it, similar to almost every other PIPA model. (Trivia question – which one is the exception?) Both the low birthweight pillow as well as the bottom insert must be removed once the child reaches 11 lbs. This is a change from the other PIPA models, where the insert itself can stay in past 11 pounds without the pillow. The good news is that because the lowest slots are so low on the urbn and the crotch buckle so close, an 11 pound baby will have no trouble at all fitting the seat without the bottom insert.
I did have a tiny bit of trouble putting the pillow back into the bottom insert, as it has “legs” that need to go on either side of the crotch buckle slot. Be sure that the entire leg is pulled flat into the insert.
FAA APPROVAL/LIFESPAN/CRASH GUIDELINES:
- FAA certified for use on airplanes (would be installed with the airplane lap belt, not LATCH)
- 7 year lifespan before expiration
- May be re-used after a minor crash according to NHTSA guidelines; see manual for specific criteria
The PIPA urbn is sold only as a travel system with either the Nuna mixx next, Nuna triv next or Nuna trvl strollers. However, it is also compatible with every Nuna stroller to which car seats attach, as well as any stroller which uses the Maxi Cosi adapters or the Nuna ring adapter. We do need to add that occasionally, a stroller manufacturer will assert that a certain car seat is not compatible even though it does fit on the adapter. These statements are important; it could be that due to the exact shape of the car seat handle, a risk of finger entrapment occurs due to the space between the handle and the stroller frame. Since the PIPA urbn is brand new, this type of testing has not been done yet on many non-Nuna strollers.
The NUNA trvl stroller:
We do not generally include strollers in car seat reviews, but since the trvl was provided to us with the PIPA urbn, I’d like to say a few words about it. My son is 5 years old, 40 inches and 34 pounds. I took him for a walk of almost a mile in the trvl. I wasn’t sure what to expect, as our regular stroller has larger air tires and a larger seat. My son loved the trvl and said he found it very comfortable. The suspension gave it a very smooth push, even with a toddler in the seat. We did have to go across some gravel to get to my friend’s yard, and it did not do well in that respect. (However, that’s not the intended use of this stroller.) I did find the handle a bit high, but I’m only 5’2″. Most should be fine with it. Last of all, the fold is SO quick and easy – making it a terrific choice to pair with such a light portable car seat.
NUNA PIPA URBN ADVANTAGES:
- Fantastic preemie and small infant fit
- 3-second error-proof LATCH installation
- Saves space front to back over seats used with a base
- Excellent for car-free families, rideshares, travel or situations where a car seat needs to be taken in and out frequently
- Excellent for caregivers with limited mobility or who may have difficulty installing conventional seats
NUNA PIPA URBN DISADVANTAGES:
(In fairness, these may not be a problem for everyone, but I list some potential disadvantages that may be an issue for some parents):
- Nuna PIPA urbn is sold only as a travel system; some parents and caregivers may already have a stroller or may want a different one
- Outgrown at 22 lbs. This is fine for many but will be outgrown before 1 year by larger babies.
- Slots are narrowly set and may be tight on the neck of some larger babies
THE BOTTOM LINE:
The PIPA urbn is THE easiest installation of any seat on the market right now, and it has a fantastic newborn fit. If you’re reading this because you’re considering getting one – get it. It’s certainly not within everyone’s budget, and it’s only sold as a travel system. But for those for whom it’s a viable option, it provides an exceptionally easy installation using the advanced safety feature of rigid LATCH.