Hands-on Gear Review

Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 Review

Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35
Price:   $150.00 List | $140.21 at Amazon - 7% off
Pros:  Lightweight, better crash test scores
Cons:  Difficult to use, handle and canopy collision
Bottom line:  Uncompelling performance with disappointing test results that is harder to use
Editors' Rating:   
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Minimum Passenger Weight:  4 lbs
Max Passenger Weight:  35 lbs
Max Passenger Height:  32"
Manufacturer:   Graco

The Skinny

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.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Infant Car Seats of 2018


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Juliet Spurrier, MD & Wendy Schmitz

Last Updated:
Sunday
November 1, 2015

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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.

We have tested over 15 infant car seats for this review since its first version in 2016. This picture includes the original lineup  four of which have been replaced with new and different popular seats to replace those that have been discontinued.
We have tested over 15 infant car seats for this review since its first version in 2016. This picture includes the original lineup, four of which have been replaced with new and different popular seats to replace those that have been discontinued.

Performance Comparison


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.

The chart shows the crash test results from the Graco 35 vs the Graco 40  which has the group's best test results for the chest sensor data
The chart shows the crash test results from the Graco 35 vs the Graco 40, which has the group's best test results for the chest sensor data

Crash Test


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.

The chart shows the crash test results from the Graco 35 vs the Chicco Keyfit 30  which has the group's best crash test results for the head sensor data
The chart shows the crash test results from the Graco 35 vs the Chicco Keyfit 30, which has the group's best crash test results for the head sensor data

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).

The dense impact foam on the Graco 35 is thicker than some of the competition
The dense impact foam on the Graco 35 is thicker than some of the competition
This Graco does claim side impact protection (SIP), but they describe their SIP test as one that ensures that the harness retains baby in the event of a side impact collision. We find this claim sort of misleading, since retention in the harness is something we think most parents would expect from all seats, and it seems odd to consider mere retention to be a special SIP feature as opposed to a standard one. While Graco says they have tested and can support the harness claim, we think most parents will feel that Graco's definition doesn't translate into an increased margin of injury prevention relative to competing seats in the event of a side-impact. We'd much prefer if Graco provided actual crash test data that quantifies the difference their SIP feature provides, if any, given that all seats should retain a baby in a harness.

Installation of the Graco 35 with the LATCH system is not as easy at it should be
Installation of the Graco 35 with the LATCH system is not as easy at it should be

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.

The clip style of LATCH anchors on this Graco are harder to disconnect than the other type of anchor
The clip style of LATCH anchors on this Graco are harder to disconnect than the other type of anchor

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.

There are a variety of recline adjustment options in the seats we tested. This adjustable knob moves the recline foot up and down on the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35
There are a variety of recline adjustment options in the seats we tested. This adjustable knob moves the recline foot up and down on the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35

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 Connect 35 has a recline indicator on the base
The Connect 35 has a recline indicator on the base

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.

The Graco 35 doesn't have a belt lock off to help install the seat with the vehicle belt
The Graco 35 doesn't have a belt lock off to help install the seat with the vehicle belt


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.

With a lack of a belt lock off the Connect 35 isn't as secure as those that offer one
With a lack of a belt lock off the Connect 35 isn't as secure as those that offer one

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.

The American belt path method on the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 uses only the lap portion of the vehicle belt for installation
The American belt path method on the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35 uses only the lap portion of the vehicle belt for installation

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.

All the buckles on the Graco seats are hard to use and were not our favorites
All the buckles on the Graco seats are hard to use and were not our favorites

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 release button on the Graco 35 is hidden under some padding  but isn't too far under
The harness release button on the Graco 35 is hidden under some padding, but isn't too far under

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.

The carrier release handle on the Graco 35 is easy to use
The carrier release handle on the Graco 35 is easy to use
The carrier of the Graco 35 is average for ease of attachment onto the base. It snaps on, and we didn't see any reason why parents might install it incorrectly or think it was locked in when it isn't. There are no indicators to tell you if it is attached, so you will need to give it a good tug to make sure it is correctly on the base. Releasing the seat from the base is also easy and is a handle you squeeze and pull up on to unlock the carrier from the base.

This Graco earned a relatively nice score for weight
This Graco earned a relatively nice score for weight

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 on the 35 is easy to use  but rubs on the canopy in both the upright and down positions
The handle on the 35 is easy to use, but rubs on the canopy in both the upright and down positions

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.

The Graco 35 doesn't have the best overall fit and finish in our tests
The Graco 35 doesn't have the best overall fit and finish in our tests


Comfort/Quality


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 on the Graco 35 is not the best in the bunch and its collision with the handle make it a hassle to use
The canopy on the Graco 35 is not the best in the bunch and its collision with the handle make it a hassle to use

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 doesn't have the best overall fit and finish in our tests
The Graco 35 doesn't have the best overall fit and finish in our tests

Weight


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.

Best Applications


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.

Value


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.

Each infant style seat has a detachable base that normally stays in the car  like this one seen with the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35
Each infant style seat has a detachable base that normally stays in the car, like this one seen with the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 35

Conclusion


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.

Other Versions and Accessories


Graco makes several other infant style car seats. In addition to this one, we looked at the now discontinued Graco SnugRide Classic Connect, Graco SnugRide Classic Connect 30, and Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40. We were not impressed with any of the Graco products in this review, but the Graco 40 has the highest score in the Graco group and would be the seat we'd recommend if you need a Graco product.

The Cozy Greens back seat mirror
The Cozy Greens back seat mirror
The Cozy Greens Back Seat Mirror from Cozy Greens is a great accessory that we recommend for watching rear-facing babies. The mirror is secured to a flat base that attaches snug to the headrest, while the base attaches by a couple of straps that wraps around the headrest in two directions. The actual mirror is shatterproof plastic with a convex shape that provides a wider field of view. This mirror only works with an adjustable headrest to attach properly.
Juliet Spurrier, MD & Wendy Schmitz

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