Car seats have been making headlines lately. New regulations – which would only approve backless booster seats for kids over 125cm tall and weighing over 22kg – are in the pipeline, although the government hasn’t finalised any decisions yet. As it stands, all kids must use a child seat or booster until they reach 135cm (4ft 5 inches) or their twelfth birthday, whichever comes first and parents can be fined up to £500 if they’re not restrained in this way.
When buying a seat, then, the first thing to make sure is that it’s the right one for your child’s age group. Next up, ensure the car seat actually fits your model of car as not all seats fit in all cars, while others might just about squeeze in, but leave very little legroom or space for another seat next to it.
Your next decision is whether to buy a seat with a special safety system, such as Isofix or Familyfix. These car seat bases literally plug into the car itself, after which you click in the actual car seat. Nearly all seats that use these bases (which may or may not be sold separately) are safer, although that’s not so in every case and remember not all cars have the fittings for these bases anyway.
Do as much homework as you can around other safety features and crash test results – not just front and back impact, but side impact too – and ideally, look into comfort levels, particularly if you do long journeys.
1. Graco Milestone: £149, amazon
This goes all the way from birth up to 12 years old, making it the only car seat you ever need to buy – and for just over £100 too. You can use it as a rear-facing, forward-facing or highback booster seat and we found it easy to convert from one to the other. It’s comfortable, sturdy, and easy to clean, as well as easy to get your child safely secured inside, even when you’re in a hurry. On the downside, it’s heavy and quite wide, which isn’t ideal if you’re using more than one seat in narrower cars.
2. Britax Advansfix II SICT: £155, John Lewis
Ever noticed that the seat belt easily slips out of position when your child moves around or slouches in their car seat? Not so with the new SecureGuard safety feature from Britax, which, put simply, transforms an adul belt into one that has an extra anchor that clips the seatbelt into the correct position over your child’s hips. Aimed at kids aged nine months to 12 years old, the forward-facing seat has other impressive safety features, including a connector that you can clip onto the door-side of your car for better side impact protection. It feels really secure and is very comfy.
3. Silver Cross Quantum: £650, Baby & Co.
The price tag is eye-watering, but this is the ultimate in stylish luxury, with Italian leather and faux suede upholstery. It has a number of impressive safety features, most notably a patented shock absorber tensioning system, which basically means your child is much safer in the event of a crash. Made for kids aged nine months to four years old, the four recline positions are spot on and it even has its own air ventilation system. It sits nice and high too, so your child doesn’t have to miss out on the window views. Can be used with seatbelt or Isofix fittings.
4. Cybex Sirona Plus: £400, Mamas & Papas
This rear-facing car seat, which can be used from birth to around four years old, has some of the best crash-test results on the market, as well as keeping your child’s head in a comfy position. If your child isn’t keen on facing backwards, you can always spin it round after they’ve reached 13kg It’s designed for an Isofix base with a support leg to stop the seat pivoting forward in a crash, so don’t buy it if your car has under-floor storage compartments or limited back-seat leg space.
5. Recaro Privia: £135, John Lewis
This seat score highly in crash tests, and it’s easy to install too, thanks to clear instructions and warning labels. Made for newborns up to 15 months old, it’s light, well-padded and gives your baby a decent view out of the window. While it’s safest used with the Isofix base, it can be installed with an adult seat belt (handy if you need to occasionally use it in someone else’s non-Isofix car).
6. Stokke BeSafe iZi Go Modular: £180, John Lewis
This lightweight, egg-shaped, rear-facing car seat isn’t just great in terms of safety and comfort – it can also be teamed up with brands including Stokke, Bugaboo and Quinny as part of a travel system. You can install it either with an Isofix base or seat belt and although the former is easier, the crash tests do better when it’s secured by seatbelt. We found the instructions and warnings all easy to understand and it’s less bulky than many, as well as giving your baby a decent view out of the window. From birth to around 12 months old.
7. MultiMac 4 Seater: £1,499, MultiMac
This range is the only car seat around that allows three or four children to sit altogether in a row. It does well in crash tests, while our little testers told us it was comfy too. It’s heavy, but it has to be to absorb the energy, and it’s easy enough to fit and unfit once you’ve got used to it, making it perfectly possible to move it between cars at the weekend. There are two sizes of the three-seater version, depending on your car size. Suitable from birth to 12 years old.
8. Joie Every Stage: £150, Kiddicare
Launched at the end of last year, here’s another car seat which, as its name suggests, is aimed at newborns right through to 12-year-olds (rear-facing from birth to four years and forward-facing from four years up). It’s easy to use, comfortable and very safe, thanks to features such as extra side protection and a 10-point adjustable headrest. It’s a shame it’s not Isofix, i-Size or travel system compatible, however, and leg room isn’t great for older kids when rear-facing.
9. Kiddy Phoenixfix Pro 2: £190, John Lewis
This ticks a lot of boxes: outstanding crash safety, easy to install, option of Isofix or belted installation, comfy with good padding and easy to clean. Designed for kids aged from around one to four years old, it is slightly unusual in that your child is restrained by an impact shield cushion rather than the more conventional five-point harness. Most kids get on well with this, although some do take time getting used to it.
10. Cosatto Hug Pixlate: £230, Direct2Mum
This is exceptionally well-made with heaps of cushioning and a range of funky designs to pick from. And since it’s aimed at children aged around nine months to 12 years old, you get over a decade of use from it. The anti-escape harness is designed to prevent little Houdinis from slipping their arms out of the straps and wriggling free (one of the greatest distractions for parents of younger kids), while other super-safe features include outstanding side impact protection and Isofix fitting.
11. Maxi Cosi Pebble Plus: £190, John Lewis
You can use this rear-facing seat either with a regular adult seatbelt or an ISOFIX base. Aimed for newborns up to a year-old, it boasts excellent safety results, including side impact, and has a feel of great quality, while being nice and light – a godsend for parents who might have to carry their baby from the car. It’s a doddle to install and almost impossible to get wrong. It’s roomy, with good support for your baby’s legs and it’s well-padded for comfort.
For overall value and a seat that will last years, we rate the Graco Milestone. The Maxi Cosi Pebble Plus also gets a special mention for being cosy, snug, safe and smart for newborns up to a year. Meanwhile, for children aged nine months upwards, our top seal of approval goes to Britax Advansfix II SICT, which adapts and grows with your child and is simple to install and incredibly safe.
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