UPPAbaby Mesa Review
Pros: Easy install, nice harness adjustment, naturally flame resistant fabric
Cons: Higher price, heavy carrier
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Our Analysis and Test Results
UPPAbaby is an American company with more than a decade of combined experience in juvenile products. UPPAbaby is inspired by everyday family life to create gear that is easy to use, safe, light, and fun. UPPAbaby's goal is to make improvements without losing convenience, usability, or style. The company offers an infant car seat and a variety of strollers, including full-size, lightweight, and double options.
We analyzed crash test data from two sources: our own crash tests which we commissioned at the same national testing facility used by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and data from tests conducted by NHTSA at the same facility.
The tests are designed to measure the G forces of impact on the chest and head region of the crash dummy. We wanted to learn the relative differences between car seats and identify those products that go beyond the Federal guidelines to offer an added margin of protection.
The chart shows the head force sensor data of the Mesa (in black), and the seat with the best head force (HIC) results, the Chicco Keyfit 30 (green). The UPPAbaby performed well in the head impact scores, with results that were better than average, and well below the Federal safety requirements.
The UPPAbaby earned what we consider to be a basic score for chest crash test results. The results are in the chart above with the Mesa (black) compared to the Cybex Aton 2 (green), which has the best results from the chest force (g) sensors. Earning a basic score indicates it exceeds the Federal guidelines, but does not appear to offer an additional margin of safety.
UPPAbaby makes the claim of side impact protection (SIP) and padding in the head area of the seat. They claim that this SIP feature has been tested, but we were unable to obtain disclosure of actual crash test results from UPPAbaby that would quantify what level of additional protection, if any, their SIP provides. In answer to our request for crash test information, UPPAbaby's representative told us, "we don't provide this information you will find that no other manufacturer will do the same." In fact, we did find other manufacturers were more forthcoming and transparent with their test findings than UPPAbaby, and we let the company know their assertion in this regard was incorrect. Given that we don't have any crash test data for their claimed SIP feature, we cannot remark on whether or not it improves the safety of the seat. We also can't confirm what they mean when they say SIP, as most manufacturers use a different definition of this phrase, and there is no industry standard definition for this claim. However, we do like extra effort for safety and feel that UPPAbaby is at least attempting to build a better seat.
Ease of Install - LATCH
Installing the UPPAbaby using LATCH is a breeze. Some seats offered a unique LATCH feature that makes installation relatively foolproof, including the Mesa.
The Mesa has self-ratcheting LATCH connectors that tuck into the base when not in use. They release with a touch of a button and pull out one at a time or simultaneously.
We found one at a time is easier for attaching to the anchors on the vehicle. The connectors are the type we prefer that have a hard shell buckle with push-button release. There is an audible click when the anchors connect.
Once the base is attached, adding pressure causes the straps to ratchet and tighten on their own. There is a visual indicator that turns green when the seat is tight and secure. We caution that the indicator is a little finicky and would occasionally register green, but move to red after a bumpy ride, so consider it helpful, but not definitive.
The base has an adjustable foot and level indicator to assist in obtaining a level installation. The indicator has a window with green for good and red for bad, which adds to the ease of install and makes it harder to get wrong.
Ease of Install - Belt
The Mesa has a belt lock-off that is easy to use and a color-coded American belt path. Overall the seat is relatively easy to install with this method.
Threading the vehicle belt only takes a moment, but it is harder if the shoulder strap is involved because it requires two layers in the lock-off. We did have a problem with the "button" on the vehicle belt getting in the way of the lock-off so it wouldn't or couldn't close, and we had to cinch down tight on the belt to get the indicator light to turn green.
Ease of Install - Without the Base
Installing the Mesa without the base is very straightforward, making it a good choice for parents that frequent public transportation. This test is crucial if you expect to take your infant in taxi cabs or services like Uber, where you will need to be able to quickly and safely secure the seat without the base.
The photos above show the American belt path of the current Mesa (above left) vs. the European belt path of the 2014 Mesa (above right). We think the European method feels more secure and are sorry they eliminated this feature on the newer seats.
The new Mesa uses the American belt path, which has the advantage of being easier to accomplish, a key feature for a new parent in a rush to secure the baby in the back of a taxi. The color-coded pathway helps parents remember where to thread the belt and how it should be connected. The vehicle belt extends across the lower portion of the carrier and threads in the clips located on the side. The Mesa feels stable when properly installed, something not true of all of the competition.
Ease of Use
The Mesa earned one of the highest scores for ease of use.
The buckle on the Mesa is stiff, but not hard to operate like some competitors, and it probably needs to be this stiff to meet safety guidelines. The chest clip is one of the easiest to connect and disconnect. The button is easy to depress, and the sides slide apart without sticking. The sides mate up easily and slide together smoothly with little force.
Loosening and tightening the harness are both about average. It is somewhat easier to loosen, but both are manageable. The tightening strap and the release button at the foot of the carrier with the button on top of the padding, making it easy to access.
The Mesa harness shoulder height is easy to adjust without the need to rethread straps. The release strap is at the head of the seat, and the height assembly moves smoothly up or down. The assembly has five height positions and is adjusted from the front with the baby in the carrier. The buckle has two positions to help ensure the best fit for babies of any size.
The sides of the seat have stow pockets for the latch plates of the buckle. You can pull the plates off to the side and tuck them in to hold the harness open, so you can place baby in the seat without moving baby to get to the straps. While a thoughtful addition, we aren't sure parents will bother using it. It feels like a time-waster, not a real benefit.
The handle is comfortable and works as it should. It rubs a little on the canopy when both are up, but it isn't as bad as some of the competition. The handle moves by depressing levers on both sides and pivoting to the desired position. It has three positions, and all are acceptable for driving.
Carrier and Base Attachment
The Mesa carrier is easy to attach to the base and falls into place without jostling it around to find just the right footing. It offers no visual indicator to tell you if it's on correctly, but we tested it multiple times and never had a problem attaching it properly. There is a release handle located on the back of the carrier that disengages the carrier/base connection and allows you to lift the carrier up and off the base.
LATCH Anchor and Manual Storage
The Mesa earned the top score for LATCH storage with retractable anchors that tuck into pockets and release with the press of a button. There is no way the anchors can obstruct attaching the carrier onto the base. The user manual slides into a pocket under the base.
The Mesa offers comfort and quality on par with other impressive UPPAbaby products. The Mesa is a quality car seat made with nice materials. Not only does everything on this seat feel durable and solid, but it is brought together in a sleek fit and finish. With all of the options side-by-side, the Mesa is a lovely stand out. The seat offers thicker padding and nicer fabric than previous models that had abrasive materials in the seating area. The wool fabric feels durable and doesn't contain fire retardants as it is naturally fire-resistant. This design makes it a potential choice for parents concerned about added chemicals near the baby's skin.
The canopy is medium-sized with a hard storage flap that keeps it out of the way when not in use. We like the slick look of the seat without the canopy and think it is a nice touch for keeping unused accessories out of the way.
This seat is fairly heavy with a carrier weight of 10.36 lbs, which is heavier than the average, and we wish it were closer to 9. While we believe weight should never be a number one deciding factor, we do think it should hold some "weight" (pun intended) in decision making. We hope UPPAbaby will work on trimming down the weight of this seat in the future, so it is easier to carry. Even one more pound could make it more of a contender.
Choosing the Mesa makes choosing a stroller almost a no-brainer. In our review of the best full-size strollers, both UPPAbaby choices won awards and proved to be user-friendly options that work best with the Mesa. The UPPAbaby Cruz v2, and the UPPAbaby Vista v2 with a frame that can work with two car seats, or multiple combinations of the toddler seat, car seats, and a third child ride on. The Cruz also won an Editors' Choice award in our stroller and car seat combination review. The UPPAbaby Minu is also a potential option that is lightweight, good for travel, and won an award in our Umbrella Stroller Review.
UPPAbaby's official video on their SmartSecure base attachment system:
— Juliet Spurrier, MD & Wendy Schmitz