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Hands-on Gear Review
Evenflo Embrace LX Review
Price: $100 List | $74.88 from Amazon - 25% Off
Pros: Inexpensive, lightweight, easy to use
Cons: Hard to install with base, disappointing comfort and quality
Bottom line: Difficult to install seat that is fairly poor quality
The Evenflo Embrace LX is an attractively priced car seat, but unfortunately it did not score well in most of our tests. We had excessive difficulties installing this seat that we did not experience with competing seats, and we don't think it offers comfort or quality on par with most of the other products we looked at. Given the trouble we had installing it and feeling like it is truly secure, we aren't big fans. While offers an inexpensive list price and a brand name most parents are familiar with, it simply didn't score high enough in our tests to recommend it.
RELATED: Our complete review of infant car seats
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
The Evenflo Embrace LX is a rear facing car seat designed for infants from 4-30 pounds and up to 30 inches tall. It has a removable head pillow and 5 point harness with a front adjust for easy in and out maneuvering, but it can be used without the base to make traveling in a taxi cab or on a plane easier. This seat's marketing claims features such as an easy off machine washable pad, an ergonomic handle, space saving forward handle position when traveling, retractable canopy, and is lightweight for easier transport. The shoulder harness has 3 positions and the crotch buckle has 2. The seat base is LATCH equipped and includes a central pendulum level to ensure proper recline. It is made with an energy absorbing foam liner that also is claimed to increase comfort for baby.
Chicco Keyfit 30 has the best crash test results for G forces exerted on the head sensors, while the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40 has the least amount of G forces exerted on the chest sensor. The Embrace chest test results were pretty good, better than most of the 15 seats we reviewed, but the head crash test results were below average when compared side-by-side with the 15 seats we considered. In both head and chest results, the Evenflo exceeded Federal safety requirements by a significant margin.
Ease of Install - LATCH
Graco SnugRide Classic Connect 30, and was 1 point higher than the lowest score of 3 earned by the Graco SnugRide Classic Connect. The highest score in this metric is a 9 of 10 shared by Chicco Keyfit 30, Cybex Aton 2, and the UPPAbaby Mesa.
Once you have the clips attached, tightening them is fairly easy, but loosening them to remove the base is more difficult. We had to use two hands and a knee in the base with all our weight to start the loosening of the strap. In addition, even when we did get the base as tight as it would go, it still didn't feel stable enough, and it had a tendency to shift and tilt up from the front and side to side. The base itself is sort of flexible and bends somewhat as you tighten. This extra movement seems to allow the base to shift no matter how tight we got it. We didn't feel 100% about the stability of this install, even after it was given the thumbs up from a Child Passenger Safety Technician.
Ease of Install - Belt
Phil and Teds Alpha and the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 both earned 9s for this metric.
Installing this seat with the belt did nothing to improve our feelings on its overall stability. If anything this arrangement feels even less stable and we couldn't get it tight enough in any vehicle to avoid it "riding up" the side of the car belt and causing the whole base to tilt strangely to the side. We worry about the base shifting under normal driving conditions and baby being somewhat suspended by the harness.
Ease of Install - Without the Base
Threading the belt is easy on this seat and it uses the American belt path so there is no need for color coded belt path, though it would have been nice. We didn't have any problems getting it in flat and uncurled and we were able to get it tight enough to feel secure. We didn't have to use any towels to get a proper fit or the right angle.
Ease of Use
Recaro Performance Coupe. The low score in this metric is a 3 shared by 3 different seats. This is one of the only metrics that the Evenflo did well in, and to be fair, it was really quite exceptional with regard to ease-of-use.
The buckle on this seat is one of the easiest to use. It requires very little strength to press and it pops apart easily with one thumb. You can also insert the side straps with one hand, one at a time, which is nice if your hands are full or busy holding one on baby to keep him still. The chest/retainer clip isn't as easy to use. The button to release the clip and the two sides are all pretty stiff and require that they be married up exactly to connect. A bad chest clip is definitely better than a hard to use buckle, but it is still disappointing.
Shoulder height adjustment on this seat is a rethread style height adjustment with 3 height slots and 3 crotch strap positions. The seat connects the two side straps through the slots in the seat back onto a T style splitter plate. The shoulder straps have large loops on the ends that makes it easier to attach to the splitter than seats with smaller loops. Adjustment is easiest with the seat empty so you have the ability to thread the strap and flip the seat without worrying about baby. While this seat is easier to manage than some of the other rethread seats, we preferred the seats that could be adjusted from the front with baby in place, and non-rethreading. It seems like this newer, easier to use technology should be an industry standard. We are not big fans of rethread height adjustment, and the 3 slots on this seat limit the ability to find a good fit.
This seat does offers LATCH clip storage by way of small plastic bars located under each side of the base. This helps keep the clips and straps out of the way so the seat can be properly attached to the base without the straps preventing a good attachment. The storage on this seat does a better job at preventing strap interference than some of the competition, but it isn't completely foolproof so we recommend you take extra time to clip them in so they are for sure out of the way.
The fabric on this seat is smooth but stiff. It isn't rough like some of the other products, but it also doesn't feel like it will wear well over time. The padding on the seat is minimal and doesn't seem as cozy as some of the nicer seats in the review, almost like it is an afterthought in the design. It comes with strange head padding that looks kind of like side impact protection but isn't, and the padded sides are super floppy. We think the padding will flop against baby's face and be annoying for baby and parents alike. The seat is better without it and it seems like a cheap version of the nicer head protection padding offered in seats like the UPPAbaby Mesa and the Peg Perego, but unlike those seats it is loose padding as opposed to a structural component of the seat that offers support.
The shell of this carrier appears durable and well constructed, certainly nicer than the base material. However, the fit and finish of the shell with the padding and fabric is lacking and not the nicest in the group. Overall, when you add the base to the equation it isn't an impressive looking car seat and pales in comparison to the other seats in our tests.
The handle on this carrier is also sort of unimpressive in our opinion. While it works well, it doesn't offer any features that make it nicer to hold or more ergonomic. The seat we purchased had a rough edge under the middle of the handle that somewhat cut into our hand when we lifted the carrier. This is likely to get worse over time or be even more unfriendly as baby grows and more pressure is exerted on the handle.
While carrier weight is important, especially if you plan to lug baby around in their car seat on a regular basis, we don't think it should be the reason you pick a seat by itself. The lighter seats in this review had disappointing test results in most categories and we don't think sacrificing ease of use or a good crash test score is worth it simply to save yourself a few pounds of seat weight. That being said, we do think it is a useful tool when trying to decide between a few car seats that are otherwise similar in features and quality. If you have narrowed your options down to 2 or 3 seats, then how much each weighs might be a good way to make a final choice. If the seat you choose is heavier than you'd like you can always add a baby wearing carrier to your gear list or a frame stroller the infant seat can attach to.
Parents familiar with the Evenflo brand name might be drawn to this seat. In addition, the price may also be a reason why parents consider purchasing the Embrace. However, given its poor performance in our tests we would not recommend it. Given all the difficulties we had trying to install the seat, we think parents may struggle installing it in a secure manner on a regular basis.
While the Evenflo Embrace has a lower list price than the majority of seats in this review, we do not think it is a particularly good value. When it comes to car seats, it appears from our testing that you sort of get what you pay for and we feel this is not the category of baby gear you want to skimp on. If the price of a better scoring seat is difficult to manage, we suggest adding a seat to your registry or saving money during pregnancy to afford some better options. We recommend our Best Value pick for parents on a budget. The Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air has a list price of about $60 more than the Evenflo, but it offers significantly better performance than the Evenflo.
Other Versions and Accessories
Evenflo offers 2 other infant seats that were not included in this review. The Evenflo Nurture is a cheaper seat that works for babies from 4-22 pounds and the Embrace™ Select Infant Car Seat with SureSafe looks similar to the Embrace LX but with a few additional features that claim to make it easier to install. Given that we did not review either seat it is hard to say with any certainty how well they would perform. However, due to their apparent and advertised similarities and construction, we doubt that either would fare significantly better than the seat we did review.
Back Seat Mirror from Cozy Greens is a great accessory for any parent wanting to keep an eye on baby from the front seat. The mirror is attached to a flat base that fits against the front of the headrest and is kept secure by two adjustable straps that fit around the headrest horizontally and vertically. The actual mirror has a convex shatter proof surface and is able to pivot and adjust to provide a wider field of view. Once adjusted correctly, there is a device to tighten the pivot point so that the mirror won't be accidentally bumped out of position. One of the few downfalls of this mirror is that it requires an adjustable headrest in order to attach properly. 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: October 29, 2015
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