12 best car seats
Keep your little one safe as you drive using the latest i-Size compatible models
By law, children must use a child car seat until they’re 12 years old or 135 centimetres tall, whichever comes first. Children over 12 or more than 135cm must use a seat belt.
Parents of tiny tots should also be aware of the i-Size legislation. This new European-wide car seat regulation aims to make car seats safer by keeping children rear facing for longer (until they’re at least 15-months-old), as well as improving safety features by introducing side impact testing standards.
It also requires that the car seat must use Isofix. Don’t panic if you’re still using a non i-Size car seat. It’s not illegal. But the safer i-Size seats are steadily replacing all old-style ones.
For the so-called “2/3 car seats” group, (designed for children around age four to 11 or 12-years-old) i-Size isn’t applicable. But other new car seat legislation has come in affecting these older children.
This law stops manufacturers from making any new models of backless booster car seats for children shorter than 125cm tall or weighing less than 22kg.
As with i-Size, it doesn’t mean backless car seats are suddenly illegal – it just means that from now on, they can only be aimed at children taller or heavier than that – whichever comes first.
When buying a seat, the first thing to check 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 all models, while others might just about squeeze in, leaving very little legroom or making it tricky to click in the seat belt.
Your next decision is whether to buy a seat with a special safety system, such as an Isofix or Familyfix. The bases of these car seats literally plug into the car itself rather than using the seatbelt alone. Nearly all seats that use these bases are safer, although that’s not so in every case. Remember that not all cars have the fittings for these bases anyway, although more and more do.
Do as much homework as you can around other safety features, such as adjustable headrests and crash test results (not just front and back impact, but side impact too) and ideally, look into comfort levels, particularly if you regularly go on long journeys.
Not all car seats are travel system compatible, so if this is a feature you need – always check first.
Maxi Cosi Pebble Plus: £199, Amazon
You can use this rear facing seat either with a regular adult seatbelt or an Isofix base, and it can be used as part of a travel system too.
Aimed for newborns up to the age of one, it boasts some of the best safety results on the market (particularly when it comes to side impact) and has a feel of great quality, while also being light.
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, as well as coming in some gorgeous colours.
But you’ll need to buy the base separately to use it under the new i-Size car seat regulations.
Diono Monterey 2: £89.95, Amazon
This deep padded, high backed, exceptionally comfy booster seat expands upwards and outwards much more smoothly than many of its competitors. It’s the only booster seat aimed at 4-12 year-olds with extra deep metal reinforced wings for side impact protection, making it very safe.
The seat comes in two parts which click into place simply enough, then you’re good to go – although be warned that the padding makes it quite wide, which can make it tricky to reach the seatbelt clip in the car.
Kids will love the dual cup holders which can keep their drinks upright on both sides, but the covers are hand wash only so let’s hope your child doesn’t spill their beverage.
Jané Gravity: £369.95, Amazon
This i-Size friendly car seat, aimed at birth up to four years, is one of the easiest car seats to install for tiny tots and comes complete with Isofix base.
Like most things made by this Spanish manufacturer – which has built up a strong reputation for innovative, extremely safe baby products – it’s heavy, so it’s probably not for you if you want to carry it out of the car a lot.
But otherwise, it ticks every box, with the 360 degree movement making it particularly smooth. Available in three different colours, it looks smart and is comfy, with five adjustable headrest settings.
What a shame it’s not compatible with a travel system and remember your car will need to be Isofix-friendly.
Kiddy Evoluna i-Size 2: £399, Amazon
Kiddy car seats have always been pioneering. Their updated and award winning version of the original Evoluna has lie flat technology both in and outside the car (although you can’t carry it around in this position), which promotes easier breathing for babies and is great for long car journeys.
It’s compatible with several leading strollers and the new handle is impressively ergonomic. You won’t do better than this for safety – it is doing seriously well in crash tests.
We also like the rocker function and option of removing the side impact device on the inside side of the car to create more room. Aimed at newborns to around 15 months, the Isofix base is included, but it’s heavy and bulky and the cover can be a tricky to remove.
Cosatto Come & Go: £249.94, Amazon
New for this year from the brand known for its quirky designs and parent friendly attention to detail, the Come & Go is Cosatto’s first car seat that offers rear facing from birth up to four-years-old.
It comes with their patented anti-escape system, plus a no-rethread harness, meaning you can easily adjust the headrest and shoulder strap height without having to remove it.
The 360 degree swivel seat makes it a doddle to get your child in and out of the car and there’s a smooth action recline, deep side impact protection panels and an integrated Isofix base.
Available in three fun designs, we think it will be quite a hit. But it’s not travel system compatible.
Britax Romer TriFix 2 i-Size: £200, John Lewis & Partners
If you’re after an i-Size approved toddler seat, this is a great buy. Suitable from around 15 months up to four years, this seat can only be used in the forward facing position.
It’s easy to install and because it has a top tether, it will work in cars that have underfloor storage, preventing you having to get a car seat base with a support leg.
Unusually for car seats, its roomy without being bulky, with great padding and three recline positions which you can adjust with one hand.
The covers are easy to remove and wash. Our only gripe is that it’s heavy.
MultiMac 4 Seater: from £1,499: MultiMac
This is the only car seat around that allows up to four children to sit all together in a row from newborn up to 12-years-old – and it’s also approved for adult use, in case you or a grandparent need to hop in the back for any reason.
It’s rear facing for up to 18 months using the Minimac infant carrier, then forward facing to 12 years – with optional YLVA headrest for up to 22kg, which we highly recommend using for safety.
It’s surprisingly simple to move it between cars, although it’s heavy. There are some compromises – for example, the Minimac is more upright than other infant carriers, which means your baby’s head could slump forward when sleeping.
But overall, this car seat – which comes in two sizes, depending on the size of the car – is exceptionally flexible and a tailor made option that, although pricey, could save you money in the long run.
Nuna Aace: £150, Mothercare
This high backed booster seat is aimed at kids aged three to 12 years. It can be can be used in belted mode or with easy to install Isofix connectors, everything about it feels top quality.
Surprisingly lightweight, it’s easy to move in and out of different cars and is very flexible – with a height adjustable head rest (10 positions), customisable recline (eight positions, but only when using the Isofix connectors) and three seat depths for growing legs.
It feels spacious, with good padding and side wings that move out automatically as you adjust the headrest upwards.
It’s extremely safe, as proved by crash tests, but it’s big and bulky, which you may find annoying – especially if you have other children to fit in the back of the car.
Cybex Sirona S i-Size: £279.95, Amazon
This well engineered, top quality car seat performs exceptionally well in crash tests and works with a click in and out Isofix base and five-point harness.
If your child isn’t keen on facing backwards, you can always turn them round after they’ve reached around 16 months by using the 360 degree swivel base, which you can use with one hand – useful if you’re the kind of parent to always have your hands full, and it saves on back strain too.
There is plenty of leg room and this car seat keeps the head particularly comfy at all times. The cover is machine washable too.
But the view for your child isn’t as good as some car seats and the support leg of the base is no good for cars with underfloor storage compartments. Suitable from birth to around four years.
Joie i-Level i-Size Infant Car Seat: £200, Mothercare
Joie has built up a strong reputation in the car seat market and this well built, i-Size standard car seat is its first to have a near lie flat feature, with three different reclining positions.
Although it doesn’t go quite as flat as some car seats, it’s still comfortable enough for your baby to nap (it’s well-padded too) and the reclining lever works smoothly.
It’s good value for money as you get the Isofix included and it’s ultra safe – the head rest in particular has three layers of protection.
We also like the “grow together” seven-position headrest – and, joy of joys, you don’t have to rethread the harness each time you change it.
But it’s heavy, which may matter to you if you’re using it as part of a travel system, and the green lights on the Isofix base – which show that you’ve installed the seat correctly – aren’t quite as easy to see as with some other car seats.
It seats children from birth up to 13kg.
Britax Dualfix i-Size: £430, Mothercare
This baby and toddler car seat is an updated version of a previous favourite Britax car seat, which can be used rear facing from birth until your child is around four years old.
If you want your child to face forward when they’ve reached 76cm tall (the time at which it’s deemed safe to do so), you can simply turn them round using the 360 degree swivel design, which also makes it easier to get your child in and out of the car.
This seat does well in crash tests, particularly in rear facing mode, and it’s easy to install. It’s well-padded, with 12 recline positions (six forward facing and six rearward facing) and we found it easy to clean.
It’s heavy and bulky, but as it isn’t travel system compatible, you may not find this an issue.
BeSafe iZi Go Modular i-Size: £269.99, John Lewis
This lightweight yet sturdy, egg shaped, rear facing car seat (for up to four years) 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 a 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.
The magnetic attachments on the five point harness are brilliant and there’s more leg room than most. Suitable from birth to around 12 months.
Maxi Cosi Rock: £165, John Lewis
This rear facing baby seat is simple to install, easy to use, comfortable and lightweight.
The i-Size approved (when used with the FamilyFix One i-Size base) seat can be used as part of a travel system on a pushchair and it has been found to have good front and side impact in test car crashes – whether you use it in a base or belted straight into a car.
It looks smart, comes in some lovely colours and is plane approved. That’s a long list of boxes to tick for a single car seat, making it an outstanding choice for newborns up to about a year old.
But the base is bigger than many others, which might put some people off.
The verdict: Best car seats
The best brand has to be good old Maxi Cosi – they just seem to get it right time after time with car seats, combining practicality, comfort and safety.
The Kiddy Evoluna i-Size 2 is worth a special mention too – their updated and award-winning version of the original has lie-flat technology for easier breathing and is a real boon for long car journeys.
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