There are so many benefits to using a 360-degree car seat. Being able to turn the seat to face you makes it infinitely easier to get a wriggly baby, mid-tantrum toddler or reluctant child safely strapped in, without breaking your back bending over in an awkward position. It’s also handy for switching between rear-facing and forward-facing modes – a mechanism you can usually do one-handed, rather than having to take the seat out of the car and refit it.

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Anything that makes life with young children that bit easier gets the thumbs up from us, but how do you choose the right 360-degree rotating car seat for you and your child? Here are the things to consider…

How easy is it to install?

When choosing the right car seat, you want one that can be fitted easily, safely and quickly. As rotating car seats are attached to a special swivel base to allow for movement, these need to be installed using ISOFIX rather than your car’s seat belt – something our parent tester, Catrina found straightforward with the Joie Spin 360 GTI. She tested the car seat with her 5-month-old daughter and said, “Installing the Joie car seat using the ISOFIX was very easy and it didn’t take long at all. For ease, I pushed the front seat all the way forward to give us plenty of space, then installed it and it only took me about 1 minute to fit it properly. I love that the indicators turn green, so you know the car seat is in place correctly.”

Can you use it from birth?

Joie Spin 360 GTI

Making sure you’re kitted out with all the baby equipment you need can add up, so you may want to look for a rotating car seat that can be used safely from birth. These can often see you through the baby, toddler and preschooler years, with some models going even further beyond. The Joie Spin 360 GTI car seat comes with handy 3-part cushion insert to make sure your baby is safely cocooned and protected as they grow. You then slowly remove them as your child develops. Our advice would be to remove the head support between 4 and 6 months, the top insert between 9 and 12 months and the back wedge insert between 12 and 15 months.

Is it comfortable?

It’s enough of struggle to get some babies and children into their car seats in the first place, so to keep them there you want your car seat to be as comfortable as possible. Look for quality fabrics, good support around the neck and shoulders, and details like padded strap covers. Our parent tester Elizabeth, who used the Joie Spin 360 GTI seat with her 28-month-old daughter, said “Our daughter falls asleep almost as soon as I start the car and stays asleep most journeys. It’s very stable and cocoons her well. We’ve tested it with both short and long journeys, and she is always very happy in it.”

When will my child grow out of their car seat?

Making sure you have the right kind of car seat for your baby or child is absolutely essential for safety, but how do you know when it’s the right time to upgrade? In the UK by law, you child must use a child’s car seat until they are either 12 years old or 135cm tall – whichever comes first.

Children’s car seats are categorised by either your child’s height or weight.

Height-based car seats are known as i-Size seats are split into the following groups:

  • i-Size baby – Newborn to 85cm (Birth to approx. 15-18 months)
  • i-Size baby and toddler – Newborn to 105cm (Birth to approx. 4 years)
  • i-Size toddler and child – 61cm to 105cm (Approx. 15 months to 4 years)
  • i-Size child – 100cm to 135cm (Approx. 4 years to 12 years)
Weight-based car seats are split into the following groups:
  • Group 0 – 0kg to 10kg
  • Group 0+ – 0kg to 3kg
  • Group 1 – 9kg to 18kg
  • Group 2 – 15kg to 25kg
  • Group 3 – 22kg to 36kg

Can it grow with my child?

To make sure your baby or child is as safe and comfortable as possible, choosing a rotating car seat that can adapt with them is an important consideration. Features like a headrest and harness system that can be adjusted simultaneously (without having to unthread and rethread the harness) making life a lot easier.

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If you’d prefer the flexibility of using different car seats to suit your baby’s growing stages, or if you’re interested in an infant carrier that clicks onto your pushchair to make a travel system, you may wish to consider an option like the Joie Encore Spin System. You fit one single rotating base in your car, and can then switch between car seats options, from the Calmi R129 (a lie flat car cot for newborns) through to the i-Harbour toddler seat.

Does it recline?

If you’ve ever glanced at the baby car seat mirror only to spot your baby or child has fallen asleep with their head slumped forward, you’ll appreciate how important a good recline function is on your car seat. A recline can help support your baby in the comfiest position for a car journey while keeping their little head and neck safely in place. The Joie Spin 360 GTI has 5 different recline positions that can be used for both rear and forward-facing. Parent tester Georgina, who tested with her 3 year old son (pictured above) said “The recline function is easy to access and change at any time. We used the Joie Spin 360 GTI mostly in a reclined position to allow for sleeping, and my 3-year-old son’s head did not flop forward once.”

How much space is needed?

Because rotating car seats come with a base attached, they often appear bulkier than a standard car seat. As a result, it’s understandable you may be concerned that opting for a 360-degree car seat means sacrificing all the leg room in your front passenger seat. But this isn’t always the case. Kelly, who tried the Joie i-Spin 360 GTI with her 5-month-old daughter (pictured below), was very pleasantly surprised. She said “Before we fitted this car seat into our Vauxhall Corsa, I was worried it would be a little big as I have never had a car seat like this. However, once the Joie Spin 360 GTI was in my car, I was so shocked at how compact it was. Even in the recline position, there’s still plenty of room for the front seat passenger to have their seat in a comfortable position and there’s still so much space in the back of my car.”

Does it offer extended rear-facing?

Keeping children rear-facing in their car seat for longer has become more and more popular, and for good reason. Rear-facing car seats offer greater head, neck and spine protection for your baby or child in the event of a collision. While legally you must keep your child in a rear-facing car seat until they are over 15 months old, the Joie Spin 360 GTI can be used in rear-facing mode from birth to 105cm, while is approximately 4 years old.

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What safety features are there?

While there’s no doubting the convenience a rotating car seat offers, you want it to be in addition to ­– and not at the expense of – key safety features. Joie is renowned for its dedication to car seat safety and the Joie Spin 360 GTI impressed our parent tester, Carol, with its safety features. She tested the car seat with her 10-week-old son and said “I really like the addition of the detachable side impact protection, as this is something we have never had in our other car seats. Safety is aways a big factor when choosing car seats and knowing that it has extra features, such as the integrated leg support and side impact protection, puts my mind at ease as a parent.”

How to safely fit a rotating car seat

The most important thing you can do to ensure your child’s safety in a car is to fit their car seat correctly. Using ISOFIX in your car takes a lot of the guesswork out of the process, and car seats including the Joie Spin 360 GTI have added features like indicators that turn green and make an audible click when the ISOFIX adapters are attached to your car properly. Always make sure you read your car seat instruction manual thoroughly before you start installation, and look out for how-to videos, like this handy one to demonstrate how to safely fit your car seat.

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