Part of Britax's "new generation" of car seats, the Roundabout 55 (*Est. $ 200) improves upon the tried and true Roundabout Classic with higher weight ratings and improved safety features. While it maxes out at 55 pounds front-facing, the Roundabout 55 offers the same 40-pound rear-facing weight rating as Britax's top models.
The Roundabout 55's safety features include integrated steel bars that stiffen the seat frame and strengthen the connection to the vehicle to reduce forward flexing in the seat and minimize the forward thrust to the child. The seat base is constructed with internal cells that collapse in a crash, lowering the seat's center of gravity to keep it stationary and reduce the child's motion. Deep, rigid sides with energy-absorbing foam provide side impact protection for the child's head and chest. Energy-absorbing tethers stabilize the car seat from the top in both the forward and the rear-facing positions, reducing the motion of the seat and the crash impact.
The Roundabout 55 doesn't offer all the features of the higher-end models (you do have to uninstall the seat to change the harness height), but it has many of the features for which Britax is known. The Roundabout 55 has a thick, nontangling harness, and generous 7.5-inch, two-position crotch strap, making it easier to secure larger children. The seat installs easily with push-button, seatbelt-style attachments that connect from above to the car's anchors without digging in between the seats. The Roundabout 55 has lock offs built into the seat belt path to keep it snug around the seat. And, while you do have to remove the seat from the car to wash the cover, it comes off in one piece and can be run through the washing machine and dryer.
According to some reviewers, the Roundabout 55's relatively smaller size makes it feel cozier for smaller infants and babies. The Roundabout 55 offers rear and forward facing recline positions to keep kids comfortable, and the protective side wings provide a comfortable point for sleeping. An attachable cup holder and a travel cart for airport use can be purchased separately. Although it has lower weight ratings than other Britax seats, it still falls into the recommendations for using a car seat in a forward-facing position.
No complaints about Britax service were found in our research of the Marathon 70. The Britax website offers comprehensive installation instructions for all car seat models, but you must know the date of manufacture to access the information. All Britax car seats carry a one year warranty against defects in materials and workmanship, with proof of purchase. Like most car seats, the seat expires and should not be used after seven years.
The Roundabout 55 seat makes advanced Britax safety and comfort features more affordable for families. It's also a good fit for smaller cars and can fit more easily when multiple car seats are required. In a perfect world the Roundabout 55 would have an easier harness height adjuster, but as it is, the seat provides great features and safety
ConsumerReports.org tests a sample of the most popular convertible car seats, including the Britax Roundabout 55. All models are assessed for safety, fit and usability based on their performance in independent testing.
Review: Convertible Car Seat Overview, Ratings, and Recommended, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, 2012
2. Baby Bargains
"Baby Bargains" covers the Britax line in general and the Roundabout specifically. Authors Denise and Alan Fields consider performance and ease of use -- as well as the brand's track record -- to come up with their overall rating.
Review: Convertible and Forward Facing-Only Car Seats, Denise and Alan Fields, Ninth Edition, 2012
3. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
The Britax Roundabout 55 earns 3 stars out of 5 for overall ease of use in the NHTSA's tests. Testers also rate the Roundabout's labels, instructions and installation features, and how easy it is to secure the child in both forward- and rear-facing positions.
Review: Child Safety Seat Ease of Use Ratings, Editors of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, As of Aug. 2012
The professional child passenger safety technicians and instructors who run this website name the Britax Roundabout 55 to their list of the best convertible car seats, saying it's "very easy to install in many vehicles and a nice value for the money." "Kecia" gives a thorough review of the Roundabout 55, including fit to car, installation and use. Her conclusion is that it's easy to install, but it can be difficult to make harness adjustments.
Review: Britax Roundabout 55 Review: Continuing the Legacy, "Kecia", As of May 2012
Raising Small Souls provides a detailed review of the Britax Roundabout 55 that covers safety and installation, comfort, maintenance, pros and cons and dimensions. While there are plenty of photos, it is hard to determine how much hands-on testing was done.
Review: Convertible Car Seat Reviews, Editors of RaisingSmallSouls.com, May 2012
About.com guide Heather Corley includes the Britax Roundabout 55 in her roundup of the top eight convertible car seats. It is not complete or comparative, but she seems to have done her research. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Review: Top 8 Convertible Car Seats, Heather Corley, May 2012
The Britax Roundabout 55 earns an overall 4.6 stars out of 5 in more than 45 reviews. Owners say it's easy to install and use. and they say their children are very comfortable. A few note that the cover slips up and that it's bigger than they expected.
Review: Britax Roundabout 55 Convertible Car Seat, Contributors to Amazon.com