Britax: "B-Safe" Car Seat
Feb 7, 2013 (Updated Feb 7, 2013)
Review by theuerkorn
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Solid design, load capacity, belt system, easy to clean, latch design
Cons:Hot weather concern, lack of belt holders, angle adjustment of base
The Bottom Line:
A great seat with well designed latches etc., but not a stand-out either.
British safety gear maker Britax is increasingly established in the US with child seats and strollers in the mid-range market segment. It got my attention with the well designed Marathon 70 toddler seat and until recently I wasn't even aware they also offered strollers and travel systems. In fact, I didn't even know about their infant seats, but here we are ... looking at a brand new Britax B-Safe car seat.
Recommend this product?
Britax is in Europe is often shown by the double name Britax Römer, with the latter stemming from the German acquisition. (The German word "Römer" means Roman in English and refers to the helmet used by Roman soldiers -- also shown in the original Römer logo.) Don't get your hopes up though, the B-Safe is made in China (like most other products).
With increasing safety requirements and added features, long gone are the super lightweight (and cheap) car seats like the Graco '07 Snug Ride back in 2007 which cost only $90 and weighted below 8 lbs. See below for how the B-Safe stacks up against the Graco SnugRide then and now ...
Play by numbers:
- Infant weight: 4 - 30 lbs (5 - 22 lbs / 5 - 35 lbs)
- Infant height: up to 33" (29" / 32")
- Seat weight: 9.8 lbs (7.24 lbs / 9.7 lbs)
- Weight with base: 15.8 lbs (12.64 lbs / 16.7 lbs)
(.) ... Values for Graco '07 Snug Ride / Graco 35 Snug Ride ('12)
Design:[***--] It's black and very subdued. In fact, the black fabric not only heats up in summer but also shows any defects and dirt more easily than brighter colors. With limited choices, it came down to the red and the black model where the latter turned out to be 'peace keeper' at home. One might also call it the compromise. The pattern is carefully applied to the inside only. It's a bit like a men's suit: understated, classy and boring.
Baby Comfort:[***--] The dark fabric quickly raises concerns in hot weather and the breath-ability of the fabric does little to dispel those concerns. You could say that it's more suited for Northern climate rather than the South. Beyond this, the padding is well designed and materials appear durable to maintain the comfort for one or two hand-me-downs. Regarding the padding, there is mostly structural (shock absorbing) foam that's relatively dense. While the fabric has softer foam sewn in at very few places, it's both good for ensuring some form of ventilation and bad for --at least perceived-- seating comfort on long trip.
Ergonomics: [***--] Even if the majority of car seats in 2013 try very hard to stay just below the 10 lbs mark, the increase by more than 2 lbs compared to seats only 5 years ago is the dark side of added safety features (i.e. side impact). Given that the baby can reach up to 30 lbs, the additive weight of the car seat of almost 10 lbs makes it a hefty 40 lbs. Sounds like a lot? It is! The 2 lbs weight difference and additional 8 lbs of load capacity relative to the low weight champion from 5 years ago make this a hefty piece to lug around and in light of that, the 2 lbs of extra weight of the seat alone makes almost no difference. The handle is traditionally designed and requires a 90 degree twist of the wrist while holding the seat. The Z-shaped handle a few years ago was meant to resolve this issue but seems to have not found enough followers to keep this ergonomic handle design around -- at least not in the ones I found at the local store. All in all, the B-Safe does not feature any unusual or exceptional ergonomic features.
Handling: [****-] Getting the seat in and out of the car base is very easy with the (now common) latch in the back support which is well placed for the removal of the seat. Carrying the seat around, is a bit harder as the standard handle doesn't provide much relief for the additional weight. Unfortunately, the straight forward handle lock design has become a general standard solution which requires for both locks to be actuated simultaneously which isn't easy to do if you don't have both hands fully available. The 5-point belt system is lacking the Velcro pads to keep it out of the way when placing the baby in the seat as we're used to from the Marathon 70. However, the buckle allows individual clipping in of each belt to free you from the hassle of those designs requiring both sides at the same time. Despite the company's website description, the B-Safe did not sport "non-threading" height adjustment belts. Not the end of the world, but not top of the line either.
Installation:[****-] Pretty much all modern cars in the US have the so-called latch system installed and typically show little seat icons between the back rest and the seat cushion where the loops are located to snap in the latch. The latter is part of the car seat and in the case of the B-Safe a belt weaving through the "permanently" installed seat base and holding metal latches at each end. As typical for Britax, the latches are nicely design as push buckles rather than simple hooks which makes it very easy and quick to snap the base in and out of the seat. The base has an integrated incline adjustment with 5 pre-set angles to accommodate between different car designs. Although you typically don't have to adjust it more than once upon installation, it does require a lot of force to depress the lock enough in order to adjust the angle. (And I am a fairly 'big' guy!) This could potentially be a big deal IF you had to change cars often and don't want to invest in a second base. The car seat (without base) has a Britax proprietary latch system which easily snaps the seat in and out of the associate stroller B-AAgile. It's very easy to use ... once you know that the latches are actuated separately and not like other designs with the same release mechanicsm as the base.
Maintenance: [****-] The seat of course has removable padding and is machine washable. The metal and plastic parts may be cleaned with mild soap and water and wiped dry with a cloth or towel. To clean the buckle, use a damp cloth or sponge. The harness straps may be spot cleaned. Never use bleach to clean this product. ... easy enough, albeit also fairly average.
Cost: [****-] Long gone are the days of car seats being available for under $100. The $140 of the B-Safe appear expense at first sight, but using the reference to the SnugRide it's actually right in line with latest revision of the reference design. In fact, the B-Safe is currently on sale at Babies-R-Us for $135 and if you trade in an old seat you get 15% off. Not too bad after all.
© 2013, theuerkorn
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