Recaro Zero.1 Elite

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In a nutshell

A premium product combining a removable infant carrier with an i-size car seat. Solid, stylish and luxurious, but due to its integrated ISOFIX base - slightly bulky.

  • Pros

    Quality engineering, stylishly understated, adaptable - good for newborn to around 4.5 years

  • Cons

    Pricey, manufacturing quality not infallible

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Our review

Key features of the Recaro Zero.1 Elite

  • Age suitability: birth to 18kg (around 4 years)
  • Rear-facing to: 4 years
  • Installation: ISOFIX base included
  • Features: advanced side impact protection system, 360 rotating system, removable infant carrier, integrated ISOFIX base

Recaro has been producing high-end car seats for premium carmakers such as Porsche and Aston Martin for decades, as well as 'bucket' seats for performance road cars and the motorsport market. The German company entered the child car seat market in 1998 and has more recently branched out to make strollers. The Recaro Zero.1 Elite is an integrated i-Size seat suitable for use from birth to around 4.5 years. It competes directly with top-of-the-range rivals including the Jané Gravity i-Size car seat (£349) and the Maxi-Cosi AxissFix Plus (£395). Recaro describes the Zero.1 Elite as a ‘world first’, citing the combination of a removable infant carrier with a car seat to provide an all-in one-solution from birth to around 4.5 years, plus a 360-degree swivel function. 

What’s in the box?

  • seat unit
  • an infant carrier
  • newborn insert
  • a seat reducer bolster / cushion
  • plastic guides to help slot the seat into your car's ISOFIX brackets
  • plastic guides for the carrier 
  • instructions booklet
  • separate booklet citing the vehicles which the seat will fit

First impressions?

It’s a solid, stylish, understated, high tech piece of kit that draws heavily on the high-sided “bucket” shape, which is a defining feature of Recaro’s performance car seats. My eye was immediately drawn to the indicator display with its four display windows showing either red or green. It’s a useful visual reference, with four green panels confirming that everything’s correctly positioned and engaged. 

This car seat is unlike any on the market - tell us how it works...

The carrier, which has an inlay for a newborn, secures into the rear-facing seat. When your child has outgrown the carrier, they can stay rear facing in the seat until they are 18kg. You can however, use the forward-facing mode from 15 months, if you choose to do so.  This offers incredible flexibility, making it perfect for parents wanting to install one car seat that does it all. In addition, the seat rotates 360 degrees, even with the carrier attached. 

You can buy the Recaro Zero.1 Elite from Mothercare, Uber Kids and Baby&Co.

What’s the best age child for this car seat and why?

The seat can be used from birth to 18kg, which could be at age four to five. For me, this is the beauty of this seat. My daughter Tess was already a year old and 10 kilos when the car seat came to us, so was too big for the carrier. However, we would have been more than happy bringing Tess home from the maternity ward using the carrier and newborn insert – it all looks and feels reassuringly well padded. Tess is now very happy using the seat in rear-facing mode (compulsory to 15 months old) and our three-year-old is happy using it in forward-facing mode. It’s really easy to switch between the two, giving us lots of flexibility. 

How does it install in the car?

It’s simple to install. The seat is connected to the base and you lift the entire thing into the car and click the ISOFIX arms into the car anchors. One of the first things I noticed about the Recaro Zero.1 Elite is that, unlike the Maxi-Cosi AxissFix Plus, it has a front supporting leg. While this reduces storage space in the footwell, it does add stability and no doubt makes it safer in the event of a crash. However, you need to make sure that the leg doesn’t sit on the lid of an underfloor storage compartment which might collapse in the event of a crash. Unlike the Maxi-Cosi AxissFix Plus, there’s no top tether strap. I’m not sure why it has to be either or. I would have thought both a top tether and a supporting leg would be the safest option. 

What do you think of the installation?

It’s pretty straightforward. Although the seat unboxes in the forward-facing position, you’re probably buying this seat for a newborn or infant, which means switching it to rear facing using one of two dual action slider/levers. That’s easily done and now you’re ready for installation. A lever, which at first appears to be part of the visual display console, allows the ISOFIX arms to be extended fully before fitting. The ISOFIX arms slotted easily into their corresponding brackets in both of the cars in which we have tested the seat. The supplied plastic guides make this easier. One thing to note is that you really do need to read the instructions with this child seat. You’ll discover that the seat has an adjustment knob tucked away under the base, which is part of a mechanism designed to ensure the seat resists being put in the forward facing position. Why? Presumably so that you don’t try to place an infant in the forward facing position by mistake. When the time is right to make the switch, you must remove the seat from the car, turn the knob, and hey presto! the seat no longer resists being put in the forward facing position. 

What you need to know about the rear-facing car seat laws

Is it easy to rotate? 

Yes, very. The all-important swivel mechanism is operated via a lever – one on either side – that can only be used by first moving an integrated slider. There’s a satisfying click when the seat reaches its front or rear facing position. The seat rotates the full 360 degrees, although I’ve found I never really need to swivel the seat through a full circle. What is great is the ability to turn the seat through 180 degrees in both the driver’s and passenger’s side. 

8 of the best rotating car seats

How is strapping your children in? 

It’s a fairly standard operation, using the type of harness that most parents will be familiar with. What confounded me was why the shoulder straps were twisting the very first time I used them. Watching Recaro’s own video confirmed that the side buckles had been fitted to the shoulder straps facing inwards, not outwards, so it was impossible NOT to twist them when marrying them together. Adjusting the length of the straps is smooth and simple. 

Does it work as a travel system? 

For £35 you can buy an adapter that allows the carrier to be used with Recaro and other branded strollers, so it can easily form part of a travel system.

Is it comfortable? 

At 13 months we can’t ask Tess how comfy the Recaro Zero.1 Elite is, but in a way she was able to tell us. On a 600-mile round trip from our home in Scotland to visit family in Yorkshire, we barely heard a peep out of her and for much of the journey she simply slept. We have also had our three-year-old in this seat in the forward-facing position and she tells us in no uncertain terms that she loves it and rather begrudges giving it up for her little sister. 

What’s the headrest like? How many seat recline positions are there, and how easy is it to recline the seat? 

The seat offers also offers five recline positions, no matter which way it is facing, and six different headrest positions. It’s super simple to recline. The headrest is made of memory foam and Tess seems snug, comfy and secure.  

What do you think of the design?

It looks great. I love the display and my partner and I both liked the understated black and grey colour scheme.

What is the weight of the seat?

The integrated design means that there’s no separate ISOFIX base – it all comes in one unit, making it both bulky and fairly, but not unduly, heavy. It weighs in at 2.9kg, which is pretty light considering it includes an infant carrier and child seat all in one. In terms of robustness, it just looks so much more substantial than the comparable Maxi-Cosi AxissFix Plus that it sits alongside in our car. In part this is due to its high sides, but in every way it seems chunkier and more cocooning. 

Do you think the side wings provide good protection?

The side protection device snaps out from the side of the seat. If I’m honest, it doesn’t look as if it would do much in the event of a crash given that it’s made of plastic, but we used it anyway. 

Is it easy to clean?

The covers are easy to remove and refit and look like they’ll stand up to plenty of washing.

Is it value for money?

It’s certainly a huge outlay but overall I would say yes, given that you could easily get four and a half year’s use out of it.

MadeForMums verdict, 

At £495 the Recaro Zero.1 Elite is pricy, but with this product you definitely get what you pay for – a high standard of protection and comfort for your child, especially for longer journeys. Plus you have the practicality of a carrier which, with an adapter, can slot into a stroller and used from birth. This product should definitely be on the radar of parents to be, or new parents, who want to invest in one car seat that does it all.  

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