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Hands-on Gear Review
Chicco KeyFit 30 Review
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
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
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
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.
We evaluated the Chicco's performance in detail on seven key rating metrics, scoring it side by side against 15 top competing seats.
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 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.
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 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.
Ease of Install - Belt
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.
Ease of Install - Without the Base
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Other Versions and Accessories
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.
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.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD, Wendy Schmitz, and BabyGearLab Review Team
Most recent user review: August 17, 2016
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