The Chicco Keyfit 35 is a reasonably priced infant car seat with better than average crash test analysis scores and a stupidly easy LATCH installation. This seat is good quality, especially for the price, is easy to attach the carrier to the base, and features a grippy handle with a good-sized canopy. This carrier is on the heavier side, which is a downfall if you plan to use physically carry your carrier from place to place or frequent public transportation in the city. However, it is compatible with most of our favorite strollers. Otherwise, we believe this top-ranking seat is a great option for most families no matter what their goals as the LATCH installation and crash test scores create a seat that is hard to beat. The fact that you can save some money is just icing on the cake.Editor's Note: On December 20, 2021, we updated this review with additional details on the testing we do for the most important metrics. This information allows for an easier side-by-side comparison of what matters the most.
Chicco KeyFit 35 Review
Pros: Reasonable price, better crash test results, super easy LATCH install
Cons: Heavier, canopy/handle rubbing
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|Pros||Reasonable price, better crash test results, super easy LATCH install||Better crash test results, anti-rebound bar, easy install||Best crash results, easy LATCH, additional safety features, comfy||Easy LATCH installation, better crash test results, price||Inexpensive, good HIC score, easy to install with 2 methods|
|Cons||Heavier, canopy/handle rubbing||Heavier, harder to install LATCH system, few strollers are compatible||Higher price, hard to use||Coarse fabric, heavier, hard to install without the base||Less padding, lower quality, harder to install with belt|
|Bottom Line||A really nice seat with better crash tests analysis and a reasonable price tag, but it could be too heavy for some users||A great all-around seat with good crash test results, but limited stroller options||Compelling, quality seat with additional safety features and the best crash test score||Crash test results and ease of install with a nice price make it a good choice for most families||A budget-friendly seat with better head sensor crash results and easy LATCH installation|
|Rating Categories||Chicco KeyFit 35||Peg Perego Primo Vi...||Cybex Aton 2||Chicco KeyFit 30||Baby Trend EZ Flex-Loc|
|Crash Test (20%)|
|Ease Of Install LATCH (20%)|
|Ease Of Install Belt (10%)|
|Ease Of Install W O Base (5%)|
|Ease Of Use (15%)|
|Comfort Quality (15%)|
|Weight Size (15%)|
|Specs||Chicco KeyFit 35||Peg Perego Primo Vi...||Cybex Aton 2||Chicco KeyFit 30||Baby Trend EZ Flex-Loc|
|Crash Test HIC Score||342||491||340||330||617|
|Crash Test Chest G Clip||51||46||44||50.5||51|
|Minimum Passenger Weight||4 lbs||4 lbs||4 lbs||4 lbs||4 lbs|
|Max Passenger Weight||35 lbs||35 lbs||35 lbs||30 lbs||30 lbs|
|Max Passenger Height||32"||32"||30"||30"||30"|
|Belt Routing Style||European||European||European||American||European|
|Seat Weight||10.9 lbs||9.6 lbs||9.3 lbs||10.1 lbs||8.6 lbs|
|Shoulder Harness Positions||5||6||3||3||3|
|Crotch Strap Positions||1||1||1||1||1|
|Built in Lock Off||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Anti-rebound Device||Yes Built in||Yes||High Back Base||High Back Base||No|
|Locking Handle Positions||4||5||3||3||3|
|Allowed Handle Positions For Auto Travel||Carry Position
|1 for Base Install (even with the top of the seat),
1 for Seat Only Install (all the way forward)
|Carry Position||Any||Not Listed|
|No Rethread Harness||Yes||Yes||No||No||No|
|Onboard Manual Storage||Storage Compartment on front of the base.||Stores in a hard flip down pocket on the back of the seat.||Stashes in a pocket under the bottom of the seat.||Storage Compartment on the front of the base.||On the back of the seat towards the bottom.|
|Level Indicator On Base||Bubble Indicator||Bubble Vial||Ball In Tube||Bubble Vial||None|
|Level Indicator On Seat||Line on Decal||Line On Decal||Line On Decal||Line On Decal||Hanging Indicator|
Our Analysis and Test Results
As one of the biggest baby brands in Europe, Chicco (kee-ko) is a company that provides various types of gear. They make gear that includes items for feeding, traveling, strolling, and more. Founded by Enrico Catelli, Chicco offers products for children ages pre-birth to preschool. You can find their products in over 120 countries across the globe.
In our analysis of the crash test sensor data, the Keyfit 35 demonstrated an additional margin of protection over the average for the group with G-force results lower than most.
For the head sensor (HIC score), the Keyfit 35 had a result of 342, where the maximum allowed is 1000, and a lower number is better.
Only a handful of infant seats earned results lower for the HIC sensor. The lowest result and best performer is the Chicco Keyfit 30 with a reading of 330.
For the chest clip sensor, the Keyfit 35 result was 51, where the maximum allowed is 60 and a lower number is better. This result is within the guidelines set by the Federal government for safety seats. The best result in the group is a 44 earned by the Cybex Aton 2.
The Keyfit 35 manufacturer claims include energy-absorbing foam for side impact protection (SIP). SIP is not a defined term universally agreed upon in the industry. So, it might mean different things depending on the manufacturer. For this reason and others, it is difficult to tell what this claim means and how it was tested or whether or not it contributes to the performance of the seat during crash testing. It also sports an anti-rebound bar, and while science supports this addition as increasing safety, it is hard to tell if it does in the real world. While we love safety features, we believe the crash test results should hold more sway in your decision-making than claims offered by the manufacturer on additional safety features.
Ease of Install - LATCH
The Keyfit 35 is so easy to install using LATCH it earned top honors in our tests.
The LATCH connectors are push style and work well (above left). They push on easily with a center strap pull to tighten (above right). The strap is easy to pull, and the base tightens without a problem. The red release button is easy to depress, and the connector pops loose on its own.
The Keyfit 35 has a bubble level indicator on the base (above left), helping parents achieve the right installation angle. A level on both sides allows parents to see what is happening no matter where they install the seat. We didn't need towels or pool noodles during installation for a proper fit.
Ease of Install - Belt
The Keyfit 35 is less straightforward to install using the vehicle belt, but it is still better than some of the competition and not convoluted.
The Keyfit 35 has a belt lock-off, which is good, but this version is harder to use than much of the competition. When using the shoulder belt in the vehicle, it can be difficult for the lock-off to get the belt tight enough to avoid travel along the belt. The belt pathway is not color-coded, which, while not necessary, is an excellent visual cue that you are doing it right. Overall, the 35 feels more stable and secure once installed than the 30.
Ease of Install - Without the Base
The Chicco 35 is also harder to install without the base than the LATCH method. This method is popular with travelers or city dwellers who rely on public transportation.
This car seat utilizes the American belt path, and the pathway is not color-coded. The beltway crosses the carrier's foot and isn't hard to see, but it is harder to thread than much of the competition. And despite our efforts at tightening the belt, the seat still felt pretty unstable compared to the competition. It is probably best to install this seat using the base unless you absolutely can't.
Using towels could be the solution to getting a tighter, more stable fit depending on your car, but then you need to carry towels with you in addition to the carrier. We believe that the Keyfit 35 would benefit from the European belt path that utilizes the shoulder strap around the carrier's back for more stability.
Ease of Use
The Keyfit 35 is easier to use than much of the competition.
The buckle on the Keyfit 35 is stiffer than that on the 30. However, it is clear of padding and is easy to operate with both hands. The chest clip is average and has a center button to release. It will require two hands for most parents.
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 Keyfit 35 harness is easy with a smooth working strap, and the release button is bright orange and depresses with little effort. The button is not under the padding, making it super easy to access.
Shoulder strap height adjustment is a non-rethread operation, which is better than rethread style harnesses. There are dual pinch tabs on the rear of the carrier. They are positioned further back and in an alcove, making them harder to reach, which seems unnecessary. However, it is still easier than rethreading. It has five shoulder height positions and one crotch strap position.
The Keyfit 35 handle operates by squeezing dual levers on both sides to rotate it to the desired position. It has four positions, and two of them are allowable while driving. Unfortunately, the handle and copy have some collision and rubbing, which isn't ideal. It isn't a deal-breaker, but it feels like an oversight. We like the rubbery grip on the center, which makes it both more comfortable to hold and easier to hang onto.
Carrier and Base Connection
Carrier to base attachment is straightforward and works well. We had no difficulties making the attachment and never got it wrong. There was very little readjustment required. The release handle is in a good spot on the carrier and squeezes easily to detach the seat. We prefer this release location so you can release and lift in one motion.
LATCH Anchor and Manual Storage
The Keyfit 35 LATCH anchors are stowed near the front of the base. It is easy to insert the LATCH connectors, and they do not fall out. They keep the straps and connectors out of the way (mostly) but aren't anything special. Taking a few extra moments to tuck the straps inside will help keep everything contained. The manual storage is a compartment on the front of the base. In our opinion, this location is not the best, as you will not have it if you need to install the seat without the base.
The Keyfit 35 performed well for comfort and quality compared to the competition. Its score is better than average and better than the Keyfit 30.
The comfort padding is relatively thick and cushy but not very dense. This feels comfortable but could condense over time and become less so. The fabric is an upgrade from less expensive Chicco seats, and it is something they call ClearTex. It has a somewhat rougher feel, but it also feels more durable and of higher quality. The shell isn't the best or worst; while not smooth all around for easy cleaning, it also doesn't have a grid pattern or small spaces for gunk to collect.
The fit and finish are also better than average. The seat fabric fits the shell perfectly and has a clean and sleek finish. Even the infant insert fits in place without looking messy or like an afterthought, as much of the competition does. The handle is sturdy and has a grippy center portion that makes it more comfortable to hold. The canopy fabric looks good, but the canopy collides with the handle, and this is a disappointment and a flaw in an otherwise nice car seat.
The Keyfit 35 weighs 10.87 lbs, making it somewhat heavier than its little brother and sort of large for the group. It manages to stay below the heaviest options, but we aren't sure it is a weight most parents will want to carry with a baby on board.
Selecting your car seat based on the carrier weight is not ideal. Other concerns such as ease of installation and crash test scores should be more important. However, city dwellers might use this metric as a tie-breaker if they will be carrying their little one in a car seat carrier regularly.
The Keyfit 35 is compatible with most Chicco strollers. The Chicco Keyfit Caddy is a lightweight frame stroller that can buy you time before deciding what kind of stroller will best suit your long-term needs. As long as your little one is still safely in their infant car seat, you can use the Caddy.
Should You Buy the Keyfit 35?
Once upon a time, we thought we loved the Chicco Keyfit 30, but then along came the Keyfit 35. Fickle friends? We might be, but you'll forgive us given all the Keyfit 35 brings to the table. The Keyfit 35 is definitely a seat we would recommend to a friend, and we have. We think there is much to love about this seat with better crash test results and the easiest installation for LATCH in the group. It is also reasonably priced and compatible with almost all of our favorite strollers (assuming they accept infant car seats with adapters).
What Other Infant Car Seat Should You Consider?
If your budget won't stretch to the Keyfit 35, the Keyfit 30 is still a great seat with one of the best HIC crash test results. It is also compatible with most strollers, has the same crash test analysis score, and is easy to use. We love this simple seat and think most parents will too. Alternatively, if your budget is bigger and you want the absolute best for crash test analysis, the Cybex Aton 2 is the one for you. However, if you go this route, you'll likely need a great baby carrier] as it isn't compatible with many strollers.
— Wendy Schmitz
Honest, objective reviews. Led by a Pediatrician.
BabyGearLab was founded by a Pediatrician Mom with a mission to provide a reliable, independent, source of information to new parents. Our experts have tested thousands of baby and kids products to share key performance, health, and safety findings. We spend tens of thousands of dollars crash testing car seats to inform our ratings. And, we combine our review work with gobs of expert parenting advice. To assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing by people who care.Learn More