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Hands-on Gear Review

Recaro Performance Coupe Review

Recaro Performance Coupe
Price:   $270.00 List | $149.95 at Amazon - 44% off
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.
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Recaro

The Skinny

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 Quest to Find the Best Infant Car Seats of 2017

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Score Product Price Our Take
76
$300
Editors' Choice Award
A great all-around seat with good crash test results
71
$280
Editors' Choice Award
Easy to install and use seat made with quality materials, but has limited stroller options
68
$300
Top Pick Award
Impressive Top Pick seat that is easy to use and install
68
$200
Editors' Choice Award
Crash test results and ease of install with a nice price make it a good choice for most families
67
$400
Top Pick Award
The best option for safety conscious parents with a higher budget
67
$320
Compelling high quality seat with additional safety features that is harder to use and pricey
66
$200
Comfortable seat with nice features, but is harder to use.
65
$160
Best Value Award
Best Value that is a good bang for the buck
62
$270
Not a bad seat, but there are better options that cost less.
60
$500
Top Pick Award
Fills a niche for safe vehicle transportation of baby for parents who frequent taxis and Uber
60
$220
Nicer than the other Gracos, but not nice enough for the price
59
$230
An easy to use seat that is average
57
$150
Uncompelling performance with disappointing test results that is harder to use
57
$210
Easy to use LATCH, but disappointing overall performance
56
$100
Difficult to install seat that is fairly poor quality

Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Juliet Spurrier, MD
Mom-in-Chief
BabyGearLab

Last Updated:
Tuesday
April 11, 2017

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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.
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 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.

The chart shows the comparison between the crash test results for the head region for the Recaro and the seat with the best test results for this sensor  the Chicco Keyfit 30
The chart shows the comparison between the crash test results for the head region for the Recaro and the seat with the best test results for this sensor, the Chicco Keyfit 30

Crash Test


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.

The chart shows the comparison between the crash test results for the chest region for the Recaro and the seat with the best test results  the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40
The chart shows the comparison between the crash test results for the chest region for the Recaro and the seat with the best test results, the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40

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).

This shows the layers present on the Recaro Performance Coupe. Form let to right they are comfort padding  fabric  seat padding (dense foam)  and outer shell
This shows the layers present on the Recaro Performance Coupe. Form let to right they are comfort padding, fabric, seat padding (dense foam), and outer shell
The Recaro makes a marketing claim of offering full side impact protection thanks to the design of the shell and the EPS energy absorbing foam. However, we are not aware of any actual crash test results provided by Recaro that quantifies what additional level of protection this feature provides. It also sports strap twist-preventing safety-stripes and exclusive HERO harness technology which can help parents adjust the harness and strap baby in easier each time with potentially fewer errors.

The Recaro earned a disappointing 5 out of 10 for ease of install using the LATCH system
The Recaro earned a disappointing 5 out of 10 for ease of install using the LATCH system

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.

The Recaro does have the anchor style we prefer and think is easier to use
The Recaro does have the anchor style we prefer and think is easier to use

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.

The recline foot on the Recaro can be adjusted using the knob located on the base
The recline foot on the Recaro can be adjusted using the knob located on the base
A bubble style level on the Recaro is effective and works well
A bubble style level on the Recaro is effective and works well
This seat also has a foot adjustment on the bottom of the lower portion of the base. This feature is designed to help parents achieve the right installation angle for the seat in any vehicle, and it can be a real help in vehicles whose seat bottoms tend to recline steeply. While the foot is relatively easy to adjust, we had trouble using it in every car we tested (four different vehicles); in the Subaru Outback the foot would not stay flipped out, and we thought a towel or pool noodle might work better. The level indicator on the base helps parents determine when the seat is installed at the right angle. The indicator works well.

Installing the Recaro using the seat belt in the car is marginally easier than using the LATCH method
Installing the Recaro using the seat belt in the car is marginally easier than using the LATCH method

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.

The belt path on the Recaro is relatively easy to use with larger openings than some of the competition.
The belt path on the Recaro is relatively easy to use with larger openings than some of the competition.
The Recaro does not have a belt lock-off, and this makes installation with the belt more difficult. It also does not offer a color coded belt path. The belt is difficult to thread or get tight enough to feel that the seat is secure to the vehicle. It is easier to install, and by far more stable, when using a lap only belt as opposed to the shoulder/lap combo belts.

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.

the Recaro uses the European belt path that we feel is slightly more secure than the American method
the Recaro uses the European belt path that we feel is slightly more secure than the American method

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.

By using the shoulder strap across the back of the carrier the Recaro has a more secure install without the base
By using the shoulder strap across the back of the carrier the Recaro has a more secure install without the base


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.

When using the European belt path the shoulder strap wraps around the back of the carrier and tucks in or under a clip to hold it in place as seen here on the Recaro Performance Coupe
When using the European belt path the shoulder strap wraps around the back of the carrier and tucks in or under a clip to hold it in place as seen here on the Recaro Performance Coupe
The Recaro can be installed using only the lap portion of the belt if desired or necessary
The Recaro can be installed using only the lap portion of the belt if desired or necessary
The back has the belt tucking up under the carrier release handle and then under belt clip holders. This helps prevent the belt from sliding up the back of the seat and keeps it firmly in place. The belt isn't that easy to thread on this seat compared to some of the competition, and the vehicle belt is very close to reaching its length limit with this seat on several of our test vehicles. It can be installed with a lap belt only using the American belt path, and while this feels secure, we still prefer a shoulder belt be wrapped around the back side of the seat if possible in the middle of the back seat.

The buckle and chest clip on the Recaro are some of the easiest to use in this review
The buckle and chest clip on the Recaro are some of the easiest to use in this review

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.

The tightening strap and loosening button on the Recaro are very easy to operate
The tightening strap and loosening button on the Recaro are very easy to operate

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 on the Recaro can be easily adjusted from the back without rethreading or removing baby from the seat
The harness height on the Recaro can be easily adjusted from the back without rethreading or removing baby from the seat

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 larger buttons on the Recaro handle make it an easy one to adjsut
The larger buttons on the Recaro handle make it an easy one to adjsut

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 Recaro Performance Coupe tied for the highest ease of use score with the Evenflo Embrace LX  but unlike the Evenflo  it also scored relatively well for comfort and quality
The Recaro Performance Coupe tied for the highest ease of use score with the Evenflo Embrace LX, but unlike the Evenflo, it also scored relatively well for comfort and quality

Comfort/Quality


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 canopy on the Recaro had trouble staying completely open
The canopy on the Recaro had trouble staying completely open
The handle and canopy also earned higher than average marks in our tests. The canopy is larger than most of the competition, but does not come with a peek-a-boo window.

The Recaro weighs in a 10.35  almost a full pound over the average for the group
The Recaro weighs in a 10.35, almost a full pound over the average for the group

Weight


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.

Best Applications


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.

Value


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 tied for the highest ease of use score with the Evenflo Embrace LX  but unlike the Evenflo  it also scored relatively well for comfort and quality
The Recaro Performance Coupe tied for the highest ease of use score with the Evenflo Embrace LX, but unlike the Evenflo, it also scored relatively well for comfort and quality

Conclusion


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.

The Cozy Greens back seat mirror
The Cozy Greens back seat mirror
The 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.

Video


Juliet Spurrier, MD & Wendy Schmitz

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Most recent review: April 11, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

BabyGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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