Price: $150 to $160.
Limits: 5-40 lbs. rear-facing, 22-65 lbs. forward-facing.
NHTSA ease of use rating: Four out of five stars (both rear and forward facing).
Pros: Side-impact protection, yet priced at only $190. No rethread harness. Four position recline.
Cons: Large, bulky seat. Hard to remove cover for cleaning. Rear-facing installation issues.
The Safety 1st Advance SE 65 Air + is the brand’s first seat to feature both the Air Protect side impact cushions as well as GCell HX for under $200. Well, it is a patented hexagonal foam that Safety 1st says was inspired by Indy race-car protection technology—the claim is that it provides more full body protection, not just the head, in side impacts.
Unfortunately, there are no federal side impact crash tests or standards, so it is hard to evaluate this claim—or even how this seat would compare with competitor’s seats that are lined with basic foam.
The Advance 65 also has a few other impressive features: a deep, four-position recline plus a color-coded belt bath for easier install. And you also get a no-rethread harness and 10 position headrest. A nice cup holder is built into the arm rest too. That’s an impressive list of features for a sub $200 seat.
The down side to the Advance 65: it is BIG and bulky (“comically large” as one reviewer put it). Unless you have a large SUV, this one may be a tight fit. While some critics knock the Advance’s overall quality as mediocre (fabric that starts fraying after a short time of use), most other complaints focused on installation issues (especially rear-facing). And we saw a few complaints from readers that the seat’s velvety fabric, while plush, can be hot in the summer. Plus, taking the cover off/on for cleaning is a nightmare, say some parents.
These complaints aside, most folks are happy with the Advance 65. Yes, it is a large seat, but as long as you have a big enough vehicle and don’t see yourself moving it from car to car, this would be a good seat to consider.
FYI: There is also an Advance EX 65 Air+ and an Advance LX 65 Air+; the fabric is different from the SE Air+ but the seat is otherwise the same.
Consumer Reports tested the 65 SE Air+ and gave it a “basic” rating for crash protection, the lowest acceptable rating. Overall, this seat landed near the bottom of CR’s rankings with the rear-facing installation issues holding down their ranking.
We’ll give this seat a B—it’s hard to find many seats with extensive side impact protection and a no-rethread harness for under $200. But the huge footprint and rear-facing installation concerns hold it back.
FYI: Safety 1st tells us the Advance line of car seats will be discontinued in the near future. They are still available for sale online as of this writing.