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Four of the Narrowest Infant Seats for 3 Across Car Seat Installations

When it comes to 3 across car seat installations, the good news is that you can fit 3 car seats in almost any vehicle sold in the US if you have the right seats; this is why I put together (and continue to add to) my mega 3 across car seat guide. However, I don’t have every combination that will work in every vehicle listed, and sometimes you just want a quick guide to seats that are pretty much guaranteed to work in whatever you’re driving. I’ve written a guide to convertible seats that will fit 3 across in pretty much any vehicle out there, but a lot of parents asked for an equivalent guide for infant seats. This is that list. It doesn’t cover every single narrow infant seat on the market, but these are the narrowest I’ve measured that also have at least 30-pound rear-facing weight limits.

It took a while to test these in my narrowest vehicles (e.g., the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris) to make sure they really would work just about everywhere, but I’m now confident that if you’ve got three functional seat belts and three seats attached to them, you’ll almost certainly be able to get 3 of the infant seats below to work in them. These seats can also be mixed and matched with the super narrow convertible seats I profiled earlier. As usual, you’ll want to use seat belts instead of LATCH when attempting any installation where space is an issue; remember that it’s just as safe as LATCH but far more convenient when it comes to multiple adjacent car seat installations.

The 4 narrowest infant car seats for 3 across installations in nearly any vehicle, guaranteed

keyfit30-1Chicco KeyFit 30 – 17 inches. Review here, buy here.

The Chicco KeyFit 30 is my default infant seat recommendation for parents looking for a straightforward and 3-across-friendly infant option. It’s easy to install, it’s affordable at under $200, it has a great reputation, and it’s also among the narrowest infant seats you can buy.

Additional things I like about the KeyFit 30 include its compatibility with a range of Chicco strollers, the included infant insert that makes it easy to use with smaller babies, and the single pull tightener to adjust harness tension. The main downside to the KeyFit 30 is that its weight range is 4-30 pounds rather than 4-35 like much of the competition. I’d also like the 30″ height limit to be larger. However, it’s also one of the easiest infant seats on the market to install, and that’s a big, big pro for first time parents. And on the aesthetic end, it’s available in at least 9 colors.

cybex-aton-1Cybex Aton – 17 inches. Review coming, buy here.

The Cybex Aton raises the bar compared to the KeyFit right off the bat by including a 4-35 pound weight range, offering more room for growth by weight before you’ll need to look for a convertible seat (because you’ll want to keep rear-facing long past when your baby outgrows his or her infant seat). The seat itself also comes in at a svelte 9 pounds without the base, which makes more of a difference than you’d think when toting a 10 pound baby around.

Like the KeyFit, the Aton comes in at 17 inches in width, meaning you’ll be able to install it just about anywhere. It clicks into the base with a satisfying click and, like almost all infant seats on the market, can also be used without the base through a seat belt installation. I also like how it includes European belt routing as an option during baseless installs; it’s a nice alternative to the standard American belt routing, although either is safe. The main con to the Aton is that it costs a bit more than the KeyFit 30 and may not be as easy to find in stores; I recommend buying seats from Amazon anyway due to their hassle-free return system. 

aton2Cybex Aton 2 – 17 inches. Review here, buy here. 

I reviewed the Cybex Aton 2 years ago and am still a fan of it as a well-designed and functional infant seat. The Aton 2 retains many of the great features of the original Aton while adding 10 color options and an adjustable load leg, which I discuss in detail in my review above. Overall, either seat is a solid choice when looking for a more high-end infant seat. It’s worth noting that the Aton 2 is also a little lighter than the Aton at slightly fewer than 9 pounds.

Something else to note is that I consistently found myself able to fit the Atons in slightly shorter spaces, in terms of front-to-back distance, than I did the KeyFit, when really pressed for space. In most situations, the seats were interchangeable, but it wasn’t always the case. The main disadvantage to the Aton 2 is the price, which is steeper than that of the original Aton, and significantly steeper than that of the KeyFit.

peg3Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 – 17 inches. Review here, buy here.

Finally, the Primo Viaggio deserves mention as yet another strong competitor in the 17″ waistline range. As with the Atons, you’re also paying at least partly for the additional style and prestige of a European car seat, for whatever that’s worth, as the Atons are made in Germany and the Primo Viaggio is an Italian product. All of the seats I profile here are good ones, and the Viaggio is no exception.

Things I like in particular about the Primo Viaggio include the dizzying array of colors and fabric styles available for choosy parents (there are 18 options at last count), as well as the 4-35 pound weight limit and 32″ height limit, which is handy since most infants will end up outgrowing their seats by height before they do so by weight. The seat is a bit heavier than the Axons at 9.5 pounds, but is still comfortably under 10 pounds. The biggest downside is the price, which hovers consistently between $280 and $330 or more, depending on which color print you’re interested in and how available (or unavailable) it currently is.

Once I’ve got my infant seat, do I still need to worry about convertible seats or rear-facing down the line, or can I switch straight to forward-facing or booster seats after my child outgrows one of these seats?

Once your child outgrows his or her infant seat, you’ll absolutely want to continue rear-facing, and continue to do so for as long as possible. I recommend all parents rear-face until at least 4 if at all possible, just as parents do in Sweden (and now Norway). It’s safer than rear-facing at all ages, and we finally have seats in the US that are capable of allowing kids to stay safely harnessed rear-facing until the preschool or even kindergarten years. Seats like the Fllo, Foonf, Rainier, Pacifica, and Extend2Fit allow for rear-facing until 50 pounds, and in the case of the Extend2Fit, can be had for under $200. The protection they offer kids is immense, and well worth the investment.

If $200 is too much, you can still get at least 40 pounds of rear-facing goodness from seats like the Size4Me or Contender, which will allow most kids to rear-face until 4 or close to 4. Once you forward-face, I’d then recommend continuing to do so until your child turns 8 if possible, but that’s covered in detail in a different article (as is boostering until the 5-step test is passed, and remaining in the back seat until at least 13). Keeping kids safe in cars might seem complex, but it’s not too hard once you get into the habit of doing so.

If you find the information on car safety, recommended car seats, and car seat reviews on this car seat blog helpful, you can bookmark and shop through this Amazon link. Canadians can bookmark and shop through this link.

2016 Clek Fllo Convertible Review: Still Rear-Faces to 50 Pounds!

fllo2The title of this review is tongue-in-cheek, because the Clek Fllo is one of my favorite car seats on the market right now. If you’re wondering whether it’s worth getting the 2016 version over the 2015 version, it is, but the truth is that there aren’t that many significant changes from the 2015 version to the 2016 version. Your rear-facing and forward-facing height and weight limits are still the same, but that doesn’t take anything way from the newest Fllo; it just means that if you’ve got an older Fllo or have the chance to get a 2015 for significantly cheaper, you can save your money and skip the upgrade. With that out of the way, I picked up a ’16 Fllo from Amazon and put it to work to make sure it was still a seat worth recommending. It is.

Before buying it, keep in mind that the market for convertibles that will allow you to rear-face until 50 pounds has grown by leaps and bounds in the US in recent years. There’s the original Clek Fllo, the Clek Foonf, the Diono Rainier, the Diono Pacifica, the Graco Extend2Fit, the Safety 1st Advance EX 65 Air+ (which appears to now have been discontinued), and now the Safety 1st Grow and Go EX Air–that’s six seats in a country that didn’t have a single seat 5 years ago. We’ve come a long way in the US in car seat safety, although we still have a ways to go in education–most parents are still turning kids forward-facing between 1 and 2.

Let’s take a closer look at what makes the new Fllo worth considering over the other six options for 50-pound rear-facing.

Fllo-Tank2016 Clek Fllo – What’s the big deal?

The 2016 Clek Fllo is a refresh of the Clek Fllo, which I reviewed last year and loved. The Fllo itself was a redesign of the Foonf with the goal of making it lighter and cheaper, and it was a huge success. The Fllo refresh includes 4 basic changes:

First, the rear-facing seat belt lock off has been redesigned. The lock off is now easier to close and is designed to stay closed when you remove the seat cushions. You can also retrofit the seat belt lock off to older seats. Second, the forward-facing lock off was also redesigned to feature a thicker rubber bumper. Third, the harness pads at the shoulder have been lengthened and designed to include a snap button to open and close them. Fourth, the car seat cover was redesigned to feature better stitching and thicker foam.

None of these changes significantly affect the functionality of the seat; you still have the 50 pound rear-facing and 65 pound forward-facing weight limits, and you still can’t use it with infants unless you also buy the Infant-Thingy infant insert. More broadly, it’s still a convertible car seat, which means you can use it in two configurations: as a rear-facing infant seat and as a forward-facing seat. It’s still a great car seat; it’s just not that different from the older model.

Buy the 2016 Clek Fllo on Sale at Amazon.

Fllo-Flamingo2016 Clek Fllo – Weight and Height Limits

Rear-facing: 14-50 pounds with a 25-43″ height limit. Your child needs to be able to sit upright without help, which most infants won’t be able to do before 6 months. Your child’s head needs to remain below 1″ from the top of the headrest.

Remember that using the Clek Infant-thingy infant insert reduces the rear-facing weight limit to 5 pounds and overrides the need for your infant to be able to sit upright without assistance. Your child does need to be at least 19″ long.

Like the old Fllo, the new Fllo remains one of the best seats for making sure kids actually reach the useful limits of the seat, as it measures around 26.5″ in shell height when the headrest is extended to its fullest position.

Most seats top out at 23″ or 24″ in shoulder height, which means a lot of children will outgrow them by weight before doing so by height. The greater shell height gives your kids more time in the seat before outgrowing it by weight.

Forward-facing: 22-65 pounds, and 30-49″ in height. Your child should be at least 1, and it’s recommended that s/he is at least 2. Of course, research into car safety indicates children should remain rear-facing for as long as possible (the average is 4 years in Sweden, which posts the lowest child fatality rate on Earth), and after rear-facing, the child should remain forward-facing as long as possible.

Dimensions and Key Stats for the 2016 Clek Fllo

fllo-dimensions

The new Fllo retains the dimensions of the old Fllo. It’s 17″ wide at the widest point (Clek claims 16.9″, but I measure 17″), 13″ wide at the base, and weighs 25 pounds. It weighs 3 pounds more if you use the Anti-Rebound bar. The harness slots range from 8″ at the lowest setting to 17″ at the highest, and the seat ranges from 23.5″-27″ in height when rear-facing, depending on the height of the headrest. When forward facing, the seat ranges from 26″-31.” The seat takes up between 29″ and 32.5″ front to back when rear-facing, depending on whether or not you use the Anti-Rebound Bar, and is 24″ long when forward-facing. You can see how it ranks compared to other seats in front-to-back space through this comparison guide.

Using and Installing the 2016 Clek Fllo

fllohThe new Fllo looks and feels pretty much like the old Fllo out of the box, and if you’ve seen the old one, you’ll be pretty familiar with how the new one works. It’s a futuristic, fighter jet pilot-looking seat, and it comes with a new range of colors and patterns–9 in total, including the psychedelic Tokidoki space. As a mild-mannered car crash detective, I opted for Capri, which is basically a sky blue.

There isn’t much of anything to put together with the seat; just remember that you need to use the steel anti-rebound bar while you’re rear-facing, and that you’ll only use the tether while forward-facing. Installation is pretty straightforward with LATCH and takes a little longer with the seat belt. As with most seats, I prefer using the LATCH anchors when I don’t need to worry about room (e.g., when it’s the only car seat in a row), and I use seat belts exclusively whenever attempting 3 across installations, because it makes a lot of installations that wouldn’t be possible any other way…possible. Check out the 3 across car seat guide to see what will work in your vehicle.

Remember that seat belts are as safe as LATCH, and that most vehicles don’t allow you to use LATCH beyond when a child weighs around 40 pounds, which means that if you plan to rear-face until your child hits the full weight limit, you’ll either need to switch to seat belts during your rear-facing years or just start out using seat belts from the beginning. I don’t like messing with seats once they’re installed, so if you’re going to buy this seat for its rear-facing abilities, which is the primary reason to buy this seat, as far as I’m concerned, I’d just start out with a good seat belt installation and call it a day.

As with the old Fllo, airplane installation is pretty straightforward on the new Fllo. Keep in mind that it’s not likely to fit in the X-ray systems at most terminals, so you’ll want to leave a bit of extra time for being screened manually. Similarly, in most smaller and mid-sized jets, you aren’t going to get it to fit in the aisles, so you’ll need to be prepared to hoist it above them. However, the Fllo will fit the actual airplane seat well. Don’t even bother trying to fit it in the storage compartments above; that’s just an exercise in frustration unless you’re in first class. And remember that it’s a good idea to bring your car seats onboard if at all possible instead of checking them in with baggage; you don’t want your seat to go through additional crash testing when being flung across the tarmac by an overworked baggage handler.

Buy the 2016 Clek Fllo on Sale at Amazon.

Why Buy the 2016 Clek Fllo

The most important part of a car seat review, in my experience, has to do with whether or not the seat is worth buying based on my needs. My goals are extended rear-facing, extended harnessing, and boostering until the 5-step test is reached. The new Fllo is not the best seat for you if you’re looking for the cheapest car seat on the market, or even the cheapest 50-pound rear-facing seat on the market; the Extend2Fit, Pacifica, Rainier, and Safety 1st seats are all cheaper than the Cleks. It is the best seat for you if you’re looking for a 50-pound-capable seat that’s narrow enough to fit virtually any car, SUV, minivan, or pickup truck on the market, and don’t want to spend additional money on the Foonf. There are only a handful of seats 17″ wide on the market regardless of rear-facing capabilities, and there are exactly two that will allow you to rear-face until 50 pounds–the Fllo and the Foonf. If money matters, the Fllo is cheaper.

The new Fllo is not the best seat for you if you already have the old Fllo, or even the Foonf; the seats are too similar to justify spending another few hundred dollars on the new Fllo. It is the best seat for you if you don’t already have those seats and are interested in the additional technologies present in the Fllo that just aren’t in any other seats in its class right now. I’m talking about the Energy-Absorbing Crumple Technology, or EACT safety system, which Clek stated helps reduce the forces your child experiences in frontal collisions. I’m also talking about the metal substructures within the seat and foam on the sides of the seat to maintain its integrity and reduce forces in side impacts. There’s the anti-rebound bar that helps stabilize the seat by reducing tensional forces. It’s a well-designed seat with various nods to safety on the inside and out. And if it matters to you (I’ll admit that it matters to me when buying a seat I’ll be looking at for several years to come in the rear view mirror), it also comes in some pretty nice colors.

In conclusion, just as I wouldn’t call the old Fllo the best car seat ever, I’m not going to say the new Fllo is the best car seat in the history of car seats, as there isn’t one seat that does everything perfectly. Once again, I wish you could RF younger infants with the Fllo out of the box instead of having to pick up the Infant-Thingy insert. I also would like a higher forward-facing weight limit; if you use it to rear-face to the limits, your child will probably outgrow it as a forward-facing seat within a couple of years of being turned forward. However, for what it does–provide nearly-unparalleled RF abilities by weight–it has very few equals (namely, the Foonf, the Rainier, the Pacifica, the Extend2Fit, and the Safety 1st seats). And it’s lighter than the Foonf while being easier to fit in smaller vehicles (or in 3 across configurations) than the Rainier, Pacifica, Extend2Fit, or Safety 1st seats. In that sense, it has no equals.

Just like the old Fllo, the 2016 Clek Fllo is an amazingly safe seat that can be fit in just about any vehicle while reassuring you as a parent that you have literally done everything possible to transport your child safely. I recommend it wholeheartedly. You can buy the 2016 Clek Fllo in the following colors here: “Noire,” “Ink,” and “Thunder.” Canadians can buy the Fllo here.

If you find the information on car safety, recommended car seats, and car seat reviews on this car seat blog helpful, you can bookmark and shop through this Amazon link. Canadians can bookmark and shop through this link.