The Graco Snugride Click Connect 35 struggled in our tests and had difficulty performing in key metrics compared to the competition. This seat is not the most comfortable or the best quality in our opinion. When you add low scores for ease of use, and a difficult to use LATCH system it makes for a car seat we think is below average. If Graco is your thing, we'd suggest you consider the Graco Snugride Click Connect 40 instead, which costs a bit more but performed better overall and had impressive crash test results.
Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 Review
Pros: Lightweight, better crash test scores
Cons: Difficult to use, handle and canopy collision
Our Analysis and Test Results
Started in 1942, and owned by Russell Gray and Robert Cone, Graco was a metal fabrication shop making car parts. After eleven years, Gray left and Cone hired David Saint, an engineer, to design new products. Inspired by an employee who used an outdoor glider to calm their baby, the men's first product was a swing for babies. The swing was an instant hit and sold millions with Graco becoming the world's leading manufacturer of baby products.
The chart shown here provides a comparison of the overall scores for each infant car seat we tested in this review. The Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 is shown in blue.
The information provided in the sections below include details of how the Connect 35 performed during testing. Metric test results were used to determine overall scores.
As with all the car seats, we used data results from sled crash tests to compare each seat's individual data with that of the Federal guidelines and the other seats in this review.
This seat meets the Federal minimum standards, as all seats are required to do to be sold in the US. Its test results indicate that it offers an extra margin of protection over and above the Federal safety requirements. It has lower G force results, with the 2nd best score for the chest sensor (g) data. The charts include results for the Graco 35 (shown in black) compared with the data for the seats that have the best results (head and chest, shown in green).
Ease of Install - LATCH
The Graco 35 earned a 5 of 10 for this metric, which is below the average. Being able to attach a car seat via the LATCH system is supposed to be an improvement over using the vehicle belt. It should be easier and somewhat foolproof. Unfortunately, we found the Graco 35 to be relatively hard to install using LATCH. The highest score in this metric is a 10 earned by the Chicco Fit2.
Graco has the clip style LATCH anchors that are a simple and effective. This clip can be harder to attach to the U-shaped anchors on the vehicle, and is excessively harder to disconnect. It requires that you push the clip forward, disengage the anchor, and then twist it to the side and pull to detach fully. This can be especially difficult if you have the kind of vehicle LATCH anchors that are hard to see or are located deep into the cushion, and require more of a touch and feel effort than visual.
Once the clips are secured, tightening the straps is a chore on this base. We had difficulty getting them tight enough no matter where the anchor points attached to the car. Once we did get it tightened, it felt rather secure, but the process of getting there made us somewhat frustrated. Loosening is a bear on most of the seats, and getting the straps to release on this one was also difficult.
The base has an adjustable recline feature with a knob for adjustment.
The recline feature also comes with a color-coded guide to help you find the right adjustment for baby's age/size. This guide is an excellent feature not shared by all products.
Ease of Install - Belt
The Graco 35 earned a 6 of 10 in this metric, which is below the average. This base is oddly easier to install with the vehicle belt than it is using the LATCH anchors. That said, it wasn't that easy. The Phil and Teds Alpha and the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 tied in earning the top score of 9.
This base has a simple belt path without a lock-off that is easier to accomplish with a lap belt than a shoulder/lap combo. It is not color coded, and we feel it is somewhat of a challenge to get the belt through the slots properly without them twisting or getting crumpled. We also feel the seat isn't that stable when attached using the belt, and no matter how tight we got it, the base shifted around. The base started to tip sideways when correctly installed.
Ease of Install - Without the Base
The Graco 35 scored an 8 of 10 in this metric, its highest ease of install score in this review. Interestingly enough installing this seat without the base is easy. However, few people will use this method unless they frequently ride in taxi cabs or Uber. The process is simple, and we feel it is just as stable, if not more so than the other installation options with this seat. The highest score for this category is a 10, going to the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35.
This seat has an American belt path with no color coding, but we still thought it was simple to secure to the vehicle and get tight for correct installation without a headache or forceful tugging.
Ease of Use
The Graco 35 earned 5 of 10 for ease of use. This score is below average, but better than the other Graco we tested. The high score is an 8 earned by a few seats including the stroller car seat combo Doona.
The Graco buckles are relatively stiff compared to the competition. We had trouble getting them to disengage and release the side straps, and some testers had to use two hands to depress the button. The chest clip is also stiff and hard to operate. It isn't a deal-breaker by itself, but it is frustrating, and it doesn't need to be this hard.
The harness is easy to tighten and release with a strap and button located at the foot of the carrier. The release button is about three inches under the padding so it can be harder to reach, but it isn't hard to push. The strap pulls freely and won't require excess muscle to operate.
Shoulder height adjustment is a rethread system that you access from behind by moving the shoulder straps off the splitter plate and through the slots. The slots on this seat are larger, but it is still annoying when there are models that can be adjusted from the front with your baby in the seat. This seat has four shoulder strap positions and two crotch strap positions making it easier to find a good fit for the baby.
Using the handle and the canopy at the same time is almost impossible, and we think most people will be just as annoyed as we were with this glaring design flaw. When the canopy is up, it has to be bent and pushed under the handle in the upright position, and when you fold the handle down it will take the canopy with it unless you wiggle it underneath and hold the canopy open while you fold the handle down. Given that most of the competition didn't have this problem, we think it would be an easy fix for Graco to make either a shorter canopy or a taller handle to alleviate this daily problem.
The handle itself, minus the canopy, is easy to operate by squeezing in the button on both sides of the handle pivot joint simultaneously. The handle has four positions, and any of them are allowable while driving. Carrying the seat with the handle is okay unless the canopy is up and then it becomes a problem with the canopy rubbing on your fingers.
The base offers LATCH anchor storage and keeps the anchors and straps out of the way 100%, so they do not impinge on attaching the carrier to the base. The straps clip onto small plastic rods near the head of the base.
For comfort and quality, the Graco 35 earned a 4 of 10. The highest score in this metric is an 8 earned by the Chicco Fit 2 and the Peg Perego Prio Viaggio 4-35. Side-by-side comparisons show how nice a car seat can look and how well it can be designed. In our opinion, the Graco 35 missed the mark.
The fabric on this seat is a coarse, heavy weave fabric that feels like it would be abrasive on the skin especially in the summer when babies wear less clothing and sweat in their seats. It has a thin cushion for the head and minimal padding in the seat. There isn't much to indicate that comfort is something they considered a priority.
The shell of the 35 feels flimsy, and it bends easier than we would like. The seat we purchased also had some rougher edges on it like the plastic came out of the mold a little off.
The canopy for the car seat is just average in terms of size and finish. It is a medium sized sunshade compared to the competition, and the fabric doesn't fit on the frame. As already mentioned, it gets in the way of using the handle which indicates poor attention to detail.
The handle on this seat has a "grippy" center portion that makes it somewhat nicer to carry. There are no rough edges on the handle we tested.
The Graco 35 is 8.6 lbs which makes it the third lightest option we tested. The heaviest seat is the Doona which has stroller components to blame.
While the weight of the carrier is something to consider, especially if you plan to carry baby long distances, we don't think it should be the main factor in your buying decision. Alternatively, if you are torn between two seats, then the option with a lighter weight might win.
Some parents might be drawn to Graco products thinking that the Graco name indicates a fair price for a good product. This particular seat did not score well enough in our tests to leave us impressed. Given the lower scoring in almost every metric, we don't believe there is a best application for this seat, even if you love Graco products.
With a list price of $150, this Graco is one of the cheaper seats in this review. We can see how some parents might be drawn to the price tag as well as the Graco name and assume that they are getting good bang for their buck. However, we feel the poor ease of use equals a seat that is not a good value at any price. For parents on a budget, we suggest our Best Value winner, the Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air. Compared to the Graco 35, the Safety 1st seat gives you a relatively high scoring product at a reasonable price point. It has higher scores than the Graco 35 in just about every metric and costs about $10 more.
This Graco SnugRide 35 failed to impress us in a side-by-side comparison with the majority of seats in this review. It is one of the more difficult products to use, has disappointing quality and comfort and other than somewhat better crash test results, it doesn't bring much to the table for the majority of families. We think parents on a budget are better off looking elsewhere and parents with a Graco compatible stroller would be better off with the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD & Wendy Schmitz