We’ve spent a lot of time reviewing 3-in-1 infant/toddler/booster seats. However, expect this to change in the next few months and years. Since my daughter (aka Plug In’s number one car seat test subject) is almost 3, it opens up to reviewing a lot more of these seats.
The first of these seats we’ll be reviewing is the Evenflo Evolve LX car seat. Evenflo is a fairly common and trustworthy name in the car seat game and I’ve been impressed with what they’ve got to offer. Both of my parents have Evenflo seats in their vehicles for my daughter and we’ve recently purchased the Evenflo Chase booster seat for her to us permanently in our family sedan. For now, however, Chase will sit in the box while we review the Evolve. We’ve had the Evolve in our sedan now for a couple weeks and I’m excited to tell you more about this seat.
A seat by any other name
The first thing you should know about this seat is that it actually has two different naming styles. While the box says it is the Evenflo Evolve, it’s also known as the Evenflo “Transitions” seat. To that effect, the instruction manual shows both names. It’s an odd quirk about this seat but thankfully, stuff not related to the physical performance itself is where you kind of want your quirks to be.
Infants need not apply
This seat cannot be used if your child is under a year old. Infant seats have specific requirement needs and laws to follow. For example, you child has to rear face to a minimum age of 1 (though it’s recommended as long as your child can take it.) Most infant-friendly 3-in-1 seats have triple stage reclining which allows for an infant to comfortably rear face. This seat only comes with 2-stage recline (for the different booster phases) and can only be front faced. The shoulder harness style is still a 5 point harness but the shoulder placements aren’t suitable for infant sized children either, not to mention that it doesn’t come with the proper neck supports.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise though. The box does clearly mention that the minimum weight supported is 22 lb.
What does the “3-in-1” mean for this seat?
The Evenflo Evolve/Transitions seat is basically the last seat you’ll need for your child once you’ve purchased it. With an 8 year expiration date, getting your child into it at their first birthday means you’ll see them through this seat in all phases until they’ve outgrown it at age 9. The 3-in-1 for this seat has it going from a 5 point harness toddler seat to a harness-less highback booster and finally into a seatless booster. Based on your child’s age and size, you’ll transition these naturally from one phase to the next. While the instructions will give you some good guidelines (such as target weights in which your child can discontinue use of certain things,) they’re hard to follow unless your child is average size.
When you have a special case like my 2 year old who is as tall as many 4 year olds, the rules are kind of out the window. She doesn’t fit in some bucket seats designed for kids up to 40 lb because she’s so short. All I’m saying is that every child is different and while recommendations are recommendations, they may not necessarily apply to your child.
Evenflo Evolve installation easier than most
Installation of this seat is really easy. One of the things I’m a huge fan of is the way that Evenflo has done Universal Anchor Tether (UAT) clips on this seat. Using their QuickConnect technology, installation is actually as easy as pushing the connection against the accepting tether until it clips in place. There’s a looping piece of fabric that you just pull on and it’ll disconnect. You do have to pull on pretty hard to unlatch, so your child can’t just reach down and pull it off. At the top, there is an latch tether. While UAT’s aren’t mandatory installation for most phases of this seat, the anchor tether (when applicable) is.
All vehicles after model year 1996 have latch clips installed for you to hook up this anchor to. If your car is older, however, you can purchase aftermarket kits that allow you to install a clip into your vehicle to make it work. Since they’re a fairly universal clip, you should be able to find it at a hardware store.
If you’re not comfortable installing one of these seats, just keep in mind that you can contact your local police or fire department non-emergency line and they should be able to redirect you to certified child passenger safety specialists that can show you proper installation. If you live in British Columbia, many BCAA service locations have trained specialists that can help you too.
One important installation piece I should mention, however, is the seat dimensions. When you get to this stage of the game, parents tend to be curious how many seats you can fit across a back seat, since many are planning on (or already have) multiple children that need car seats at the same time. I’d say you could comfortably fit 2 across (next to the doors) but will struggle to fit 3 of these across. Fitting 3 child seats of any make or model in the same section of vehicle is quite challenging though and I can’t think of many seats out there that will actually let you go 3 across in a back seat.
Among the most comfortable in class
One of the things I noticed when I took this out of the box was how much padding was on this seat. This car seat has a generous amount of padding (including extra slip inserts for the toddler setting.) It doesn’t offer so much padding that it’s overkill, but if you compare it to other contemporary brands like Cosco, Clek, Recaro and Diono seats, it definitely stands out. This is a bit unusual though, as Evenflo themselves don’t normally put this much padding in their seats so it’s a definite comfort selling feature. The way the seat contours around your child as well is different than most seats. Features like the extra padding and seat contours actually lead to the seat’s claim that it meets 2x federal crash test standards. This seat is well equipped to keep your little one safe.
Words from the tiny critic
After sitting in this seat for a couple of weeks, my daughter is a fan. Since she’s considered to be a smaller person in this seat (as opposed to mid-range or too big in other seats,) we had no issues with sizing, pinching or the length of the tether belts. Since there is so much padding and the contours aren’t very rounded, it did take her a little while to get used to the fact that there is more enclosure on this seat than most others, but it wasn’t a big deal.
As a parent, I thought this was a really good seat overall. It’s a bit heavy but it isn’t as rigid as other 3-in-1 seats and the detaching pieces also mean that you can easily take the seat apart and put it back together if you have trouble fitting the seat through the door of your vehicle. You shouldn’t, considering it isn’t a very wide seat, but if you have a smaller vehicle, at least you know that you can pull the thing apart and put it back together inside the car.
It’s a seat worth looking at
Evenflo is a long running name in the world of car seats, but are often overlooked by parents in the name of higher end or boutique brands. Evenflo proves that you don’t need to go to a specialty store and spend $700+ to have a great and safe car seat. My daughter can’t tell the difference between this and our higher end Clek seat. It’s definitely a winner.
The Evenflo Evolve/Transitions LX seat is available at Best Buy.