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15 best car seats, tried and tested to keep your child safe, secure and comfortable

Steer yourself in the direction of one of these boosters to keep little ones safe on every journey

Zoe Phillimore
Thursday 05 January 2023 12:54 GMT
<p>We tested our top picks in different-sized cars, looking at how easy the seats were to install and transport </p>

We tested our top picks in different-sized cars, looking at how easy the seats were to install and transport

Our Top Picks

For new parents, there’s a lot you need to learn in a short period of time. From feeding schedules to nappy changes, there’s much to consider and remember. But you’ll also find you acquire a wealth of knowledge about everything from Cocomelon to car seats, and it’s the latter we’re here to help with.

Any child travelling in your car is going to need a car seat, even if you’re just babysitting. There is, of course, no need to get multiple seats, as you can switch them between cars. And UK law states that children must travel in car seats from birth to the age of 12, or once they reach 135cm – whichever happens first.

There are two different types of car seats: i-Size, which are based on a child’s height, and those that are based on a child’s weight. I-Size seats will have your child rearward facing until they’re at least 15 months. Rearward travel is thought to be the safest way for a child, as it minimises impact in case of any collision. They also all come with isofix as standard – that means they attach to the chassis of your vehicle, rather than just being held in place with a belt.

Whenever you purchase a car seat, always check on the car manufacturer’s website what type of seats are compatible with your ride.

While car seats have been designed to be comfortable for babies and children, it’s recommended infants don’t sit in their car seats for longer than two hours at a time. This includes time that they’re sat in their seat attached to the pram, or out of the car. There are now some car seats that lie totally flat for infants, which is another option.

How we tested

We tested a range of ages and stage car seats to find the very best of the market. We installed and uninstalled the car seats, asked children for their feedback (where they were able to provide it). Points were awarded for comfort, durability and extra safety features. We were looking for premium fabrics and how much room they took up in both a large family car and a compact car. Here are the ones we clicked with.

The best car seats for 2023 are:

  • Best car seat 2023 overall – Silver Cross motion all size 360 car seat: £395, Silvercrossbaby.com
  • Best 360 car seat – Joie i-harbour car seat: £250, Johnlewis.com
  • Best carrycot car seat – Nuna Cari next lie-flat carrycot seat: £250, Johnlewis.com
  • Best car seat for newborns – Cybex cloud Z2: £229.95, Cybex-online.com
  • Best for travelling – Chicco fold & go i-Size air: £169, Amazon.co.uk

Silver Cross motion all size 360 car seat

best car seats
  • Best: Car seat 2023 overall
  • For ages: Birth to 12 years (approx)
  • Is it i-Size: Yes
  • Does it recline: Yes

It’s tricky to find fault with this car seat – it’s a fantastic all-rounder. That means it’s suitable from birth until your child will no longer need a car seat – and we think this makes it brilliant value for money.

The seat itself was a breeze to fit. The product has a QR code on it, which you can scan and it will bring up a simple audio commentary on your phone that takes you through how to fit it. We thought this was genius, and prevented any arguments or incorrect fitting. The Isofix fittings were easy to slide out and attach to the anchor points, and the leg acts as a counterbalance. Both of these points have a display that shows green when the seat is safely in place.

The seat reclines really easily, and the headrest is also easy to adjust (trust us, this isn’t always the case). The swivel function is really smooth, and we loved that you can swivel it even for a newborn. Unlike some newborn-specific car seats, this doesn’t have a separate base, so you can’t take the seat out and about with you. The padding on the seat is some of the most luxurious we’ve seen – it’s made of bamboo fabrics that are breathable and hypoallergenic, so no sweaty backs for our passengers. One thing worth noting is that it does take up a lot of real estate in the car – in a compact car, the seat in front had to be quite far forward to accommodate it when it’s in the rear-facing position.

It’s now available for pre-order for early August.

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Joie i-level recline car seat

best car seats
  • Best: Lie-flat car seat
  • For ages: Birth to approx. 12 months
  • Is it i-Size: Yes
  • Does it recline: Yes

Joie have a whole ecosystem of car seats that all fit on the same encore base (£190, Mamasandpapas.com). This means you can buy one base and fit all the car seats on the same one, making it a more cost-effective and less wasteful approach to moving through the ages of car seats. The i-Level is your entry point seat on the base, and it’s a really fantastic all-rounder.

The i-level recline spins on the aforementioned base, giving easy access to your baby for loading and unloading. It also reclines to flat for use in the car, as well as out. It does take up a fair amount of space reclined though, so any passengers in front will need to be fairly far forward. The baby insert is plush, and the buckle is fuss-free, making things comfortable and easy to use. The wide carry handle is great for slinging over your arm, and we also liked the extendable sun canopy.

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Joie i-harbour car seat

best car seats
  • Best: 360 car seat
  • For ages: Birth to approx. four years
  • Is it i-Size: Yes
  • Does it recline: Yes

The i-harbour is also part of the Joie encore suite of car seats. This means you can travel through the ages and stages of the car seats while only needing one base (sold separately) to see you through.

The i-harbour takes your child from birth to four years, and can be rearward facing and swivel to forward facing when they’re old enough. You can keep this seat reward facing until they’re four though. The spin mechanism on this seat is very nice. One touch of the button and your child will spin around as easily as a judge on The Voice.

There’s a five-point recline, meaning car naps are that bit more comfy – whether they’re forward or backward-facing. Beware, the reclined seat does take up a bit more room in the car widthways, so factor that in. The fabrics on this seat feel premium, as does the buckle, which is easy to use.

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Nuna Cari next lie-flat carrycot seat

best car seats
  • Best: Carrycot
  • For ages: Birth to approx. six months
  • Is it i-Size: Yes
  • Does it recline: N/A

Imagine gliding along the road, tucked up as snug as bug in your very own bed. Well, now your baby can live that dream thanks to the carrycot car seat. It sits on a base (£220, Johnlewis.com), which then lies across the back bench of the car. This particular carry cot car seat is made from the finest fabrics, including GOTS cotton, so it’s toxin free and it certainly feels snuggly and soft.

Fear not, your baby is still strapped in a harness, so can withstand an emergency stop or a hairpin bend. We found the buckle on this car seat quite tricky, but perhaps it would ease up with use. We loved that you can lift this carrycot off the base and then slot it onto a pram, so your baby can stay slumbering away and you don’t have to worry about their delicate backs being scrunched up. It also comes with a dream drape, to keep things dark and cosy for your sleepy babe.

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Cybex cloud Z

best car seats
  • Best: For newborns
  • For ages: Birth to approx. 24 months
  • Is it i-Size: Yes
  • Does it recline: Yes

The Rolls Royce of infant car seats, Cybex haven’t just given this the gold-standard treatment, but platinum. This just means it’s the fanciest of fancy from Cybex, who are big hitters in the car-seat world. The 2022 update to the cloud sees it have adjustable recline while in the car, which means nap times are even easier on the go. And when it’s not in the car, you can lay it totally flat. This means you’re not so restrained by that two-hour limit.

The seat needs to be used with a Z2 base (£209.95, Naturalbabyshower.co.uk) which might make the whole package seem pricey, but you can carry on using the base with the Cybex sirona S2, if you want to stay with Cybex for longer. The base also allows the cloud z2 to swivel through 180 degrees, saving your back when you’re loading and unloading your tiniest passenger. There is also extra side-impact protection, which you click on to the side of the seat closest to the door. You may find adding and removing this a bit annoying if you don’t want it on the car seat when you’re lugging it about outside of the car.

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Maxi-Cosi pebble 360

best car seats
  • Best: Easy to use car seat
  • For ages: Birth to around 15 months
  • Is it i-Size: Yes
  • Does it recline: No

The newest iteration of the well-loved Maxi-Cosi pebble is the 360. This infant carrier is designed specifically for newborns up to 15 months. It’s rear-ward facing only, obviously. But it can rotate on the base, making loading and unloading of the seat easy. The compatible FamilyFix 360 base is sold separately, but it also works with the Maxi-Cosi pearl 360 and allows you to keep your child reward-facing until they’re four. The base lets you know when the seat is safely clicked in thanks to colour indicators and a click, which gives extra peace of mind.

Our teeny tester didn’t seem to get hot or sweaty in the seat. It has panels and fabrics that are designed to help air flow, which is good for babies as they can’t regulate their own temperature. The canopy no longer clips to the handle like older style Maxi-Cosi infant seats, making carrying easier. The harness is easy to click and unclick, with a very smooth mechanism to tighten the straps and the infant insert has built-in side-impact protection. Basically, there’s lots to love.

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Maxi-Cosi kore pro i-Size

best car seats
  • Best: Value booster car seat
  • For ages: From approx. 3.5 years to 12 years
  • Is it i-Size: Yes
  • Does it recline: No

We loved that this booster seat fostered some independence in our child. This is thanks to the ClickAssist function, which senses when the seat is sat on and illuminates where to click the seat belt in place. Our mini-tester also loved this function.

As you would hope, the seat complies with all the latest safety standards and has enhanced side-impact protection. And the seat can expand both length-wise as your child grows as well as width ways. This is quite handy if you don’t want the seat taking up too much space while your child doesn’t need it. The fabrics seemed to prevent overheating in our tester, and are fairly easy to wipe clean, if you can keep up with spills.

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BeSafe stretch for car seat

best car seats
  • Best: For safety
  • For ages: Birth to approx. seven years
  • Is it i-Size: No
  • Does it recline: Yes

This is one of the few seats we’ve included that isn’t isofix – but that doesn’t put us off. Firstly it’s made by BeSafe, which is one of the leaders in car-seat safety. Also, this seat lets your child face reward until they’re seven years old, without compromising on anyone’s legroom. Was our tester – who is now normally in a forward-facing seat – thrilled at facing the back again? Well, it took a bit of getting use to. But knowing they were travelling in a safer position gave us extra peace of mind. It also has additional side-impact protection.

It’s also hugely handy if you need to put three car seats across the back seat but don’t have three isofix fixings across your car’s back seat. Larger families, we know your woes only too well. We loved the magnets that hold the straps back for easier loading, and that you can recline the seat for easier overnight travelling with older kids. The seat looks comfy, and our testers reported that is was “good” (trust us, that’s high praise indeed).

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Nuna Aace LX car seat

best car seats
  • Best: High-back booster seat
  • For ages: From approx. four to 12 years
  • Is it i-Size: Yes
  • Does it recline: N/A

Sleek and stylish, this is a fairly narrow seat for those that need extra centimetre on the backseat. It ticked our mini tester’s box of having a cupholder, which admittedly reduced spills on the back seat – so a win for us too. Another, probably more essential, tick is the additional side-impact protection it has.

The Nuna Aace LX also reclines, which was useful on a long journey as our child was more willing to snooze. We liked that as a child grows, not only does the seat expand height-wise, but also the depth of the seat increases for extra comfort. The headrest is also quite large, which meant our tester wasn’t slumped forward as much when they fell asleep.

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BeSafe iZi turn B iSize car seat

best car seats
  • Best: For comfort
  • For ages: Birth to four years (approx)
  • Is it i-Size: Yes
  • Does it recline: Yes

Another seat that is suitable from birth to four-years/105cm, this seat offers peace of mind when travelling for the first few years of your child’s life.

The seat is really easy to install. There’s a handy bubble to let you know when the seat is in the correct position with the anchor, while green lights make it obvious when the seat is fitted properly. When installing the seat it required us to move the seat in front all the way forward and folded down to allow us the room to fit it. But once it’s installed it doesn’t take up too much room in the car. There is additional side-impact protection, which you can adjust depending on how you have the seat installed (this is a bit tricky to fit at first).

The newborn mode is super cosy for little babies, and the recline function allows them to lie flat, more or less. When it’s in this mode you can’t rotate the seat, but this is a safety feature to prevent newborns travelling facing forward. Adjusting the seat for the toddler stage was easy, and once in this mode the swivel function is easy to use and helps with straightforward loading of our child.

We tried the grey version of this seat, and we liked that it wasn’t black like other seats, as we think it kept our child cooler. Our child seemed extremely comfortable in this seat, and we felt really happy travelling even long distances with them in it – they seemed more than happy to snooze the journey away. This seat is in the upper price range of the seats we tested, but we felt for the safety features and comfort factor it was still worthy of inclusion.

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Doona infant car seat

best car seats
  • Best: For parents on the go
  • For ages: Birth to 15 months (approx)
  • Is it i-Size: No, R44
  • Does it recline: No

Is it a car seat, is it a pram? Well, we suppose it’s both. This is a bit of a gamechanger of a product for us. It’s an infant car seat that once you pop it out of the car, converts into a pushchair without the need for any extras. It blew our minds. It is really well designed to make it convenient and easy to use.

When in car-seat mode we found it really easy to take in and out of the car using the Isofix base (£139.99, Doona.shop) which is sold separately, and the straps were really easy to adjust. You can also install it using a seat belt if you don’t have the base. We did find though that the green lights to see if it’s installed safely are a bit hard to see compared to others we tried.

When we used it in pram mode it was really easy to manoeuvre and push, and suited every height (although the seat is quite low to the ground). This seat is brilliant for those who have limited boot space in their car, use public transport a lot or are off on their travels. It’s also great for people who have had C sections and aren’t able to lift heavy car seats.

  1. £329 from Doona.shop
Prices may vary
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Ickle Bubba solar Isofix car seat

best car seats
  • Best: For a group two car seat
  • For ages: Nine months to 12 years (approx)
  • Is it i-Size: No
  • Does it recline: Yes

The solar is a forward-facing group one-two-three seat, and is suitable for 9kg to 36kg, that’s about nine months to 12 years of age. So it should last you a long time, and, looking at the price tag, that’s pretty brilliant value for money.

We found the seat really easy to install, mainly thanks to the integrated Isofix connection and top tether strap – as well as the YouTube video that showed us what to do. However, we found it breathtakingly frustrating to move it from group one to group two – the insert was really tricky and fiddly to remove, even for a highly practical person we had on hand to help. But once removed, our group two passenger seemed really comfy in the seat.

It’s nicely padded with several recline positions, and loading our child in was made easier thanks to magnets in the sides of the seat that hold the straps out of the way. It also has added built-in side impact cushion technology, for added safety, should there be any side collision. The seat itself does take up a considerable amount of room, even in a larger car – but, on the flipside, it doesn’t have a leg out front, so it saves on space there.

  1. £169 from Hazoo.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Chicco fold & go i-Size air

best car seats
  • Best: For travelling
  • For ages: Four to 12 years (approx)
  • Is it i-Size: Yes
  • Does it recline: Yes

This lightweight high-back booster seat (suitable for children more than 100cm in height) is brilliant for those who need to store seats away when not in use, or if you travel often, because it folds down and includes a carry handle. We found it really easy to install; the Isofix arms pop out easily and then slot into a place, with red and green indicators to let you know when it’s properly installed.

It comes with an additional side-safety system, which easily clicks onto the door side of the seat, plus a nice padded safe pad to attach to the seat belt to provide extra chin and chest protection. Our child tester was very happy in this seat, and although it’s perhaps not quite as plush as some other seats on the market, for that it’s easier to carry.

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BeSafe iZi flex fix

best car seats
  • Best: For a children’s car seat
  • For ages: Four to 12 years (approx)
  • Is it i-Size: Yes
  • Does it recline: Yes

Another high-back booster seat for children measuring 100-150cm, this seat will see your child through to the end of their car seat career (hurrah!). This is an iSize seat, so it carries all the extra safety features that give peace of mind and also includes additional side-impact protection. It doesn’t have the big guides for feeding the seat belt through like on other boosters, but it has a soft loop that sits between your child’s legs to feed the belt through to provide a more comfortable position for them.

We really liked the adjustable headrest, which cracks up using a dial on the side – much easier than tugging at the top of a head rest. The head rest comes quite far around our child’s head, which is great for when they’re in the midst of a danger nap as it minimises them slumping forward in their sleep. The seat also comes with a pad that fits onto the seat belt and provides extra support for the neck and chin in a collision. The seat feels comfortable for our child, and there’s certainly enough room so they won’t feel too hemmed in as they grow.

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Cybex pallas G iSize car seat

best car seats
  • Best: For an impact-shield car seat
  • For ages: 18 months to 12 years (approx)
  • Is it i-Size: Yes
  • Does it recline: Yes

Suitable for children aged from 18-months to 12-years, this seat offers great cost per use. Instead of a five-point harness, this seat uses an impact shield up until they reach 105cm and 21kg. The impact shield buckles across their lap, which protects their abdomen. It is quite restrictive, so it might not be for all children, but if children don’t love being clipped in, or you find it a faff doing up the clips, this could be the answer. It’s very easy to clip in each time – both sides have a seat-belt style point and the button to release is big and red (you literally can’t miss it).

The seat is installed using Isofix points and a top tether, and we found it really easy to fit. Once your child graduates into high-back boosters, you can remove the impact shield and use the seat like any other booster. We liked that there was so much space for our child to grow in this seat, and the high side-impact protection wings felt reassuringly large. However, for this it is quite large compared to other high-backed boosters, once you reach that stage. If you have three car seats across the back row, then you might struggle to squeeze them all in.

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Car seats FAQs

Fran Vaughan, managing director of Ickle Bubba, answered our questions:

Safety standards explained

Car seats used in the UK must adhere to two standards: ECE R129, which is the latest regulation, or ECE R44. You can choose which type you want to go with.

Car seats that adhere to ECE R129 are called i-Size seats. These seats are fitted against your child’s height and ensure children are rear facing until they’re 15 months old. Rear-facing travel is optimal for babies and children because it offers more protection for their necks if a collision does occur. All i-Size seats have Isofix as standard and have side-impact collision testing as part of the approval process.

ECE R44 seats are fitted based on your child’s weight. Many allow your child to face forward from 10 months, and some allow you to fit the seat using just a seat belt. This is handy if your car doesn’t have Isofix fixings. These seats aren’t required to have side-impact collision testing as standard.

What is Isofix?

Isofix is a way for a car seat to be secured into your car. It’s designed to make fitting the seat easy, as research shows many older car seats are fitted incorrectly, which makes the seat unsafe. Car seats with Isofix have connectors that come out of the back of the seat and slide into your car’s Isofix fitting points. Many seats then have a green indicator or lights (usually in the base) to let you know the seat is securely fitted in place. Isofix anchors the car seat to the chassis of the car, locking it in place more securely than if you were to use just a seat belt. Often an additional top tether or support leg is then used to stop the seat tipping forward.

How do I know when my child is too big for their car seat?

Figuring out when your child is ready for the next size of car seat is relatively straightforward. With i-Size seats, it’s based on height:

  • i-Size baby – suitable from birth to 85cm (this tends to be around 15-18 months)
  • i-Size baby and toddler – suitable from birth to 105cm (this is around four years of age)
  • i-Size toddler – suitable from 65cm to 105cm (around 15 months to four years)
  • i-Size child – suitable from 100cm to 135cm (around four years to 12 years of age, when they aren’t required to travel in a seat any more)

For the R44 seats, seat sizes are based on weight and go up in groups:

  • Group 0/0+ – suitable from birth to 13kg (up to about 15 months)
  • Group 0+/1 – suitable from birth to 18kg (up to about 4 years)
  • Group 0+/1/2 – suitable from birth to 25kg (up to around 7 years
  • Group 1 – suitable from 9kg up to 18kg (from about 9 months to 4 years)
  • Group 1/2/3 – suitable from 9kg up to 36kg (from about 9 months to 12 years of age)
  • Group 2/3 – suitable from 15kg to 36kg (from about 9 months to 12 years of age)
  • Group 3 – suitable from 22kg to 36kg (from about five years to 12 years of age)

Your child may not fit the seat based on their age. It really depends on their weight or height, so it’s important to measure or weigh your child to check.

Multi-group seats are great for those who have different age children using the seat, such as childminders or grandparents.

Why are car seats for babies’ rear facing?

It’s generally much safer. When babies are sitting in a rear facing car seat, the shell acts as a protective shield and absorbs any force, should there be an accident. As a result, the impact would spread over the whole area of the child's back, neck and head, putting significantly less strain solely on the babies’ neck.

What age should kids start to sit forward facing?

Legally, kids should only turn forward facing once they weigh 9kg and at this stage they will sometimes require a new car seat depending on the model. However, many studies have recommended that children should stay rear facing for longer than the legal requirement and in some cases up to four-years-old.

Will I need a base to fit the seat into my car?

When it comes to safety testing, car seats in the UK have to conform to one of two standards: ECE R129 is the newest European-wide regulation, known as i-Size. This runs alongside the existing ECE R44 regulation, and parents can choose either seat type to use.

i-Size uses your child’s height for fitting, and in order for a car seat to be i-Size compatible, it must be used with an Isofix base. Other car seats that far under the ECE R44 regulation are split into groups based on weight, and don’t need a base.

What tips do you have for buying car seats at the various different stages?

Monitor the weight and height of your child regularly to ensure you are using the correct car seat. Don’t rely on visual indicators only.

What’s the most important thing to look for in a child’s car seat and why?

Check that it meets ECE safety standards. A sticker is normally located on the car seat to indicate this. Also, make sure the car seat is compatible with your vehicle. Most are universal fitting, but it's best to check before you purchase.

The verdict: Car seats

For the second year running, the Silver Cross motion takes gold. It’s a fantastic all-rounder, meaning you don’t have to buy a new car seat for each stage and feels very premium to boot.

We tried the Artipoppe zeitgeist baby carrier owned by Princess Eugenie – read our review to find out what we thought

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