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UPDATE: THE CYBEX ATON CLOUD Q INFANT CAR SEAT IS EXPECTED TO BE AVAILABLE FEBRUARY 2016.
It’s been two years since we talked about European car seat standards, and naturally, the game has changed once again! Technology never stops moving, so if you want the safest seats, it’s important to keep up.
Just to review some basic differences between American and European car seats: the system we call LATCH here in the US (“Lower Anchor and Tether for Children”) is called ISOFix in the EU. Also, while the US uses just two latches, two points of tether, in Europe, they use THREE points of tether: the two latches, and most commonly, a “load leg” (as we call them in the US). This reduces forward momentum in the event of an accident.
The new European safety standard is called i-Size, introduced just a year after our original post. So, what is i-Size, and how is it different?
i-Size changed a few standards. First, all children under 15 months MUST be rear facing (the US common law is to rear face for one year, but it is HIGHLY recommended that you do it for at least two or longer). Second, you also must use the ISOFix feature to eliminate any user error with a seat belt. (In the US, you have the option of using LATCH or your safety belt, depending on what works best in your car.) And last, you choose the car seat your baby is going to use by their length, not their weight (we have mentioned this many times on this blog). This new standard is across ALL of Europe and greatly differs from the US regulations, which unfortunately vary from state to state (looking at you Florida and your terrible, terrible safety standards).
The new Nuna Rebl Convertible Car Seat boasts about its compliance to the new i-Size standard, especially in that it can be used rear-facing from infancy to four years old. A little funny thing I noticed: i-Size means you find the car seat by your child’s length, not weight. But it doesn’t say not by age either – it is only in the fine print on the Nuna Rebl that states it can be used rear facing until 41” (which on average is a 3-4 year old). 41” is also the max for the seat in total – they will be moved into a different seat after that. The next seat is essentially a booster with a back (backless boosters don’t exist in Europe!).
So you can keep them rear-facing until they’re using a seat belt in a booster seat. Wild, isn’t it? For comparison: in the US, it’s normal to rear face until 2 (moving from an infant seat to a convertible seat around the age of 1), stay in the convertible car seat until they’re around age 5, move into a booster with a back, and then take off the back around age 6-7 (if the seat allows this).
The Cybex Sirona is very similar to the Nuna Rebl. Both have rear facing capability up to 4 years old. Cybex’s website lists max weight (18kg or ~40lbs), not max height (which means this might not fit the i-Size standard). The Sirona has the same LSP (Lateral Side Impact Protection) as their infant car seats, the Aton Q and the new Cloud Q, which separates it from the Rebl. Both the Rebl and the Sirona have a load leg, while in the US, only a few infant car seats have this (just the Nuna Pipa and the aforementioned Cybex seats). Both have a “non-rethread harness” which means you move the headrest up and down instead of removing the car seat and manually rethreading the harness as your child grows.
There’s one additional aspect of the Rebl and the Sirona that has parents excited: the ability to turn the car seat 360 degrees in the base. What??? That’s so cool! This means you can pop the car seat onto the base in a position that’s comfortable for you, leaning into the car door, load your child in, and then rotate them into the correct position. Plus, when it’s time to get out, you can rotate them into a position where it’s easier for them to get out. This is a LIFESAVER for your back.
Granted, these car seats don’t fit on any strollers currently, so you’ll still want to get a separate infant seat while your baby is small, so you can use it on a travel system (to avoid waking the baby every time you need to move them from one place to another). So you’ll be using these convertible car seats for about 3 years max. That’s still plenty of years of use, with superior safety and ease-of-use.
Here’s the bad news, though: because of the differing safety standards between the US and the EU, these two super-cool seats aren’t coming to American anytime soon (whomp whomp). So let’s talk about some similar options.
For Long Rear Facing Capabilities:
- Clek Foonf: 43” / 50 lbs
- Clek Fllo: 43” / 50 lbs
- Diono Radian R100: 50 lbs
- Diono Radian RXT: 50 lbs
- Diono Olympia: 50 lbs
- Diono Rainier: 50 lbs
- Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible: 45 lbs
ALL of these beat the Rebl and the Sirona weight-wise in the rear-facing category, although only Clek lists height maxes – the other brands only list max weight, like the Sirona. Only two of these (Clek Foonf and Fllo) come with something close to the load leg, the “anti-rebound bar” which also acts as a stabilizer to reduce forward momentum in the event of an accident (read more about the Fllo and a little comparison to the Foonf here). All of the car seats listed above have a max weight, forward-facing, of at least 65 pounds (the Diono line goes from convertible to booster, so their max is much higher). Which means your kid could potentially not grow out of this car seat until they’re around 6 years old (or 25 if you have a Diono). These are also all infant-ready except for the Cleks; however, you can purchase the “Infant Thingy” insert separately to make it infant ready (the other models come with infant inserts). You CANNOT put these on strollers, though, so they are like the Rebl and the Sirona in that sense.
One last thing: only the Peg Perego has a “non-rethread harness,” so you’ll have to uninstall all the others to move the harness up as your child grows.
What about that nifty 360-degree idea? Only one car seat in the US has this ability, and it’s the Orbit Baby Toddler Seat. Granted, it only works on the 360-degree orbiting base when it’s rear-facing, but you won’t need that feature as badly when your child is forward-facing (at which point you remove the base and reinstall the seat using the LATCH system or seat belt). Since it works on the Orbit Stroller Base, it’s also the only convertible car seat that works travel system-style – but keep in mind that the seat is heavy and you’ll have a heavy toddler in it. It also only rear-faces up to 35 pounds.
My top picks? The Clek convertible car seats let you rear-face for the longest (two inches more than the Nuna Rebl), and the anti-rebound bar mimics the function of the load leg. While they don’t spin around, they’re extraordinary seats that grant you extraordinary peace of mind. Extended rear-facing isn’t always easy to do, but the statistics are hard to ignore, and these seats will help you get the job done!