Until my husband and I had our own baby I always thought that parents were overprotective. Well, I still think some are. But when it comes to motor vehicle safety, I think you can never overdo it. Even if you are a very safe driver, there are a lot of crazy people out there! The statistics always seem to be against you when it comes to car crashes. While all children's car seats pass standard safety tests and they do the job - there are some that go above and beyond what is considered safe. Britax is one company that imagines the unimaginable so that you don't have to. Some people look to buy cars with exceptional safety ratings, shouldn't car seats be the same?
When our daughter was born we drove her home in a Britax Companion. It just looked right to me. She was cradled on all sides, snuggled up comfortably. It wasn't just labeled safe, one look and I knew it was. Of course every car seat is as safe as it is properly installed. Then I discovered just how fast babies grow and I started looking for a convertible car seat because she was getting too big for the infant one (not to mention it was way too heavy to pick up). Thanks to Britax we were able to test drive their latest model, the Advocate CS. We had an incredible experience and I truly wish all parents could have the same, that is how it would be in my perfect world! I hope my review is informative and helps you make a conscious decision for money well spent.
COMPANY: Britax has been in the business of child safety for over 35 years. As one of the best selling car seats in Europe, Britax has also won the heart of American parents since it was introduced to this market in 1996. No other car seats undergo such rigorous testing as does Britax in their five worldwide testing facilities. So as you can imagine, these folks know what they are doing. In addition to car seats they also make a full-size stroller, a lightweight stroller, and special needs car seats and equipment.
SAFETY: Just like with the Companion (now replaced by Chaperone), when I was browsing through car seats at a store the Advocate CS stood apart. It just doesn't look flimsy like many other car seats. For comparison, I see the Britax Advocate CS as an Audi Q7 in the world of cars. It has superior crash test ratings.
Among the safety features of the Advocate CS is True Side Impact Protection as well as the Side Impact Cushion Technology. It isn't some lofty terminology, that is something you can plainly see if you do a side by side visual comparison of the Advocate and some other generic car seat. Many car seats pass safety tests but do not take into account that side impact crashes are very common and often result in injury or fatalities among children. Easy installation is an indirect factor that makes a car seat safe. Also, a rear facing car seat is always safest for children, the longer they can stay rear facing the better. A baby can stay rear facing up to 35 pounds in the Britax Advocate CS.
QUALITY: This is a solid car seat that would last a lot longer if car seats didn't have the six year limit on use. Not only are all the parts and 'hardware' solid, even the plush cover is very high quality and will withstand years of use and washing.
As for the sustainability of materials, I hope that Britax will lead the way for this in the future the way they are leading the way in safety today. Among car seats they would be the first because I don't know of any car seat manufacturers that disclose the source and content of all materials. I don't mean just 'made of plastic and polyester'. We are talking about a break down of everything contained in the materials. Does the plastic contain phtalates? Does it off gas anything? An increasing number of parents want to be sure that not just the children's food and toys are safe, but baby gear as well. Paranoid? Maybe. But for too long this has been ignored and I think it is in the best interest of everyone involved to have baby gear made out of non-toxic materials. I can attest to the fact that when the car seat arrived and I opened it, the only thing that smelled toxic was the large plastic bag, the car seat itself had no smell. I was a little surprised about that because when my new Kolcraft Contours stroller arrived, the stench was horrendous :) So kudos to Britax for using non-stinky materials.
EASE OF USE: Thankfully I never had my share of howintheworldamIsupposedtoinstallthisthing car seats. We never had an issue with the Companion and likewise the Advocate CS delivers. I will emphasize, no matter what car seat you have, installation is everything! It has to be done right, it really is a matter of life and death. When the car seat manufacturer makes an easy-to-install seat they have already done half the work for you. We read the directions and installed ours in less than five minutes with the LATCH system. It really was a breeze. The base is compact and fits nicely into the 'bucket' of the seat. The recline is adjusted easily. It is no wonder the Britax Advocate CS is the winner of the iParenting Media award, parents worldwide can attest to how easy it is to use this car seat. I was also wuite surprised it fit so well in our Honda Accord, which doesn't have a huge interior. I can't tell you if three in a row would fit, they might not because of the Side Impact Cushion.
In addition to easy installation it features easy operation as well. The head restraint is adjustable with the twist of a knob. No annoying re-threading to adjust harness height, thanks Britax for realizing that babies grow fast and it is hard for parents to find the time to re-thread the harness. The harness straps also have a place to get them out of the way when you are putting the baby in. The cover is easily removable and washable. I really like the Click & Safe feature, along with the harness it makes for an easy in-and-out.
COMFORT: Lets not forget that the comfort of the child is very important too. The Advocate CS gets an unbeatable thumbs up on this! For me, car seat comfort is defined by two things: head support and seat contour. You probably noticed in the videos that the head support is exceptional. When our baby falls asleep in the car seat her head gently lays on one of the head 'wings' and doesn't slump on her shoulder. The height of this headrest is adjustable as well so it will grow with your child. The plush contoured seat looks so comfortable I wouldn't mind riding in it! I really like the infant body pillow, not only does it make the seat comfy for smaller babies, it works great holding the harness straps back as you put the child in so that they don't get in the way. It is not wonder munchkin falls asleep in this seat so fast, I would too. I also really appreciate the pads on the shoulders that prevent harness marks on the neck. I am convinced the HUGS chest pads make the chest buckle a lot more comfortable, especially on impact (which hopefully we will never get to experience).
The only issue we have is with the belly pad and strap being a little too far back in the seat. As far as I understand there is a reason why it is where it is, for a newborn it would have to be in that spot. For an older child it just means you will have to fish for it under the baby's bottom once you seat the baby in. I always have to look for it under her; it would help if this was somehow adjustable from newborn to toddler. If you look at the second photo in the gallery though you will see that it is meant not to be directly on the belly, but a little lower to protect the child on impact.
STYLE: Britax doesn't skimp on style either. The Advocate CS comes in four attractive color combinations. We have the Opus Gray, it goes very nicely with a black fabric or leather interior of the car. There is also a girly Kathryn, a fun Opus Tan, and a classic Onyx print. The only thing that I don't like about the looks is the color of the plastic parts and Side Impact Cushions. I wish it wasn't white/light gray, but a dark gray or black instead.
VALUE: If you really wanted to, you could get by with one car seat from birth to 65 pounds with the Advocate CS. That would really give you the most bang for your buck. But of course with an infant it really helps to be able to carry the sleeping baby in and out of the car without disturbing him or her. So in our experience a convertible car seat is only good after 7 months, when the baby has complete head control, sits on his own, and weighs more than you want to carry with an infant car seat. What makes the Advocate CS a great value is ultimately the weight and height range. There are very few car seats on the market with a range of 5 to 65 pounds. It was also important for me to have our daughter rear facing as long as possible, Britax makes it work for us since the rear facing weight limit is 35 pounds. She is 17.5 pounds at nine months so I am glad she can stay rear-facing well past one year old.
The MSRP on the Advocate CS is $369.99. But onine you can actually get it for under $300 with free shipping. For more information please visit the Britax USA website (see wiki on the right).
We've used this car seat for about 9 months now and have only great things to say about it! It is so comfortable for the baby, she loves being in it and sleeping in it without her head slouching. Just today I had to bring it in the house to clean it, she covered it in banana EVERYWHERE. It was so easy to clean! Just a strong wet paper towel did the trick and it looks like new. Love this fabric!
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