The Cosco Scenera is a fixture in reviewer top-pick lists, and, with its budget price and high crash-test ratings, it's not hard to see why. The majority of parents' reviews are also positive, but some say the Scenera isn't as easy to install and adjust as some seats. Reviewers also point out that this is a bare-bones seat, and its upper weight limit is a low 40 pounds. It's rear-facing limit Is 35 pounds. Some car seats accommodate rear-facing children to 40 pounds, and up to 65 or 70 front-facing.
Good crash-test results, but no safety extras. The Cosco Scenera receives an Excellent crash-test rating from one independent testing organization, higher than many more expensive car seats. However, other reviewers note that the Scenera lacks the energy-absorbing foam that pricier seats boast. It also lacks side wings that protect against side-impact crashes. One reviewer also complains that the shell is rough and has some sharp edges. The seat has basic hook-style LATCH connectors as well as a five-point harness and chest clip, standard on convertible seats.
Mixed reviews for ease of use. The Cosco Scenera does not have a no-rethread height-adjusting harness, and some parents say its straps need to be smoothed regularly to keep them from twisting. It has a front harness-tension adjuster. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) doesn't find it particularly easy to use, saying it needs clearer labels to help users install it correctly and lacks the best installation features. Experts also note that it can be tough to achieve a proper angle rear-facing without using some sort of bolster, such as a towel or a pool noodle. On the other hand, most parent feedback indicates that the Scenera is not difficult to install, though some complain the straps can be hard to adjust properly. Parents say the machine-washable seat cover is easy to remove.
No fancy extras at this price. Comfort on long trips may be an issue with the Cosco Scenera, reviewers note. Experts also caution that it might not provide a good fit for small babies. It has a two-position recline, but some owners complain about thin padding and say their child does not seem comfortable. The lack of side wings also means kids' heads may flop around more during car naps. The Scenera is smaller than other car seats and gets good fit-to-vehicle rankings, but that advantage has a big trade-off: The seat has a relatively low 40-pound weight limit and 43-inch height limit, so it might not be the best pick for older, taller or heavier children. However, because it is lightweight, it can be a good seat for travel, some reviewers say. The Scenera comes with a removable cupholder.
No frills here, either. There are limited reviews of Cosco customer service online, but those that exist are generally poor. The company website has downloadable instruction manuals, but you will need both the manufacture date and the product number to access them -- inconvenient if your seat's already installed. The Cosco Scenera expires six years after manufacture and has a limited one-year warranty. The company advises against using the seat after a crash.
The Cosco Scenera makes the site's list of recommended car seats, with editors noting that it's a "good budget seat" that is lightweight, narrow and easy to install. However, the seat lacks energy-absorbent foam and plush padding, and getting the angle right rear-facing can be tough, they say.
Review: Recommended Carseats, Editors of CarSeatBlog.com, September 2012
2. Baby Bargains
"Baby Bargains" covers the Cosco line and the Cosco Scenera specifically. Authors Denise and Alan Fields consider performance, ease of use and the brand's track record to come up with their overall rating.
Review: Car Seats: Picking the Right Child Safety Seat, Denise and Alan Fields, Tenth Edition, 2013
ConsumerReports.org tests 27 convertible car seats. 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. However, there are a couple of discontinued models listed, and it's unclear when the tests were performed.
Review: Convertible Car Seat Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated
4. Good Housekeeping
The Cosco Scenera is one of nine car seats reviewed in Good Housekeeping's Convertible Car Seat Reviews. Reviewers note its budget-friendly price and lightweight maneuverability as top features.
Review: Convertible Car Seat Reviews, Editors of Good Housekeeping, 2012
5. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
The Cosco Scenera earns 3 stars out of 5 for overall ease of use in the NHTSA's tests. The Scenera is penalized for poor labels for rear-facing use, but receives 3 to 5 stars in all other categories.
Review: Child Safety Seat Ease of Use Ratings, Editors of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, As of February 2014
Buzzillions.com offers an easy-to-use interface and aggregate pros and cons lists. The Cosco Scenera earns 4.4 stars out of 5 overall in more than 40 reviews. Most owners say the seat is easy to install and clean, but a few say it's hard to adjust.
Review: Cosco Scenera Convertible Car Seat, Contributors to Buzzillions.com, As of February 2014
Viewpoints.com hosts more than 175 owner reviews of the Cosco Scenera, which gets an overall rating of 81 out of 100. While price is the Scenera's standout feature, it gets good feedback for being safe and easy to install. Several reviewers complain that the straps twist and the seat is not well padded.
Review: Cosco Scenera Convertible Car Seat Reviews, Contributors to Viewpoints.com, As of February 2014
Heather Corley commends the Cosco Scenera for its safety and basic, straightforward features that will fit within a strict budget. But she says the straps can twist and that the LATCH connectors can be hard to use.
Review: Top 8 Convertible Car Seats, Heather Corley, Not Dated
BabyCenter.com editors praise the Cosco Scenera as a "solid choice" that offers safety on a budget without a lot of extras. They note excellent crash-test ratings, but caution that the seat has a low weight limit.
Review: Toddler Car Seats, Editors of BabyCenter.com, Not Dated