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Hands-on Gear Review

Chicco KeyFit 30 Review


Infant Car Seat

Chicco KeyFit 30
Editors' Choice Award
Price:   $200 List | $199.99 from Amazon
Pros:  Easy LATCH installation, better crash test results
Cons:  Coarse fabric, heavier, hard to install with a belt
Bottom line:  This Editors' Choice has it where it counts for a nice price
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Chicco

The Skinny

The Chicco KeyFit 30 is a popular car seat for infants that has received accolades from parents and institutions alike. After extensive testing and side-by-side comparisons with the 14 other seats in this review, we think it is worthy of a song or two and gave it one of our Editors' Choice awards for offering an impressive option for parents that comes in $100 less than our other Editors' Choice award winner. This seat has an easy to use LATCH system, and earned better crash test results than much of the competition. While it isn't the best thing going with a 3rd place rank, it is the best thing going for the price and we think parents will be happy with this seat.

RELATED: Our complete review of infant car seats

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Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings

Review by:
Juliet Spurrier, MD
Mom-in-Chief, BabyGearLab

Last Updated:
Wednesday
August 17, 2016
We found the Chicco KeyFit 30 to be tied with two other top performers for the easiest car seat to install correctly with LATCH anchor connectors. It has a thick cushioned seat pad and 5 point harness, with a removable newborn insert for smaller babies and preemies. It features energy-absorbing foam for side-impact protection, spring assisted level foot, 2 bubble levels, and center-pull LATCH adjustment for quick and correct installation. It is compatible with the Chicco Cortina, Cortina Together, Trevi and S3 strollers, and enjoys broad support in terms of car seat adapters available for the top rated full-size strollers.

Performance Comparison


We evaluated the Chicco's performance in detail on seven key rating metrics, scoring it side by side against 15 top competing seats.

Editor's Update:
The Chicco Keyfit 30 has undergone no changes since our original review and remains the same in 2016 as it was in 2015. New colors and patterns have been made available, but nothing in the design, features or functionality of the seat has changed and the current Keyfit 30 remains the same as the infant seat we purchased and tested for this review.

Crash Test


This chart shows the crash test data for the head sensor on the test dummy. The Chicco had the best crash test results with regard to Head Injury Criteria in this review.
This chart shows the crash test data for the head sensor on the test dummy. The Chicco had the best crash test results with regard to Head Injury Criteria in this review.
In our evaluation of the crash test results, the Chicco showed an additional margin of protection over much of the competition with results for G forces that were lower than most. For the head sensor on the crash test dummy, the Chicco had the best crash test results in the group, and can be considered to provide significantly better protection than required by the Federal safety standards. The following charts show the Chicco test results (in black) compared to the seat with the best crash test scores for both head and chest (in green). The Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40 has the best crash test results for the chest sensor, and the Chicco placed 10th of 15 in chest forces, but still well under the Federal safety standard.
This chart shows the comparison of the crash test data for the chest sensors for the Chicco Keyfit 30 and the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40  which had the best chest score in the group
This chart shows the comparison of the crash test data for the chest sensors for the Chicco Keyfit 30 and the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40, which had the best chest score in the group

The Chicco had relatively thick dense foam compared to the competition  but boasted no additional side impact protection features
The Chicco had relatively thick dense foam compared to the competition, but boasted no additional side impact protection features
The Chicco Keyfit has energy absorbing foam for side impact protection (SIP) as its one marketing claim for an additional safety feature. SIP is not a defined industry term, and therefore can mean different things to different manufacturers and it is difficult to tell if this feature has been tested or what the company feels it contributes to the seats overall performance. An example of varied meaning for SIP, is the Graco claim that their seats offer tested SIP; they mean the seat has been tested to keep baby in the harness when the vehicle is hit from the side. We doubt this is what most parents have in mind when they hear the phrase "side impact protection".

Ease of Install - LATCH




The Chicco earned a high score of 9 of 10 for ease of installation using the LATCH system. This score is a tie with the Cybex Aton 2 and the UPPAbaby Mesa. All three seats offer something unique when it came to LATCh system design and the ease of install reflects their attempts to make installation easier. The low score in this metric is a 3 earned by the Graco SnugRide Classic Connect.

The Chicco scored well for ease of install using the LATCH method
The Chicco scored well for ease of install using the LATCH method

The Chicco has one of the more unique LATCH system installs in the group. The connection anchors are the easier to use seatbelt style with a hard plastic shell and red button release. They are housed on the base and tucked away when not in use. When ready to use, you push the connectors on the U anchors on the vehicle and a single middle strap is used to tighten them (as opposed to a belt style strap on the side). The strap is easy to pull and getting the seat properly installed is simple with this pull strap. This is an easier design than the more common side pull setup that can often be difficult to get tight enough, and even harder to loosen.

The LATCH pull strap near the foot of the base has a storage compartment for the strap so it doesn't interfere with attaching the carrier to the base
The LATCH pull strap near the foot of the base has a storage compartment for the strap so it doesn't interfere with attaching the carrier to the base
Adjusting the Chicco base until the bubble is between the lines on the level indicator helps ensure a properly installed car seat
Adjusting the Chicco base until the bubble is between the lines on the level indicator helps ensure a properly installed car seat
The bubble level indicator on the base assists parents in finding the proper installation angle. This is partially a result of tightening the straps down enough and the angle of the vehicle seat cushion. This base has a level on both sides so parents can easily see if the angle is correct no matter which side the seat is installed from. To assist in achieving the right angle for proper installation, the base also comes with an adjustable foot; we had no need for rolled towels or pool noodles to level the seat when we tested this seat in different vehicles. We like that this seat gives you feedback on whether or not it is installed correctly.

Ease of Install - Belt


Installation of the Chicco using the vehicle belt is easier with the lap only belt as opposed to the lap/shoulder belt common in newer passenger vehicles
Installation of the Chicco using the vehicle belt is easier with the lap only belt as opposed to the lap/shoulder belt common in newer passenger vehicles
The Chicco Keyfit 30 base does not offer a center belt lock off  but instead has a side clip for the shoulder belt only
The Chicco Keyfit 30 base does not offer a center belt lock off, but instead has a side clip for the shoulder belt only
It is a good thing the Chicco is so easy to install using the LATCH method, because it isn't that easy to install using a vehicle seat belt. The Chicco earned a 6 of 10 in this test, which is just below average for the group. This score ties with the Britax B-Safe 35, Orbit Baby G3, and the Recaro Performance Coupe and the Graco SnugRide Classic Connect 30. The high score is a 9 shared by Phil and Teds Alpha and the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35. The low score for the metric is a 4 earned by the Evenflo Embrace LX.

The Chicco does offer a shoulder belt lock off threading point that helps make installation using a shoulder belt a little more secure
The Chicco does offer a shoulder belt lock off threading point that helps make installation using a shoulder belt a little more secure
This seat has a belt lock off, but unlike some competing seats the belt path is not color coded. Threading the belt is thus more difficult than it needs to be and the belt lock off is harder to use than many of the other lock offs in the review. It has a very similar feel to the Britax B-Safe, and we had trouble getting the belt under the lock off without it getting wrinkled or folded over. Even when you manage to get it installed in the lock off, the base can still work its way up the side of the shoulder belt and tip slightly to the side. It is better with a lap only belt, but those are becoming more uncommon in newer passenger vehicles. Even so we feel it is still more stable using the LATCH system.

Ease of Install - Without the Base


We had to use multiple towels to achieve the best possible installation without a base for the Chicco Keyfit
We had to use multiple towels to achieve the best possible installation without a base for the Chicco Keyfit
If you plan to use the seat frequently with taxi cabs, Uber, or shuttle services, you'll want to consider installation without the base as a key metric. The Chicco earned its lowest score for ease of install without the base, with a 4 of 10. This is the lowest score for this test tying with the Orbit Baby G3. The high score is a 10 earned by the Peg Perego and the UPPAbaby Mesa.

The Chicco uses the American belt path which threads the vehicle belt across the lower portion of the seat only
The Chicco uses the American belt path which threads the vehicle belt across the lower portion of the seat only
This seat uses the American belt path as opposed to the European version and it does not have a color coded belt path. Even though the belt is relatively easy to thread compared to the competition, we still had significant difficulties getting this seat installed properly and securely without the base. We had to use 2 towels to get this seat to sit at the right angle and/or secure tight enough. Even then, the seat felt very unstable and not like one we'd want to put our own baby in. Given that the European method feels more stable to us, we think this seat would benefit from the more secure European belt path that utilizes the shoulder strap around the back of the seat.

Ease of Use



The Chicco earned a 7 of 10 for ease of use, tying with the Peg Perego and the UPPAbaby Mesa. The high score of 8 in this metric is shared by the Evenflo Embrace LX and the Recaro. The low score is 3 shared by the Orbit Baby, Graco SnugRide Classic Connect and the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40.

The Chicco buckle is easier to use than the Britax and Graco  but we found the chest clip to be more difficult than much of the competition
The Chicco buckle is easier to use than the Britax and Graco, but we found the chest clip to be more difficult than much of the competition

This buckle feels less stiff than both Britax products and is easier to manage without the additional padding surrounding the buckle. It is easy to depress the button with one thumb. The chest/retainer clip isn't the stiffest in the group, but is not as easy as some of the others to depress and slide apart. Some testers had difficulty getting thumbs caught in the ring that surrounds the button, but overall it is easy to connect and mate up the two sides when putting the clip together.

The Chicco release button is easy to use situated on top of the padding. Most of the seats in this review have the button hidden under the padding to avoid accidental button pushing
The Chicco release button is easy to use situated on top of the padding. Most of the seats in this review have the button hidden under the padding to avoid accidental button pushing
Tightening the harness on this car seat is relatively easy and rated average in the group. It tightens via a strap near the foot of the carrier that is pulled to shorten the harness for a secure fit. The release button is also located near the foot of the carrier above the tightening strap, and is depressed while you pull the harness to loosen the straps. The button is above the padding, which makes it easy to access but potentially easy for little feet to play with as well.

Adjusting the shoulder strap height on the Chicco is harder than we would like it to be. The seat has 3 height options and 1 buckle strap location, and we found the process of getting the straps rethreaded to get the best fit to be annoying. The shoulder straps meet at a T style splitter plate and the small loops on the straps make it easier to get them through the slots than some of the competition, but harder to reattach to the splitter.

We preferred competing seats with a non-rethread style height adjustment, like those found on the Peg Perego and the UPPAbaby Mesa. These competing seat harness height adjustments can be done without moving straps around, and even with the baby in the seat. We also preferred the seats with more adjustment variations for both the buckle and shoulder straps than the Chicco offered, to increase the chances of getting the best fit for baby; 3 and 1 might be somewhat limiting and could potentially prevent parents from getting the best fit for children of certain sizes.

The release handle on the Chicco is large  brightly colored  and easy to use
The release handle on the Chicco is large, brightly colored, and easy to use
Attaching the seat onto the base is very easy with the Chicco and the carrier seems to just fall into place. It has no visual indicator to help ensure it is on correctly, but we didn't have any problems getting it attached correctly the first time, every time, during our tests. Giving the carrier a good tug can help parents ensure it is truly connected properly, instead of relying on the click connection sound. Squeezing the release handle on the back of the carrier will release the carrier connection from the base. Parents can use the release handle to on the back of the seat to help them lift the carrier up and out of the car. This feature works well and we didn't experience any problems during testing.

The buttons to activate the handle on the Chicco are easy to press
The buttons to activate the handle on the Chicco are easy to press
The handle on this seat is operated by squeezing the levers on both sides of the seat near the pivot point, and then rotating the handle to the desired position. It has 3 possible positions and any of them are allowed when driving. We had difficulty with the handle and canopy rubbing on one another in different positions, and while it isn't as bad as any of the Graco options, it is still annoying and feels like an oversight.

The Chicco base does offer LATCH storage by way of the anchors tucking into pockets in the back of the base. While this does get them out of the way and prevent interference with connecting the carrier to the base, the tightening strap for the LATCH anchors does need to be rolled up and stowed to prevent interference problems with the carrier attaching to the base. We didn't have any problems with this ourselves, but we can see parents in a hurry possibly missing the strap and not fully seating the carrier on the base. To prevent a free floating carrier in a moving vehicle with suggest parents take the extra time during installation to tuck the anchor straps properly out of the way.

Comfort/Quality


The infant insert on the Chicco is covered in really soft fabric. Unfortunately  the main seat fabric is coarse and not as nice to the touch
The infant insert on the Chicco is covered in really soft fabric. Unfortunately, the main seat fabric is coarse and not as nice to the touch
The Chicco earned a 5 of 10 for comfort and quality, tying with the Graco Click Connect 40 and coming in just below average for the products in this review. The high score in this metric is an 8 shared by Phil and Teds and the Peg Perego. The low score is a 2 earned by the Graco SnugRide Classic Connect.

While the Chicco padding is thick and nice all the way around, the fabric covering it is coarse and unfriendly compared to much of the competition. The head and body cushion is softer and nicer, but it is still stiffer than we would like for something that is rubbing on baby's sensitive skin, and baby will outgrow the insert at some point and then will be stuck with the coarser fabric underneath. The shell underneath the padding and fabric is slightly above average and feels like it will hold up to the abuse of a typical babyhood.

The canopy on the Keyfit 30 is rather small and unimpressive. The heavy fabric prevents it from fully opening
The canopy on the Keyfit 30 is rather small and unimpressive. The heavy fabric prevents it from fully opening
The fit and finish of this seat is below average. It isn't so much that it doesn't look nice, it's that it doesn't look as nice as much of the competition does and it suffers by comparison. There is something just sort of undone feeling about it, as if the fabric is meant for a larger seat. However, we still preferred it over the Graco seats and most of the cheaper seats we looked at.

The Chicco did score well for quality of the handle. The handle moves smoothly and works well. It does not have any rough edges or a strange design that prevents it from being used or held easily. It works well in conjunction with the canopy when both are upright, the position that causes the most complication for other models. The canopy itself is on the small side compared to the competition and doesn't have a peek-a-boo window. In addition, the fabric is sort of frumpy and heavy which prevents it from staying fully open or looking sharp.

Weight


The Chicco weighs over 10 pounds  which is heavier than average for the group
The Chicco weighs over 10 pounds, which is heavier than average for the group
The Keyfit weighs in at 10.6 pounds, making it on the heavier side for the group and well over the average weight of 9.4 pounds. It is still lighter than the heaviest products we looked at like the Orbit Baby G3 which came in at a hefty 12.5 pounds, and our other Editors' Choice winner the Peg Perego with a weight of 9.6 pounds. The lightest product in the group is the Graco SnugRide Classic Connect coming in at 7.06 pounds, though this Graco also has one of the lowest overall scores in the group.

Choosing a seat based on carrier weight is not the best idea. While weight might be important, there are other aspects of car seats that should rank higher like ease of installation and crash test scores. Parents should narrow their options down using the other metrics and then break any tie with product weight. If your seat of choice is on the heavier side there is no need to despair. Pairing your seat with a nice frame stroller or standard stroller means you won't be carrying the seat very often or very far. If a stroller isn't your bag, you can up your baby bonding time by wearing baby in a front carrier. This method of bayb transport is soothing for baby, keeps your hands virtually free to use, and saves money for the cost of a stroller.

Stroller Compatibility


This Chicco seat is compatible with the Chicco Bravo LE, however this stroller did not score well in our tests for the best baby stroller, coming in 15th place out of 21 products tested. Luckily, this seat is compatible with many of the award winners and top scoring products, so you will have a lot to choose from. As a matter of fact the top 4 scoring strollers were all compatible with the Keyfit 30, including the Editors' Choice winners UPPAbaby Cruz, BOB Revolution Flex, the Top Pick for Versatility winner, the UPPAbaby Vista, and a Best Value winner, the BOB Motion. It also works with the remaining Best Value winners, the Britax B-Agile 3 and the Baby Jogger City Mini Single. In short, most of the strollers will work with this seat, but given that all the award winners are compatible, you can feel confident that any of them will be a nice addition to this award winning seat.

Best Applications


Parents who like the Chicco brand, or who have already decided on a compatible Chicco stroller, might find this exactly the right seat for them. This seat came in 3rd place overall and has relatively good scores in almost every metric. We think that parents used to the Chicco level of quality will be happy with the purchase, and those looking for an easy to install LATCH seat will also like its unique LATCH tightening strap. The best application for this seat is for parents looking for a top notch seat without the high end price tag of the Peg Perego. While it isn't truly a Best Value seat like the Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air, it is still a full $100 cheaper than the 2 seats that scored higher than it. Chicco scored well for a reason, and we think most parents will appreciate what it has to offer, as well as the smaller price tag.

Value


With a list price of $200 the Chicco Keyfit is cheaper than about half the completion. It is neither overpriced nor remarkably inexpensive and rides the line of affordable rather well by providing parents with a very good seat that scored well in most metrics. With an overall score in testing closer to products considerably more expensive, it manages to hold its own in side-by-side comparisons and continues to impress despite its lower price tag. we think this indicates that it is a good value for what you get. However, it is not the cheapest "good" seat in our review. For about $40 less on average, parents can purchase the Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air which scored only 3 points lower than the Chicco, and has a similar crash test score.

Conclusion


Overall  the Chicco Keyfit 30 impressed us compared to the competition in our tests. Here with car seat base (left)  infant insert (center)  and infant car seat (right).
Overall, the Chicco Keyfit 30 impressed us compared to the competition in our tests. Here with car seat base (left), infant insert (center), and infant car seat (right).
The Chicco brand has grown in popularity in the last 5-10 years. Their additions to the market of relatively budget friendly gear that looks sharp and functional, has given them one up on the competition and allowed parents more options for travel systems and nice looking gear. Given the popularity of this seat, we really wanted to like it as well, and we did. In side-by-side comparisons with the 14 other seats in this review it impressed us by being easy to use and easy to install using the LATCH system. We liked that this seat came in 3rd in the competition and managed to do so with a cheaper price than similarly scoring products. We gave this seat an Editors' Choice award for offering parents a better than average seat for a reasonable price that is compatible with several strollers.

Other Versions and Accessories


KeyFit 30 Zip
KeyFit 30 Zip
Chicco offers a few varieties of infant seats to choose from. The Keyfit 30 is the only one we reviewed. Some of the others in their lineup include:
  • The Chicco KeyFit is a less expensive variation of the Keyfit 30 with fewer features and a smaller size range.
  • The Chicco KeyFit 30 Magic comes with a foot muff that folds open for easy access and a zippered mesh panel extension in the canopy.

The Chicco Keyfit 30 works with several top performing strollers if you plan to make a travel system with this car seat. It works with the standard strollers BOB Revolution SE, Britax B-Agile, and the UPPAbaby Vista. It also works with the BOB Jogging strollers and the Thule Joggers. For frame strollers it works with the Chicco Keyfit Caddy.

The Cozy Greens back seat mirror
The Cozy Greens back seat mirror
This Back Seat Mirror from Cozy Greens is an accessory that we recommend having while your child is rear facing. The mirror attaches to a backseat headrest two adjustable straps that fit around both horizontally and vertically. The mirror has a convex shatter proof surface and pivots a few inches out from the base. This way you can adjust it to the perfect angle. Once it's in the right spot, there is a device to tighten the pivot point so the mirror won't be accidentally knocked out of position when putting in the car seat. One of the few downfalls of this mirror is that in order to attach properly, the headrest must be adjustable. Other than that, Amazon users seem to love this accessory and claim that it provides a much clearer reflection than many other back seat mirrors.

Video


Juliet Spurrier, MD, Wendy Schmitz, and BabyGearLab Review Team

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User Reviews


Most recent user review: August 17, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

BabyGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 100%  (1)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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