Convertible Car Seat Review: Clek FoonfPrice: $450-$500.

Type: Convertible seat.

Limits: 14 to 50 lbs. rear facing, 20 to 65 lbs. forward facing, 49” tall.

NHTSA ease of use rating:
Rear-facing: two out of five stars.
Front facing: three out of five stars.

Pros: Rigid LATCH for front-facing mode. Unique crumple zone for crash protection. Anti-rebound bar.

Cons: $500? And it doesn’t work with infants who can’t sit up alone without a $70 accessory? Scored dead last in Consumer Reports’ most recent convertible car seat survey.

Comments: Clek is the Canadian company known for its popular booster seats with rigid LATCH connectors and funky names. The Foonf was their first effort in the convertible seat category, debuting back in 2012.

Safety is the headline here. The Foonf features a narrow base that allows three-across seating, an aluminum “crumple zone” in the seat for energy absorption, anti-rebound bar and more. There are also little interesting touches like magnets that hold open the harness when putting baby in or out of the seat. With all these over-the-top safety features, the Foonf aims to be the Volvo of car seats.

So is it worth the $450 price tag? (Special edition fabric models can top $500).

Well, you do get quite a few premium features, such as the IMMI flexible LATCH attachments for rear facing and rigid LATCH for forward-facing mode. Also unique: a 50 lb. rear-facing weight limit with anti-rebound bar. Clek was among the first to offer these features, although the rest of the market has mostly caught up on the anti-rebound bar.

The biggest negative: the Foonf is not rated for infant use—a child must be at least 14 lbs. and be able to sit up alone to use the seat, which is practically unheard of for a seat that can be used rear-facing. And in case your wondering, the average age a child can sit up unassisted ranges from five to eight months. (Yes, Clek sells an “infant thingy” insert for $70 that enables you to use the Foonf from five pounds and up. But for those of you scoring along at home, that makes your total investment here well north of $500).

Clek has tweaked the Foonf over the past few years with several improvements: the crotch buckle is now adjustable, with a longer length for bigger kids. Clek has also refined the anti-rebound bar, so it is easier to use and install.

Feedback from parents is mostly very positive, although the seat does have its critics. The negatives we’ve heard include stiff straps, a poorly written manual and a lack of seat padding. Another concern: the lack of a deep recline when the seat is in its forward-facing position frustrates parents of napping toddlers. And the Foonf is very heavy—38 lbs. This would not be the seat for carpooling.

The Foonf’s bulk and footprint are another negative if you have a smaller vehicle. With the headrest extended the Foonf is 32.5″ tall (for comparison, Britax’s seats are about 28.5 with the headrest fully extended”); when installed rear-facing, it extends 33″ from the back of the seat to the anti-rebound bar—one parent commented that it was so large, she had to take care to avoid hitting her child on the door jam when she removed her baby from the Foonf. (For folks who have a smaller vehicle, Clek makes a more compact version of this seat called the Fllo).

Of all the complaints, the lack of seat padding is the Foonf’s biggest flaw, in our opinion. For nearly $500, you’d think Clek would have lined the seat with expensive memory foam hand-made by Swedish nuns  . . . sadly, the Foonf is as comfortable as a gym bleacher, as one parent put  it.

Also disappointing: in a recent ratings by Consumer Reports, the Foonf landed with a thud at very bottom of the rankings. Dead last. You have to have some bad mojo to score a rating lower than Evenflo’s $50 Walmart special car seat.

Consumer Reports blamed sub-par ease of use and poor installation with safety belt when forward-facing for the Foonf’s awful showing. And while the Foonf scored “better” in CR’s crash testing, so did Britax and Chicco convertible seats that cost 30% to 40% less than the Foonf. And those seats don’t require an extra $70 accessory to work with newborns.

Another bummer: the Clek does NOT have a no rethread harness, meaning you have to manually rethread the harness to change the height.

Despite these negatives, we should point out that Clek does have a legion of dedicated fans. They point out if you watch enough youtube videos, installation can be a snap. And the seat is very solid and well engineered.

So, we’re conflicted in rating this seat. We like the unique safety features, but real-world crash testing doesn’t show the Foonf is any safer than seats that cost much less. And why Clek priced this seat so far above competitors seats that offer better ease of use, deeper seat reclines and more padding . . . it makes one wonder. The Clek Foonf would have been trail blazing back in 1995 (yeah, we’ve been writing about baby gear for that long). But today, it just looks over priced and over hyped.

Hence, we’re lowering our rating of the Foonf to a B. We will recommend it, as long as you have excess cash to burn and don’t plan to do any long road trips or commutes, thanks to the lack of seat padding. And you have the time to watch those installation videos. And don’t mind rethreading the harness as your child grows.

Rating: B-