Pros: High slots to fit tall, slim kids
Cons: Universal convertible booster problem of the shoulder strap retraction system being inadequate
**I've moved this review to the correct Next Step model (was in "SE") and have made slight changes/additions as we've been using this seat for a couple of weeks now.**
After searching and searching for a car seat with a 5 point harness that would still fit my daughter, this seat seems to have most of what I am looking for. My daughter is just over 3 years old, 36lbs., and 39.5 inches. Our 10 month old desperately needs out of her infant seat and into our 3 year old's seat, so we're in the market for a more accommodating 5 point seat. The trouble we've found is that most seats do not have high enough slots for the harness to go in so that they are at or above her shoulders. The Century Next Step MX takes care of that with room to grow!!
Canada requires children to be 40 pounds before being put into a booster so we were stuck as our daughter was tall enough in the torso for a booster, however, she was not heavy enough.
Most convertible seats, whether they be infant/toddler or toddler/youth, are rated to 40 pounds with the 5 point harness yet tall children out grow these seats before reaching the 40 pound mark. The Century Next Step MX has the top slots a full 2 inches higher than most others that I looked at. This seat is rated to 48 pounds in Canada, again being unique as most are only to 40 pounds.
This car seat boasts having an upright as well as a reclined position. I find this misleading as it entirely depends on the shape of your vehicle seat. Our Toyota 4Runner must have this car seat in the upright position so that the back of the car seat fits flush with the vehicle seat. The vehicle seat's position is such that it is reclined enough to keep my daughter's head from falling forward when asleep.
Ease of use:
Basically summed up...no trouble. Our current seat is also a Century (Smart Move I believe) and this has the same basic set up. Tightening the harness is simple as long as you don't fully loosen the harness when you take the child out. If you do, the tab that you pull on ends up close to the seat base and is difficult to grasp. Changing the heights of the harness straps was a 3 minute job and easy (the seat must be removed from the vehicle).
I found this to be no different than other seats I've installed. I tend to cinch car seats down so tight that I get zero movement so I work up a bit of a sweat getting the H-clip just at the right place for an extremely tight fit. For the extra effort, safety is worth it. The seat is not moved often so it isn't a bit deal. The tether strap is easy to attach in the back of our Toyota 4-Runner. I did like the fact that the padding in the low back area lifts up to expose the vehicle's seat belt. This makes it much easier to thread the belt through the car seat. If you have large hands, you know what I mean. I did find however that the seat belt didn't sit flush against the car seat, but my daughter hasn't complained about any "lumps" in her back.
What don't I like?
1)The shoulder strap holder is typical of all but one (Cosco Summit High Back Convertible Booster) convertible boosters I've found. The possibility of having slack in the seat belt is a major concern for me. Why the industry has not incorporated open loop systems like on the boosters in inexcusable. Our children are at risk due to lazy design flaws.
2)The second thing I don't like (minor grievance) is the tab to release the harness is stiff and takes awhile to become more workable. Our other Century was the same way, you just figure out how much tension and in just the right direction and the problem is solved.
3)Thirdly, the head rest/pillow pops into the harness slots so it only fits when the 1st or 2nd slots are used for the harness and the top slot is free. On our current Century, the top harness slot is used so I just clipped off those troublesome plastic bits on the back of the pillow. When my daughter wants to use the pillow, she just lifts it and places it behind her head herself. It's never moved once she's fallen asleep. The headrest itself isn't nearly as comfortable as the headrest on our other seat either (my daughter pointed this out to me). To me, it seems abit lumpy and on the cheap side.
The final word.....
I highly recommend this car seat to be used as a 5 point harness. It has the ability to accommodate tall children with slight builds. I plan on keeping our daughter in this seat until she reaches 48 pounds or out grows the top harness slot (still 2 inches of torso height to go). I will NOT use this seat as a booster do to the poor should strap holding design. My daughter will go from the 5 point harness straight into an open loop designed booster seat. This will end up being more expensive in the long run, but spread out over many years of safe driving, insignificant.