A top-quality Maxi-Cosi car seat that’s easy to install, with comfy seat padding. Comfortable for both long and short car journeys, but more neck protection for younger babies would have been appreciated
With over 35-years’ experience, Maxi-Cosi is an extremely trusted brand when it comes to car seats. The Maxi-Cosi Pearl Smart i-Size (when used with the base) is designed from the age of around 6 months old (once your baby is at least 67cm in length) until your child is 105cm (around 4 years old). It’s i-Size compliant and can be used rear- or forward-facing once your toddler gets older.
Compared to many other car seats in this category, it comes separate from its Isofix base, which means that it can be used as a flexible family of products, as the base can also be used with infant carriers and other boosters.
At nearly £400 for seat and base, it is not cheap, but it offers superior safety features and is good quality.
Mum-of-two, Sophie, lives in London with her husband, 5-year-old daughter, Ada, and 8-month-old daughter, Lily. She tested Lily in the car seat on daily short drives to drop Ada at school and to the shops, as well as on one long motorway journey, in her Skoda Octavia.
What were your first impressions of the Pearl Smart i-Size car seat?
When I opened the box, I found a safe, smart, sturdy and well-made piece of baby equipment already assembled. The Pearl Smart i-Size comes separate to the Isofix base, so the seat is relatively light (6.9kg).
How easy is it to install?
The Pearl Smart i-Size was straightforward to install – I’m currently using a Maxi-Cosi Isofix base and CabrioFix infant carrier and have previously used the older version of the Pearl seat for my 5-year-old when she was a toddler, so I’m familiar with the brand. It took less than 10 minutes to get it all set up in the car ready for its first outing and the picture-led instructions provided, although brief, were clear and concise. I’m not renowned for being great at installing things, so the fact I could do it on my own illustrates how easy it is to fit.
How do you install the Pearl Smart i-Size car seat?
- Firstly, you need to install the FamilyFix3 Isofix base, so you need to make sure your car is Isofix compatible before purchasing the car seat.
- To install, click the Isofix backboard into place and then pull out the fixing points (yellow bars on either side of the base).
- Next, place the base of the stand on the back of the car seat, ready to then push the bars into the Isofix metal clips on the vehicle seat. You’ll hear a clicking sound when it’s fitted securely.
- Push in a button behind the Isofix support leg which allows you to extend and shorten the leg to the correct height and position on the floor of the car. This button can be a little stiff and I wasn’t sure I was doing it correctly so I had to ask my husband to double-check – all it required was a bit more force.
- If fitted correctly, a green light will appear on the base and then the seat is ready to be fitted, which simply clicks into place.
- You know it is safely secured because a second green light appears on the Isofix base.
What are the key safety features of the Pearl Smart i-Size?
The seat is approved according to the latest European-wide car seat safety regulation i-Size. It has interactive light and sound feedback to confirm correct fit, minimising the chance of incorrect installation.
It also has a simultaneous safety harness and headrest adjustment, which is easy to use, and a 5-point safety harness, which is the best design for restraining a toddler in the event of a forward collision.
How long is it rear-facing for?
The Pearl Smart i-Size can be used rear-facing until your child is 4 years old or until they measure 105cm in length. However, in accordance with government guidance, as the chair is an i-Size seat (meaning a height-based seat), it can also be used forward facing if leg room is tight as soon as your child reaches 15 months old.
Any unique features of the car seat, how does it differ to the previous Pearl model?
You can use this seat rearward facing from 6 months up to 4 years old; the older Pearl model is only suitable from 9-months upwards. However, there is also the Maxi-Cosi Pearl Pro 2, which is very similar to the Pearl Smart.
How comfortable did your baby find the Pearl Smart i-Size car seat?
The seat has four recline positions, from sitting to sleeping in both rear- and forward-facing positions, perfect for finding the position that suits your child best. In addition, the seat padding feels thick and well cushioned. There’s a lever to pull at the front of the chair to switch between positions which is simple to use. My 8-month-old baby didn’t cry while seated in it and fell asleep on both short and long car journeys, which must be a good sign.
What did you think of the headrest?
The headrest, which is attached to the seat straps, is easy to move up and down depending on the height of your child via a lever behind the headrest. However, there’s no extra insert for babies. As the seat is suitable from 6 months old, I would have personally liked some additional head and neck support for younger babies.
How do you rate the straps on the Pearl Smart i-Size car seat?
It has a simultaneous harness and headrest adjustment, which simply slides up and down according to the height of your child. This makes it easy to fit and ensures the straps and shoulder pads will always be in the correct position – a great safety feature.
The 5-point harness is a little fiddly at first, but but you soon get used to it. As with most car seats, you tighten and loosen the straps by pushing a button at the foot of the chair to release the tension. It’s really easy to use.
How robust does the car seat feel?
The car seat feels safe and sturdy.
Can you swap the Pearl Smart i-Size easily between cars?
The Pearl Smart itself is relatively easy to lift and quite light for a toddler seat, as it detaches from the Isofix base. However, as it can only be used with the base, swapping it between cars is a bit of a faff. It could work well if the second car had its own base, but the Pearl Smart is definitely not one for taking abroad on planes or having to move between parents’, carers’ and nannies’ cars a lot.
How easy is the Maxi-Cosi Pearl Smart i-Size to clean?
Although the covers are easy to remove for cleaning, I wouldn’t get the Authentic Grey colour option. It is quite light in colour, so I fear would stain more easily. There are also Black Grid, Authentic Black and Authentic Graphite.
What’s in the box?
- Car seat
- Instruction booklet
What are the additional accessories that you can buy?
The Pearl Smart i-Size doesn’t come with any extras, but there are a range of Maxi-Cosi accessories available to buy, including:
- Sun canopy (£29.99)
- Pocket cup holder (£14.99)
- Back seat mirror (£18.19)
- Back seat protector (£23.69)
- Summer cover (£45.49)
Now you’ve tested it, what would you have wanted to know before purchasing the Pearl Smart i-Size car seat?
The car seat is marketed for use from 6 months, however I wouldn’t want to use it for children this young. Mainly because it doesn’t have a carry handle and you can’t attach it to a travel system like you can with infant car seats which go up to 1 years – so you lose out on 6 months of this benefit. I would miss not being able to quickly pop the seat onto my pushchair for school runs and errands to the shops while my baby is still light enough to do so. But I realise this may not be a problem for all families.
Who would this car seat be most useful for?
It’s great for families planning on both short and long car journeys, and families who are happy to make a long-term investment on an Isofix base that can last them until their child turns 12 years old.
Is the Pearl Smart i-Size car seat worth the money?
The Pearl Smart i-Size has an RRP of £199 and requires a FamilyFix3 Isofix base at an RRP of £199.99 so it is pricey, but you get a lot of quality for your money. Also, Maxi-Cosi’s Pearl Isofix system is very much designed as a family of products, so you get one base, and then you can opt for an infant carrier, but use the same base from older baby/toddler age. So it is potentially quite a good value option. And Isofix bases also tend to retain a bit of resale value.
Where can I buy the Maxi-Cosi Pearl Smart i-Size car seat?
The Maxi-Cosi Pearl Smart i-Size is available from Maxi-Cosi, Amazon and Buggy Baby.
A sturdy car seat that offers superior comfort and safety features. It’s simple to install and easy to strap your child into, and you can keep your child rear facing for longer