Pros: Installation with rigid LATCH is a *snap*. Many safety features, comfortable and easy to use.
Cons: Does not install rear-facing. Expensive.
The new Britax Expressway ISOFIX is the replacement for the original Expressway (ISOFIT). It is also very similar to the DUO ISOFIX from Britax-Romer that has been on shelves for some time in Germany. The new Expressway model is somewhat similar to the original one. Most importantly, it adds the extremely convenient rigid LATCH system for fast, solid installations. There also appear to be some other minor differences such as the harness and minor changes to the shell. This is the only current carseat with rigid LATCH for kids above 22 pounds. In the case of the Expressway ISOFIX, the ratings are from 20 to 40 pounds and kids from 27 to 40 inches.
Features and Advantages
Rigid LATCH System- Perhaps the biggest advantage to the Expressway ISOFIX are the rigid LATCH attachments. Rather than flexible LATCH straps found on most other new carseats, these are patented solid metal attachments that are integrated right into the base. You simply pull a handle under the back of the carseat to extend the attachments, plug them on to the lower anchors in your vehicle seat, then push in the Expressway ISOFIX. It "ratchets" as you push it and locks tightly into place in well under a minute! In theory, the rigid LATCH system might also be slightly safer than flexible LATCH attachments as it may allow for less forward motion in a frontal crash and less lateral motion in a side impact. It should also be compatible with more vehicles, and install correctly with much less effort. Removal is also much easier than most flexible LATCH attachments. Squeeze the easy to access release buttons together and the seat detaches from the vehicle. A cover for the rigid attachments is included for storage.
5-point harness- This is the type child passenger safety advocates recommend for safety. Britax includes an easy-to-use two piece chest clip, and separate tongues for each side of the buckle. Unlike some other Britax models, this one does not include the "puzzle buckle" or the "HUGS" system, which were both cumbersome to some parents. The straps do appear to be the no-twist type found in other Britax models. There are three harness slots to accommodate kids of varying height. You choose the one at the same level as the top of the child's shoulders, or just above them. Changing slots is not difficult, and is similar to many other carseats though the seat must be removed to make the change. Convenient velcro tabs are included to keep the straps out of the way when putting your child into the seat.
Impact Foam- Like many Britax models and a couple others, the Expressway ISOFIX includes special impact foam around the head and upper body. This should absorb impacts a bit better than a hard plastic shell. This is the same type of EPS foam found in bicycle helmets.
Easy Harness Adjustments- The Expressway has a one-pull front harness adjustment. This makes it relatively easy to make the harness tighter or looser. The locking mechanism for the front adjuster is similar to many other carseats, but a bit different from the push button found on the Roundabout.
Versa-Tether- Britax includes a version of their Versa-Tether. Britax specifies that the top-tether is highly recommended and may improve the installation. The top tether can significantly reduce head excursion and the likelihood of injury in a crash.
Built-In Lock offs- Like other Britax models, the Expressway ISOFIX never needs clumsy locking clips for installation. In vehicles with or without a seatbelt system that can lock a carseat in place, you simply slide the shoulder belt though the built-in lockoffs and cinch them. Very handy.
Padding and Comfort- The Expressway ISOFIX is nicely padded all around and seems very comfortable. A belly pad is included to keep the buckle off the child, in case it is hot from being in the sun. The "Stormy" fabric on mine was very soft to the touch.
Recline Handle- A handle is included under the front of the carseat for easy adjustments to the recline. Upright is generally recommended for safety, but this seat also passes crash tests in the reclined position. Many other carseats do not offer reclined positions while forward-facing. If you are using a LATCH installation, you can even adjust the recline while the seat is installed!
Aircraft Certified- This seat has the FAA certification to be used on aircraft. Airplanes will not have lower anchors for the LATCH system, however, so it will be installed normally with the seatbelt just as if it was being installed in a car without LATCH.
The Expressway ISOFIX is a worthy successor to the original Expressway and also the earlier Freeway and Freeway Plus. It can be installed with LATCH, a lap belt or a lap shoulder belt. It installed extremely easily in our 2001 Honda Odyssey using LATCH. It was literally click and go within seconds. It installed well in our Odyssey with the seatbelts and also in our 2000 Subaru Outback wagon with seatbelts. It fit solidly in all cases, and didn't budge at all using rigid LATCH. The owner's manual is small, clear and has good diagrams.
It should be noted that rigid LATCH may not work at all in a few vehicles with poorly located lower anchors and/or highly sculpted seats. You should try the Expressway ISOFIX in your vehicle first if possible. In the majority of vehicles where it does fit, it will install very easily.
Limited Weight Range- The Expressway ISOFIX is a toddler seat that installs ONLY front-facing. Safety experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend that you keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. Many convertible seats can be used rear facing to 30 or 35 pounds. The Expressway ISOFIX can be used from 20-40 pounds. So while the Expressway can be used for kids over 1 year and over 20 pounds, parents wanting maximum safety might also consider a rear-facing carseat (like the Britax Marathon) for kids at the lower end of this weight range.
Price- About $200, this carseat is relatively expensive. Even so, it's the only rigid LATCH on the market except for the Baby Trend LATCH-LOC infant carrier. The rigid LATCH feature absolutely is worth the cost of admission if your child is at an appropriate weight and you are moving to a front-facing carseat.
Weight- Because of the rigid LATCH system, there is metal in the base. This seat is heavier than average. This should not be an issue unless you intend to routinely lug it around for taxi or airplane use.
Rigid LATCH is the easiest installation system on the market. I've used three models with this feature. All of them offer solid installations in just seconds for most cars, and should be much more compatible with most vehicles. This is a great option for those who have the LATCH system in their vehicle(s), and frequently move the carseats around. It's also great for those who just want the ease of installation and comfort of knowing it's installed solidly and correctly without all the hassle. I have a lot of experience with a wide number of carseats and vehicles. Even with the minor disadvantages listed above, the Expressway ISOFIX is my favorite carseat so far. Other companies should follow Britax and include rigid LATCH on their carseats.
Details on the Britax Expressway ISOFIX can be found here:
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