Type: Convertible seat.
Limits: 5-40 lbs. rear-facing (except: the Chicco NextFit Zip Max, which starts at 4 lbs and goes up to 50lbs rear-facing), 22-65 lbs. forward facing. 50″ or less. FYI: The entry-level Chicco NextFit Sport starts at 12 lbs.
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: Deep side walls can make loading/unloading toddlers somewhat challenging. Heavy seat.
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.
The NextFit features “SuperCinch” 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? $225-$360—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 overwhelmingly positive marks.
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? 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.
Also: the Chicco NextFit is quite heavy at 25 lbs. So this isn’t the right seat if you plan to frequently move it from car to car.
The Chicco NextFit has been so successful, the company has come up with a series of spin-off versions. Here is an overview of the 2021 Chicco NextFit Line-up:
• Chicco NextFit Sport (). This is the entry-level model that starts at 12 lbs. (so it can’t be used from birth with smaller babies). It features a machine-washable cover—but it is tricky and somewhat difficult in our opinion, in our opinion. (It’s best to follow the instructions for this on Chicco’s web site.) This seat omits Chicco’s innovative CupFolders (cup holders that fold up when not in use). Instead, you have a basic removable cup holder.
• Chicco NextFit Zip. () The key upgrades here are a “Zip & Wash” pad—which means you can easily zip off the cover to pop it in the washing machine. This is worth the $50 upgrade, in our opinion. Also added: Chicco’s CupFolder.
• Chicco NextFit Zip Air. ($367.45) This seat is the Chicco NextFit Zip but adds a “breathable 3D AirMesh backrest.” We’d not quite sure this is worth the $70 upcharge—unless you live in Houston or Death Valley, we’re not sure if this is that important.
• Chicco NextFit Zip Max (). New for 2019, Chicco NexFit Zip Max does have some some significant upgrades: 25% more legroom and a revised 50 lb. rear-facing limit mean extended rear-facing is more realistic in this seat. There is also a new lower rear-facing starting weight (4 lbs.) and “enhanced” infant insert which means seat should work for most preemies.
The Chicco NextFit Zip Max has all the other features of the NextFit Zip Air—same zip off cover, SuperCinch, 9-position no-rethread harness, etc. So basically, Chicco is throwing in the kitchen sink here . . . and even making some physical modifications to the seat to allow extended rear-facing. Is it worth the $100 or so in upgrade? We think so.
Bottom line: the Chicco NextFit, in any version, is an excellent seat that earns our top rating. Installation is a snap and overall safety features are best in class. Rating: A