Experts say that easy installation is the most important feature in any car seat, because if you can't get it in the car properly, it can't protect your baby properly.
The Chicco KeyFit 30 (Est. $190) has topped many parents' wish lists for the past few years, and reviewers say other manufacturers still can't beat it for ease of use. The KeyFit 30's LATCH connectors are a cinch to use, and the adjustable base and level indicators make getting the right recline a no-brainer, experts say. The seat is a safety standout, too, scoring well in independent crash tests. Parents also appreciate the wide range of sophisticated color combinations that don't scream "baby seat." Of course, there are a few downsides: Some reviewers complain that the fabric runs too hot, especially in warmer climates, and many wish for a canopy that offered more protection from the sun. The KeyFit 30 is also pricier than several seats with similar features.
Britax has long set the standard in the convertible car-seat market, but reviewers say the company has a winning infant seat in the Britax B-SAFE (Est. $135) . True to its name, the seat receives the highest marks in independent crash tests. While installation isn't quite as smooth as it is with the Chicco KeyFit 30, reviewers say the B-SAFE is still easy to secure and a good pick for situations where parents may not install the seat with a base, such as rental cars or taxis. Parents also like the large sun canopy, but they say the fabric can make for sweaty babies and the harness straps twist too easily. The wide base can also take up a lot of real estate in compact cars.
Parents who appreciate modern design and don't want to lug around a heavy seat will want to check out the Maxi-Cosi Mico (Est. $150) . The seat boasts a sophisticated, streamlined look and a range of vibrant colors. It's also among the lightest seats on the market and receives the highest marks in independent crash tests. Reviewers say the cotton fabric is more breathable than the covers on competing seats. However, the Mico will accommodate babies up to only 22 pounds, while seats such as the Chicco KeyFit 30 and Britax B-SAFE top out at 30 pounds. Some reviewers also complain that the base can be hard to use and the sun canopy should be bigger.
With all things being equal, and not much difference in the price, the Chicco KeyFit 30 is tops for ease of use, comfort for baby and a wide range of color options. Best of all, pair the Chicco infant seat with a Chicco stroller and you have a travel system that will go the distance.