After a massive disappointment with the Orbit Baby Toddler Car Seat (which you can read about here) I performed an extensive 6-month research on convertible car seats. I went to stores to actually test them out – I played with them, I put my son in them, and I read all about them. I went through many specs and reviews and finally I had our top contenders – Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 and Britax Marathon 70. They are the top two convertible car seats on the market that fall in the price range between $250-$300 – Britax being the number one seller in the USA and Maxi-Cosi being the number one seller in Europe.
Both have some similarities:
- Excellent reviews on Amazon.com – 4.5 stars out of 5
- They allow for a 3-position recline
- Manufacturers pay attention to crash energy management
- Both fall into the “below $300” price category.
Nevertheless, we chose the Pria 70 over the Marathon 70 for several reasons. I took the time to prepare a comp table for the analytic crowd. Feast your eyes on this…
First and foremost, Pria’s Air Protect offers true side impact protection which keeps the head, neck, and spine aligned, and reduces head injury in the event of a side crash. The Marathon does not offer this feature. You’d have to jump over the $300 limit and get either the Britax Boulevard 70 or the Britax Advocate 70 ($320 – $380) to get the true side impact protection.
Another major pro is that Pria is the first (and only) convertible car seat on the market that can accommodate newborns comfortably and safely. Although other convertible car seats have a minimum weight limit of 5 pounds, it is not feasible to place a newborn in these car seats for the following reasons: the harness slots are too high, there is too much wiggle room around the baby, and the recline angle is too steep for newborns who don’t have any head & neck control yet. Hence these convertible car seats are neither safe nor comfortable for newborns (that’s why new parents end up buying infant car seats for the first year or so). Pria, however, comes up with revolutionary TinyFit insert which is almost like a seat within a seat. The insert is nicely padded with side Air Protect cushions and provides the correct recline angle for newborns.
This truly is a seat that can be used from birth through toddler-hood all the way to school age. This saves you money since you can eliminate the need for an infant car seat. Just one thing you should know – you won’t be able to take this car seat out of the car and dock it onto a stroller frame like you would an infant car seat. If you plan to babywear or if you don’t mind taking your baby out of the car seat to put him/her into a stroller, then this is not an issues for you. Let’s just say this car seat is very babywearing friendly.
Also, Pria’s padding is much thicker, it’s more plush and provides more comfort, which is particularly important during those long drives. The Marathon felt hard, uncomfortable and bumpy as opposed to the plush Pria. Pria’s fabric is also more attractive and much nicer to touch. And it’s easy to wipe stains off of it too. Marathon features velour-like fabric, which I suppose can get very hot and sticky in the summer. As far as the overall look, I think Maxi-Cosi car seats are much more visually appealing and modern when compared to Britax car seats.
Oh, and did I mention that Pria features an integrated soft cup holder? This little detail turns out to be pretty huge. The days of him tossing his unwanted drink or snack on the floor and mommy miraculously extending her arm and searching for it are gone. He sips, he takes a bite, he plays with a little toy. He then puts it into the cup holder where it’s neatly waiting to be picked up again whenever he feels like it – without mommy even knowing. Spot on, Maxi-Cosi!
You might also want to know that Britax car seats rate higher as far as harmful & toxic chemicals are concerned. The most recent testing performed last year by Healthy Stuff found high contents of bromine, lead and other dangerous chemicals in Britax Marathon 70 convertible car seat in Jet Set (4.6). While Pria 70 was not available last year (it came out towards the end of 2011), the older Maxi-Cosi model, Priori, received much lower rating of 0.6 for Maxi-Cosi Priori convertible car seat in Lily Pink, and 0.8 for Maxi-Cosi Priori convertible car seat in Total Black. In fact, Britax car seats rated high so often that the company finally decided to do something about it and in March 2012 committed to phase out hazardous flame retardants and PVC from children’s car seat. I will post an update once new test results for Pria 70 are available.
Installation was very fast – the entire installation took just 2 minutes – 3 clicks using the LATCH connections. Then we tightened up everything and double checked. So simple. We have a smaller SUV and there is plenty of leg room for both my son and the person in the front seat.
When we installed the car seat, our son was 18 months old, 23.5 pounds, 32 inches. We installed the seat forward-facing (although he could still ride rare-facing). We used the 2nd recline angle as suggested by the manual and it’s perfect – not too upright so his head never falls on his chest like it used to with the Orbit Baby Toddler Car Seat. This is how Maxi-Cosi explains recline versus crash energy management:
“For children who ride forward-facing in the Pria 70, there are 2 different recline positions. For children between 22 pounds and 40 pounds, recline position 2 is required. For children between 40 and 70 pounds, recline position 1 is required. These recline positions allow a more reclined riding position for younger children and a more upright position for older children. Not only does this provide an appropriate riding position for different sized children, but the required recline angles also improve crash energy management.” (note: recline position 3 can only be used while rare-facing)
Yet another thing I have to mention – Maxi-Cosi’s customer service is impeccable. For example, when I opened the box I didn’t find a manual along with two clips. I dealt with their customer service via phone and email and they always answered in a timely manner and shipped everything I needed immediately. I should also mention the manual and the clips were actually not missing … I randomly discovered them when I rode in the back seat and noticed a little black tag (with a book picture on it) on the side of the car seat. I checked underneath the padding and there they were! The manual and both clips! I couldn’t believe I missed it. So just in case you are having the same problem, check out the picture below to see where to look for it.
Convinced? Now all you have to do is pick one of the three stylish color combinations. We have the Pria 70 in Walnut Brown – in my opinion totally gorgeous. It’s a very nice taupe color (which I’m very into right now) with chocolate brown accents. Or you can go with Total Black (black and grey are always chic) or Intense Red to add a pop of color to your car interior.
UPDATE 11/2012: Pria 70 with TinyFit insert in Intense Red is no longer available according to Maxi-Cosi website. But don’t be sad if you’re up for some color. Maxi-Cosi has recently introduced a new line of Pria 70 convertible car seats without the TinyFit insert and these come in 5 fun and sophisticated color combinations. So if you are buying the car sear for a toddler and don’t need the infant TinyFit insert, this one might be a great fit for you.
I highly recommend this car seat. It’s safe and comfy for my son who actually loves car rides now (= less headache for mommy). And no, the Air Protect cushions are not blocking his view. If you are still not convinced, feel free to conduct your own 6-month research.
Picture of Intense Red car seat with TinyFit insert via Maxi-Cosi
Picture of Walnut Brown + Total Black + Intense Red car seats via Maxi-Cosi
Picture of Dress Blue + Mineral Grey + Steel Grey + Sweet Cerise + Walnut Brown car seats via Maxi-Cosi