You won't be disappointed with the Chicco KeyFit 30, which earned our Best Value award due to above-average performance combined with an affordable price. The KeyFit 30 delivered one of the top performances in crash testing and is also one of the easiest to install using the LATCH system. It is an attractive seat, and while not the least expensive, it is quite affordable and offers substantial value for the cost. It is a little bit heavier than some competitors, but not excessively so, and the fabric, while durable, is a bit less soft than some options. That said, this is a seat we regularly recommend to friends without hesitation.
Chicco KeyFit 30 Review
Pros: Easy LATCH installation, better crash test results, price
Cons: Coarse fabric, heavier, hard to install without the base
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
Chicco (kee-ko) is the largest baby-centric brand in Europe and is part of the Artsana Group. The Artsana Group is a lifestyle company that offers a variety of products that include baby feeding, gear, and medical supplies. Chicco was founded by Enrico Catelli and provides baby-related gear to children from before birth to preschool age, and their products are currently in more than 120 countries.
In our evaluation of the 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 Cybex Aton 2 has the best crash test results for the chest sensor with a 44, while the Chicco earned a 51 where 60 is the maximum allowed, and a lower result is better.
The Keyfit has energy-absorbing foam for side impact protection (SIP) as its one marketing claim for an additional safety feature. SIP is not a defined industry term, and therefore, can mean different things to different manufacturers, and it is hard to tell if they tested this component or what the company feels it contributes to the seat's overall performance.
Ease of Install - LATCH
The Chicco is one of the easiest to install using the LATCH system.
All high-ranking products in this metric offer something unique for LATCH design and their ease of install reflect this attempt to make installation easier.
This Chicco also has a unique LATCH system. The connection anchors are push-style with a hard plastic shell and red button release. After you attach the LATCH anchors on the vehicle, a single middle strap is used to tighten them. The strap is comfortable to pull, and installing the seat is simple (below left).
The bubble level indicator (above right) on the base helps parents find the proper installation angle. This base has a level on both sides so parents can easily see if the angle is correct. To help achieve the right angle, the base also comes with an adjustable foot. We did not need rolled towels or pool noodles to level the seat.
Ease of Install - Belt
It is a good thing the Chicco is so easy to install using the LATCH method because it isn't that easy to install using a vehicle seat belt.
The Chicco is below average for installation using the vehicle belt.
This seat has a belt lock-off, but unlike some of the competition, the belt path is not color-coded. Threading the belt is more complicated than it needs to be, and the belt lock-off is harder to use. We had trouble getting the strap under the lock-off without it getting wrinkled or folded over. Even when in the lock-off correctly, the base can still work its way up the side of the shoulder belt and tip slightly to the side. It is better with a lap belt, but those are becoming more uncommon in newer passenger vehicles. We feel the most stable installation is the LATCH system.
Ease of Install - Without the Base
The Chicco is harder to install without the base than any other installation method. This difficulty means the Keyfit 30 is a poor choice for parents that frequent public transportation and may need to install their seat without the base.
This seat uses the American belt path, and it is not a color-coded belt path. Even though the belt is relatively easy to thread, we had significant difficulties getting this seat installed and secured without the base.
We had to use two towels to get the right angle and secure it tight enough. Even then, the seat felt very unstable and wasn't something we'd want to use with our baby. Given that the European method feels more stable to us, we think this seat would benefit from this pathway.
Ease of Use
The Chicco is easy to use compared to the competition.
This buckle feels less stiff than some of the competition and is easier to manage without the additional padding surrounding the buckle. The chest clip isn't the most rigid but is not as easy to depress and slide apart as it could be. 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.
Tightening the harness is relatively easy and tightens via a strap near the foot of the carrier that is pulled to tighten the harness. The harness release button is also near the foot of the carrier above the strap. The button is above the padding, which makes it easy to access.
Adjusting the shoulder strap height on the Chicco is challenging. The seat has three height options and one buckle strap location, and we found the process of getting the straps rethreaded 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 prefer competing seats with a non-rethread style height adjustment. We also prefer the car seats with more height variations for the shoulder straps, to increase the chances of getting the best fit.
The handle on this seat operates by squeezing the levers on both sides at the pivot point and rotating the handle to the desired position. It has three possible positions, and any of them are allowed when driving. We had difficulty with the handle and canopy rubbing in some positions, but 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 comfortably.
Carrier and Base Connection
Attaching the seat onto the base is simple, and the carrier seems to fall into place. It has no visual indicator for attachment, but we didn't have any problems during our tests. Giving the carrier a good tug can help parents ensure it is truly connected correctly. Squeezing the release handle on the back of the carrier will release the carrier connection from the base. Parents can use the release handle on the back of the seat to help them lift the carrier out of the car.
LATCH Anchor and Manual Storage
The Chicco LATCH anchors tuck into pockets in the back of the base. While this gets them out of the way and prevents interference with connecting the carrier to the base, the tightening strap for the LATCH anchors needs to be rolled up and stowed to avoid interference with the carrier attaching to the base. To prevent a potential connection problem, we suggest parents take the extra time during installation to tuck the anchor straps out of the way.
The Keyfit 30 is just below average for the products in this review when it comes to comfort and quality.
While the Chicco padding is thick 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. Plus, your 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 above average and feels like it will hold up over time.
The fit and finish of this product are below average. It doesn't look as sleek as much of the competition. There is something sort of undone feeling as if the fabric is intended for a larger seat, making it appear frumpy. However, we still prefer it over most of the cheaper options, and it suits the price point.
The Keyfit weighs in at 10.6 lbs, making it on the heavier side for the group. It is lighter than the heaviest products, which are closer to 12 lbs.
Choosing a seat based on carrier weight is not the best idea. While weight might be important, other aspects should rank higher such as ease of installation and crash test scores. However, if you live in the city, it should be considered if you need to tote your baby in the carrier.
This Chicco seat is compatible with Chicco brand strollers. The Chicco Shuttle earned a high rank and award for best frame stroller in our Best car seat and stroller combo review. However, if you are looking for a full-size stroller to combine with your car seat, the Keyfit has the most compatibility with other brands outside of its own. The Keyfit 30 also works with the UPPAbaby Cruz, BOB Revolution Flex, and the UPPAbaby Vista and many others.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD & Wendy Schmitz