Cosatto’s products are easy to spot: they’re the ones in bold, cheerful colours with a cheeky edge.
As well as making car seats, the company produces quality mid-range high chairs, pushchairs and other nursery equipment.
Design, with a fun personality is clearly important to the company, which is based in Bolton in the north of the UK.
The new Hootle has been marketed as its most versatile car seat yet. Many first time parents buy a rearwards-facing Group 0/0+ seat for their newborn, to use till around baby’s first birthday.
They then have to fork out for the next stage seat, a Group 1 chair; which equates to two fairly big purchases within 12 months.
However, choosing a combination, multi-group seat like the Hootle means you can use the same seat from birth to around age four years -a real money-saver and potential selling point, with many new parents more cash-strapped than ever.
The Hootle comes in two typically cool designs: Poppidelic, covered in bold retro flowers (the version I tested, and which I loved) and C-Rex, which has a dinosaur theme.
Testing the my baby daughter Autumn, aged 11-months-old, she usually sits in a forwards-facing Group 1 seat, but at 9.5kg still falls into the weight category for facing rearwards.
Manufacturer’s recommendations say rear-facing is suitable up to weight 13kg, or around age 15 months.
What’s in the box?
- The Hootle car seat
- Headhugger for the newborn Group 0 stage
- Chest pads for Group 1 stage
- Upper seat liner
Any additional extras?
How is installing the car seat?
It is easy, I fitted the seat myself, first rearwards, then forwards-facing, carefully following the written instructions and diagrams in the compact manual.
I have to say, I found the extremetly clear pictures and instructions a life-saver: as a result, nothing hugely flummoxed or confused me.
However, there were quite a lot of steps to work through very patiently!
I fitted the seat in our family car – a Mazda, four door, but compact. For the rearwards position, the seat must go into the most reclined of three possible positions. I flipped down the blue plastic base support, and ensured the ‘dial’ on the side of the chair pointed towards the blue rearwards-facing setting. Easy so far…
Next I threaded the seat belt through the gap in the back of the chair and fastened it (with a standard lap and diagonal belt), then secured it further using the belt hook and guide.
The seat-belt guides are helpfully colour-coded blue or red depending on seat direction.
But this is where I hit my first problem; the belt, correctly fitted, felt stretched to its absolute limit.
This seat is meant to be Universal and fit most cars, but I found in my car, rear-facing, it was a tight fit. I don’t know if our seat belts are unusually short but while I was able to fit it correctly, I didn’t have a centimetre spare when I’d finished.
So this may be an issue if your car is on the small side.
Also, the seat does feel fairly bulky to me at 53cm wide (my current seat is only 44cm). I have to make sure my front seats are quite far forward to get the seat in rearwards-facing.
At 7.9 g it’s not the heaviest out there, but not the lightest either – though I don’t expect it is something you’ll be carrying around.
How is converting the seat from Group 0 to Group 1?
For me converting is the trickiest part, and involves quite a lot of head scratching and sometimes heavy sweating.
While the instructions are fine, it can be tricky attaching the chest pads for the Group 1 forwards-facing position.
Squeezing my hand through the gap behind the seat to clip the straps together is pretty hard and I have quite small hands, so I think someone with larger hands (a dad perhaps) might find it even trickier.
Does it work better as a Group 0 or Group 1 car seat?
I’d happily use this my main seat for Group 1 stage, but I personally think I’d still prefer a separate specific Group 0 seat for a tiny newborn.
How comfortable is the seat?
No problems here. In fact, one of the things I like most about this seat is how roomy and well-padded it is, with a smooth soft fabric finish that feels ‘good quality’.
The covers are washable too – anyone who regularly has to hand-sponge dried-on yoghurt will know how useful this option is!
It has lovely comfortable padding on the harness, including a crotch pad and chest pads. Autumn seems really happy and comfy.
However, in the rear-facing position, her feet have started to butt up against the car’s backseat (she is quite long for her age though). And she is happier in the frontwards-facing position, probably because she likes to look around.
The headhugger adds extra comfort in the reardwards-facing position, and is crucial for tiny babies (there’s also an extra insert for newborns). But I find the headhugger keeps falling out of place: an extra way of attaching it to the seat (eg velcro) would be helpful.
What do you think of the car seat’s safety features?
The five-point harness felt secure, and is incredibly easy to use. I find it simple to fasten and release. I know from experience this very often isn’t the case with harnesses: no sore fingers!
The chest straps are nice and easy to adjust tightly and release, thanks to a large central button.
I can easily ensure Autumn is safely strapped in each time we motor off, and can adjust when she is wearing bulkier clothes on chillier days.
It’s incredibly easy to change recline positions on this seat, so when she wanted a nap I could put her in a more ‘scooped’ position. Most of the time she liked being more upright though.
The seat itself is sturdy and substantial with a large shell, and has Side-Impact Protection for extra peace of mind (this means your child is protected if you have a side-on crash).
Saying that, compared to my usual seat (a Maxi-Cosi Tobi, also attached using seat belt), this seat doesn’t feel quite as firmly secured in place. There seems to be a very slightly ‘wobble’.
Will this seat last the distance?
I felt the overall seat was on the large side for a newborn chair, which is one of the obvious downsides of a dual-stage seat designed to cater for a large age-span.
However, as it’s well-padded, has quite high sides, reclines and comes with the headhugger, I can imagine newborns snoozing away happily enough.
On the plus side, there’s plenty of room for kids to grow. I could imagine still using this seat in a couple of year’s time as it feels spacious, while four different chest strap/harness slots keep things flexible for different size children.
Is it value for money?
Unsurprisingly, there are much cheaper individual Group 0 or Group 1 seats on the market. You can buy budget seats for around £50 each. But for a more upmarket seat from a brand such as Maxi-Cosi, you’re normally looking at £100 per seat upwards (ie a potential total of £200 plus).
But if you can bear the fiddly conversion between stages – which hopefully you will only need to do once or twice – then the Hootle still works out competitively for a respected name and decent materials. I definitely felt that the finish of the Hootle was superior quality: it didn’t feel cheap or plasticky.
It could work out as a useful option for families with one child or bigger age gaps who don’t need multiple seats in action (ie separate-stage seats won’t get passed down). And if you hate shopping it’s obviously a time-saver: just one purchase required.
For me it’s the design that stands out: I love the Hootle’s bold, retro styling. The lovely fabric finish and generous padding means it is extra comfy for Autumn: another gold star.
However, converting the seat from rearwards- to forwards-facing can be quite fiddly, and the seat’s dimensions means it is a squeeze in my smallish car (though the seat definitely feels solid and offers good protection, obviously its main purpose).
If you don’t want the hassle or expense of buying two seats, the Hootle is a reasonable bet, but might work best for those who aren’t heavy car users in the early months, or grandparents who don’t want to buy two seats.