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Hands-on Gear Review
Recaro Performance Coupe ReviewPrice: $270.00 List | $263.99 at Amazon
Pros: Easy to use, nice looking, nice comfort and quality
Cons: Higher price, heavier, difficult LATCH installation
Bottom line: Not a bad seat, but there are better options that cost less.
The Recaro Performance Coupe is a sharp looking infant car seat that has a great ease of use score and finished about middle of the pack of seats we tested. It isn't a bad choice earning scores in most metrics that are above average, but it isn't a top performer either, and several other products earned higher overall scores than this one. The Performance Coupe is a heavy seat that is hard to install using the LATCH system, and we think these two factors will potentially frustrate parents looking for something more in a seat in this price range. At $270 list, the Recaro faces strong competition from some lower priced seats, such as the Chicco Keyfit 30 which costs only $200 and scored better overall. Plus, the Recaro also faces strong competition from several seats costing just $30 more, with the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 and UPPAbaby Mesa both delivering significantly better overall scores and a similar high-end price tag.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Infant Car Seats of 2018
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The RECARO Performance Coupe Infant Seat is a rear-facing seat designed for children from 4-35 pounds and less than 32 inches. It features a multi-position canopy, a removable cover for quick cleaning (no harness rethreading), a removable infant pillow, and memory foam with temperature balancing fabrics. It has side impact protection, energy absorbing EPS foam, strap twist-preventing safety-stripes, and exclusive HERO harness technology. The seat base has a micro-adjust knob, flip foot, and bubble level indicator. It has a non-rethread 5 point harness that adjusts easily with one-hand pull and features five height adjustments and two buckle positions. However, compared to many competing car seats, stroller options are limited.
The chart below is a comparison of overall scores for all of the infant car seats we tested in this review. The Recaro Performance Coupe is shown in blue.
The sections below provide details on how the Recaro performed in tests for each metric. Metric scores were used to calculate overall scores.
This seat showed a better level of protection than the about half the 15 seats we reviewed in our evaluation of sled crash test scores, and it exceeded the Federal safety standards by a wide margin.
Testing results show how many G forces were exerted on the head and chest of the baby dummies in crash simulations. The seat with the best results for the head sensor is the Chicco Keyfit 30 (shown above as the green line). The seat with the best results for chest sensors in the group is the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40 (in green below).
Ease of Install - LATCH
The Recaro earned a 5 of 10 for ease of installation using the LATCH system. This score is below average and isn't great for an installation method that is supposed to make car seat install easier and somewhat foolproof. The high score in this metric is a 10 for the Chicco Fit2.
This seat has the push button LATCH connectors that are simpler than the clip style anchor. These easy to hold anchors connect when you push the anchor onto the U-shaped connection on the vehicle. Unlike the clip style that needs to be unhooked and then twisted before removing, removing this anchor is as simple as pushing the red button on the back of the anchor.
We had difficulty connecting these anchors, more so than other anchors of this style. The straps on this seat are shorter than most and might be part of why we struggled to get them properly connected to the U anchor on the vehicles. In addition, tightening the straps on the anchors is also harder to manage than much of the competition. Loosening them is easier, but if you can't get it tight enough, it doesn't much matter.
Ease of Install - Belt
Installation with the vehicle belt is slightly easier on the Recaro than the LATCH installation. It earned a 6 of 10 in this metric, which is just below average. The high score is 9 shared by Phil and Teds Alpha and the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35.
This seat has the same problem as some of the others without lock-offs in that it has a tendency to tip to the side because there is nothing locking the base to the belt. This can lead to the base sort of creeping up the side of the shoulder belt after installation. We don't think this is the best installation method for this seat, or frankly any seat without a belt lock-off, but it is still easier than the LATCH method for the Recaro. If you need to install the seat with a belt, we recommend using a lap belt only if available in a safe position in the car as described by the car seat and car manuals.
Ease of Install - Without the Base
This seat earned its highest installation score without the base with an 8 of 10, which was well above average. This score is of prime interest to those parents who expect to frequently travel in taxi cabs and thus may have a recurring need to secure the seat using the taxi seat belt. The high score in this metric is a 10 earned by the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35.
The Recaro has the European belt path and is color coded, which makes life slightly easier when in a hurry or under pressure from an impatient taxi driver. The European method uses the shoulder portion of the vehicle belt to go around the back side of the carrier, this coupled with the lap belt going over the foot half of the carrier, creates a relatively secure seat installation, and is a method we preferred over the American version.
Ease of Use
The Recaro earned the highest score for ease of use, tying with the Doona with an 8 of 10. It performed better in this metric than any other, which isn't bad given that ease of use affects everyday performance and user experience.
The buckle on the Recaro is the easiest buckle in the group to use. It does not require excessive pressure to push, and the sides come apart easily. Buckling up is just as easy with two sides you can put in one at a time with no worries about marrying up the sides. The chest clip is also easy to use and is similar to the one found on the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio and is almost easier to use with one hand than with two. It is simple to depress the button and slide the sides apart, and it is also relatively easy to mate the two sides up to buckle.
Tightening and loosening the harness on the Recaro is easy to do and earned it a high score in our tests. Tightening the harness is accomplished by pulling a strap located at the foot of the carrier; the strap moves freely and does not require excessive force to operate. The release button is also located at the foot of the carrier under about two inches of padding. The button is easy to access and operate with very minimal pressure needed to release the harness so it can be pulled away from baby to loosen.
The harness height adjustment on this seat is a non-rethread style that does not require parents to remove the baby from the seat to operate. It is very easy to slide up and down to the desired height, though possibly not as easy as the similar Peg Perego Primo Viaggio seat. It has five different height options and two different crotch strap positions that will allow parents to find the best fit for baby. We preferred the seats with non-rethread adjustments and the more height options, the better for obtaining the best fit for any size baby.
The carrier portion of this seat is really easy to install on the base and it feels like it just falls into place without much trouble or maneuvering it about. The release handle on the back of the seat is a little tighter than the competition, but it is still easy enough to operate and the extra tension means you know for sure when it has disengaged the carrier from the base so you can lift it out without struggling.
The handle on the Recaro is easy to use by depressing the levers on both sides simultaneously and then pivoting the handle to the desired position. It does rub a little when the canopy is down and also somewhat on the sides of the seat shell, but it isn't as bad as the Graco products that have a significant canopy handle problem that almost prevents using the handle at the same time the canopy is open. The handle has four different positions, but the only one allowed in the car while driving is the handle all the way forward. It is important to leave the handle in the right position to avoid injuries or death in the event of a crash.
The Recaro has LATCH anchor storage on the base that works best if you un-route the main belt from the base and move the entire setup around the back of the base. The anchors clip into pockets on each side of the base and prevent any problems with the straps getting in the way of attaching the carrier to the base. It isn't the handiest of storage, but it is effective and theoretically you won't be using it often. We appreciate the fact that it prevents any potential carrier to base installation problems.
The Performance Coupe earned a 7 of 10 for comfort and quality, which is an above average score and only 1 point below the high of 8 earned by the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio and Phil and Teds Alpha.
This seat offers two layers of padding, which is better and different from most of the competition. The cushions are soft and the fabric is smooth and feels good on the skin. We liked the way the fabric fits to the shell and padding, and it looks like it would last over time.
The Recaro weighs in at 10.35 lbs making it a heftier seat compared to much of the competition, but not as heavy as the Doona at over 16 lbs.
While weight is certainly important when considering which seat to buy, we think it is far more important to consider other aspects and metrics before looking at carrier weight. Metrics like crash test results, ease of install, and ease of use should trump carrier weight. However, the weight can be used as a tie breaker or a way to further narrow choices after other aspects are considered. The weight of the Recaro is not a deal breaker, but considering there were other products in this review that score higher overall, and are lighter, it is hard to consider a seat this heavy.
There probably isn't a best application for this seat from our point of view. It does have a nice ease of use score, but it isn't the highest scoring product for the price and there are seats that scored better or similarly in almost every metric we tested. The UPPAbaby Mesa earned a Top Pick award for travel and urban living with its higher score for installation without the base. It's about $30 more than the Recaro on average, but it is also a little lighter and has a better overall score.
With a list price of $270 the Recaro is in the high-end of prices, yet not the most expensive seat in the group we tested. However, it isn't the cheapest either and several cheaper seats earned overall scores that were higher than the Recaro. The Chicco Keyfit 30 is around $70 cheaper than the Recaro and has significantly better scores overall.
The Recaro Performance Coupe performed better than average in our tests, and earned a top score for ease of use and good scores for comfort/quality. This seat has an easy to use and adjust harness with memory foam padding that gives baby a comfortable seat not found in other products. In general, it is a nicer seat that has many features parents will be looking for and it executes most of them well. However, this car seat is heavier than much of the competition, is difficult to install using the LATCH system, and fails to offer some of the additional features found in other seats that scored higher for a similar price.
Other Versions and Accessories
Recaro does not offer any other infant style car seat.
Cozy Greens Back Seat Mirror from Cozy Greens is a great accessory for any parent wanting to keep an eye on baby from the front seat. The mirror is attached to a flat base that fits against the front of the headrest and is kept secure by two adjustable straps that fit around the headrest. The actual mirror has a convex shatterproof surface and is able to pivot and adjust to provide a wider field of view. One of the few downfalls of this mirror is that it requires an adjustable headrest in order to attach properly.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD & Wendy Schmitz
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