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Parents with several young children need compact car seats

A narrow seat that can fit three across, the Diono RadianRXT (Est. $270) has won a lot of fans for its ability to keep big kids safe for as long as possible. The steel-reinforced frame has side-impact protection including head wings, and the seat can be tethered both rear- and forward-facing. But the RadianRXT's true claim to fame is its high height and weight capacities: up to 44 inches and 45 pounds rear-facing, and 57 inches and a whopping 80 pounds forward-facing. The seat also converts to a booster that can keep kids safe up to 120 pounds. Of course, the main downside to these impressive numbers is the seat's tall shell, which makes it a front-to-back space hog. Diono sells an angle adjuster that largely alleviates that problem, but children must be able to sit independently and have full head control before parents can use it. Some reviewers also complain about difficult installation and say the straps can be hard to tighten.

Another narrow but tall seat, the new Clek Foonf (Est. $399) has been one of the most anticipated convertible car seats in recent years, thanks to some formidable safety innovations. The seat has an aluminum honeycomb that absorbs energy as it crumples in a crash, an anti-rebound bar for use rear-facing, and a steel and magnesium frame -- all in addition to more common safety features such as side-impact head wings and energy-absorbing foam. The Foonf has a higher rear-facing weight limit than the Diono RadianRXT -- 50 pounds -- but a comparatively low 65-pound forward-facing limit. It also isn't suitable for babies under 14 pounds. The seat's narrow frame allows for three-across installations, but some parents complain the tall shell obstructs their view while driving. Reviewers also warn that the seat's straps can be hard to tighten, and that they must be rethreaded to adjust their height. Finally, to say the Foonf is heavy is an understatement -- at 34 to 36 pounds, it's not exactly portable.

Compact-car drivers who need a seat that's both narrow and short shelled may be thrilled with the Combi Coccoro (Est. $175) . The seat is lightweight, making it a good pick for travel. It has energy-absorbing foam and side-impact protection, and it can be tethered both rear-and forward-facing. An infant insert and a 3-pound minimum weight capacity also mean the Coccoro can accommodate truly tiny babies. While reviewers like the stylish fabric, some say it stains easily. The straps, while easy to adjust, must be rethreaded to adjust for height. Unsurprisingly, the Coccoro's biggest downside is a consequence of its small shell: The seat tops out at 40 pounds and 40 inches forward-facing, so it might not be the best seat for the long haul.

The Diono RadianRXT is one of the most popular car seats on the market for a reason: Today's tough, long-term child restraint laws can make a parent of several small children crazy. The RadianRXT may help restore your sanity.

Diono Radian RXT Convertible Car Seat, Shadow
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New: $359.99 $287.99   
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