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Irrational Parenting Scenario #223: I Drive A Corolla. My Daughter Sits In A Recaro.
Aug 31, 2006 (Updated Aug 31, 2006)
Review by joyfulgirl91
Rated a Very Helpful Review
User Rating: Excellent
Ease of Use:
Pros:simple seat installation, easy LATCH clips, comfortable, Recaro understands crashes
Cons:21 pounds, forward facing only, cushioning doesn't stay put, not aircraft approved
The Bottom Line: Recaro understands high-speed crashes and high-end comfort, and the seat is straightforward to install.
There is no zealot like a convert.
Recommend this product?
My husband has not been an enthusiastic participant in the research or use of child safety seats. He would never drive to the store with the baby on his lap, but as far as he is concerned, keeping his daughter safe in the car means checking his mirrors and driving the speed limit. The car seat is something The Man compels us to buy. This changed when he discovered Recaro makes car seats. Since I am not a fan of Formula One racing (or a consumer of high-end custom parts for my $12,000 car), I had never heard of Recaro. My husband explained that drivers in Formula One races sit in a bucket seat with a five-point harness and side-impact protection, very much like a child-safety seat, regularly crash their cars at 200 miles per hour, and walk away from the wreck to race again. One of the most prestigious makers of seats for these cars is Recaro. Suddenly, nothing was more important to him than a child safety seat. Couldn't I see that our daughter's precious life was involved? Did any other car seat manufacturers also make seats to protect racecar drivers? Why would I accept anything less than a Recaro?
Don't drink the Kool-Aid yet, Honey.
Well, for one thing, because the Recaro Young Sport is $250. I hoped to spend less than that. For another, no car seat would be safe if it didn't fit in our car, and our narrow back seat contraindicates many models. Also, my ideal plan is to keep our daughter in a five-point harness for as long as possible, but the Young Sport converts to a high-back booster after the child weighs forty pounds. I wanted something with a higher weight limit for the integrated harness.
The Right Start baby store in my area employs a child safety seat tech who will help you properly fit the seats in your car before you choose one, so I made an appointment and went shopping. After experimenting with a couple Britax models and a Safety First Apex, the tech and I concluded that the seats with the highest harness weight limits were not practical for my '97 Toyota Corolla. The shape and size of the Recaro Young Sport turned out to be a very good fit, particularly because of its narrow, ''17 seat base. Compared with the ''20 wide Apex and ''21 Marathon, the Recaro allowed enough breathing room for other passengers. Although I had reservations, I bought it because the installation was simple, and I hoped owning a brand my husband was enthusiastic about would encourage him to cooperate more fully in the seat's proper use.
Here is your racing seat. Now slow down!
The Recaro Young Sport is a forward-facing only car seat. When used in harness mode, the manufacturer says it is suitable for children who weigh between 18 and 40 pounds (remember the AAP recommends 20 pounds as the minimum, though), are between 27 and 40 inches high, and are over one year old. In booster mode, it is suitable for children between 30 and 80 pounds and 37 and 59 inches tall. The Young Sport is approved in accordance with the ECE R44/03 (the international safety seat regulations), the ISO/DIS 14646 (which car seats have to pass to claim they have Side Impact Protection), and, of course, the FMVSS213 (the standards all seats must pass in order to be sold in the United States). It is a heavy beast because of the steel frame, weighing in at 21 pounds.
Installing this seat with the vehicle belts was a little easier than my Graco Snugride, and at first it seemed at about the same level as my Britax Roundabout. Now I think it is even easier than that seat. The technique is simple, but having the tech to show me made a huge difference. Rather than threading the belt through a passage behind or under the seat, you simply lift up the trim cover against the seat's back and tighten the belt against the seat, just the way you would with a booster but without a child inside. I kneel in the seat to put pressure on it so that the belt can get tight enough, but it isn't as strenuous a battle of tug-o-war as it was with my Snug Ride base. I had the Toyota dealer install a top-tether anchorage, which they did for free, and using this with the seatbelt adds to the security. The manual does a great job of showing all the different installation possibilities, step by step with color photos, and once you've done it one time it requires zero thought. In less than a minute, I can install this car seat and it doesn't budge an inch backward, forward, or side to side.
My car doesn't have LATCH, but I often travel in cars that do. While I usually use my Roundabout for car hopping, I brought my Recaro with me for a while to try it in other vehicles. For the first time since owning any car seat, I am looking forward to buying a car with LATCH some day. The clips are very easy to fasten. There is no need to unclasp or squeeze them; just push them against the anchorage bars until you hear a click. I had to loosen these quite a bit to fasten them easily, and then pulling out the slack was a strenuous labor of bouncing on my knees in the car seat while yanking the straps. This isn't my idea of a good time, but when installed with LATCH, I was able to get an extremely secure fit in the middle seat of each of the cars in which I used it, and a passenger on either side was able to access their own seat belt buckles. This is often a problem with a vehicle belt installation, but this seat is the first one with a straightforward and secure enough LATCH installation to make it worth the trouble.
The only car that posed an installation problem is my mother's late 90's Audi A6. Between the shape of her seats and the lack of self-locking seatbelts, installing the Young Sport was too much trouble. This is fine, since we gave her a Roundabout to use.
Based on the manual, the seat looks like a drag to convert to a booster, but it's probably something you will only do once. The cover has to be removed and the harness dismantled in a few places before it is unthreaded from the seat. I probably won't have to deal with that for a long time, since Her Royal Highness is in the tenth percentile for height and weight, and her parents are not exactly people of stature. Since we haven't used it this way, I can't comment on how the Young Sport performs as a booster. That doesnt hold me back from having an opinion about it. The manual doesnt address this, but because the seat is so heavy, I don't think it should ever be used as a booster without the top tether. The reason why is I think you risk crushing the child's body between the seatbelt and 21 pounds of plastic and steel during a head-on collision if the booster isnt secured to the vehicle. Most dealers will add these anchors or provide a kit at no charge, and I implore you to use them when the seat is in booster mode.
I don't like puzzles - not Soduku, not Crosswords, and not Buckles.
And there was rejoicing! The Young Sport Harness can buckle in one side at a time! I despise puzzle buckles, and don't understand the point of them. Other than that, the five-point harness is very easy to use. My husband loves it because it looks just like a racecar driver's harness, with shoulder belt pads that say Recaro on them. The straps are not twisty at all, and the best part is the way they naturally seem to fall to the side and stay there when the child is not in the seat. Britax seats keep the straps out of the way with Velcro, but somehow the Recaro straps fall into the same position every time, with nothing holding them there. Adjusting it is similar to the other car seat harnesses I've used - press the A-Lock button at the bottom of the seat to loosen the straps, and pull the center strap to tighten them.
Not even a month after we bought the Young Sport, my daughter grew another inch and I had to adjust the harness. Unlike my other two car seats, the harness adjusts without rethreading the straps, but it is not as simple as some other models on the market. The manual explained that I must always adjust a "rear tube" after adjusting the head restraint height, and made it sound like a complicated affair. Once I did it, the process turned out to be straightforward, but the adjustment can't be done while the car seat is installed. You have to pull an adjustment knob at the back of the seat while moving the head restraint with the other hand. Lifting the head restraint also raises the shoulder straps, and there are five different positions. For the first three positions, the rear tube has to be moved into a corresponding position. Positions four and five are only for booster mode, which don't utilize the rear tube or harness. Again, this is more complicated than some models that adjust with the turn of a knob on the side of the seat, but it isn't as confusing as it sounds, and it's a lot quicker and easier than rethreading the harness. Since this is something I will only do three more times, it isnt something that makes or breaks a car seat for me.
Snug as a bug in an energy absorbing foam rug.
Nobody has proven that the side-impact wings, head restraint, or strategically placed energy-absorbing foam in the Young Sport make it any safer than a properly installed seat without these features; however, they do make the seat very comfortable. All car seats are built with safety in mind, since no company wants to pay for those expensive recalls if their product fails a test, but the Young Sport focuses on providing all the comfort possible along with safety. Her Royal Highness likes this seat much better than her Roundabout. I can tell by the way she helps me buckle her into the Young Sport, but bursts into tears when we open my mother's car door to reveal her other seat. I don't blame her, since this seat has a very soft, plushy cover, a seat cushion, and a cushion inlay on top of that.
Recently, we tested HRH's tolerance for the Young Sport with a road trip from San Diego to Yosemite. We allowed nine hours of travel time for the six hour drive, certain that no toddler would be able to handle the trip without frequent breaks. The drive was a breeze. I reclined the seat to "sleep" position, and she napped for three hours. We got out to eat lunch, took a little walk, and drove for three more hours while she chattered and sang in the back seat, watching the cars go by on the freeway. I assumed we got lucky, but she was just as content on the way back home. We could never keep her in the car more than two hours at a time in her Roundabout. Before the road trip, I was not one hundred percent happy with the Young Sport, but the experience turned a seat which was growing on me into one I would recommend to friends.
Not one hundred percent happy? What's the scoop?
For the first few weeks I owned the Young Sport, I had a bad case of buyer's remorse. The only model available was a dark color, and it got so hot during the July heat wave, a couple times I had to turn up the A/C and wait a few minutes before putting HRH in the seat. All that comfy, cozy cushioning is luxurious for the baby, but it isn't very well thought out from the parent's point of view. The black, plush fabric shows every mark and has to be brushed off constantly. The cover does not look any harder to remove than the average car seat, but the fabric care instructions are finicky. It is to be hand washed in cold water, line dried, and then smoothed over with a soft brush to keep it soft. While I got used to the seat, every time I took HRH out of the car, the removable cushion on her seat and the belly pad around the crotch strap would come out with her. Every time I put her back in, I had to rearrange everything. Before long, I lost the belly pad because it came off so easily. Underneath the removable cushion inlay, all sorts of crumbs and dirt collect in the seat. I don't know where this comes from, since I have never once let her eat in the car, and I am one of those obnoxious moms who take a change of clothes to the playground (sue me - I love clothes and hate to see them ruined). Somehow, kid-dirt migrates from her body to the seat, no matter how I impose tidiness upon her. I also felt disappointed that the seat isnt aircraft approved (I believe this is because no seats that convert to boosters can be certified for aircraft).
I got over it. Throwing a blanket over the seat keeps it from getting too hot. We've gotten the knack of getting in and out of the seat without repositioning the inlay cushion; I was also very happy to have the inlay a few days ago when HRH soaked through her diaper. Washing one cushion was much less trouble than removing the whole cover. I washed the cushion on the delicate cycle in my washing machine and let it air-dry, and it looks fine without being groomed like a poodle. I kept meaning to call Recaro's customer service about the belly pad, but we're living so contentedly without it I don't think I'll bother. As for taking it on a plane, why would I want to haul a 21-pound car seat through an airport or three? The Roundabout is a featherweight in comparison. For our 2-year-old daughter and our tiny car, I feel we made a very good choice.
Why not five stars?
I think this car seat is easy to use, comfortable for the child, and Recaro's background as a manufacturer of life-saving automotive products gives my husband and I a sense of security. I was especially thrilled to see my husband study the manual from cover to cover, and then lecture me about how important it was to keep HRH tightly harnessed. However, the ultimate test of a car seat is the one we hope it will never have to pass. A five-star car seat is one that protects my daughter from injury in an accident, and all the unscathed crash-test dummies in the world can't guarantee that. I hope that careful driving and good luck help my Recaro remain a cozy, four-star ride for my little girl until we don't need it anymore.
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Amount Paid (US$): 250.00
Age Range of Child: Other
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