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Hands-on Gear Review

Graco SnugRide Classic Connect Review


Infant Car Seat

Graco SnugRide Classic Connect
Price:   $90 List
Pros:  Lightweight, very inexpensive
Cons:  Hard to use and install, very limited weight range
Bottom line:  Poor performing car seat that we would not recommend
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Graco

The Skinny

The Graco SnugRide Classic Connect came in next to last in this review, and failed to really impress us in any metric. Although it is the lowest priced seat we tested, we do not consider it a good value since its performance in our tests was so poor. Ease of installation with LATCH and day-to-day ease of use performance was especially disappointing, and it earned the lowest scores of all the products we tested in these two key metrics. In the Graco lineup, it is not one we'd recommend and we feel parents would be better off spending a little more money to get a lot better seat such as the Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air. In addition, this seat is limited to babies 22 pounds and under, which is an unusually low-weight capacity that we consider to be inadequate.

Update — August 2016
The SnugRide Classic Connect is no longer being manufactured by Graco. Seeing as we weren't very pleased with the seat in the first place, this isn't a huge disappointment. If you're set on having a Graco product, the Graco SnugRide Classic Connect 30 is still available, though it didn't score much higher than the 22 lb model.

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:
Sunday
November 1, 2015
The Graco SnugRide Classic Connect is good for infants from 5-22 pounds and up to 29 inches tall, rear facing only. We consider the maximum of 22 lbs capacity to be inadequate, as we explain in more detail in our infant car seat buying advice article. This is the lowest cost Graco seat we reviewed, and sells for an attractively low list price of $90. This car seat is compatible with Graco Classic Connect™ strollers.

Unfortunately, this is also a seat that performed so poorly in our tests, that recommend you pass it up, even if you are on a very tight budget. There are much better seats out there at attractive prices, as you'll hear us state repeatedly in our performance comparison section below.

Performance Comparison


We compared the top 15 infant style car seats side-by-side in an extensive 5 month testing process for this review
We compared the top 15 infant style car seats side-by-side in an extensive 5 month testing process for this review

Crash Test


The chart above shows a comparison of the crash test sensor data for the chest portion of the crash test dummy in the Graco SnugRide Classic Connect vs the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40  which has the best chest crash test data in the group
The chart above shows a comparison of the crash test sensor data for the chest portion of the crash test dummy in the Graco SnugRide Classic Connect vs the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40, which has the best chest crash test data in the group
While all the seats sold in the US must meet the Federal safety requirements, some perform better in crash tests than others. This Graco's crash test data shows what we consider to be a basic level of protection in compliance with the Federal safety standard FMVSS 213. This means that in comparison to results from other seats that the Graco Classic Connect 22 offered good protection, but many competing seats offered an additional margin of protection according to the head and chest sensor data. However, it is important to note that the seat did exceed all Federal safety requirements by a significant margin.

This chart shows the crash data comparison between the Graco and the Chicco Keyfit 30  which had the best crash test results for the head sensors in sled crash tests
This chart shows the crash data comparison between the Graco and the Chicco Keyfit 30, which had the best crash test results for the head sensors in sled crash tests
The charts included here show the Graco (in black) compared with the seats that had the lowest G force scores for head and chest (shown in green). The lowest Gs for head is the Chicco Keyfit 30, while the top performer for chest is the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40.

The padding on the Graco SnugRide is limited and not as nice as that found on the majority of the competition
The padding on the Graco SnugRide is limited and not as nice as that found on the majority of the competition
The Graco lineup counts side impact protection (SIP) as one of its marketing claims. Without an industry agreed upon definition of the phrase, SIP does not mean the same thing to each manufacturer that makes the claim, nor does the claim have to be tested in any way. For the Graco manufacturer, the claim means they have tested the seat harness and that it is capable of keeping baby retained in the harness during a side impact collision. We were unable to find more information on the testing for this feature, but more importantly we suspect that meerely retaining the baby in the harness is not what most parents think of when they hear the phrase "side impact protection".

Ease of Install - LATCH


The Graco SnugRide Classic Connect is difficult to install using the LATCH system
The Graco SnugRide Classic Connect is difficult to install using the LATCH system
This Graco earned last place for ease of installation using the LATCH system, with a score of 3. Given that installing with LATCH should be relatively easy, this does not bode well for this seat in general. The easiest seats to install using LATCH are the UPPAbaby Mesa, Cybex Aton 2, and the Chicco Keyfit 30, which all earned 9s in this metric.

The LATCH anchors on this Graco are not as easy to use as the push type anchors that release with the touch of a button
The LATCH anchors on this Graco are not as easy to use as the push type anchors that release with the touch of a button
The anchors on this seat are the harder to use clip version as opposed to the seat belt style variety. These clips can be difficult to attach to the anchor on a vehicle when you can't see the LATCH points, and even harder to unhook from the anchor because you have to twist them to the side which can be hard to accomplish if the padding on the seats is so dense you can't get enough room to turn them.

To tighten the straps we had to use a knee or a foot in the base to get leverage to get the seat secure against the vehicle, and to loosen we struggled to get the tightening buckle to release. The recline foot (which you will need for proper installation) is also harder to adjust; especially when the seat is tight enough. Overall, we feel that installing with the LATCH system should be easier, as it is with every other competing seat we tested, and not require this much wrestling or force. If your car is smaller you might find it challenging to crawl inside over the car seat base to get the leverage needed for getting the straps tight enough.

Ease of Install - Belt


Installing this Graco with the vehicle belt is somewhat easier than the LATCH system  but it is still unimpressive
Installing this Graco with the vehicle belt is somewhat easier than the LATCH system, but it is still unimpressive
This seat base does not have a belt lock off, a feature many competing seats offer which makes it easier to thread the belt through.
The "lip" that falls over the belt thread path on the Graco SnugRide is not really a belt lock off and did not prevent the base from shifting on the belt path
The "lip" that falls over the belt thread path on the Graco SnugRide is not really a belt lock off and did not prevent the base from shifting on the belt path
This Graco received a 5 of 10 for this metric, but it still isn't anything to write home about given that 4 is the lowest score and 9 the highest. The worst seat in the group for belt installation is the Evenflo Embrace LX, the best were Phil and Teds Alpha and the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35.

Installing with a lap only belt is easier than the shoulder/lap combo, but neither created a really secure fit in our tests and we weren't happy with how unstable it felt. It earned the lowest marks in the group for stability when installed this way, and it felt to us like the seat was not as securely anchored as we were able to obtain with most competing products we tested.

Ease of Install - Without the Base


Installing this Graco without the base required two towels  making it sort of inconvenient for travel or urban living
Installing this Graco without the base required two towels, making it sort of inconvenient for travel or urban living
For installation without the base using the vehicle belt the SnugRide continued to disappoint us in tests earning just a 5 of 10 in this metric. The lowest score in this metric is a 4, shared by the Orbit Baby. The highest score for this type of installation is a 10 earned by the Peg Perego and the UPPAbaby.

This seat uses the American style belt path and it is not color coded. The threading of the path is relatively easy, but tightening the belt is still difficult. We had to use 1-2 towels to achieve proper installation depending on the car/truck we installed it in; even then it didn't feel as secure as most of the competition. We do feel like it is more secure in the passenger vehicles than it is in the truck, but neither instilled a lot of confidence in us. At least with this type of install we didn't have to use as much force to get it as tight as we did with the LATCH version.

Ease of Use


The SnugRide earned the lowest score for Ease of Use with a 3 of 10. It tied this score with the Graco SungRide Click Connect 40 and the Orbit Baby G3. The highest scores for ease of use were 8s shared by Evenflo Embrace and Recaro Performance Coupe.

The Graco buckles are the hardest buckles in the review to operate
The Graco buckles are the hardest buckles in the review to operate
The buckle on all the Gracos were stiff and hard to push with one thumb. While the two sides do not need to be nested in order to insert them in the buckle, it still isn't the best buckle in the group. Stiff to insert and stiff to unbuckle make this buckle a bad one if you have any problems with your hands.

The chest/restraint clip is similar to the other Graco seats we looked at, and none of the testers really like it. It isn't really hard to operate, but it isn't as nice as the Britax models or the Cybex Aton 2. The parts are smaller and harder to squeeze and they hurt some of the testers fingertips. In addition, if you squeeze the right side of the clip too hard it stops the latch from disengaging and you can't get it to come apart. The button on the clip is fairly stiff and sliding it apart is also stiff. It will require two hands whether you are putting the sides together or taking them apart. However, even with two hands you will feel the stickiness as you try to work it.

The strangely placed rear tighten and loosening system on the back of the Graco SnugRide Classic Connect is ridiculously complicated compared to the more traditional pull strap and release button found on all the other seats we looked at. It also functions as the rethread slots for harness height adjustment
The strangely placed rear tighten and loosening system on the back of the Graco SnugRide Classic Connect is ridiculously complicated compared to the more traditional pull strap and release button found on all the other seats we looked at. It also functions as the rethread slots for harness height adjustment
This Graco earned the lowest score for ease of tightening and releasing of the harness. It has a rather unique tightening method where you have to tighten via the back of the seat one side at a time. This means you are going back and forth from front to back to wiggle the shoulder straps and retainer clip around to the right locations to get the proper fit. This can take up to 4 times as long as any of the traditional methods of tightening and we aren't sure why anyone would design it this way. Any parent who has ever tried to fit a harness on an upset baby will tell you this is not an ideal situation for harness adjustment.

The harness adjustment and tightening straps can be found on the back of the Graco SnugRide below the red carrier release handle
The harness adjustment and tightening straps can be found on the back of the Graco SnugRide below the red carrier release handle
Adjusting the shoulder height is also not ideal, but not as difficult as some of the competition. It is a rethread system that requires adjustment from behind by pulling the straps through the slots and moving them to higher slots. The straps are easier to fit through the slots because they aren't looped on the ends. They attach to their own individual attachments as opposed to a splitter plate. There are only 2 shoulder height positions and 1 crotch strap position, so this seat is very limited when it comes to finding a good fit for baby. We feel that depending on the size of baby you might have difficulty finding the right fit with so few options.

The carrier is about average for ease of install on the base. It has no visual indicator to tell you it is on correctly, so you will need to wiggle and pull it after it is seated to ensure it's properly attached to the base. There is an easy to use squeeze handle on the back of the head portion of the carrier to disengage the carrier from the base.

The handle on the Graco SnugRide is easy to operate
The handle on the Graco SnugRide is easy to operate
The handle on this seat has 5 positions and all are allowable in a moving vehicle. The handle is moved by depressing buttons on both sides simultaneously. In the upright position the handle will get in the way of an extended canopy. This can make having the canopy open while carrying the seat difficult, and some parents might not like having the canopy rubbing continuously on their hand.

The LATCH anchor storage on this seat is good and prevents the straps from getting in the way of carrier placement on the base. The straps attach to small plastic rods near the top of the base. The depression in the base will house the straps. Should you have/choose to install this seat using the vehicle belt, you won't have trouble with the LATCH straps getting in the way.

Comfort/Quality


This Graco canopy is not the smallest option in the competition  but it isn't very nice and rubs on the handle when both are upright
This Graco canopy is not the smallest option in the competition, but it isn't very nice and rubs on the handle when both are upright
This seat earned the lowest score in the review for comfort and quality with a 2 of 10 in this metric. The high scorers here are Phil and Teds Alpha and Peg Perego with 8s. The average score here is almost 6, so a 2 is really a disappointment.

This seat offers so so padding and fabric that feels unfriendly compared to the competition in our tests. The shell quality and durability also feels in question to us, and there were lots of rough edges on the plastic around the recline foot that makes us question the manufacturing process or dedication to creating a quality product. Compared to the competition, we feel it lacks in consistency and a smooth design.

In general, this seat has a poor fit and finish. The canopy is too tall for the height of the handle and the fabric is rather loose all over the shell. The handle itself feels cheap compared to the competition and isn't as nice as the more expensive Graco options. The canopy is only medium in size, doesn't cover the entire seat, and lacks a peek-a-boo window. The difficulty between the marriage of the handle and the canopy is going to be a design feature that continues to disappoint. When the handle and the canopy are both in the upright position they rub on one another and it is almost impossible to hold the handle without constantly rubbing on the canopy or partially closing it.

Weight


The Graco SnugRide Classic Connect is the lightest seat in the review at 7.06 pounds
The Graco SnugRide Classic Connect is the lightest seat in the review at 7.06 pounds
This Graco earned the high score for weight tying with the Evenflo. The SnugRide weighs in at 7.06 pounds. The heaviest seat in this review is the Orbit Baby G3 that comes in at 12.5 pounds, with the average weight is 9.4 for all 15 seats.

This carrier is a very lightweight option and parents who are looking for a lighter seat might be somewhat swayed by this carrier and the Graco name. We would caution that being light is not a good deciding factor on whether or not to purchase a particular seat. While the baby is only going to get heavier over time and your desire to lug the carrier around or carry it long distances is going to wane as baby grows, it is still not a great reason to buy a carrier based solely on weight.

If carrier weight is important to you, then we suggest you narrow your seat options down to 2 using other metrics outlined in the Buying Advice article and then use carrier weight to decide between a narrow field of options. Alternatively, if your infant seat of choice is heavier you can opt for a matching stroller, a frame stroller or a baby wearing carrier to tote your to around in. This will make the weight of the carrier less important.

Best Applications


Some parents might be drawn to its lower price tag and the trusted Graco product name, after giving this product a comprehensive test, we're left feeling that there are much better products worth considering instead of this one. The lower price is not enough to make this seat a good buy, and given its poor showing in our tests, we think almost every other seat in this review is a better option.

Value


While this seat feels like a good value thanks to the lower list price, it isn't that much of a money saver when you start to consider what it lacks and how hard it is to use and install. If finding a budget friendly car seat is what you need to make ends meet, you should consider the winner of our Best Value award, the Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air, or one of the higher ranking seats that are within your price range. In general, we recommend parents spend as much as they can afford to purchase the best seat that they can. If buying the right seat for you means placing it on a registry or asking for donations from family and friends, we think that is a better bet than buying a sub par seat that didn't perform well in our tests.

Conclusion


The Graco Snugride Classic Connect 22 earned the lowest score in our tests for comfort with very little padding  cheaper feeling fabric  and a thin infant head rest
The Graco Snugride Classic Connect 22 earned the lowest score in our tests for comfort with very little padding, cheaper feeling fabric, and a thin infant head rest
Ranking almost last in this review means there isn't much we liked about this Graco product. While the low price tag might be intriguing, the seat itself did not perform well or present well in our tests, or in comparison to the other products. The quality and functional design of the seat is not up to par with the competition, and the seat barely offers the features parents will need, and those it does have, are not executed well in our opinion. In short, we think most parents will find this SnugRide to be anything but snug, and the features to be frustrating at best.

Other Versions and Accessories


Graco makes multiple infant car seats; we included several in this review. The other Graco seats are the Graco SnugRide Classic Connect 30, Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35, and Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40. In this group the highest scoring product in our review is the Click Connect 40. However, none of the Graco seats scored high enough in our tests to be top contenders in our minds. While Graco used to make a fairly nice seat, these current options did not measure up to today's stiff competition in our tests.

The Cozy Greens back seat mirror
The Cozy Greens back seat mirror
The 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

User Reviews


Most recent user review: October 27, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

BabyGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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  • 5
 (1.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 100%  (1)


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Helpful Buying Tips
An infant car seat is one of the few pieces of baby gear that is an absolute must-have purchase. Since it is a life-safety device  it is an important decision for you and your baby.
 How to Choose the Best Infant Car Seat

by Juliet Spurrier, MD and Wendy Schmitz

Unbiased.