Cosco Scenera Convertible Car Seat 22120

Cosco Scenera Convertible Car Seat 22120

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Cosco Scenera - For the Small Budget and the Small Kid

Sep 7, 2006 (Updated Jan 8, 2011)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:High rear facing weight limit, inexpensive, safe, narrow

Cons:Low harness height, not highly padded

The Bottom Line: A great choice for keeping your child rear facing as long as possible, but best for smaller children.


When my mom agreed to watch the kids I knew she would be needing car seats once everyone went back to school. Buying three new car seats at once meant keeping budget in mind. For my 17 month old son my mother purchased the Cosco Scenera.

The Basics
The Cosco Scenera is a convertible car seat with a 5-point harness that can be used rear facing for children 5-35 lbs and front facing for children 22-40 lbs. The seat is LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) equipped and features 4 harness height and 3 crotch strap positions. The seat has a 2 position recline, detachable cup holder and the cover is washable.

The Best Car Seat
The best car seat you can buy is the one that fits your car, fits your child, fits your budget and will be used correctly every single time. For us that meant selecting seats that would allow us to fit 3 seats across and that my parents could easily use.

Fitting the Car
We had no trouble fitting the Cosco Scenera into any of the 4 vehicles in might be used in. Even with the recline it was much too upright rear facing in our van and station wagon and definitely would need a pool noodle to achieve the correct 45 degree angle. While there is no fancy leveling device, there is a line on the seat that you want to make horizontal to get the seat at the proper angle. I got a nice tight fit using the seatbelt rear facing and LATCH forward facing in our van. I did find the LATCH clips a little difficult to use since you have to hold the clips open to get them to slip over the LATCH anchors buried in the seat.

The primary installation was in my parent’s Hyundai Sonata, middle position, forward facing. I struggled a bit using the seat belts to get a good fit, but with a little help I was able to get it buckled in tight with the automatic locking shoulder-lap belt. At 18” the seat is a reasonable width so it wasn’t too difficult to secure the belt while still leaving room for seats on either side.

Fitting the Child
The very best thing about the Cosco Scenera is that the seat can be used read facing up to 35 lbs. Although many parents look to turn their child forward facing as soon as they reach the bare minimum of 1 year and 20 lb study after study proves without a doubt that children (in fact all passengers) are safest when riding rear facing. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends leaving children rear facing to the limit of their convertible car seat, as do most car seat techs. With such a high rear facing limit it is quite possible for a child to remain rear facing to the age of 3 or longer. Because of our need to have three seats across with this seat in the middle it simply did not work rear facing while still allowing my father to drive the car.

Unfortunately this seat suffers from having a fairly low upper harness height of only 14 ½”. My mother purchased this seat at my suggestion with out having the children in tow. I was surprised when I went to adjust that seat to discover that at not even a year and half my son already needed the harness on the highest position. He is definitely a big boy at about 29 lbs and 32” but it seemed like most of the life was already gone out of the seat for him. I had my 3 year old try out the seat. At 37 lbs and 38” she is more average sized but her shoulders were almost even with top slot, meaning there wasn’t much room for growing as children tend to do. However width wise, even though the shell is narrow she had plenty of room in the seat.

Fitting the Budget
This is where the Cosco Scenera shines. At around $40 at your local red and/or blue discount store the Scenera is probably within the budget of most families. It is a safe but basic seat; there is nothing fancy here with a price tag to match. The cover is soft but not extremely padded. To adjust the recline the hinged bases folds under the seat or pops out so the seat must be removed from the car to adjust the recline. The cup holder is a good diameter and deep, but it simply clips onto the seat and pops off easily.

Using it Correctly
I found the seat easy to use. The harness does need to be rethreaded to change the height. The harness length is easy to adjust with a lever at the front of the seat. The straps can become uneven with more slack on side than the other. It is easily corrected by pulling on the tighter strap to even out any slack. It does take a few extra seconds to ensure the harness is properly tightened, if you aren’t going to check the harness tightness each and every time you use the seat, the Cosco Scenera probably isn’t for you and your child.

The buckle is easy to lock into place as is the chest clip. Most importantly my mother had no trouble locking any of the clips or getting them open. Despite playing with it for a while (with my permission) my 3 year old was unable to get any of the clips open, this can be good or bad depending on your perspective.

I let my father install the seat and by following the manual he had no trouble understanding the instructions, even though he had never installed a car seat before. Since I did not really give him time to read the manual cover to cover I did provide some general car seat installation information, but I am now confident he could reinstall this car seat safely if for some reason it needed to be removed from the car.

And the Verdict is…
I really wanted to like this seat. For short trips around town with my parents a super soft, plush seat isn’t necessary nor are any extra features. Practical is good enough. Unfortunately for my tall son, this seat wasn’t really practical. We used it for a couple of short trips but ended up returning the seat to the store. The Cosco Scenera was a great seat, but I have no doubt Bud-Bud (FKA The Little Guy) would outgrow the seat within a year. Since he is the last grandchild in a year the seat would be worthless to us. Better to spend a little more now to try and get a seat that he will get more use out of.

However, if you want you child to sit rear facing for as long as possible (35 lbs) this is the best seat you can buy. I actually did consider keeping this seat for myself for the higher rear facing limit, but ultimately decided to forgo those extra two rear facing pounds. Since rear facing the harness height needs to be below the child’s shoulders harness height will not be an issue. In fact it is quite possible for a tall skinny child to outgrow the seat forward facing before outgrowing it rear facing!

Final Thoughts
For small children this is a great inexpensive, safe car seat. With its high rear facing limit you could make a case for the Cosco Scenera as the “safest” seat on the market, although all seats pass the same standards. Even for children on the upper end of the growth curve the Cosco Scenera would make a great seat for grandparents or babysitters to keep without breaking most people’s budgets, although children may outgrow the seat sooner than you expect. Overall this is a good seat that just didn’t work for us.

My Other Car Seat Reviews
Britax Regent
Britax Marathon
Evenflo Triumph
Graco Turbo Booster Safe Seat
Graco Comfort Sport
Evenflo Comet Booster
Cosco Opus 35


Recommend this product? Yes


Amount Paid (US$): 40

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