Car seat shopping for the newest member of your family can be daunting, so to make it easier for soon-to-be parents, we put a whole bunch of infant car seats to the test in our lab and with parents. The Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat is among our top picks, and for good reason: It’s suitable for infants weighing four to 30 pounds or up to 30 inches tall, installation is really simple, the five-point harness has one-pull tightening and loosening, and it features thick, cushy padding to comfortably support your wee one.
Like all of the car seats we’ve tested, the Chicco KeyFit 30 has been crash-tested by the manufacturer and approved for use in Canada by Transport Canada and Health Canada. For our assessment, we focused on the car seat’s overall quality, ease of installation and use, and the value given the price.
EASE OF INSTALLATION
Installing the Chicco KeyFit 30 is quite easy and straightforward—a unicorn among car seats. The manual is simple and straightforward, with clear diagrams, which made it easy for our editors and parent testers to follow the instructions to a T. Plus, labels on the base and carrier make it extra-easy to see what goes where. (Bonus: The manual tucks into a compartment in the base so it’s handy when you need to review it.) You can install the base of the Chicco KeyFit 30 with either the UAS connectors or your vehicle’s seatbelt—whichever provides the most secure fit in your vehicle.
Getting the base level is what’s going to give the carrier (the seat) the right recline angle for your baby, and both editors and testers found it very simple to do. There’s a bubble level on each side of the base, and to get the bubble within the required range, you simply press in the recline button on both sides of the base while lifting the base and the spring-loaded levelling foot will help you adjust the base to one of four angles. (Note: Your vehicle has to be on level ground to use the bubble levels; if it’s not, you’ll need to clip the carrier into the base to see if the level line on the carrier is parallel with the ground.) From here, you can either secure the car seat with the UAS connectors or your vehicle’s seat belt.
Right from the beginning the Chicco KeyFit 30 was so easy to install and instructions were quite easy to follow. The straps are quite easy to adjust and it felt like it was never a hassle to use.” —Julie, mom of one
UAS installation with this car seat is relatively a breeze. It has push-on UAS connectors, so you simply have to push them onto your vehicle’s anchors and they’ll secure in place with an audible click (though you should always give them a tug to make sure they’re properly connected). Tightening the UAS connectors usually requires some muscle, but Chicco KeyFit 30 has a “one-pull” tightening strap that’s centred near the back of the base, so you can easily pull straight up as you press the base down into the seat with your other hand. Editors and parent testers all found it pretty easy to secure the base—in fact, most parent testers described it as very easy. You’ll need to check the level again once the base is secure; if it’s no longer within the required range, you’re going to have to loosen the UAS and adjust the angle of the base (a universal problem with car seats). Once you’ve got the seat installed correctly, you’ll need to roll up the UAS strap and tuck it in the pull strap storage pocket to keep it out of the way so it doesn’t interfere with attaching the carrier to the base.
If you’re not able to get a secure fit with the UAS or you don’t have standard-width lower UAS anchors in your vehicle (check your vehicle’s manual), you’ll need to install the base with your vehicle’s seat belt. Threading your vehicle’s shoulder and lap belt through the belt path in the base is simple. Tightening and securing the belt takes some coordination: With the belt buckled, you need to pull the shoulder belt to tighten as you press one hand down into the base; once you have the belt as tight as you think you can get it, you need to slide the shoulder belt into the Shoulder Belt Lockoff, keeping the belt flat and taut as you do this. If the base moves more than an inch in any direction when you grip it at the belt path and try to move it, it’s not tight enough. To get a tight fit, you might need to try compressing the base in a few different places—getting the right leverage is crucial. If compressing the base downwards doesn’t get the Chicco KeyFit 30 tight enough, you may need to try pushing the car seat down and toward the rear of the vehicle.
For parents who want to regularly use this car seat in more than one vehicle, Chicco also sells the KeyFit base on its own—a handy option. For occasional use in other vehicles—maybe your sister is watching your little one so you can have a break (lucky you!)—you can also install the KeyFit 30 without the base using the vehicle’s seat belt. There are a few key differences with this install: your baby needs to be in the carrier while you’re installing it; the level line on the side of the carrier needs to be parallel with the ground (there’s no bubble level); you can place a tightly rolled towel under the front edge of the carrier to get the proper recline angle; and you’ll be using the vehicle seat belt’s locking mechanism rather than lockoffs to secure the carrier. While it might sound tricky, our editors and the parent tester who installed the car seat in this way all found it very easy.
It’s important to try before you buy. As we found in our testing, there are all sorts of incompatibility issues between vehicles and car seats, or it just might be challenging for you to lift your kid into and out of a particular seat. Ask retailers if you can try installing the floor model in your vehicle to see if it’s a good fit. And when you’re buying a new vehicle, be sure to take your car seat to see if it’ll work in the vehicle you’re looking at—or be prepared to shell out for a new car seat if you love the car.
SIZE AND WEIGHT
The Chicco KeyFit 30’s 17-inch width is one of the most narrow infant car seats we tested, freeing up room for multiple car seats or passengers. We found that two KeyFit 30 seats will easily fit in most vehicles, and you can even fit three in some sedans and the middle row of some SUVs. You’ll want to consider that this car seat has a depth of 27.5 inches, so you might have to move front seats forward to accommodate it. It really depends on your vehicle.
The weight of the carrier is an important factor considering you’re going to be lifting it out of your vehicle and carrying it around with the added weight of a growing babe. At 9.6 pounds, the Chicco KeyFit 30 is on the heavier end of the spectrum, but the difference between it and some of the lightest carriers is a few pounds—a negligible difference for most parents.
Both our editors and parent testers found the five-point safety harness straightforward to fasten and unfasten. There were no pinched fingers, and the harness securely snapped together. Tightening and loosening the harness was smooth and easy thanks to the one-pull tether to tighten and lever to loosen. As your baby grows and you need to adjust the height of the shoulder straps (they should always be at or just below a baby’s shoulders), you will have to rethread the harness. While this can be tricky with a lot of car seats, most of our testers found it somewhat easy or easy to do this on the Chicco KeyFit 30.
FRAME AND FABRIC
The Chicco KeyFit 30’s carrier shell is made of polypropylene and lined with energy-absorbing foam. Thick, plush padding supports your little one’s head, neck, back and bottom, and an infant pillow for newborns from four to 11 pounds offers additional body support. The seat cover and canopy are both made of polyester and are machine washable—a must when dealing with spit-up and blowouts. But our editors and one of our parent testers found that the small hooks and tight-fitting tabs make getting the cover off the seat and back on a bit of a task. The majority of our parent testers were very satisfied with the quality of the frame and fabric. While most testers liked the feel of the fabric, our editors felt it could’ve been a bit softer for baby’s delicate skin.
We really like the quality of the seat. It has great fabric: I’ve had to wash the infant pillow multiple times (#blowouts) and it still looks fantastic—no stains and great wear.” —Jessica, mom of one
Some babies really dislike being strapped in a car seat, but the majority of our testers said the padding in the Chicco KeyFit 30 makes it a comfy ride for their little ones. Our editors were similarly impressed with this car seat’s cushy padding and infant insert, but wished the fabric was a little softer to the touch. The canopy is also an important comfort feature as it shades baby’s eyes from bright light and protects their tender skin from sunburn. We found the canopy on the Chicco KeyFit 30 a bit lacking: You have to grip the canopy on both sides to make an adjustment, which can make for an awkward reach, and it’s quite stiff. While it would be nice for the canopy to extend further for use with a stroller, a light blanket placed over the car seat will do the trick.
Our parent testers and editors were quite impressed with the Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat. All of our testers gave the KeyFit 30 a very good rating for quality and ease of use, and all but one also felt the value was very good, too. And not only were our testers all satisfied with this car seat, they said they’d buy it if they were purchasing a new infant car seat, and they wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to other parents. Our editors, meanwhile, were especially keen on how easy it was to install this car seat, the quality of the padding and the one-pull tightening and loosening system for the harness, keeping things simple and safe for parents and their babies.
Tip: When you purchase a car seat, always register it with the manufacturer. It ensures you’ll be notified if there’s a recall.