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Hands-on Gear Review
Evenflo Embrace LX Review
Price: $100.00 List | $84.55 at Amazon - 15% off
Pros: Inexpensive, lightweight, easy to use
Cons: Hard to install with base, disappointing comfort and quality
Bottom line: Difficult to install seat that is fairly poor quality
The Evenflo Embrace LX is an attractively priced car seat, but unfortunately, it did not perform well during testing. We had excessive trouble installing this seat, and we don't think it offers comfort or quality on par with most of the products we tested. Given the trouble we had installing it and feeling it is truly secure, we don't feel comfortable recommending it. While it offers an inexpensive list price and a brand name most parents are familiar with, we worry parents will make mistakes during installation that could potentially lead to problems down the line.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Infant Car Seats of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Evenflo Embrace LX is a rear facing car seat designed for infants from 4-30 pounds and up to 30 inches tall. It has a removable head pillow and 5-point harness. It is useable without the base to make traveling easier for traveling. This seat has a machine washable pad, forward handle position when driving, retractable canopy, and is lightweight. The shoulder harness has three heights, and the crotch buckle has two slots. The seat base is LATCH equipped and includes a central level.
The comparison chart below shows the overall scores for each infant car seat included in this review. The Evenflo Embrace LX bar is blue.
The sections below include details on how the Evenflo performed during the testing process for each metric. Individual metric results were used to determine the overall score for each seat.
The Evenflo crash test results indicate a basic level of protection compared to the competition. The Embrace LX seat exceeds the Federal safety requirements, but some competing seats have crash test results that are more impressive.
The charts above show the actual Evenflo crash test results (shown in black) in comparison to the seats (shown in green) in the review that have best results relative to the Federal safety standards. The Chicco Keyfit 30 has the best crash test results for G forces exerted on the head sensors, while the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40 has the least amount of G forces exerted on the chest sensor. The Embrace chest test results were pretty good, better than most of the products we tested, but the head crash test results were below average. In both head and chest results, the Evenflo exceeded Federal safety requirements by a significant margin.
Ease of Install - LATCH
The Evenflo earned a 4 of 10 for ease of install using the LATCH system. The highest score in this metric is 10 for the Chicco Fit2. The Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air, our Best Value winner, earned a 6.
This base has clip type connections that can be trickier to use both for attaching and releasing. The clip is even harder to use if the LATCH points on your vehicle are hard to see or deep in the cushion. To release the clips you have to push them forward, then twist to the side after they disengage before pulling them back to remove. If you fail to turn the clips, you will only re-attach them when you try to pull them out.
Once you have the clips attached, tightening them is easy, but loosening them is more difficult. We had to use two hands and a knee in the base with all our weight to start the loosening of the strap. Also, even when we did get the base as tight as it would go, it still didn't feel stable, and it had a tendency to shift and tilt from the front and side to side. The base itself is flexible and bends somewhat as you tighten. This extra movement allows the base to shift no matter how tight it is. We didn't feel 100% about the stability of the install, even after it was given the thumbs up from a Child Passenger Safety Technician.
Once you adjust the foot, you can check if the recline angle is correct by using the visual indicator located on the base. It is color coded for correct recline indication.
Ease of Install - Belt
The Evenflo earned 4 of 10 for this metric, which is the lowest score for installation using the belt. The high for this test is 9 earned by the Phil and Teds Alpha and the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35.
Installing this seat with the belt did nothing to improve our feelings about its stability. If anything this arrangement feels less stable, and we couldn't get it tight enough in any vehicle to avoid it "riding up" the side of the car belt and causing the whole base to tilt strangely to the side. We worry about the base shifting under normal driving conditions and baby being somewhat suspended by the harness.
This seat does not have a lock-off feature which makes getting the belt tight nearly impossible. The belt path is not color coded, but more importantly, it isn't that easy to get the belt threaded through correctly. Using a lap only belt is definitely easier than the shoulder/lap combo, but neither seat belt option is great. We would go so far as to say we don't recommend using this base with the shoulder belt at all to avoid the seat inching up the shoulder belt and sitting at an angle. We had to use a locking clip to keep the base from lifting up on the retractor side of the vehicle belt, which severely complicates the process and opens installation up for more potential mistakes. If you have to install any seat with the metal locking clip, we suggest you get the seat checked by a technician before using it.
Ease of Install - Without the Base
The Evenflo earned an 8 of 10 for installation without the base, tying with seven other seats. This type of setup is best for urban dwellers who frequently use taxis and Uber. One reason we liked this install for the Evenflo, is the base feels so flimsy and is a very thin plastic compared to competing seats. We think the Evenflo feels more secure without the base, which is a little concerning given that any product should feel secure when installed correctly using the base.
Threading the belt is easy on this seat and it uses the American belt path, so there is no need for color coded belt path. We didn't have any problems getting the belt in flat and uncurled and we were able to get it tight enough to feel secure. We didn't need towels or pool noodles to attain a proper fit or the right angle.
Ease of Use
This seat earned an 8 of 10 for ease of use, which is the high score in this metric and is shared with the Recaro Performance Coupe and the Doona. This is one of the only metrics the Evenflo did well in, and to be fair, it was really quite exceptional with regard to ease-of-use.
The buckle on this seat is the easiest to use. It requires very little strength to press and it pops apart easily with one thumb. You can also insert the side straps with one hand, one at a time, which is nice if your hands are full or busy holding one on baby. The chest clip button to release the clip and the two sides are all stiff and require exact marrying to connect. A bad chest clip is definitely better than a hard to use buckle, but it is still disappointing.
The Evenflo utilizes a tightening strap located at the foot of the seat. Unlike some of the competition, this strap pulls smoothly and without the need for excessive force. The release button is also at the foot and is one of the easiest buttons to access and use. It is close to the surface and can be operated with one finger.
Shoulder height adjustment on the harness is a rethread style with three height slots and three crotch strap positions. The seat connects the two side straps through slots in the seat back onto a "T" style splitter plate. The shoulder straps have large loops on the ends that make it easier to attach to the splitter than seats with smaller loops. Adjustment requires an empty carrier, so you have the ability to thread the strap and flip the seat. While this seat is easier to manage than some of the other rethread seats, we prefer products that adjust from the front with baby in place and don't require threading. We are not big fans of rethread height adjustment, and the three slots on this seat limit the ability to find a good fit.
The carrier is lightweight and easy to attach to an installed base. It does not have a visual indicator, so we suggest you give it a good tug to ensure it is secure. To release the carrier and remove it from the base, you squeeze the handle on the back of the carrier. This is a nice design and makes it easier to lift the carrier out with one hand on the release handle and the other on the foot portion or carry handle.
The carry handle is easy to use and has five positions, with only two allowable while driving. To operate the handle you squeeze buttons on each side of the pivot point on the handle and rotate to the desired position. It moves smoothly and is not hard to accomplish during normal use.
This seat offers LATCH clip storage by way of small plastic bars located under the base. This helps keep the clips and straps out of the way so the seat can be properly attached to the base without the straps preventing attachment. The storage on this seat does a better job at preventing strap interference than some of the competition.
The Evenflo earned a 4 of 10 for this metric, which is the low for the group. The quality of this seat is not the best in our opinion, and we weren't impressed in a side-by-side comparison with the other options we tested. The highest score is an 8 earned by Phil and Teds Alpha, Chicco Fit2 and the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35. The Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air earned a higher 6.
The fabric is smooth but stiff. It isn't rough like some of the other products, but it also doesn't feel like it will wear well over time. The padding on the seat is minimal and isn't as cozy as the nicer seats, and it almost seems like it is an afterthought. It comes with strange head padding that looks like side impact protection but isn't, and the padded sides are super floppy. We think the padding will flop against baby's face and be annoying for baby and parents alike. The seat is better without it and it seems like a cheap version of the nicer head protection padding offered in the competition, but unlike other products, it is loose padding and not a structural component of the seat that provides support.
The shell of this carrier appears durable and well constructed, certainly nicer than the base material. However, the fit and finish of the shell with the padding and fabric is lacking overall. The Embrace isn't an impressive choice, and it pales in comparison to the other products we tested.
The handle on this carrier is also unimpressive in our opinion. While it works well, it doesn't offer any features that make it nicer to hold or more ergonomic. The seat we purchased had a rough edge under the middle of the handle that somewhat cut into our hand when we lifted the carrier.
The canopy on the Evenflo is medium in size and doesn't feel or look like it will wear well over time. The handle on the carrier rubs the canopy in the down position. We aren't sure why some manufacturers are having difficulty managing the canopy and handle marriage, but Evenflo is not alone in this area; it isn't as bad as the Graco products, but it will still cause you some trouble.
The Embrace weighs in at 7.5 lbs, making it the lightest in the group. The average is about 10.5 lbs, and the heaviest is over 16 lbs but comes with an attached stroller (Doona).
While carrier weight is important, especially if you plan to lug baby around on a regular basis, we don't think it should be the primary reason you pick a seat. We don't think sacrificing ease of use, or a good crash test score is worth saving yourself a few pounds to carry. However, we do believe that it is a useful tool when deciding between two seats that are otherwise similar in features and quality. If the product you choose is heavier than you'd like, you can always add a baby wearing carrier to your gear list or a stroller compatible with your car seat.
Parents familiar with the Evenflo brand name might consider this seat. The price may also be a reason some parents consider purchasing the Embrace. However, given its poor performance in our tests, we would not recommend it. Given all the difficulties we had trying to install the seat, we think parents may struggle to install it in a secure manner on a regular basis which could lead to potential mistakes and mishaps.
While the Evenflo Embrace has a lower list price than the majority of seats in this review, we do not think it is a particularly good value. When it comes to car seats, it appears from our testing that you sort of get what you pay for and we feel this is not the category of baby gear where you should skimp. If the price of a better scoring seat 's hard to manage, we suggest adding a seat to your registry or saving money during pregnancy to afford some higher ranking options. We recommend our Best Value pick for parents on a budget. The Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air has a list price about $60 more than the Evenflo, but it offers significantly better performance and is easier to install.
The Evenflo Embrace LX did not impress us. While it is a relatively easy to use product, we had difficulties installing it and feel the overall stability of the installed seat is lacking. The Embrace doesn't score as well as most of the other products we looked tested. It is hard for us to like a seat that we had so much trouble installing. In the end, we think there are much better options available and that the lower list price should not be a reason that parents purchase the Evenflo over other products.
Other Versions and Accessories
Evenflo offers two other infant seats that were not included in this review. The Evenflo Nurture is a cheaper seat that works for babies from 4-22 pounds and the Embrace™ Select Infant Car Seat with SureSafe looks similar to the Embrace LX but with a few additional features that claim to make it easier to install. Given that we did not review either seat it is hard to say with any certainty how well they would perform. However, due to their apparent and advertised similarities and construction, we doubt that either would fare significantly better than the seat we did review.
Back Seat Mirror from Cozy Greens is a great accessory for parents to keep an eye on baby. The mirror is attached to a flat base that fits against the front of the rear headrest and secures with adjustable straps that fit around the headrest horizontally and vertically. The mirror has a convex shatterproof surface and pivots to provide a wider field of view. Once adjusted correctly, the pivot point can tighten so that the mirror can't be bumped out of position. This mirror requires an adjustable headrest to attach properly.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD & Wendy Schmitz
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