Nuna Pipa infant car seat reviewPrice: Regular Pipa. $300, extra base $150. Pipa Lite: $350.

Type: Infant seat, five-point harness.

Limits: 4-32 lbs., 32″.

NHTSA ease of use rating: Four out of five stars.

Pros: Sleek look, anti-rebound leg for additional crash protection, cool canopy covers entire seat, very lightweight.

Cons: $300? Lacks a no-rethread harness. Usability issues with canopy, stroller adapters.

Comments: Pennsylvania-based baby gear maker Nuna landed in the US in 2013 with a handful of products, including the Pipa infant seat. Nuna’s mojo is “simple, smart, chic” design, with a green spin (fabrics are Oeko-Tex certified for sustainability, etc.).

FYI: There are now two Pipa’s: the original Pipa and the “Pipa lite,” which debuted in August 2017. More on the Pipa lite in a minute; first let’s talk about the original Pipa.

The big headline for the Pipa infant seat is the “true lock” installation, with indicators that turn green when correctly installed. Also somewhat unique: an anti-rebound leg (called a stability leg) that is is common in Europe, but somewhat rare here in the US. That helps with crash protection.

The Pipa’s “dream drape” is a car seat cover that uses hidden magnets to stay in place and then stores away in a hidden compartment—which is a nifty trick. Fans of the Pipa love the fact that the drape encloses the entire seat, shielding baby from the weather. But the magnets aren’t very strong . . . so a slight breeze or brush of a passerby can suddenly flip open the shade. That makes the dream drape more of a wide-awake slap in the face.

The Pipa has rigid LATCH connectors that can rotate for the best fit, depending on the slope of your vehicle’s back seat.

Fans of the Pipa love the carrier’s lightweight design (8.7 lbs without the infant insert; 9.4 lbs. with the insert) and overall aesthetics. The safety features (anti-rebound load leg) get high marks.

So what’s not to to like? Well, the $300 price for one (we have occasionally seen it discounted to $200). Want a second stay-in-the-car base for another vehicle? That’s $150. Yes, this car seat has an impressive design . . . but we aren’t sure that alone justifies the price tag. The Pipa is also hard to find at retail, with just a handful dealers. No Amazon, only sites like Nordstrom sell it online.

The Pipa lacks a no-rethread harness—that means you have to manually thread through the harness to change the height. Not a big deal . . . but for $300, that’s disappointing.

The Pipa landed a “best” rating from Consumer Reports in their latest crash tests of infant car seats. That’s good, but only “fair” fit to vehicle with a safety belt held down its overall ratings (12th out of 30 seats).

Stroller compatibility for the Pipa has improved with the past year, with more makers introducing Pipa adapters. But, we’ve heard scattered reports about difficulty in releasing the Pipa from strollers, especially the Baby Jogger line (Select, etc). Instead of having a one-hand release, the Pipa requires two hands to push down buttons while pulling up on the seat.

In August 2017, Nuna released a new version of the Pipa, dubbed the Pipa lite. As you might guess from the name, the lite weighs in at 5.3 lbs.—or that is what Nuna claims (we haven’t verified it yet). We’re guessing that weight is without the infant insert.

The Pipa lite is lined with a new, lighter weight EPP foam that Nuna calls aeroflex foamThe regular Pipa has EPS foam, which is more rigid and weighs a tad more.

The Pipa lite is very similar to the regular Pipa with a couple of key differences: the Pipa lite can NOT be installed in a vehicle without its base—urban parents take note. The Pipa lite would not be the right choice if you rely on uber or taxi’s to get around.

Also: the Pipa lite lacks the original Pipa’s “dream drape.” Instead, you get an extended “eye shade”—basically a pop-up visor that blocks low angle sun. Nuna also is touting the Pipa lite’s fabrics contain “no added fire retardant chemicals.”

Finally, let’s talk about Pipa lite and air travel—when the seat was first announced, Nuna said the Pipa lite was not FAA-certified for use on aircraft. Then the company did an about-face: Nuna DID certify the seat with FAA for aircraft use with an important caveat: you must also use the base. (Most infant car seats can be used on a plane without their base).

Otherwise, the Pipa and Pipa lite are basically the same—the same base, safety features and weight guidelines, etc. The Pipa lite is about $50 more the regular Pipa (the official retail for the Pipa lite is $350).

The new Pipa lite was too new as of this writing to rate. However, we do have some beefs with the regular Pipa.

For a premium $300 seat, we expect a premium experience. Instead you get hassles—from the dream drape issues, the lack of a no rethread-harness to the difficulty in releasing the carrier from some stroller adapters. Yes, the safety features here (rigid LATCH, load leg) are impressive. But sometimes real world hassles in using the seat every day detract from a seat’s overall likability. And that’s the case with the Pipa. Rating: B-