Pros: Great value, lasts a long time, very safe and easy to use.
Cons: Can be difficult to install with the seatbelt in some vehicles.
We purchased a Cosco Alpha Omega Elite when my son was 4 months old, believing that it would be the last seat we would have to buy for him, as advertised. At that age, he fit nicely into it. However, at only 2.5 years old, 32 lbs, and 37 1/4" tall, his shoulders went over the top of the harness slots and we had to buy him a new seat. We chose to buy the Radian since it will keep him harnessed as long as possible.
Update July 2010: he is now 5 years old and still fits in this seat, however, we chose to move him up to a Graco Nautilus (harnessed) and pass this seat down to his baby brother who is now Extended Rear-Facing at just over 12 months old.
Weight and height limits:
In the States it can be used RF 5-33lbs (2008 models RF to 35 lbs) and FF 22-80lbs.
In Canada, the Radian80 is marketed as the "Radian Premier". Due to laws, it has different weight limits. It can be used RF 5-30lbs and FF 22-65lbs. (Newer ones have a higher RF limit of 40 lbs so check the box before you buy and as always, read your manual.)
To measure torso height, sit your child against the wall and measure from the floor to the top of their shoulders.
Harness slot heights are 9", 10.5", 12.5", 15.25", and 18". The bottom three are for RF only and the top two are for RF or FF.
When RF, the harness must be at or below the child’s shoulders. If your child’s torso height is shorter than 9" then you cannot use this car seat yet. You will have to get an infant carrier or a convertible that has lower bottom harness slots until your child grows bigger.
Most kids make it to 2 or 3 years old RF in the Radian before they must be turned FF. Your child can RF as long as they have at least 1" of hard shell (not cover) above their head and are below the weight limit to RF. Most kids are not ready to FF until at least 2 years old. To see a great website about why to keep children rear facing after a year, visit www.cpsafety.com/articles/stayrearfacing.aspx . At the bottom of the page are three videos showing crash test footage: one forward facing and two rear facing.
Most kids make it to 6 or 7 years old before they outgrow the Radian FF. When FF, the harness must be at or ABOVE the child’s shoulders. If your child’s torso height is longer than 18" you will need either a higher weight harnessing seat or a BPB (belt positioning booster), depending on the child’s weight, age, and maturity level. The seat is also outgrown FF when the tips of their ears pass the top of the hard shell or they pass the weight limit.
* Great for 3 across situations, only 17" at the widest point and 13.5" at the bottom.
* Allows top tethering RF which reduced risks associated with rebounding.
Make sure when finished installing it to test the installation by pushing with your non-dominant hand at the belt-path. You should have less than 1" of movement. Check out this article for more installation advice, and read the manual!
With LATCH anchorage system
It installs very easily into my Pontiac Aztek, both RF and FF. It is also easy to install in any other vehicle I have put it into using LATCH.
One feature of the LATCH anchorage system is the tether strap on the top of the car seat, for use in the forward facing position. In Canada, it is mandatory to use the top tether strap when FF. If your vehicle does not have top tether anchors, take it into your dealership and they will install one or more for you. Most dealerships will install them for free.
With vehicle’s seatbelts
The Radian has some installation issues when installing with the seatbelt in some vehicles. In vehicles that have long buckle stalks or buckle stalks that are forward of the bight (where the seatback meets the seat) the buckle might rest on the edge of the belt path, making it necessary to use a few installation tricks to get it in tight. It is more of an issue when installing it FF than RF. Here is a great website with lots of tips and tricks for getting the Radian in tight: www.car-seat.org/showthread.php?t=28939
It is best to try it out in your vehicle before buying, or making sure you can return it if it absolutely will not fit.
There are two FF recline settings and one RF recline setting. You must use the detachable base when RF. Read the manual for more details.
It is easy to adjust the length of the straps using the lever on the front of the seat. The weather where I live keeps changing, but it was easy to adjust whether he had a fleece jacket on or just a t-shirt.
There are three harness buckle slots and 5 harness slots. To change the harness height requires rethreading the harness. Consult your manual for detailed directions.
The top harness slots are 18" on both the Radian 65 and Radian 80 models. Most kids outgrow the seat by height before weight so unless you need the infant padding, princess cover pattern, or have a short and heavy child, you can just get the Radian65 (or just "Radian" in Canada) and save your money.
The Safestop is a load-limiting device. Use it when FF for a child under 40 lbs. You must remove it when RF, or when FF a child that weighs more than 40 lbs. Also remove it when using the seat for any child, no matter their weight, without the top tether - i.e. on an airplane.
There is EPS foam completely surrounding the child’s torso and head for safety and comfort. With the 80/Premier comes infant and toddler padding. I have not used this seat with an infant yet, but the toddler padding is great for keeping my son’s head from flopping forward or to the side when he falls asleep in the car.
Update: By the time the baby was outgrowing his infant seat, he no longer needed the head part of the infant padding. The other part helped a lot to keep him from slouching to the side in the seat. He is over a year old so I moved it up behind his head for when he falls asleep.
The Radian is great for travelling. It folds to only 7" thick and has shoulder straps (purchased separately for about $7 CAD each) so it can be carried over one shoulder or as a backpack. It also has on-board storage for all of the straps, which is wonderful.
Its only downside is that it weighs 22 lbs. It does not feel that heavy when folded and carried as a backpack though, because the weight is distributed well. It is reassuring to know that the reason it is so heavy is because of its steel frame which makes it far more durable.
It sits low which allows my toddler to climb into it easily on his own. It is also low enough to allow children to use the trays that fold down in airplanes.
* www.skjp.com has the manual available for viewing.
* 8 year expiration date (most other car seats have a 6 year expiration). Go here for a great article on the expiration dates of car seats.
There is a one year limited warranty. Be sure to register your car seat so that you can be informed in case of a recall.
Mine was purchased from www.dearbornbaby.com. It was $269.99 CAD. You can get it for $229.99 at www.juniorbaby.com. In the States it is $279.99 USD at http://www.target.com.
I would definitely recommend this seat. It might be wise to try it in your vehicle beforehand or make sure you can return it if it just will not fit. Its very high harness slots and back allow for RF to 2 or 3 years old and FF to 6 or 7 years old for most kids so it keeps them safe much longer than many other seats.
My other car seat reviews:
Evenflo Embrace infant bucket seat
Cosco Alpha Omega Elite "All-in-1" convertible seat
Graco Nautilus combination seat
Sunshine Kids Monterey booster seat