10 best performing 1/2/3 car seats

The top-performing Group 1/2/3 car seats that will grow with your child from 9 months to 12 years, chosen from our rigorous MFM tests and reader reviews

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  • But first, a quick guide explaining what a 1/2/3 car seat actually is…

    There are currently multiple car seat groups in the UK that range from Group 0/0+ (newborn) to Group 2/3 (4-12 years). While many parents do it, buying a new car seat for every stage can get expensive.

    However, there are also combination, or multi-group car seats that cover a range of the groups.  A Group 1/2/3 combination car seat is suitable from 9kg to 36kg, which is roughly 9 months to 12 years.

    While multi-stage, particularly Group 1/2/3 seats are increasing in popularity among parents, it is worth bearing in mind a few pros and cons of the multi-group seat, which we've listed here.  

  • Cosatto Hubbub, £185

    This Group 1/2/3 car seat is ideal if you've got a mini Houdini on yours hands as it comes with an integrated 5-Point Plus Anti-Escape System. 

    A protective 'waistcoat' that sits just under the armpits and goes around the back and over the shoulders of your little one, it means there isn't a gap for kids to wriggle out of the harness.  

    Our reviewer and his sons tested it out, and the boys did find it almost impossible to get out of the harness.  But it's worth noting it's not perfect, according Cosatto in its tests 9 out of 10 children couldn't wriggle out of their harness, so be sure it's fitted tightly before driving.  

    As a Group 1/2/3 forward-facing car seat the Hubbub also comes with Universal ISOFIX, side impact protection,  6-position headrest,  5-point safety harness with quick-release button. 

    Check out the complete review of the Hubbub here

    After an all-stage car seat like the Joie Every Stage?  Have a look at these Group 0+/1/2/3 seats.

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  • Kiddy Guardianfix Pro 2, £220

    The Guardianfix Pro 2 uses an impact shield rather than a harness. The innovative German brand Kiddy claims that an impact shield offers greater protection than a 5-point belt harness in front impact accidents.

    The car seat also has an array of features that focus on the comfort for your child, such as snooze position and three-stage leg extension. It also offers height and width adjustments that can be done with one hand.

    Need to know more about the Guardianfix Pro 2?  Read the full review.

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  • Britax Evolva Plus, £119.99

    Having garnered a plethora of awards for its design and safety features, the Evolva Plus car seat has all the safety features we’ve come to expect from Britax, such as a 5-point harness, high back support and extensive side impact protection. 

    This forward-facing car seat also has a handy pull out drink/snack holders, for the little one's entertainment. 

    Have more questions about the Evolva Plus? Check out the full review.

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  • Recaro Young Sport HERO, £174

    An updated version of the Recaro Young Sport seat, this forward-facing car seat is universal fit, meaning it has to be installed using the car’s three-point seatbelt and is not ISOFIX or doesn’t fit into a base.  

    The ‘HERO’ safety system harness is one unit consisting of shoulder pads, belts and an inner headrest.  It is said to provide optimum safety and comfort for the head, neck and shoulders whilst preventing the belt from twisting or slipping.

    Our MFM mum reviewer was "very confident" when strapping her little boy into the Young Sport HERO and said he found it "very comfortable."

    We've got more on the Recaro Young Sport HERO in the full review.

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  • Cybex Pallas M-Fix, £260

    Looking like it could upgrade the appearance of even the sportiest of cars, the Pallas M-Fix comes in an array of dazzling colours and is one of the nicest looking car seats on the market. 

    Opting for a cushioned impact shield instead of a safety harness while in Group 1 mode, the Pallas M-Fix can then be used with an adult seat belt in stages 2 and 3, like all 1/2/3 car seats. 

    But where the Cybex version differs is with its safety tests and awards - it has won many.  And it's safety performance in accidents has been rated excellent throughout its entire lifespan by German safety organisation ADAC and motor magazine Auto Bild. 

    Here's the full review of the Pallas M-Fix

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  • Concord Transformer XT Pro, £280

    Its not often you hear the term ‘pneumatically supported’ in relation to child car seats – that is, until you come across the Transformer XT Pro. 

    It uses a unique gas hydraulic system as part if its adjustable headrest and recline systems, which means you can move a child easily from upright to reclined with the push of a button. It also features an impact shield rather than a 5-point harness.

    With automatically locking seat belt strap guides, a triple layer impact protection system and a TWINFIX connector system supported by lockable pneumatic spring, this seat comes fully loaded with gadgets.  

    Here's the full review of the Concord car seat

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  • Graco Nautilus, £159.99 - MadeForMums Awards Silver Winner for Best Multistage Car Seat

    A very affordable, long-lasting Group 1/2/3 seat, the Graco Nautilus takes our silver award in the multistage car seat category.

    The forward-facing car seat has side impact protection, 5-position headrest, and two position recline.

    It’s simple to fit in the car, easy to adjust between the ages and comes with a cup holder and storage pocket that the kids will no doubt love. 

    What our MadeForMums judges say about the Graco Nautilus car seat:

    “Although this is a forward facing option only seats, it is nicely-padded and good height for taller children.  I love the no thread feature when you adjust the head height.  I love the cup holder, it looks like an actual seat rather than a chair,” mum of 4, Lucy.

    “Multiple features for a great price - this car seat from 9 months to 12 years looks lovely and comfortable. Love the fabric, and the arm rests and toy storage are a nice touch. Very easy to recline and no re-thread harness a great idea,” mum of 2, Magda.

    “Looks very spacious, from 9 months to 12 years. It is seat belt installation only, but Graco don't really come with ISOFIX in the UK.  Really like the 5-point harness and no need to retread it as they grow, which is very handy and convenient. I love the arm rests for the older kids also.  It even has a storage space for toys and snacks which is good,” mum of 4 Puneet.

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  • Britax ADVANSAFIX II SICT, £210

    A " safe, secure and snug car seat" (says our MFM mum reviewer) the Britax ADVANSAFIX II SICT is not only suitable from 9kg to 36kg it also has ISOFIX connectors, a 5-point safety harness, and a top tether.

    And for added safety, or for larger babies, the 5-point harness can be used until 25kg! 

    We've got the full review of the car seat here.

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  • Mothercare Advance XP, £65

    The Mothercare Advance XP is a great budget option for cash-conscious parents looking for a seat that will last their child through the years.  

    It's also great for grandparents or child minders who need seats for occasional use for children of different ages but don’t want to pay big money for fancy extras.

    Featuring a 5-point harness, side impact protection and removable washable covers,swivel armrests for easy access in and out of the seat.

    It's not the most high-tech car seat out there, but it's safe and affordable.  And, as with all car seats, we recommend you get a trained fitter to install it in the car.

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  • Multimac, £1500-2000 - MadeForMums Awards bronze winner Multistage car seat

    If you need a car seat that can easily fit 3 or 4 children in the back of the car then the Multimac is sure to be the best one for you.

    Made to fit most medium-sized cars, the Multimac can be used from birth to 12 years in a variety of combinations, one of which includes rear-facing to 3 years.

    Multimac Tether straps are bolted on to the rear seat belt buckle mountings in your car, leaving the adult belts in place.  That means you can fit the seat in easily and remove it quickly, if you need to, so adults can still sit in the back. 

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  • Pros and cons of 1/2/3 Group car seats...

    Built to last - These seats are usually built to last, that used to mean that combination group car seats were more expensive, but that's not the case anymore.  However, you do have to be mindful on how long you can use them for, we explain whether car seats expire here

    Heavy and less portable - The 1/2/3 seats are also more likely to be heavier and less portable than other car seats, and won’t be easy to move out of the car to the home. It also isn't compatible with a buggy to create a travel system.

    Not usually i-Size compatible - Group 1/2/3 car seats have traditionally been forward facing from 9 months, but this trend is changing with the new i-Size laws (more on this below) introduced in 2013 and UK regulations implemented in April 2015.  In a few years (thought to be 2018) all new infant car seats sold in the UK will have to be i-Size (ECE R129) seats. That means children will have to sit rear-facing until they are at least 15 months, eventually phasing out forward-facing from 9kg or 9 months car seats.  You can find out more about i-Size legislation here.

    Don't forget these important car seat safety guidelines:

    1. Car seat law - you need to use a car seat to transport your baby around in a car. Read the latest law update and the exceptions              

    2. Safety - should be your priority when choosing a car seat, not looks or budget bargains. While price is important, and not actually an indicator of how safe it is, don’t settle for second best – or secondhand.

    3. How it fits in your car - not all car seats fit in all cars, and incorrectly fitted seats can be dangerous – so make sure you get it professionally fitted. Some manufacturers also offer a quick online checking service, such as Britax’s Fit-Finder or Maxi-Cosi’s car fitting list. Have your car’s make, model and year of production close to hand for fast checking.

    4. ISOFIX - This is a type of fitting, which makes it easy to install your car seat correctly into your car. However, not all cars have ISOFIX - so check your car is compatible before buying. And remember, some ISOFIX car seats can also be fitted into a non-ISOFIX car with a seat belt. 

    Want more car seats?  We've got that covered...