There are so many things to consider when buying a car seat for the teeniest passenger in your family—quality, comfort and ease of use, as well as whether it’s compatible with your vehicle and stroller. We put the Nuna Pipa to the test in our lab and asked new parents to try it out so we could get feedback on everyday use, and both our editors and parent testers were impressed. They found the car seat incredibly easy to install, simple to adjust and super comfy for babe. Suitable for little ones weighing between four and 35 pounds, and up to 32 inches tall, it has a heavy-duty shell, yet is still lightweight, and an ergonomic handle to make things more comfortable for you. Plus, it comes with an extendable UPF 50+ canopy to protect little ones from sunburn.
Like all the car seats we test, the Nuna Pipa has been crash-tested by the manufacturer and approved for use in Canada by Transport Canada and Health Canada. We focused our testing on the car seat’s quality, ease of installation and use, and overall value.
Ease of Installation
Our parent testers and editors were all big fans of the easy installation of the Nuna Pipa, and they found the manual helpful and straightforward thanks to lots of clear pictures. You can install the base of the Pipa with the Universal Anchorage System (UAS) connectors—so long as your vehicle has standard width anchors (check the manual)—or your vehicle’s seatbelt. When you’re installing the car seat, you want to make sure your car is parked on level ground.
Nuna promises a five-second installation thanks to the Pipa’s “True Lock” rigid UAS connectors, but it always takes longer the first time you do anything—plus, you may have to adjust the angle of the base so that the carrier sits at the safe recline angle. That said, our editors and testers all found this installation quick and super easy. The beauty of rigid UAS connectors is there’s no belt you’ll struggle to tighten, and these ones also feature a fool-proof indicator that turns green when the install is secure (you should always give it a tug to double check, though). Once the base is secure, you’ll need to click the carrier into place to see if you’ve got the base installed at the correct angle. If the blue line on the carrier isn’t level to the ground, you’ll need to release the UAS connectors, place a tightly rolled towel or pool noodle under the base as shown in the manual, and pivot the UAS connectors and re-clip them to the anchors. (Note: The UAS connectors lock and won’t pivot once they’re attached to the anchors.) With some car seats, getting this angle just right can take a bit of time and effort, but neither our editors nor testers had any difficulty with this car seat.
While most car seats are only approved for UAS or seatbelt installation, the Nuna Pipa is one of the few that will allow you to secure the base with both the UAS and seatbelt together.
Installing the base with your vehicle’s shoulder and lap belt, takes more muscle and a little coordination, but is still quite simple. You’ll have to thread the vehicle’s seat belt through the base’s belt path and blue belt “lock off,” and then buckle the seatbelt. Next, you press the base into the vehicle’s seat while tightening the belt, and when it’s as tight as you can get it, you close the lock off, making sure the belt is flat in the lock off. Our editors found that the belt does slide around a bit when you’re tightening, so this install is a little more finicky than the UAS install. Once you have the belt tightened and taut, you’ll need to click the carrier into the base and check to see if the blue line on the carrier is level with the ground. If not, you’ll have to unbuckle the seat belt, adjust the base angle using a pool noodle or tightly rolled towel, and go through the process of reinstalling and checking the level line until you achieve the correct angle.
On those rare occasions you want to install the Nuna Pipa without the base—maybe you’re travelling or taking a taxi—you’ll be glad to know we found this installation quite easy. The lap portion of your vehicle’s seat belt needs to be threaded under the lap belt guides on each side of the carrier before buckling. Then the shoulder belt is wrapped around the back of the carrier, through the blue guide. You’ll need to pull the vehicle belt all the way out to engage your vehicle seatbelt’s locking mechanism, then press the carrier into the vehicle’s seat while tightening the belt until it’s taut and locked. Again, the angle of the carrier is correct when the blue line on the carrier is level with the ground, and a pool noodle or tightly rolled towel placed under the foot of the carrier to adjust the angle.
With any seatbelt installation, you’ll also need to check that the belt has been tightened enough to properly secure the car seat in a crash. Gripping the base (or the carrier if installing without the base) at the belt path and trying to move it side to side, it should not move more than one inch. If it does, you need to tighten the belt more.
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 Nuna Pipa has a fairly narrow profile: it’s just 17.5 inches wide—one of the narrowest infant car seats we tested, which means you can install other car seats or have a couple of additional passengers sharing the back seat with reasonable comfort. The weight of the carrier is also something to consider—after all, you’ll be lifting it in and out of the car and schlepping around a growing babe in it, which can really put a strain on your back. At 7.9 pounds, the Pipa is one of the lightest carriers we tested, and is has an ergonomic handle to help manage the load.
Our editors and parent testers unanimously said the Nuna Pipa’s five-point safety harness is very easy to use, and everyone felt strongly that it feels secure. Plus, parents said the harness sits comfortably against their little one, and our editors weren’t surprised by this considering the harness has really nice, plush shoulder pads for comfy cushioning. (If your kiddo isn’t a fan, the shoulder pads can be removed and the car seat can be used without them.)
Undoing the harness buckle is easy, though it does take two hands as you need to give it a gentle squeeze and remove buckle tongues (unlike some other car seats, they don’t just shoot out of the buckle when you press the release button). The chest clip, meanwhile, secures and releases smoothly with one hand. Adjusting the straps is easily done by pulling the tether at the front of the base to tighten and pressing the adjuster button to loosen.
Everyone agreed that removing and reinstalling the harness (if you have to clean it, for example) is a cinch. You will have to rethread the harness to adjust the height of the shoulder straps as your little one grows, but that’s common for infant car seats and it’s a pretty easy task. Plush shoulder pads add some cozy cushioning to the harness straps, but they can be removed in warmer weather and the car seat can be safely used without them.
FRAME AND FABRIC
The Nuna Pipa’s carrier might be lightweight, but the shell is heavy-duty and offers side-impact protection. All of our testers were very happy with the quality of the frame and fabrics. The seat features padded support and premium micro-knit fabric. Removable shoulder pads on the harness are also cushiony and soft, and an infant insert provides additional support for newborns under 11 pounds. While the carry handle is ergonomic, one tester did note that she wished you didn’t have to squeeze the handle buttons on both sides to adjust the positioning of the handle as it’s a bit of a stretch for smaller moms to reach across the carrier.
Spit-up and diaper leaks are inevitable, so materials that wash easily are a must. The the seat pad can be machine washed in cold water using a mild detergent on a delicate cycle. You’ll have to hang dry it in the shade. The shell, handle and harness straps can be cleaned by hand using a cloth with cold water and a mild detergent and should be allowed to air dry. When the buckle gets gunky, you can clean it with warm water and let it air dry. It’s worth noting that the seat attaches to the shell with a number of hooks and clips, so you’ll want to pay attention how it goes together when you’re removing it.
It’s impossible to predict whether you’ll have a baby that’s happy as a clam during car rides or despises his car seat with a passion (and lets you know it), but the parents who tested the Nuna Pipa all strongly agree that the padding makes this car seat a comfy ride for littles. They also felt that the padding helped to support their baby’s head and neck. Our editors were also impressed with how soft and plush the interior of this seat is.
Shading your baby from the sun and jarring changes in light at night is also important. The Nuna Pipa’s canopy provides top-notch sun protection that allows little ones to sleep in peace. While the standard canopy is great for basic shielding, the zip-out “Dream Drape” extension is what really sets this car seat apart—you simply unzip it from the pocket in the canopy, extend it all the way over the carrier and secure it to the base with magnetic fasteners. Breathable mesh sides means there’s no worry that your baby will overheat and a peekaboo mesh window allows you to keep an eye on your tot—though it does have a Velcro closure that can be a rude awakening for your snoozing kiddo.
I absolutely love this car seat. It seems that Nuna thought of absolutely everything that someone may want in an infant car seat. It’s lightweight, super easy to install, looks good and the extra large canopy is perfect for having the baby snooze without the sun in her eyes.” —Kristina, mom of one
All of our testers were very happy with the Nuna Pipa and would gladly recommend it to other parents and parents-to-be. They unanimously gave the car seat very good ratings for quality and ease of use. While it’s on the higher end of price points for infant car seats, our editors and parent testers felt the lightweight, durable Nuna Pipa is worth it given the quality, ease of installation and use, and comfort for little ones. All of our testers thought it was better than other newborn car seats they’ve tried and would purchase it if they were buying a new infant car seat—a ringing endorsement.