The 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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MadeForMums reviews are independent and based on expertise and testing. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission, but this never influences our product choices.

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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.

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1. Britax ADVANSAFIX IV R, £249.99

Seat position: Forward-facing

Installation: Isofix for group 1, Isofix and/or vehicle’s 3-point harness for groups 2/3

Weight of seat: 11kg

Awards: MadeForMums Awards 2019, Multistage/combination car seat – Gold

This high-quality car seat scooped a gold award in this year’s MadeForMums Awards and for good reason. It’s a sturdy, comfortable and versatile option that is easy to install and use and includes three recline positions and a supportive headrest.

Like with many of the car seats on the market, the cover can quickly be removed for when it needs to be washed and there’s a strong and robust five-point harness for when your baby is below 15kg.
MFM judge Georgina says: “I really like this car seat and my three-year-old finds it very comfortable. The overall safety features are excellent, there are various recline positions, it washes well and it feels very sturdy.”
Another great point about this car seat is that it is slightly narrower than others on the market – meaning you can squeeze three of them in the back of a car, which is a major bonus for parents of three or four children.
The car seat is on the pricey side (at more than double the cost of the Mothercare Tulsa) and it’s worth noting that it is not compatible with all cars.

Read our full review of the Britax ADVANSAFIX IV R.

Available from: John Lewis, Mothercare and Uber Kids

mothercare-tulsa

2. Mothercare Tulsa, £120

Seat position: Forward-facing

Installation: Isofix or vehicle 3-point seatbelt

Weight of seat: 11.8kg

Awards: MadeForMums Awards 2019, Multistage/combination car seat – Joint bronze

At just £120, this car seat from Mothercare is a great basic option and one of the cheapest of its kind on the market. It received good feedback from our MadeForMums Awards – receiving a joint bronze accolade – and our judges praised its affordability and the ease with which it can be placed in the car.

It can be installed using either Isofix or your car seat belt, making it great for those without an Isofix-compatible car.

It does offer recline options, but our judges found these difficult to navigate – meaning it’s probably better for an older child or as a second car seat for grandparents.
MFM judge Maxine says: “At £120 this car seat is exceptional value for money. It’s simple, stylish and easy to install. On the downside, I found the straps to tighten the harness were a bit stiff making it tricky to use. And although you can take the cover off the car seat you can’t stick it in the machine as it’s hand-wash only. It doesn’t have any fancy extras, the recline is barely noticeable and it doesn’t rotate. But for the price you really can’t complain.”

Read our full review of the Mothercare Tulsa

Available from: Amazon and Mothercare

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3. Graco Nautilus Elite car seat, £120

Seat position: Forward-facing

Installation: Vehicle’s 3-point seatbelt

Weight of seat: 9kg

A very affordable seat, the Graco Nautilus has side impact protection, five-position headrest, and three-position recline. As with the Mothercare Tulsa, it’s a simple, no-frills option that still offers peace-of-mind in terms of safety.

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

Our MadeForMums reviewer Sarah says: “Installation of the Nautilus is really simple. Graco calls it intuitive, and I suppose it is, thanks to the red indications that are there for your eye to follow. I love that my toddler looks so very comfortable and grown up in the Graco Nautilus. She’s positioned quite high and can see out of the windows easily, pleasing her no end.”

On the downside, the recline option is a little hit and miss (as it doesn’t seem to make a difference to the tilt at all) and so the Natutilus may be more suited to children who don’t nap very often in the car.

To find out more about Sarah’s experience, read the full MFM review of the Graco Nautilus.

Available from: Amazon, Uber Kids and Very

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4. Cosatto Hug ISOFIX, £289.95 and Cosatto Hug, £229.99

Seat position: Forward-facing

Installation: Cosatto Hug ISOFIX: Isofix for group 1, Isofix and vehicle’s 3-point harness for groups 2/3, Cosatto Hug: Vehicle’s 3-point harness

Weight of seat: 9.5kg

If you’re looking for a stylish car seat with plenty of design options, the Cosatto Hug should definitely be on your radar.

The luxurious upholstery comes in a range of standout prints, including gorgeous florals and funky stars, making it ideal for parents who don’t like plain car seats. It’s snug and cosy, with plenty of plush padding and cushioned liners, and a height-adjustable headrest.

With sturdy safety features such as extra-cushioned side impact protection, and an anti-escape five-point harness, safety is a top priority for the makers of this car seat.

The car seat is available to buy with or without Isofix and the only difference in the two is the price and its installation. Both are easy to place in the car and the covers are easy to remove and are washable (unlike the Tulsa).

Another plus point is that because the car seat is quite light (at 9.5kg, it’s more than 2kg lighter than the Mothercare Tulsa), it’s easy to move from car to car.

Like many of the 1-2-3 car seats, however, the recline options don’t seem to make much of a difference and it’s worth noting that this is at the upper end of  the price scale at £289.95. Some of our reviewers also commented that the straps can be a little tricky to use.

Read our full review of the Cosatto Hug (the non-Isofix option).

Available from: Amazon, Mothercare and Uber Kids

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5. Ickle Bubba Solar 1/2/3, £169

Seat position: Forward-facing

Installation: Isofix or vehicle’s 3-point harness

Weight of seat: 13.3kg

It may have a cutesy name but this car seat has some seriously sophisticated features. With luxury stay-cool fabric (no more sweaty bodies after long journeys), a magnetic buckle retainer and a well-padded five-point safety harness our reviewers have plenty of praise for this option. It has three recline positions and the latest safety features such as side-impact technology, as well as a straightforward-to-use magnetic strap.

Unlike many of the other car seats (such as the Cosatto, the Tulsa and the Nautilus), the recline options received many compliments from our reviewers, and means the car seat is extra comfortable for your little one and suitable for long naps. Another bonus is it comes with two sun visors, which is a thoughtful added extra.

MFM reviewer Anna says: “This is a lovely car seat that will see you through a good chunk of your child’s life. It has a great recline function, uses lovely materials, features nifty design details, such as a magnetic button to hold open straps in place and automatic strap adjustment, and feels all-round well-made and secure.”

On the downside, the car seat is quite heavy (over 4kg more than the Cosatto Hug), and so is quite cumbersome to move from car to car. At £169, it’s a mid-range option, but the fact it can recline easily will appeal to many parents.

Read our full review of the Ickle Bubba Solar.

Available from: Amazon, Ickle Bubba and Baby Planet

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6. Cybex Pallas M-Fix, £150

Seat position: Forward-facing

Installation: Isofix or vehicle’s 3-point seatbelt

Weight of seat: 9.3kg

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. The big difference with this car seat is that it doesn’t have a traditional harness while in group 1 mode (which all the other car seats mentioned here use) – instead it has a cushioned impact shield. It can then be used with an adult seat belt in stages 2 and 3, like all 1/2/3 car seats.

In terms of safety, the Cybex has many tests and awards under its belt (so to speak) and its safety performance in accidents has been rated excellent throughout its entire lifespan by German safety organisation ADAC and motor magazine Auto Bild.

Although it can be slightly trick to recline, it does adjust noticeably (unlike others such as the Cosatto, the Tulsa and the Nautilus). However, the manual does state the recline position is only available for group 1, which isn’t ideal if you have a toddler who still naps.

MFM reviewer Christy says: “This is a smart-looking seat that is very easy to fit, comfortable for your little one and potentially usable for more than a decade.”

Read our full review of the Cybex Pallas M-Fix.

Available from: Amazon, Mothercare and Uber Kids

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7. Cozy N Safe Excalibur Isofix Group 1/2/3 Car Seat, £249.99

Seat position: Forward-facing

Installation: Isofix or vehicle’s 3-point seatbelt

Weight of seat: 11kg

With plush, extra deep padding, this car seat certainly looks comfortable. And because it’s so slimline (like the Britax), you can still use the middle seat in the back even if you have two car seats.

A big selling point of this this car seat is the fact the five-point harness can be used until your child is 25kg, or around the age of 6 (in most car seats, like the Britax, it’s usually until they are 15kg, or around 2). The straps are easy to use, although lining up the two metal clasps to buckle them in can be a bit tricky, especially with a wriggly baby.

It has four recline positions, a soft and comfortable headrest and side wings which offer extra protection.

MFM reviewer Janet says: “This is an impressive seat that fitted my family and car very well. The slimline design provides plenty of protection whilst still being a comfortable and stylish addition to our car.”

At £249.99, it is quite expensive, but it does have plenty of good features that warrant the price tag.

Read our full review of the Cozy N Safe Excalibur.

Available from: Asda, Uber Kids and Kiddies Kingdom

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8. Recaro Young Sport Hero Group 1/2/3 Car Seat, £179

Seat position: Forward-facing

Installation: Vehicle’s 3-point seatbelt

Weight of seat: 8.4kg

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-compatible. It has some great safety features, including the ‘HERO’ safety system harness – one unit consisting of shoulder pads, belts and an inner headrest, which the brand says provides optimum safety and comfort for the head, neck and shoulders whilst preventing the belt from twisting or slipping.

Like many other car seats, this one doesn’t recline a great deal – and the setting can only be used in the group 1 stage – so it’s not ideal for little ones who like to nap in the car.

MFM reviewer Katherine says “I feel very confident when strapping my little boy into the Young Sport HERO and he finds it very comfortable While the straps are bulky and the buckle fiddly, I think that I’ll get used to them over time and become quicker at strapping Josh in, and they certainly shouldn’t be reasons not to buy this seat. I think it will withstand the test of time and I’d recommend it as a good, value-for-money car seat.”

Read Katherine’s full review of the Recaro Young Sport Hero here.

Available from: Amazon, Uber Kids and Pramworld

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9. Joie Bold, £174

Seat position: Forward-facing

Installation: Vehicle’s 3-point seatbelt and Isofix

Weight of seat: 12.9kg

This robust forward-facing car seat is a popular option from the renowned brand Joie. The Bold features 3 recline positions, side impact protection and removable cup holder for the kids. Installation-wise it is fitted in the car with ISOFIX, so there’s less room for installation error. Like the Cozy n Safe Excalibur, the five-point harness can last until your child is 25kg (around the age of 6), which is a big bonus for many parents.

Our reviewers found the harness comfortable and easy to use, although (like with many car seats) the recline positions don’t go back far enough to fully support a sleeping baby. The headrest, with its 10 different positions got a big thumbs up though.

MFM reviewer Gabrielle says: “Standout features for me include the Isofix connectors and the top tether which allow for an easy and secure installation, and the clever headrest and harness system that allows you to adjust both simultaneously using just one hand.”

Read our full review of the Joie Bold.

Available from: John Lewis, Uber Kids and Precious Little One

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…

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MadeForMums product articles are independent, honest and provide advice you can have confidence in. Sometimes, we earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links. However we never allow this to influence our coverage. Our reviews and articles are written by parents who are professional journalists, and we also include feedback from our parent community and industry experts.

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