Infant Car Seat Review: Phil & Teds Alpha

Price$200.

Limits: 4-35 lbs., 32”

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

Pros: Lightweight, infant/preemie inserts, works to 35 lbs.

Cons: Manually rethread harness, straps can be hard to adjust. Pricey for basic features. Hard to find in stores.

Comments: Stroller maker Phil & Teds entered into the infant car seat category in 2014 with a new seat dubbed the Alpha. (The same seat is sold by Phil & Ted’s sister brand Mountain Buggy as the Mountain Buggy Protect.)

The Alpha gave Phil & Teds the opportunity to sell travel system solutions: stroller + infant car seat, like most other major baby gear makers.

The Alpha features a 35 lb. weight limit, newborn liner, removable infant insert, two recline angles (for different ages), built in lock-off and EPS foam lined seat. The carrier is lightweight at 8.3 lbs. Phil & Ted’s sells a rain cover for the Alpha for $35 and extra bases for $80.

As for stroller compatibility, the Alpha works with Phil & Ted’s strollers . . . and that’s about it. In fact, the Alpha needs adapters to work with Phil & Ted strollers and that’s a major disappointment. (The point of having your own infant car seat is to fit your own strollers without an extra $40 accessory).

It’s hard to see the Alpha in person. While Amazon, Target and Walmart carry it online, it isn’t in other major chain stores like Buy Buy Baby as of this writing.

The biggest disadvantage to the Alpha: it lacks a no-rethread harness. If you’re using it for a newborn (and most people will), you’ll have to rethread the harness—oddly, it comes out of the box configured for an over-12 lb. baby. This isn’t the easiest thing to do so you’ll want to adjust it early before your baby is due.

On the plus side, fans of this seat like the fabric and lightweight. The crotch strap has two positions. The Alpha comes with two inserts: one for infants and another for preemies, which is nice.

The seat sells a very slow pace, so reader feedback is still lacking. One complaint we heard from more than one parent: the straps can be hard to adjust. This might be caused by the velcro on the harness straps that can get stuck in the harness slots.

Ease of use (or lack thereof) landed the Alpha at the back of the pack in the latest Consumer Reports survey of infant car seats—21st out of 30 seats. Yes, Alpha earned a “better” in crash protection on a three level scale (basic, better, best) but ease of use issues (like difficulty in  closing the belt-lock off with some vehicle belts) held the Alpha back. Add in the lack of a no rethread harness or special side-impact protection and the Alpha ultimately disappoints.

At $200, we expect more for an infant car seat than this. Basically, Phil & Ted’s took the exact same seat/base as the Goodbaby’s Urbini Petal (now discontinued) that sold for $100 and doubled the price. Really?

A final quibble: the seat only comes in one fashion (see above). You can have this seat in any color as long as it is black and red. (The Mountain Buggy Protect version is available in black and tan).

The Phil & Ted’s Alpha has been out for three years and we haven’t seen much of an effort by the brand to address the seat’s shortcomings. Nor is there a Phil & Ted’s stroller that works natively (without an adapter) for this seat, as of this writing.  Rating: C-