The Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air 360 is an infant car seat with a budget-friendly price, but the overall average and lackluster performance in our tests hurt its ability to win an award or impress testers. This seat struggled compared to the Safety 1st option it replaced with below-average installation scores in two forms of installation and lower crash test results than the older model. While this option offers an average weight, ease of use, and comfort, it falls short in the metrics that really matter. When combined with the lack of compatible stroller options, of which there are very few, the 360 is not a favorite and we think there are better options available even if they cost a little bit more.
Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air 360 Review
Pros: Budget-friendly, tested SIP
Cons: Hard to install with belt, heavy, limited stroller use
Manufacturer: Safety 1st
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Safety 1st is a baby gear centric company that began with the "Baby on Board" sign we are now familiar with. The company has been around for over 30 years, creating everything from child safety products and car seats to strollers and humidifiers.
The 360 crash test results are lower than previous Safety 1st options we've tested. The new test result analysis indicates a slightly below the average overall score for the crash test metric.
This chart includes the actual test results of the Air 360 from the head sensor (HIC) in the crash test dummy's head. It compares the results to the Chicco Keyfit 30 (green line) that has the best HIC result in the review. The 360 HIC result is 398, where the max allowed by law is 1000 (lower numbers are better). These results are better than average for the group and suggest that the 360 offers additional head protection over the Federal safety standards.
This chart includes the 360's results for the chest sensor (in black) and the Cybex Aton 2 (green line), which has the best chest sensor results. The 360 chest sensor result is 53, where the max limit is 60 (lower numbers are better). Fifty-three is higher (worse) than the average chest sensor read-out for the seats in this review. It indicates only a basic level of protection compared to the competition. Please note, all of the car seats in the US provide a basic level of protection by meeting or exceeding Federal requirements.
Safety 1st claims that this seat's "Air Protect" side impact technology feature located in the head region of the carrier has been crash tested. This feature is a foam cushion inside a plastic cover that allows the air to escape upon impact so it can absorb a portion of the energy force generated during a collision. Unfortunately, we weren't able to obtain crash test data that shows what kind of protection this provides or its efficacy. We love safety features that help reduce the chances of injury or death, but without verifiable details and test results, it's challenging to determine precisely what protection this feature offers.
Ease of Install - LATCH
The Air 360 offers slightly below-average performance for the LATCH installation. It isn't challenging, but many competitors are easier. The LATCH concept is designed for simplicity, so it should be the easiest installation method for any seat.
This seat has the harder to use clip connectors, which is just as secure as the push-button style, but harder to detach from the anchor. Connecting the clips is relatively easy.
Once the LATCH anchors are connected, the straps are more challenging to tighten and loosen than competitors with unique tightening systems. The car seat should feel more stable using a method that is supposed to be easier to use, and it doesn't in our tests.
The 360 base has a foot on the bottom that adjusts the angle of e base and carrier (above left). Adjusting the foot angle is easy, but the level is on the carrier (above right), not the base like it is on most products. This design means the carrier must be in place to determine if the seat is at the right angle. While not the worst thing in the world, it is a design flaw in our opinion that makes the installation process more convoluted than it needs to be.
Ease of Install - Belt
Installation using the vehicle belt is the most challenging installation method for this seat, a shift from past Safety 1st seats we've tested. While installation feels more solid in the beginning than the LATCH anchors, the base can tip towards the buckle of the seat belt and becomes pretty loose and wiggly after it does. There is NO lock-off on this seat, which is a downgrade from the last Safety 1st, and a real bummer because it prevents the kind of loosening we experienced during installation. The belt path is not color-coded, but it isn't hard to follow either. A lock-off would have been a game-changer for this seat's installation.
Ease of Install - Without the Base
The Safety 1st's easiest installation method is without the base. For urbanites who may frequent taxis or other forms of public transportation, this installation method can be an important criterion.
The 360 carrier installation utilizes the American pathway across the lower portion of the carrier. The beth path is not color-coded like it is on some of the higher-end competition. The Safety 1st is easy to thread the belt with only minor intrusion from the padding, and it doesn't require a towel or pool noodle to obtain the right angle. The installation of the Safety 1st without the base feels secure.
Ease of Use
The Safety 1st isn't the easiest to use in this group.
The 360 buckle is somewhat stiff and not the easiest to operate, but it isn't the worst, and only requires one thumb. The chest clip is average with a stiff button and sides that sort of drag apart.
The 360 harness is average for tightening and loosening. The harness tightening strap is somewhat difficult to pull, but not the hardest in the group. The release button is under a few inches of padding, making it more difficult to find quickly.
The 360 uses a rethread style harness height adjustment. This style includes shoulder straps, height slots, and a T splitter for strap attachment at the back of the carrier. The strap loops are medium-sized and move easily through the height slots to reach the splitter. The seatback has four height slots for the shoulder straps and three positions for the crotch strap adjustment. The crotch strap is harder to change than the shoulder height as the belt struggles to go through the slot. Non-rethread harness height adjustments are much easier, and you can perform them on the fly.
The 360 handle has levers on both sides that you squeeze simultaneously to rotate. It has four possible positions, and all of them are allowable when driving. The handle does rub the canopy somewhat when in the closed position, but we didn't experience any rubbing or collision when the handle and canopy are both upright.
Carrier and Base Connection
The 360 carrier attaches to the base easily and typically doesn't need fussing or other adjustments. We were consistently able to install the carrier without attachment issues. The carrier detaches from the base by squeezing the handle on the back. The 360 handle/pull works well and is easy to pull.
LATCH Anchors and Manual Storage
The LATCH clips attach onto the base in a depressed tray space. As long as you contain the straps, it is unlikely they will cause a conflict when connecting the base. The manual under the carrier with four clips holding it in. While we like the manual stored on the carrier as opposed tot he base, it does look like it could fall out if all four clips aren't in the proper place.
The Safety 1st offers average comfort and quality, though it is on par for the price. The padding is better than average with plenty of cushion and soft fabric that feels like an upgrade from other Safety 1st options of yore. The shell isn't too convoluted, and the overall fit and finish are nice enough considering the lower price.
The Air 360 has a large canopy that works well and looks better than previous Safety 1st models.
The 360 weighs 9.44 lbs, which is relatively light compared to most of the competition. Seat weight can impact a buying decision if you need to carry it for longer distances or time. We suggest using the seat's weight to help you decide between two otherwise similar options.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD & Wendy Schmitz