The Safety 1st Alpha Elite 65 earned the lowest overall score in our review of convertible seats. The Safety 1st offers a non-rethread harness and easy to use buckle that makes harnessing baby easier than some of the competition but securing the seat to the vehicle is more difficult than any other seat we tested, which is a large part of the equation when it comes to your baby traveling safely. The Safety 1st isn't the best option no matter what features or functions you are looking for in a seat. While it does offer one of the more budget-friendly prices, it is only $40 less than seats that score better in every metric.
Safety 1st Alpha Elite 65 Review
Pros: Inexpensive price, easy buckle, non-rethread harness
Cons: Difficult to install, need a towel for rear facing, hard to use
Manufacturer: Safety 1st
Our Analysis and Test Results
New Alpha vs. Old Alpha
The new Alpha (below left) replaces the old Alpha (below right) with few if any changes beyond the name change.
Hands-On Gear Review
The Safety 1st company began in 1985 with a simple car badge, the "Baby on Board" we have all grown accustomed to seeing. In the 30 years since the launch of the famous sign, they have created a collection of safety products becoming a leader in child home safety. Safety 1st makes baby gates, cabinet locks, car seats, plug protectors, strollers, play yards, and more.
The crash test data we use are from crash tests on a sled designed to the same specifications of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standards. The test is designed to determine if the seat meets the safety guidelines outlined in FMVSS 213. The Safety 1st exceeds the Federal safety minimum requirements for crash tests, and thus should be considered safe. Its crash test scores indicate that many of the competing seats we looked at offer an additional margin of protection when compared to the Safety 1st, whose G-force result of 346 for the chest sensor is better than the required 1000, but isn't as low as many of the competing seats.
The Safety 1st (in black) below compared to the test data for the products with the least amount of G-forces in each test. These results are from the head and chest sensors from the dummy used in the crash test. Also included, are the test results for the products with the least amount of G-forces in each test for comparison.
The Britax Allegiance (in green) has the best test result for the head sensor out of the seats in this review, while the data for the Clek Foonf (in green) show it has the best results for the chest sensor.
Ease of Install - LATCH
For ease of installation using the LATCH method, the Safety 1st earned the lowest score with a 4 of 10 for this metric.
This seat is easier to install using LATCH in the front-facing position than the rear-facing. We had trouble tightening the belt to get a secure fit because of the placement of the LATCH anchors on the vehicles being closer together than the width of the seat base. We also needed a towel under the bottom when installing it rear-facing, which cost it in the overall rating. It was the least favorite of more than one tester, and most felt it never really was secure enough no matter how tight it was. Whether it is the need for a towel, the placement of the belt path, or our inability to get the strap tight enough due to anchor placement, this seat failed to impress us compared to the other products.
The recline angle of this seat is adjusted using a pull lever on the front of the seat. This lever, like much of the competition, is difficult to access and use when the seat is in the rear-facing configuration.
Ease of Install - Belt
For installation using the vehicle belt, the Safety 1st was marginally better, but this is still one of the hardest in the group.
Installation with the belt is somewhat better, but most testers felt it would be easier if the belt path were slightly different. It also does not offer a belt lock-off built into the shell of the seat, so you either need to use the additional metal lock off supplied with the seat, or you need to make an effort to get the belt tight and then activate the locking mechanism on the vehicle belt itself. In general, it was difficult for all testers to get this seat securely tightened. Rear-facing was once again more difficult that front, but neither were great and both failed in comparison to the competition. Given the overall difficulty of the installation process and tightening issues, we have concerns that this car seat would be difficult for most parents to install, and this could potentially affect its overall performance.
Ease of Use
The Safety 1st isn't as easy to use as much of the competition that offered more user-friendly features.
The buckle on this seat is easier to use than many of the others. We like that when you press the button it sort of pops open, which means this one can be worked with one hand if necessary. The harness itself has five different height positions and three crotch positions.
It tightens with a strap at the foot of the seat and loosens by pressing a button hidden under the fabric right above the tightening belt. The height straps are the non-rethread style that we prefer over the rethreading straps that require the baby to be removed from the seat and often the seat removed from the car. To adjust the height, you rotate the two top levers above the headrest in and pull or push the entire portion of the seat to the desired height. The process isn't complicated, but it does have a little bit of a learning curve to learn precisely how to maneuver it.
The LATCH connectors store by clipping together on the back side (above left) of the shell if not in use, and while it isn't as important as it is for the infant car seats to keep the clips out of the way, it is still useful to have them contained. This system doesn't really keep the straps out of the way, so we weren't a big fan of the design. The user's manual stores under the seat (above right) on the base, but it could be easily soiled or lost in this location.
The fabric is hand wash and air dry only, making it challenging to keep clean. It is easy to take the cover off and put it back on which is a plus.
The Elite earned one of the lowest scores for quality and comfort. The Elite looks okay at first glance but starts to have trouble when compared side-by-side with the competition. The fabric on this seat is not particularly soft or pleasant to touch; it has many areas with stitching and crevices that indicate it will be difficult to keep clean. The overall padding is not that great, and the infant insert only adds minimal padding to the sides and head area with no support in the seating area. The insert is also floppy and doesn't stay in place well.
The shell is open in the back, and it will be challenging to keep clean, especially if your child has an accident that includes a lot of fluid. The foam padding on this seat is the more common Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) which is more brittle and dense than the alternative Expanded Polypropylene (EPP) that does not off-gas and is somewhat forgiving should you drop it or mishandle it.
The overall fit and finish of this seat don't compare to the competition in our tests. The fabric is attached to the chair with small elastic loops, which results in exposure of the rough edges of the seat where the material doesn't cover. Portions of the seat bottom also have sharp edges and could potentially damage or cause permanent indents in an unprotected vehicle seat over time. Overall, the seat looks sloppy compared to the competition. The fabric is ill-fitting, the shell is the bare minimum, there seem to be a lot of straps everywhere, and the padding is floppy and needs the straps and baby to keep them in place.
The overall weight of the convertible seats is not as important as the carrier weight of the infant style seats, but it might be a consideration if you plan to travel with your seat or frequent taxis or Uber. If you are like the majority of users, however, you will probably move your seat only a minimum number of times, and the weight of any seat in this review is likely to be acceptable. The Elite weighs about 16 lbs making it one of the lighter options we tested, but it is over 20 inches wide, so it may not be a good choice for carrying or those who need multiple safety seats in one row.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD & BabyGearLab Team