Impressive crash protection and a price of just $90 helped put the new Evenflo Embrace 35 infant car seat among two other Consumer Reports Best Buys for babies heavier than 22 pounds in our ongoing car seat tests. But our latest roundup also found that some big-name car seats can be hard to install and may not even fit in many vehicles, including a new Graco Snugride model designed for heavier infants weighing up to 40 pounds.
Infant car seats are designed to accommodate children up to roughly two years old or when they reach the height and weight limits of the seat. They provide the extra protection these smallest of passengers require while doubling as a carrier that detaches from the base, which stays attached to the vehicle. The Evenflo Embrace 35 performed well in CR's crash tests, which simulate a 30-mph frontal crash into a wall or other fixed object. We also found the Evenflo Embrace easy to install in the five major vehicle types, including compact cars, midsized sedans, small SUVs, large SUVs, and the minivans we've come to associate with kids and parenting. Another plus: Its adjustable crotch strap and especially its 35-pound capacity can buy you some extra time before you need to step up to a rear-facing convertible car seat as baby grows.
Car-seat companies are also addressing the need for rear-facing seats that accommodate larger babies longer. The Graco Snugride Click Connect 40, $220, is the first rated for up to 40 pounds. Indeed, some 65 percent of one-year-old boys are heavier than 22 pounds, the limit for smaller, lower-priced infant seats. Solid crash-test scores and easy installation are other reasons to consider the Graco Snugride Click Connect 40 infant seat. But the bulkier design and added length of the seat base needed for that higher weight limit also mean the Snugride is likely to fit fewer vehicles. (Hint: A car seat is too big if 20 percent or more of its base extends beyond the front of the vehicle seat.)
Other issues also kept the $180 Summer Prodigy infant car seat off our winners' list. An electronic screen is designed to show whether you've installed the seat properly but the "correct" recline angle for newborns may be too upright, which may allow the heads of younger babies to fall forward and restrict their breathing. Seat belt routing that was relatively involved can also lead to installation errors, while a ratcheting device proved hard to tighten and even harder to release.
And as good as the Evenflo Embrace 35 performed in our latest tests, it still trailed three other infant car seat picks in its category. You'll find those other top car seat picks, including the top-rated Chicco KeyFit 30, $180, in our infant car-seat Ratings. Also be sure to check our car seat buying guide to learn more about the best time to move your child to a convertible, toddler booster, or booster car seat.