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6 best new convertible seats for your toddler

Consumer Reports' latest ratings help you find the best seat for your growing child

Published: July 28, 2014 10:00 AM

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If there is one thing that goes without saying, babies grow quickly—very quickly. Seems like it was only yesterday that you were taking your newborn home. Now she's walking, talking, and probably getting too heavy for you to carry around in their infant carrier. And it’s not just a weight concern.

Although many rear-facing infant models have weight limits of 30 lbs. or more, most don’t have height limits to match, so besides growing too heavy, your child may be too tall to fit safely in his infant carrier. (Read “How to Transport Your Child Safely Over the Years.”)

For the safest travel, we recommended that a child remain rear-facing in their seat until the age of 2. That means the next step is a convertible seat. Convertible models can be installed either rear or forward-facing, so they combine the best in safety (rear-facing) with the capacity for a toddler’s height (longer shells). Most also have weight limits higher than infant seats'.

We recently concluded testing several new and updated convertible seats, finding some compelling choices in the process. Our child-seat Ratings are based on performance in simulated crashes, how easy they are to use, and how successful we were at achieving a secure installation in a variety of vehicles. Note that these ratings are based on our traditional crash testing and are not yet performed to our new test protocol. Ratings of convertible models for next year will be performed using that new test.

See our complete car seat buying advice and ratings for all categories.

Those that faired best in our ratings include:

Chicco NextFit $280

For those who have used our ratings for other child seats, the Chicco name may be familiar as it also makes our top-rated infant seat. The NextFit is Chicco’s newest seat and bridges into the convertible group. The NextFit not only performs very well in our crash tests but it includes features that increase your odds of installing the seat safely and securely in your car and your child in the seat. Most notable is the NextFit’s Supercinch technology, which makes it much easier to tighten the LATCH strap, a harness adjustment that doesn’t require rethreading, and an easy-to-read recline indicator.

Britax Advocate (G4)/Britax Pavillion (G4)/Britax Boulevard(G4): $305/$255/$270

These fourth-generation Britax convertible models represent the company’s latest updates and the product family continues to include highly rated, balanced performers. Each brings a different level of features, depending on its price. The Advocate is Britax's top-of-the-line seat and includes Britax’s side-impact cushions, which may improve side-impact performance (though we don’t formally test for that yet), and the Click’N’Safe feature that can help you determine when the harness is tight enough. Britax’s new flip-forward crotch buckle on all of these models can make it easier to put your baby in as the buckle stays out of the way.

Britax Marathon (G4) $230

Based on the same platform as the other Britax convertible seats, the Marathon looks and performs similarly to the more feature-laden models. This seat lacks the premium features of those seats, but crash protection ratings are still very good.

Britax Roundabout (G4) $145

If you’re looking for the Britax level of safety but can’t quite afford the price, the Roundabout may be a good choice. The Roundabout remains a very good all-around performer, but it lacks many higher-end features. Most notable is that the harness adjustments on the Roundabout requires “rethreading” and the forward-facing weight limit is lower, at 55 lbs. rather than the 65 lb. limits on the other models. Even so, this seat still performs very well and earns our Best Buy designation for value.

Graco Size 4 Me 65/Graco Headwise 65 $180/$200

These Graco models impressed us with their potential for providing a secure rear-facing installation. Forward-facing installations were also good, but it was a bit tougher to access the belts. These models are also very good performers in our simulated crash tests. Originally sold as the Size4me 70 with a 70-lb. forward-facing harness capacity, the capacity and the name have been reduced to 65, but the seat remains the same otherwise.

Evenflo Sure Ride $100

The Sure Ride is a high performer for a moderate price, making it a Best Buy in our ratings. A basic, straightforward performer, it doesn’t include a ton of ease-of-use features, but we were able to achieve secure installation both rear- and forward-facing. It did very well in simulated crashes.

Jen Stockburger

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