My requirements were, Rated very high on the safety test, Steel reinforced framing, side impact tested, EPS foam, Allows rear facing for an extended time, 5 point harness, Head support, not too bulky, not overpriced.
The Contenders :
SUNSHINE KIDS RADIAN XTSL
Lets talk about the BRITAX first, Britax has been around forever and has proved time and time again to be a top contender in the car seat market. We took a trip to BuyBuyBaby to test out a few seats and see what Jema thought of each one. She really seemed to love the Britax boulevard and it was EASY to adjust and buckle her in. I liked how the seat hugged around her body and the softness of the seat. Also this seat fits into almost every category on my "must have" list except it doesn't have a higher weight limit for longer rear facing, and it is a very wide and bulky seat. Also I feel like the fact that we're in HOT Florida that the hugging effect that the chair offered would also contribute to overheating my already toasty baby. But the real deciding factor was when we put her in the car seat and installed it into the car that her feet were already touching the back seat... Which means her legs would be cramped sooner than later and since we are planning to rear face until at least 2 years old we need as much growing room weight + height as we can get. The britax only accommodates up to 35lbs rear facing....and my baby is already over 20 lbs at only 8 months old. Overall I think it's a great car seat but it fell short on a few factors that were important to me as a consumer and mom. :) here's some Info about the BRITAX Boulevard courtesy of Amazon.
*True Side Impact Protection
*Patented HUGS system, tangle-free 5 point harness with belly pad and one pull front harness adjustment,
*Flexible buckle LATCH system
*Extra comfort padding, infant body pillow for cozy fit
*Rear facing: 5 to 35 pounds. Forward facing: At least 1 year old and 20 to 65 pounds
Now lets talk about the Sunshine kids Radian XTSL, This car seat brand is a slight newcomer to the ultra competitive car seat world. They didn't let that stop them from quickly rising to the top and I can see how they managed with an impressive safety feature list and some really cool new angles. At first sight the Sunshine Radian looks different than a lot of the other convertible car seats in it's class, it's slimmer and taller frame give it a sleeker look. I had a hard time believing that it would fit rear facing in my car b/c of the height of the chair back - but it fit with no problem. We did the same thing as listed above in the Britax review - took a trip to BuyBuy Baby and put Jema in it to evaluate the seat. Right away we noticed that it was a little bit harder to install...not hard at all, but not as easy as the BRITAX. Sunshine Kids offers something called the SUPER LATCH system which is the only metal latch that is rated for use up to 80lbs. Impressive in my book of safety! Also the Radian is rated to use rear facing up to 45 lbs. - that's 10 lbs higher than the BRITAX , and more than 10 lbs on some other brands that I looked into.Another great feature I noticed right away was the leg room Jema had when buckled into the seat - Her feet do not touch the seat back and still have a few inches before they will touch, letting me know that she has plenty of growing room before facing her forward. Side Note*New research is stating that children should stay rear facing until at least 2 years of age.... Like I said it's NEW research, I don't want to offend people who did not rear face until 2.*
The Radian is rated very highly by NCAP - See below for some facts courtesy of Sunshine Kids.com
New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) is 35 mph crash testing used to determine a vehicle's safety. NCAP testing has been required for all cars since 1981, but is not required for child car seats. NCAP simulates a severe accident - almost double the impact forces of a standard crash test. Many safety advocates believe NCAP should be a required, 'fail-safe' test for all child car seats.
- Steel alloy frame and aluminum reinforced sides
- Adjustable head support, reinforced for complete side-impact safety
- Energy-absorbing EPS foam panels on all sides
- Safestop® energy-absorbing harness system
- SuperLATCH™ installation up to 80 lbs – no seat belt required
- Easy-Tite™ adjuster for quick and easy tightening, installs in 1 minute
- Rubber bottom grips for no-slip installation
- 5 shoulder and 3 buckle positions for proper harness fit
- Forward and rear facing tether system
We purchased our Radian at BuyBuy Baby last week during a sale and also used a 20% off coupon and snagged this awesome seat for $184!!!!