Reviewed by Michael Linney
Delivery & unpacking
Upon receipt, the packaging was of a size most might struggle to get through their front door. Let’s be clear – this is one sizeable cardboard box!
Opening the box was easy; removing the multiple layers of intricately engineered pads and layers of cardboard means you will want a fair bit of space to unpack this seat.
Once free of the superbly designed packaging, it is unclear as to whether the seat itself is detachable from the base.
It is a very black unit with limited vibrancy or colouring (other colours are available).
With no prior information regarding this unit, I was (typical male) determined to get to grips with this without consorting to opening the vast selection of multiple language instruction packs.
All joking aside, regardless of your abilities, always read the manual for car seats! There are also instruction videos on the Britax website.
Eventually finding the manuals and reading the English versions gave significant clarity to the specification and capabilities of this seat and its design. It’s a pity the two manuals weren’t put together in one polybag for ease of first use and immediate product familiarity.
Being an I-Size seat, it caters for birth to 15 months/13kg/83cm, and provides lie flat technology. It can be fitted independently of the base but using only seat belts not ISOFIX.
Not only being a belt or ISOFIX type, you can do both! The manuals are designed (and very well folded in a specific way) so that they are concealed within integrated locations on the seat and the base.
The Base & fitting
The seat does indeed detach from the base and this is probably the only way you will get this product into your car.
It is a fairly cumbersome unit, sadly not equipped with any specific carry handle or grab point to assist loading, unloading and general carrying/transferring.
Pulling out the footwell anti-submarine leg, reveals clear coloured indicators showing the angle and position that is deemed fit for purpose.
Although a nice design touch, I much prefer the Maxi-Cosi family fix bases with electronic sensors and audible alerts. These give much easier indications as to the seats installation. However, in fairness, this seat is not aimed at the Maxi-Cosi price point.
A simple sliding release bar in the base, pulls the ISOFIX arms out, enabling the user to easily see the insertion point and guide the base into place.
Once the ISOFIX locks are heard to ‘click’, a quick pull forwards and rocking from side to side will reveal if the lock has been made on each ISOFIX bar.
The base is then slid backwards towards the rear seat as far as possible. This completes the ISOFIX installation.
The Seat – Fitting, Adjustment and Use
One huge design positive over most car seats, is the quick and very easy docking process of the seat to the base.
Just put seat onto base and push down. This results in an audible click on both side of the base indicating the seat is locked down. Removal of the seat is even easier, pulling on a small grab handle under the front edge and lifting the seat using the main handle. That’s it. This is much easier than the Maxi-Cosi where sometimes one side of the four latches (paired) are still engaged due to not lifting all four clear of the locking bars upon lock release.
Adjusting the recline angle of the seat is not possible – the only adjustment being the harness position to cope with differing sizes of baby.
Preparing our sample to suit my 7 month old was so easy – the head cushion and impact wrap brace just velcro’d in, needing minimal effort to set up.
The impact brace does feel a little cheap in terms of quality of feel, with the side impact ‘cushions’ being moulded plastic/Expanded Polymer and lacking a fleece cushioning lining or soft foam covering.
The main neck wrap is well made and of good quality fabric, feeling more luxurious than the impact brace.
Adjustment of the harnesses to suit baby height, is via a releasable panel on the back of the seat – also the manual stowage compartment. A simple sliding latch style device pulls the harness anchor points extending the length or shortening the overall length to suit baby height. Realistically this can only be done outside of the car.
This is not easy to open, so safe for those with small fingers.
The main crotch strap and harness connector is of highly durable, impact resistance high strength plastic which gives the impression of solidity. Sadly, this also comes at the cost of being very hard to hold whilst engaging the two shoulder harness clips as it has very little give or play. To insert the harness clips, simply lay one over the other to combine into one clasp and insert into the crotch strap latch until it clicks.
A point to consider here is that the latch is very quiet – most likely due to the dense material chosen.
The crotch pad also has loose fabric which easily gets trapped within the insertion process resulting in the effort needed to insert the combined clips being excessively high. This is one area the Maxi-Cosi Pebble and other Britax/Recaro offerings excel at. The audible click is much more confidence inspiring on these models as well.
However, the shoulder straps can be pulled tightly to check lock integrity and this gives a strong impression of a very durable lock design.
Tightening of the straps is quite difficult. Pulling the straps to a satisfactory level of fit, takes some considerable effort, and if fitted in a tightly confined rear car space (car with a lower C or D pillar), could result in adult head or shoulder to car body work impact. The ratcheting system is simply too tight with no apparent give at all. My car is an estate so I can make this adjustment without too much of a problem.
As with all seats, the main carry handle also acts as a roll over brace, so must always be erected in the vertical position prior to driving away. However, this has the ability to be extended beyond the usual positions to prevent excessive rocking of the seat when not in the car – i.e. on the floor at home, or prior to loading to the base at roadside – what an excellent idea!
Integral to the outer rim of the seat, and hooked onto the handle, is the superb sun shade.
This is a dense black coloured fabric with elastic loops which wrap around the handle and loop over hooks in the handles moulded surface. I personally like the way the loop has to be drawn around the handle so the shade cannot inadvertently detach, thereby removing the potential of whipping the child across the face in the process of recoiling back to the stowed position like the Maxi-Cosi Pebble has done to our child in the past.
Either side of the handle pivots are the handle release buttons which are well sized; require sufficient pressure to operate, and are easy to see due to being a light blue colour.
A unique to this seat feature are where the pivots also conceal extending side impact braces (SICT).
These provide additional side impact protection from door trim intrusion during side impacts. These simply unscrew until 5mm from the door. This is both a neat and tidy design idea as they simply screw back in to a flush state.
Obviously, this has to be done every time you use the seat in the same car or any other car. Time consuming may be – but side impacts are often the weakest links with car seats.
As with most car seats, this Romer can also be locked into a push chair frame but sadly this is limited to only a Britax compatible push chair. Best check for this prior to purchase if you intend to use this seat as part of a push chair system.
Overall this matches with our current Britax group 1-3 car seat that is fantastic for our toddler.
The Britax brand, design and reliability give me confidence in this product and since using it the past 2 weeks, I have been very impressed by its breadth of specification, general ease of use and quality of construction.
I would happily score it 4.5/5, and be very pleased if I had invested in this type of seat – even the negatives noted above – being small, are easily lived with when weighed against the positives.
RRP: £165 (Car Seat) / £130 (Car Seat Base)
For more information and stockists visit www.britax.co.uk.