Hands-on Gear Review

Diono Radian RXT Review

Price:   $360.00 List | $249.97 at Amazon - 31% off
Pros:  Narrow width, foldable for travel, steel frame
Cons:  Stiff buckle, rethread harness, higher price, with a busy feel
Bottom line:  Expensive seat with below average crash test results that is heavy and harder to use
Editors' Rating:   
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Min/Max Rear Facing Passenger Weight:  5 - 45 lbs
Min/Max Forward Facing Passenger Weight:  20 - 80 lbs
Max Rear Facing Passenger Height:  44"
Manufacturer:   Diono

The Skinny

The Diono Radian RXT came in second to last in our review of convertible seats. While it is about average for the ease of installation no matter what direction or method you choose, the low ease of use score will impair your daily experience enough to cause chronic frustration. In our tests, this seat failed to impress in comparison to pretty much every other option we considered. So, while it has some interesting features like fold-ability for transport and angle adjustment in forward and rear-facing positions, it also has the convoluted rethreading harness height adjustment and the lowest crash test results. These factors combined with a higher than average price make this car seat one we wouldn't recommend over the higher performing competition.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Convertible Car Seats of 2018


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Juliet Spurrier, MD & BabyGearLab Team

Last Updated:
Friday
May 6, 2016

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Recall Notice - October 2017
Diono has issued a safety notice/recall for the Diono Radian RXT convertible car seat. This notice effects 519,052 Radian R100, Radian R120, Radian RXT, Olympia, Pacifica, and Rainier convertible and booster car seats. The recall is related to installing the seats using a vehicle lap belt only without the top tether. Installing the seats with a lap/shoulder belt with or without the top tether and installing with the LATCH anchors with or without the top tether are NOT effected by this recall. Diono is offering a free remedy kit with an updated instruction manual, an energy absorbing pad, as well as a new chest clip, free of charge. Customers can contact Diono customer service at 1-253-256-9939.

The Diono Radian RXT
The Diono Radian RXT

Performance Comparison


The chart below shows a comparison of overall scores for all of the car seats tested in this review with the Diono in blue.


The sections below detail how the Diono performed during testing.

The Diono uses EPS foam for impact absorption
The Diono uses EPS foam for impact absorption

Crash Test


The crash test data used in our reviews are results from sled tests designed to the same specifications as those used for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standards. The sled tests are designed to determine if each seat meets or exceeds the Federal safety guidelines defined in FMVSS 213. The Diono does exceed the safety minimum required by law for crash testing, and therefore is considered safe. The Diono head sensor result is 820, below the Federal maximum allowed of 1000, and chest result is near 53, below the maximum allowed of 60. The other seats in this review had sensor results lower than those of the Radian.

The charts shown here include the test data for both the head and chest sensors from the dummy used in testing for the Diono (shown in black). Also shown are the crash sensor results for the product with the lowest recorded G forces for each sensor for comparison.

The G force results for head sensors in the Evenflo and Diono test dummies
The G force results for head sensors in the Evenflo and Diono test dummies
The G force results for chest sensors in the Clek and Diono test dummies
The G force results for chest sensors in the Clek and Diono test dummies

The Evenflo Tribute LX head sensor has the lowest amount of G forces recorded in its sensor out of all the seats in this review. The Clek Foonf test result data has the least amount of G forces in the chest sensor (both shown in green).

Despite the Diono's special LATCH design it only scored about average in our tests for LATCH installation
Despite the Diono's special LATCH design it only scored about average in our tests for LATCH installation

Ease of Install - LATCH


For testing ease of installation using LATCH, the Diono performed about average with a score of 7 of 10.

The Diono anchors have a unique strap that Diono claims will assist in installation
The Diono anchors have a unique strap that Diono claims will assist in installation

Using the LATCH system is harder than the belt with this seat. We had trouble getting it tightened securely enough to the vehicle. This seat felt like more work than it should be and more work than the others. The feet on the base in the rear-facing position hit the lower anchors if not in the right position. We had a little more luck in the Subaru Outback than the Toyota Corolla, but the tether is tough to get tight enough, and you have to release and lift the seat to loosen the tether because the release gets smashed between the car and vehicle seats. Overall, testers described the Diono as awkward and hard to operate.

The belt path on the Diono is clear compared to much of the competition
The belt path on the Diono is clear compared to much of the competition

Ease of Install - Belt


For installation using the vehicle seat belt, the Diono earned a 7 of 10.

The forward facing belt path on the Diono is easy to find and does not require the seat to be disassembled
The belt path for the Diono in a rear facing position is also easy to locate
The photos above show the vehicle belt path of for forward-facing (left) and rear-facing (right) configurations for the Diono.

The recline adjustment foot on the Diono flips out to assist in finding the right rear facing installation angle
The recline adjustment foot on the Diono flips out to assist in finding the right rear facing installation angle

Installation using the vehicle belt is about the same for the Diono as the LATCH method. We still felt like the seat is strangely awkward given its narrow width and the belt path isn't the easiest to use. Some testers felt the lack of a belt lock-off makes this one a little easier as the belt threads without worrying about the lock-off mechanism. In some of the vehicles, we struggled to get this seat tight enough using the belt installation, and the tether even harder to get tight. It certainly isn't the easiest option in the group, but it isn't the most difficult either. With work and persistence, we were able to work the seat in tight enough to the vehicle seat in one car to feel comfortable that it was indeed stable. However, in another vehicle, the Subaru Outback, we struggled to get it tight with the seat belt, and we never felt it was stable enough. This lack of consistency leaves us feeling like the Diono may work well in some cars, but not all. The problem? Parents won't know how it works in their car until they purchase it.

The Diono has one of the most difficult buckles to use in the entire review. Many testers needed two hands to operate it
The Diono has one of the most difficult buckles to use in the entire review. Many testers needed two hands to operate it

Ease of Use


The Radian earned the lowest score in the group for ease of use with a 5 of 10.

The harness release on the Diono is a lift lever hidden under the medical pocket flap of fabric at the foot of the seat
The harness release on the Diono is a lift lever hidden under the medical pocket flap of fabric at the foot of the seat

Harness


The buckle on the Diono is the worst in the group. The button is so stiff it almost takes two hands, and we suspect if you have any structural problems in your thumbs or hands that you will need both hands. Interestingly, the chest clip is the easiest in the group and pops open immediately when you squeeze it gently. We kind of wish all the retainer clips were this easy. The tightening strap is a pull strap you can find at the bottom front edge of the seat. It is a little harder to pull than the average strap. The release button is above the strap under a Velcro fabric flap.


The harness height adjustment is a rethread style. The splitter plate is a single hook, and you will need to remove your baby from the seat and the seat from the car if it is front facing to adjust. Threading the straps is simple, but we prefer the non-rethread harness height adjustment found on some of the competition because they can be done as needed with the baby in the seat. We think parents will be more likely to ensure a properly fitting harness when it is that easy. The harness has five shoulder height options and two crotch positions.

The LATCH clips on the Diono slid into small pockets designed for their storage
The LATCH clips on the Diono slid into small pockets designed for their storage

LATCH Storage


The LATCH connectors and rear tether store in pockets near the top of the seat on the back. Neither pocket keeps the straps out of the way, and it seems like there is a lot going on or extra straps, when we know there aren't. While being able to stow the anchors out of the way isn't as critical in convertible seats as it is with infant seats so you can easily attach the carrier to the base, it is still nice not to have the clips flying around in the car.

The flap that covers the harness release button is also the medical information pocket on the Diono
The Diono has a special pocket where you can store your child's special medical information including blood type  allergies  or limitations

The photos above show the unique feature of a small storage pocket that can hold medical information about the child in the seat. The pocket is part of the fabric that covers the harness release button.

The cup holder for the Diono is removeable and can be installed on either side of the seat
The cup holder for the Diono is removeable and can be installed on either side of the seat

Cover


The fabric for this seat can be hand or machine washed in a front loading washer, though we assume they mean a washer without a center agitator. The fabric is cold water washable and line dried or tumble dried on low temperature.

The Diono scored just below average in our tests for quality and comfort
The Diono scored just below average in our tests for quality and comfort

Comfort/Quality


The Radian earned an average score for quality and comfort with a 6 of 10. This score is disappointing given that the seat is one of the more expensive products in the review.

At first look, the Diono has the appearance of a quality sea. The fabric is smooth and soft to the touch and feels somewhat like that found on the Chicco NexFit. While it is probably baby friendly, it also feels very absorbent and possibly hard to clean. Some testers felt like it had the look of old broken in sweatpants, which probably isn't ideal, but at the very least might be cozy. The padding on the seat has at least some memory foam components. The foam is firm on the bottom of the seat with a thinner layer of softer padding over the top. On other parts of the seat, the padding is only a lightly padded seat cover. The padding grows relatively thin on other parts of the seat, and the plastic base pokes through the padding without much pressure.

The back of the Diono is a convoluted jumble of straps and slots that can make height adjustments tricky and cleaning near impossible
The back of the Diono is a convoluted jumble of straps and slots that can make height adjustments tricky and cleaning near impossible

The outer shell on the Radian is similar to the one found on the Clek Foonf with a mostly contained back and sides that are easy to keep clean. There are only a few spots that might prove challenging to get to on the back. The energy absorbing dense foam on the inside of the shell is the more common Expanded Polystyrene (EPS). It is more brittle and compact than the alternative Expanded Polypropylene (EPP), which does not off-gas and is somewhat more forgiving should it be accidentally dropped.

The fabric attaches to the seat shell snuggly enough to avoid looking sloppy, but the infant insert is not sturdy or stiff enough to hold itself in the proper position which makes it look like it is falling apart or overly used in comparison to the tight fitting cover. The overall fit and finish of the Diono are somewhat improved by the look of the fabric that helps it stand out in the competition, but the limp insert and strange collection of straps and clips on the back make it feel awkward and a mess. The bottom of the seat is relatively smooth and has some rubber portions to help it grip the vehicle seat better. There are no sharp edges or corners that look like they could damage the vehicle seat.

The Diono comes with an infant insert  alternative harness straps for heavier children and the foot adjustment for recline which makes the seat heavier in the rear facing position
The Diono comes with an infant insert, alternative harness straps for heavier children and the foot adjustment for recline which makes the seat heavier in the rear facing position

Weight


The overall weight of convertible seats isn't as much of a concern as the carrier weight of the infant seat given that you will not be carrying it around on a regular basis, but it comes into play if you travel frequently or live in an urban environment. The Diono weighs about 27 lbs making it the fourth heaviest seat. The Diono gets somewhat lighter in the forward facing position at 25 lbs, but it is still heavier than most. On the upside, the seat folds in half to make it somewhat smaller to carry and store, and there is an optional carry strap you can purchase should you be transporting it frequently. However, we still think the hefty weight will prevent most parents from wanting to carry this seat on a regular basis or over any long distance.

Manufacturer Video


Juliet Spurrier, MD & BabyGearLab Team

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BabyGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: November 9, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

BabyGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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  • 4
  • 5
 (1.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
  • 1
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  • 4
  • 5
 (5.0)

100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
 
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 50%  (1)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 50%  (1)
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   Nov 9, 2017 - 09:46pm
gabriellerystedt · MD
I'm shocked to see such a low review on this seat.
I have a one-year-old and a two-year-old each in an RXT, and our third child (due in Feb) will come home from the birth center in one.
For parents scared off by the low review, let me share why I adore the RXTs for our family.
(Please note that when I was car seat shopping for our oldest a couple of years ago, the RXT was the golden child of all of the review sites I visited, and many of the competitors were in production at the time.)
  1. We can fit 3 car seats across in our CR-V. The RXT has saved us from needing to upgrade to a new car with the addition of Baby 3. This is huge.
  1. The seat accommodates newborns up through booster aged children. We brought our 7 pound son home from the hospital in his RXT and it was a perfect fit. Our children are on the small size, but we've not encountered any fit issues in our few years of using RXTs.
  1. The buckles are really not that hard AT ALL to adjust in real life. We had a Maxi Cosi Pria for our daughter before we bought the RXT and the ease of using the RXT was/is so logical and straightforward. I don't know how the Pria got a higher review than the RXT - that seat was nothing but trouble for us.
  1. Installing the RXT with LATCH is insanely easy, even in the cold or around a giant preggo belly. Plus, the Diono Super LATCH system makes every other latch buckle seem downright flimsy.
  1. Installing the RXT with a belt is only marginally challenging. For rear facing, it is admittedly tricky, but for forward facing, the belt installation is pretty straightforward. Please note that the recall related to lap belts doesn't apply to our family's car seats specifically, so if that's your situation, you may want to invest some more research in this particular issue.
  1. Forward facing, the RXT is absolutely flush with the car seat and doesn't take up an inch of unnecessary space. With three across, the space savings are vital.
  1. The $360 price tag is nothing when you consider what you DON'T need to buy when you choose an RXT: no need for an infant carrier seat or a booster for older children. Kind of a no brainer.

In the spirit of fairness, here are the things we dislike about the RXT:
  1. It's very heavy. The folding feature is helpful, and the slim profile is unbelievable. I didn't even know car seats could get that narrow. But the weight of the steel frame is kind of obnoxious, especially if you're pregnant or short and trying to hoist the seat around. It can be done, but there are lighter seats out there.
  1. The rear facing seat takes up a lot of leg room in the back seat. AKA, the front seats likely need to be pushed farther forward than you're comfortable with. If you're particularly tall, this could be a safety hazard for parental safety. For our family, it's not a deal breaker, but it does make long car trips uncomfortable.
  1. The LATCH belt and tether are a bit convoluted to loosen and tighten. I don't see how they could be installed by a single parent, and I always need help from my husband when moving the seats to a new car or location.

Obviously, we're very satisfied RXT users. A single bad review on the Internet isn't going to make me change my mind or reconsider the $1,000+ that I've invested in these seats. When compared with the Clek Foonf, which retails around $450 and is only suited to kids 14+ lbs, the RXT is pretty much the only budget friendly option for parents who need to put three across. If you're in the three across boat, I cannot recommend the RXT highly enough.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Oct 6, 2017 - 04:17pm
 
michelle hewitt
I haven't yet received the Radian RXT - should arrive within days - but I'm writing this to comment that you are the ONLY site I've found that doesn't give the RXT the highest review. I'm really surprised.
Are you somehow privy to crash test results that others are not?
I'm concerned because after a lot of research (and it is painful to research car seats - I am only interested in facts, not opinions. One person's "ease of use" is not anothers) I chose the Diono for my boys…only to find that you report it's crash test ratings are amongst the lowest.
Is there somewhere I can actually SEE the ratings for myself? Is there a body that does JUST car seat crash tests?
I would appreciate any info you are able to provide. The safety of my boys is my only concern…and I'm finding many opinions but very few facts.
Sincerely,
Michelle


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