Convertible Car Seat Review: Chicco NextFitPrice: $300-$350

Type: Convertible seat.

Limits: 5-40 lbs. rear-facing, 22-65 lbs. forward facing. 50″ or less.

NHTSA ease of use rating: Four out of five stars (both rear and forward facing).

Pros: Nine recline positions. Side impact protection with deep side wings. Easy to install. Premium LATCH connectors. No-rethread harness. Belt lockoffs for seatbelt installs. Cover can be machine washed.

Cons: Chest clip too easy to unbuckle for enterprising toddlers, cover is hard to remove for cleaning, deep side walls can make loading/unloading toddlers somewhat challenging.

Comments: After successfully topping the infant car seat charts with their KeyFit infant seat, Chicco’s NextFit launched back in 2013 as the brand’s first effort in the convertible car seat market.

The seat features nine (!) recline positions, dual level indicators and a harness rated for 65 lbs. forward-facing (40 lbs. rear-facing). The NextFit has a small footprint (to work well with smaller cars) as well as an infant insert cushion.

NextFit SuperCinch featureThe NextFit features “Super Cinch” LATCH technology, which makes it easier to tighten the LATCH belts (see pic at right). Also innovative: the seat’s harness widens to accommodate larger toddlers. The no rethread harness is a major plus. And yes, the NextFit has side impact protection.

What does all this Chicco car seat goodness cost? $300—yes, at the top of the convertible car seat market price-wise, but similar in price to Britax’s premium offerings.

Feedback from our readers and online reviews have been quite positive—the Chicco NextFit earns an 84% positive rating on Amazon (four and five star reviews).

It’s clear Chicco has done its homework with the NextFit: the seat is very easy to install, either with LATCH or vehicle belt. We like the harness adjuster and recline, which are as easy to use as any Britax seat. The attention to detail is obvious: note the storage compartment for the LATCH and tether straps; the fabric is also excellent quality and soft to the touch. Many parents say their kids prefer the Chicco NextFit to other convertibles when it comes to comfort.

In Consumer Reports most recent testing, the NextFit landed at the coveted #1 slot (out of 32 seats tested) with “best” crash protection.

So what’s not to like? Well, we see numerous reports that the chest clip is too easy for toddler to unbuckle. And that’s a concern we don’t see on Britax seats. A few folks complained about the NextFit’s deep side walls (which are there for side impact protection)—getting a squirmy toddler in and out of the seat can be a challenge, thanks to these walls. Seats like the Diono Radian are easier to use for toddlers, since they have lower side walls. So even though the NextFit expands to better fit toddlers, the deep side walls somewhat defeat the innovation when it comes to ease of use.

Another minor negative: we also see reports that the rear-facing harness position is too small/tight, positioning the straps too close together—this has annoyed some babies.

Finally, a few folks complaint that the fabric pad is hard to remove (it is machine washable). It’s best to follow the instructions for this on Chicco’s web site.

Sensing this is a weakness for the NextFit, Chicco launched a spin-off called the NextFit Zip, which includes (wait for it) a cover that zips off for easy cleaning. This adds another $50 to the price ($350), unfortunately.

FYI: Chicco has slightly revised the NextFit, now called the NextFit iX Zip ($350). This version has a nine position headrest (hence the iX or 9 moniker; the original NextFit has a six position headrest) plus an easier to adjust harness and updated belt-lockoffs. To its credit, Chicco has continued to tweak the seat to address complaints—example, the original NextFit has two chest positions (one for younger kiddos, another for toddlers). This was confusing; so the new NextFit iX Zip has just a one-position chest clip.

Recently, Chicco debuted an updated, lower-priced NextFit called the NextFit Sport ($250). It’s basically the same as the basic NextFit we described above with a few changes and that lower price. This seat starts at 12 lbs. rear facing, so it cannot be used from birth. As of this writing, additional updated features weren’t disclosed by Chicco.

Bottom line: the Chicco NextFit is an excellent seat that earns our top rating. Installation is a snap and overall safety features are best in class. Rating: A