The Easy Car Seat, from Halfords, is an inflatable Group 2/3 car seat. Odd though it may sound, it’s a rather clever idea that may just be the answer for anyone who is off on holiday or planning to do any travelling.
After a particularly hair-raising and unexpected taxi ride from the airport to our hotel in Italy, I was sorry that I hadn’t had the foresight to bring a car seat with us – we had planned to catch a train, but then the airline decided to cancel our flight (long story!). If the Easy Car Seat had been on offer at the time, it would have been the answer to our prayers.
The Easy Car Seat meets EU and USA vehicle safety standards, for safely restraining children from 15kg to 36kg, or roughly 3 or 4 years up to 12 years. There are eight slots to position the buckled strap that holds the seatbelt in place, so it can be altered to the height of your child. The strap can be fitted on both the left and right side of the seat.
The Easy Car Seat, available from Halfords, isn’t like the BubbleBum booster seat we reviewed last year. The Easy Car Seat has a base and a back. It weighs less than 1kg and folds into a plastic envelope little bigger than the size of an A4 folder. This should slip without much issue into a shoulder bag if you’re travelling off on hols.
It has been designed primarily for families who are heading on holiday (mostly by air). The light weight and its flat-pack qualities make it a convenient choice if you’re flying abroad.
What we love
When I took the Easy Car Seat out of the pack I was quite surprised by how sturdy the material feels – it’s not plasticky like a blow-up beach ball, but more like the sort of material you might find on a good ski jacket. I was rather alarmed when saw you could blow it up manually – I had flashbacks to the 50 balloons we blew up for the last birthday party – but the maker claims it can be blown up in less than a minute. On this, the company is right!
When the seat is blown up, it actually feels quite solid, which is a relief. There’s a special valve that stops air coming out once you’ve blown it in, and it also apparently helps to maintain the correct pressure – don’t ask me how it works, but it does. It also deflates really easily – it took less than two minutes. This is important if you have to get it out of a hire car and to the check-in desk in a hurry!
The car seat fitted into our Vectra really nicely, and once Arron, 5, was sat on it and strapped in, it was amazingly steady. I thought it would move about on the back seat, but it didn’t.
Arron voted it very comfy indeed. It’s softer than your usual car seat and as he’s not blessed with much in the way of natural padding, it was soft on his bottom and legs.
It’s lightweight, easy to carry and easy slip into a shoulder bag – no more hoicking a car seat with you to the airport and then having to pay extra to put it in the hold. It also means that you can save on hiring a car seat if you’re hiring a car the other end. You could also find it handy if you often visit friends and relatives by train and hire or travel by car at your destination.
What to watch out for
As a Group 2/3 car seat, the Easy Car Seat is marketed as being suitable from roughly the age of 3, but I’m not sure the average 3-year-old would get enough boost from the seat to allow the seatbelt to sit in the right position.
Also, Arron is a pretty average height for a 5-year-old and his head was right at the top of the back cushion. If you have a taller child you might find their head goes above the cushion by the time they hit 5 or 6.
The Easy Car seat is well named – but what’s not easy is the instruction manual. The product is made in the Czech Republic, as is the manual, which has been really clumsily translated. It gave me quite a headache trying to read it. There are some rather convoluted instructions about what to do with regards to inflating the seat if the weather is hot or cold, but as it has been very average weather, I didn’t encounter any issues. You may want to check this out if you are holidaying in a hot climate.
For me, the fact the car seat offers no side impact protection could be a worry.
The car seat retails at just £50 pounds, which is quite a price for a seat that you may only use once or twice a year. You need to do your own calculations about how much you might save on car seat hire and extra luggage fees and decide if it’s worthwhile. If you have more than one child, it could turn into quite a pricey exercise.
Who is the Halfords Easy Car Seat best for?
Families who do a lot of air travel and travelling by car while on holiday.
Anyone who has carted a weighty car seat on the train or to the airport and waited for it to hopefully appear undamaged at the other end will love the easy nature of the Easy Car Seat. It’s light, fast to blow up and can easily slip into a shoulder bag. But the less-sturdy nature of the seat may not appeal to those after good side impact protection.