- User Rating: OK
Ease of Use:
Pros:least expensive Britax seat, easy to install with vehicle belts, compatible with small cars
Cons:low harness height and weight limits, puzzle buckle, difficult LATCH clips, nothing special
The Bottom Line: The Roundabout is a fine car seat, but not more special than seats that are significantly less expensive. It feels like a waste of 140 dollars.
Free .99? How can I complain?
If it were at all workable, I would never put my daughter in the car with me. Our feet/stroller would be our only carriage. This is not because I am a fanatical back-to-nature environmentalist; it is because I am terrified of driving. However, unless I relocate from Southern California to a region where driving is not a daily necessity - like the Amish country - it appears that HRH needs the best car seat money can buy. After nearly two years of experience, I know the Britax Roundabout is not that car seat, despite the high price.
My unborn baby was gifted with a Britax Roundabout through her father's work. I felt fortunate to have acquired a car seat from such a prestigious company, and was confident Britax's much-touted claims to superior quality would keep my precious cargo safe.
But claims aren't what keep children safe; constant, proper use of safety seats is. Proper use means a rock-solid installation and a tightly harnessed passenger. No matter what advances in safety seat technology are listed in the brochure, nothing is safe if it doesn't fit your car or your child. This means that although there is nothing wrong with the Roundabout, my little girl was only safe in it some of the time.
The ingredients list/spec sheet/words on the box:
The Britax Roundabout is a convertible car seat that will seat infants from 5-33 pounds rear-facing, and children one year or older forward facing from 20 to 40 pounds. It features Britax's sculpted base, tangle-free straps, Versa-tether system, a recline-adjustment handle, and built-in vehicle belt lock-off clips. Of the six available fabric options, we had a denim cover. The five-point harness has three shoulder-height positions, and has to be rethreaded to adjust. The harness tightens by pulling a strap and loosens by pressing a button, and the buckle is the puzzle type that must be fitted together before clicking in. EPS foam lines the head and torso area, serving to absorb impacts and keep the child more comfortable.
I found the Roundabout easy to use with vehicle belts and compatible with my small car, but other than that, I am not sure you get much more than bragging rights for buying Britax's lowest end product. Does it have Britax's HUGS system? No. You need to spend fifty dollars more for the Marathon for that. Is the seat well-padded, the cover plush, and the crotch strap adjustable for the comfort of your child? No. Those features require an upgrade to the Decathalon. Does it employ the most convenient and safest technology for raising the shoulder strap height, or side-impact protection? No. Only the Boulevard adjusts with the turn of a knob and surrounds your toddler's head with protruding EPS foam shields. Will it keep your child harnessed until she is ready for a belt-positioning booster? Not likely. If you want your child harnessed as long as possible, only the enormous and costly Regeant will do.
It wasn't my money...
In the beginning, I loved my Roundabout. My petite one-year-old seemed to have plenty of room to grow, and rear-facing installation was possible in the back seat of my Toyota Corolla (albeit not without the front-passenger seat occupant's knees pressed against the dashboard). When we only owned one car seat, transferring the Roundabout from one car to another was relatively simple because of it's light weight and unfussy installation method, especially after we turned her forward facing. Because of Britax's built-in lock off clips for vehicle belts, getting a tight fit seemed easy in almost any car. The sculpted base made it a good fit for every back seat I tried. The passage at the back of the seat for vehicle belt installation is easy to use without scraping your knuckles or contorting your body in unnatural ways. I didn't care for the Versa-tether system at all because figuring out where to connect it was too confusing. I didn't think it should be up to me to choose a random spot in the car to tether my car seat to. I found the LATCH clips prohibitively difficult to use because they were so hard to unclasp. The denim cover was easy to launder and only looked better with wear and tear, just like a pair of jeans. One thing Britax does very well are the tangle-free straps. The straps never twisted, and by never I mean I never experienced a twisted strap until I owned a different brand of seat. I'm not sure that is worth paying 200 dollars for, but the straps are certainly well done. As for the comfort, HRH didn't know that other seats offered more of a cush ride, and as such, did not care that the Roundabout is practically unpadded under her bottom. It was also easy for me to like the seat since I wasn't the one who paid for it.
Would you stop growing, please?
As I learned more about car seats, the Roundabout satisfied me less. When I decided to buy a second car seat so I could keep one installed all the time and not move it from car to car, I looked for very different things. I wanted Side Impact Protection, easier LATCH clips, an easier harness to buckle and adjust, and above all else, higher height and weight limits. The Roundabout is all over after the child reaches 40 pounds or 40 inches. A few growth charts I consulted, as well as a few four year olds I know, indicate most children will outgrow the seat by height before weight. That means that even if you are not concerned about keeping a child harnessed as long as possible, you might not be crazy about buying a bigger car seat for your tall and slim three and a half year old who is nowhere near ready for a belt-positioning booster. Another thing to consider is that no matter what your child's total height in inches, the car seat is outgrown if her shoulders are above the highest harness slot. Long-torsoed moms, take notice - have you handed your endomorphic genetics down to the next, relatively short-limbed generation? The worst case scenario for a Roundabout owner is a small-boned child (because she will take forever to get to forty pounds) with more of her length in her trunk than her limbs, and that is exactly my scenario. Isn't it starting to sound more and more as if the Roundabout will not last as long as it is needed?
Other factors contributed to our discontent. As soon as we purchased our Recaro Young Sport, a seat built with plenty of attention to the child's comfort, my daughter found the Britax's lack of padding completely torturous. The Recaro also showed me the light in regard to harness buckles that can click in one side at a time (as opposed to fumbling with a puzzle buckle and clicking both together at once) and nearly effortless LATCH clips. As my daughter grew taller, rethreading the Roundabout's harness straps to keep them at the proper position above her shoulders was such a bother, she sometimes sat for weeks with the harness at the wrong height. While the built-in lock offs for the vehicle belt made it seem easy to get a perfect installation every time, it soon occurred to me that I was entrusting my daughter's life to a rather flimsy plastic clamp. I felt so discontented with the Roundabout, I bought other seats for her father and grandmother's car and retired it from its auto-safety career completely. After removing the straps, it makes a nice toddler chair for watching movies and reading books.
Britax isn't the only game in town, you know - especially with weight limits like this.
The Roundabout is a fine car seat as long as it fits your child. For ease of installation in small cars, particularly with the vehicle belt, I give it five stars. Unfortunately, there is more to a car seat than simply pulling every strap tight and buckling all the buckles. Since I've bought three car seats during the last year, everything I've learned about what is on the market convinces me that two bills for the lowest end Britax is an unwise investment. Spending only fifty dollars more for a Marathon gets a seat that keeps your child harnessed to 65 pounds instead of only 40. So many other seats take advantage of the latest technology and have higher height and weigh limits for less money. I chose a Safety First Apex for my mother to use, and would recommend that seat to anyone with a compatible car. If you can't possibly settle for a brand other than Britax, the money you don't spend right away on a Boulevard or Regeant is probably money you will only end up paying later. I would never choose a Roundabout in the future, and I urge anyone else in the market to consider something that will last longer, cost less money, or both.
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Amount Paid (US$): 200.00
Age Range of Child: 12 to 36 Months