I have been a Graco car seat fan for many years. In fact, I purchased a SnugRide for each of my children before they were born and each used the seat until they outgrew it. Graco is always working on car seat technology and one of the newest seats, introduced on the market earlier this year, is the Signature Series SmartSeat All-in-One Car Seat. The SmartSeat is a unique car seat system that allows one seat to grown with your child from birth (5 pounds) through 100 pounds. Yes, the seat transitions from rear facing to forward facing car seat to booster seat.
SmartSeat Height & Weight Limits
- REAR-FACING: fits infant 5 to 40 pounds and the top of the child’s head must be at least 1 inch below the top of the headrest of the seat
- FORWARD-FACING: fits toddler 20 to 65 pounds and up to 50”
- BOOSTER SEAT: fits youth 30 to 100 pounds and up to 57”
Graco SmartSeat Details
- SafeSeat Engineering – Engineered & Crash Tested to Meet or Exceed US Standard FMVS213:
- Side Impact Tested* (*In addition to meeting or exceeding all applicable US safety standards, the SmartSeat™ car seat has been side impact tested for occupant retention with the built-in 5 point harness system and with a standard vehicle harness system when in high back booster mode. Please consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual for more specific information on the performance of your vehicle’s safety belt system.)
- New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) – peak crash force approximately 2X Car Seat Standard
- Extreme Car Interior Temperatures
- Convenient, stay-in-car base with belt lock off for one time install (LATCH equipped)
- Steel-reinforced frame & car seat base provides strength and durability
- Locking indicators on seat & stay in car base to help ensure proper installation
- Integrated harness storage compartment holds the harness straps that are not in use while in the belt positioning booster mode
- Easy-to-read level indicator on the seat, helps eliminate installation guesswork
- No Re-thread harness for quick & easy harness adjustment
- One-hand, 6 position adjustable head rest for your growing child
- On-the go, 5-position recline so you can recline child while in use
- EPS, energy absorbing foam liner
- Flip-up armrests makes it easy for child to get in & out of car seat
- Child’s cup holder keeps child’s drink close by
Graco SmartSeat All-in-One Video
SmartSeat All-in-One Car Seat Review
SMART BASE: One of the key features that sets the SmartSeat aside is the Smart Base. The steel-reinforced base is used with the Smart Seat in both the rear and forward facing position, so you install the base one time and it’s in position for use for, literally, years. It can be placed in the car using either a LATCH or the car seat belt. The base has a unique belt lock-off system that makes it easier to install it securely with less tugging and pulling. Having installed many a car seat, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy the base was to install in both our SUV and our sedan.
It’s quite easy to transition the SmartSeat from rear to forward facing (or back again). There’s a knob on either side of the seat that you turn to release the seat from the base. Large, very noticeable red latches come through the seat to unlock it from the base. To re-attach it you simply adjust the knobs on the sides again. If the red things sticking out of the car seat aren’t indication enough, there is a very easy to read base locking indicator on the Smart Base to let you know when its locked. (In the photo below it’s in the locked position.)
REAR-FACING USE: The SmartSeat can be used rear facing with infants from 5 pounds through toddlers who are 40 pounds. Graco recommends using the seat rear facing as long as possible. The generous 40 pound limit and six position head rest definitely extends the likelihood and ability to use the seat rear facing, which we really like. My two and a half year old daughter is average height and weighs about 30 pounds fits comfortably rear facing.
Installing a car seat can be stressful and intimidating, but there’s a level indicator on the side of the seat that easily lets you know whether the seat is at the correct angle when rear-facing.
The SmartSeat has a one-handed recline that helps to get the rear-facing position correct. The seat may not be at the appropriate angle in all recline positions in all cars; for example, in our Honda Accord the seat was installed correctly according to the indicator in 2 of the 5 recline positions.
Using convertible car seats rear facing often presents a “fit challenge” in cars. Because of the recline position and the size of convertible seats, they take up a lot of space. In the photo below you can see the seat rear facing in a four door Honda Accord. It actually fits better than other convertible car seats we’ve used so I’m rather impressed with how it fits. Now, a very tall passenger in the front seat might disagree as the seat cannot extend back all the way.
Like all convertible car seats, the SmartSeat is not an infant seat that you’ll remove from the car and carry with you. Even if you could, you wouldn’t want to because the steel reinforcements in the seat make it rather heavy. If you plan to use this seat with a young infant I recommend keeping a baby wrap or carrier in the car for use when you’re on the go.
FORWARD-FACING USE: Toddler will ride in style in the SmartSeat forward facing from no less than 20 and up to 65 pounds. One of the best features is the 6-position adjustable headrest. Parents can easily adjust the height of the headrest with one hand, and the Seat automatically adjusts the length of the harness. I just love this no stress, no re-thread adjustment which makes it particularly easy to switch between use with my 4 year old son and my 2 year old daughter.
Because the SmartSeat sits on the Smart Base, it has a higher profile than other convertible car seats we’ve used. The flip up armrests on the side help kids get in and out of the seat slightly easier, but it was still difficult for me to help my children in the seat when it was installed in our SUV.
BOOSTER SEAT USE: When your child is at least 30 pounds and ready to switch to a booster seat, there’s no reason to purchase a new seat. The SmartSeat can be used as a high-back booster with your car’s seat belt restraint. Neither of my children are appropriate to ride in a Booster Seat yet, so we haven’t put this to a road test yet. To use, you remove the Smart Base and take advantage of the Smart Seat storage compartment to stow the harness you no longer need.
Aesthetics & Fabric: The SmartSeat is available in two fabric options: Larkin (in this review) and Jessica (a pretty brown and pink with floral). The fabric is different from other car seat we have – in a good way. It’s almost silky lending to an overall really nice looking seat.
To Buy or Not To Buy
To Buy… The SmartSeat puts the three car seats your child needs (a rear-facing infant seat, a forward-facing toddler seat and a booster seat) into ONE Seat, making it a good investment that will grow with your child for years. Seriously, how great would it be to purchase one car seat and use it until your child outgrows the need for it? I found the seat relatively easy to install, and I like the easy-to-read safety indicators and notations throughout the seat. The seat, arm rests and cup holder provide a very comfortable ride for kids of all ages. Parents are comfortable knowing both the seat and base are steel reinforced and side-impact tested.
Or Not to Buy… Using a base makes the forward-facing position very high profile and more difficult to get in and out of. I like the idea of the “install it once” base, but am not sure how realistic it is to install it and leave it there for years.
Shop! The Graco Signature Series SmartSeat All in One Car Seat is available exclusively at Babies R Us for $299.99
Disclosure: This is a personal review based on our experience with the car seat. It is not intended to be instructional – that’s what the thorough manual is for. Thanks to Graco for providing a sample product.