As the parent of a two year old and someone who has gone through child passenger safety certification, the world of car seats are a mess. You’ve got so many things to worry about, like whether you want a travel system from birth, stand alone car seats, whether you want a convertible and whether THAT has to be a 2 in 1 (toddler to booster) or 3 in 1 (infant to booster.) The list goes on. Then you have to worry about getting it home and learning how to install it. That’s before you’ve even checked to see if it fits in your car.
Best Buy’s had me review a couple of car seats since I started here and the Recaro Performance Sport Combination Harness to Booster Car Seat is one of the easiest seats I’ve ever experienced with installation and set up. It also uses among the coolest and most breathable materials to ensure your child is comfortable. In fact, if you’re out shopping for a new seat for your toddler, this is a good choice. It isn’t without it’s flaws though. Let’s take a look.
The Perfect Size
One of the difficulties you encounter while picking a child’s car seat is the sheer size. The car seat we own (A Clek Foonf) is so big that it literally can’t fit in our sedan. It really only fits in the middle of our SUV. We even had it 2 across in the back seat when we put another seat in and I couldn’t even adjust my own seating.
You will not have the same problem with this seat. While it comes in a massive box, the seat is no bigger than some of the other middle-sized seats. In fact, Recaro claims that in some mid-size sedans, you can fit this seat 3 across if you need that many. I’m assuming that the mid-size claim probably pertains to a larger family vehicle like a Toyota Camry. I don’t see this unfortunately fitting 3 across in something like my Corolla.
Easier installation than most seats
One of the troubles you run into with installing car seats is the sheer difficulty it is to install. Having installed dozens of seats over the years of all sized, you often find that design flaws lead to the most frustration. Whether it’s Universal Anchor Tethers (UATs) that have poor release clips, belt paths that are difficult to pass through or badly designed top tethers, you get really tempted to toss the car seat and buy another in a hurry. This car seat was really designed with the installer in mind. The belt path is by far the easiest to coordinate with. It’s just a pass behind the fabric and not through a specialized compartment. The UATs have enough feed to work with and the front face (top) tether is a big metallic loop lock which makes it easier than most to clip in.
This is not a 3-in-1 seat that has infant seating capability. The weight floor on this is 10 kilograms while the ceiling is the standard end limit of 29.5 kg. This seat is clearly designed for a child one year or older but it is recommended by child passenger safety standards in Canada that you rear face your child until at least 2 (though it’s legally only required until 1.) With this in mind, you’ll have to think carefully about whether you’re ready to commit to a seat like this or not. While you can theoretically try to rear face your child in this through belt pathing or UAT hookup, you shouldn’t do it. The trouble with doing that with this seat is that it doesn’t have a swivel on the bottom base which means that your child doesn’t have any room for their legs. Swivels allow for the child to sit facing at an angle, thereby giving them more leg room. With no angled swivel, your child is sitting parallel to the back seat on a rear face, meaning that their legs will be up at their knees or chest. The whole purpose of rear facing a child is the added safety upon impact of a vehicle and this basically does away with that whole notion. I should add that the seat DOES have a small plastic punchout base that will allow the seat to recline. However, it’s not sufficient enough in my opinion to make this a full time rear face
In short, you should only buy this seat if you’re ready to front face your child full time.
I won’t delve too far into actual installation specifics but just bear in mind that when you install, you must legally use the top tether as part of installation. If your vehicle is 1996 or newer, it is all but guaranteed that you have a tether hook whether you know what they look like or not. Consult your vehicle’s manual for the visual as you have to be sure you don’t use a cargo tether. If you have an older vehicle, you’ll likely have to pick up an aftermarket tether kit. These are available at any hardware store. You don’t get one with this seat.
Harness mode or booster mode?
This is the only seat you’ll need from the time your child is ready to fit into until they can sit on their own. Harness mode is the default mode out of the box and is recommended for your toddler until they’ve outgrown it. This follows a 2 belt, 5 point harness system and the shoulder padding on this prevent the straps from twisting.
Once your child is old enough, you can remove the harness altogether and enter booster mode. In booster mode, you will use the regular lap and shoulder seatbelt of your car while your child sits comfortably. There are little storage pockets on the front of each side for your child to keep things, whether it’s a pair of sunglasses or a water bottle.
Should you ever need to wash anything, the fabric is all clipped on with buttons so you can easily lift off and wash the material should you need to. Be sure to follow the washing guidelines so that you don’t shrink anything in the wash. As with any car seat, the fabric here is tightly buttoned on so that your child cannot choke on loose materials so there isn’t much room for error.
When staying cool isn’t hard
One of the biggest problems most car seats face are the fact that your child can get very warm in them very fast. It’s not really an issue in the winter but when it’s 30 degrees out and your car feels twice as hot, you try and do everything you can to keep your child cool. We tried everything. We had cool packs and even one of those fabric mesh things that velcro over your existing seats. Unfortunately, with a wiggling child happily playing and singing, those gimmicks become worthless in a hurry.
That ends with this carseat. The fabric used for this carseat is a lifesaver. It repels heat well enough that your child can sit very comfortably in the seat for long periods of time.The fabrics are very light and airy, helping you make sure you’re not all but peeling your child out of their seat on a hot day.
As with any car seats, if you don’t feel comfortable installing these yourself or need a bit of help, try your local fire or police department. You may also have luck with your provincial branch of CAA, who may be able to send you in the right direction. Out here in BC, for example, the British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA) takes installation appointments at some of their service locations and even runs their own certification program.
The Recaro Performance Sport Combination Harness to Booster Car Seat is now available online at BestBuy.ca. If you’re looking for a stroller to accompany, check out this review of the Recaro Easylife stroller I did earlier this month.