Reviewers say you get a lot for under $100 with the Evenflo Embrace 35. The seat boasts thick padding, solid safety test results and a lightweight frame. It also has a 35-pound capacity, rare at such a low price point. There are some trade-offs, though: The seat's harness and buckles can be hard to use, and the canopy is skimpy and flimsy, parents say. The 90-day warranty is equally unimpressive.
Fares well in safety tests. The Evenflo Embrace 35 has energy-absorbing foam, a five-point harness with a chest clip and hook-style LATCH connectors. The seat receives good marks in independent safety tests, and Evenflo says the seat met or exceeded its own side-impact testing standards. Reviewers note that the handle can be safely left in only two of five locked positions while in a vehicle, but upright is not one of them, potentially increasing the chance of misuse. While Evenflo had to recall 450,000 seats in 2007 because of injuries related to a faulty handle, the Embrace 35 is not the same seat; Evenflo no longer sells the original Embrace.
Some pros, but more cons. Though it has older, less-convenient hook-style LATCH connectors, reviewers say installing the Evenflo Embrace 35 using LATCH is still fairly easy. Installation using seat belts is more difficult because the seat uses a locking clip to keep belts in older vehicles in place instead of an easier-to-use built-in lock-off. There is an indicator window that helps parents determine when the seat is placed at the proper angle. The seat has a smooth front-adjust harness, but reviewers say the straps are prone to twisting. Harness straps must also be rethreaded through the back of the seat to adjust for height. The buckles and chest clips can be stiff and difficult to open, experts say. On the plus side, the cover is easy to remove and can be both machine-washed and -dried, rare for an infant car seat.
Lightweight and well-padded. The Evenflo Embrace 35 accommodates children from 4 to 35 pounds and up to 30 inches tall, but Evenflo requires at least an inch of shell above the child's head regardless of height. The seat comes with a head-support pillow but not a full-body infant insert. Despite that, experts say the harness and crotch straps are adjustable enough to get a tight fit on newborns and even preemies. Parents say the seat seems very well padded, and they love that the seat is lightweight -- at 7.5 pounds, it's among the lightest on the market. However, reviewers complain that the canopy seems skimpy and flimsy. The seat's shell isn't as long as some others, making it more likely to fit in smaller cars, but experts caution that Evenflo requires 1.5 inches between the Embrace 35 and the seat in front of it. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not reviewed the Embrace 35 for ease of use.
Warranty shorter than most. Evenflo gets mixed reviews for customer service. It backs the Embrace 35 with a limited 90-day warranty, which falls far short of most competitors' one-year warranties. The seat expires a standard six years after manufacture. The manual is easy to find and download from Evenflo's website. The company recommends that its car seats be replaced after any type of crash, no matter how minor.
1. Baby Bargains
"Baby Bargains" covers all major infant car seats in depth. Authors Denise and Alan Fields consider performance, ease of use and the brand's track record to come up with their overall rating for each seat. Reviews are comparative, thorough and unbiased.
Review: Car Seats: Picking the Right Child Safety Seat, Denise and Alan Fields, 2013, 10th edition
This website, run by professional child passenger safety technicians and instructors, praises the Evenflo Embrace 35 for affordability, ease of use and fit for both large and small babies. But the harness straps can twist and the buckle and chest clip can be tricky, the reviewer says.
Review: Evenflo Embrace 35 Infant Car Seat Review: Ding, Ding! We Have a Winner!, Kecia Healy, June 25, 2012
Editors of ConsumerReports.org test 29 infant car seats on safety, ease of use and fit to vehicle. The ratings are reliable and unbiased, and they include editors' "highs" and "lows" for each seat -- helpful for parents who want a quick summary of each seat.
Review: Infant Car Seat Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not dated
Michelle Horton likes the Evenflo Embrace 35 because it is affordable, lightweight and a solid safety pick with energy-absorbing foam. But the buckles and harness can be hard to use, and the canopy could be better, she says. Non-LATCH installation is also difficult, she notes.
Review: Babble Blogger Favorites: Infant and Toddler Car Seats, Michelle Horton, Not dated
The Evenflo Embrace 35 receives 4 out of 5 stars in more than 15 reviews. Owners like that the seat is lightweight, budget-friendly and well-padded. But some complain about the small, flimsy canopy.
Review: Evenflo Embrace 35 Infant Car Seat, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of October 2013