Buying a car seat can be very expensive, as parents we are willing to spend a lot of money when buying one, purely because it is crucial to the safety of our children. Car seats are one of the few baby products that should not be bought secondhand and on average we spend around £250 on one chair.
However, as consumers we are proving to be a frugal bunch and car seat manufacturers are adapting to our value-seeking attempts by creating more and more Group 1/2/3 car seats. This means for many of us that we only need to buy one car seat from the age of nine months until our kids are old enough to sit without a booster, which is approximately 11 or 12-years-old.
On the whole 1/2/3 seats are not excessively cheap, but over 12 years they work out to be more value for money than buying three separate chairs.
A one-size-fits-almost-all seat that is a cheap as chips, however, is the Mothercare Malmo. Sitting at the low end of the market it’s a basic car seat that should fit your child from 9 months to around 11 or 12 years old and comes in classic black. But what separates this seat from its rivals is that it only cost £39.99.
What’s in the box?
Any additional extras?
How is it to assemble the Malmo?
Not as easy as you’d think, the Malmo is in two pieces, the main booster seat and the highback segment, linked together in the box by the five-point harness. There are basic installation diagrams printed on the side of the seat but these are meant as a guide only, not intended to replace comprehensive instructions.
I searched endlessly though packaging for the instructions until I noticed a tiny ‘information’ tag on the seat section. The full instructions are stored under the seat lining, hidden away and frustratingly tricky to find. It’s not an ideal storage place for a recently potty-trained child either and a spilt drink would quickly soak through.
Was it easy to install the car seat in your car?
No, fitting the Malmo as a group 1 car seat was difficult and fiddly. It’s not an ISOFIX seat, making it universally compatible, (great if you were switching between cars) so we had to thread the car’s seat belt into place to use the seat for Hannah, aged 17 months, and Catherine, aged three-and-a-half and still only 15kg.
The belt goes around the armrest, in through the front of the Malmo, behind the high plastic back section, back though the front by the five-point harness straps and round the other armrest before it fastens.
This took my husband and I a good ten minutes to achieve. I struggled to secure the seat and was unhappy with how loose it felt until we had really worked at tightening the straps.
I think part of the problem is that the car’s seat belt is looped back and forth at several points, and each of these points allow for a little slack, meaning the Malmo takes time to correctly install.
Removing the five-point harness ready for older children was straightforward and the instructions provided diagrams on how to remove and re-install this. When we installed the Malmo to use as a group 2-3 seat this was much easier; there are wide plastic slots to thread the seat belt though at the shoulder which are easy to access.
But I’d recommend visiting a Mothercare store to get help from a trained fitter to give you peace of mind it was correctly – and securely – fastened in when using the five-point harness.
How was strapping the children in?
I found the five-point harness easy to clasp together and buckle in, despite a wriggly toddler squirming to escape. The shoulder straps are tightened and slackened off separately which also helped to secure a reluctant passenger.
However, you can’t adjust the height of the shoulder harness without taking the seat out of the car so it is not an easy job switching between different-aged children when using the Malmo as a Group 1 seat.
Does the quick release harness live up to expectations?
It does! It’s easy for me to release but completely impossible for Catherine, which is great.
How comfortable is it?
It’s ok for older children, but not so great for younger ones. The Malmo has no recline options and is a very rigid, vertical seat, and for younger children this is a real negative in my opinion. Hannah still needs to nap in the car and I prefer to have her in a much more reclined group 0/1 car seat.
Catherine travelled happily in the Malmo but I felt the padding was quite thin. I’d be worried that on a long journey she’d start complaining the seat felt too hard.
Is it easy to adjust the headrest?
The headrest has five variable heights but I struggled to adjust it when it was in the car and had to take it out to get it to the right height.
Also, I didn’t think the adjustable part of the headrest seemed very sturdy – just a plastic bar that is forced up and down over four rounded plastic bumps. I’d be worried they would not last the potential twelve-year lifespan of using this seat for my child. I also found myself lurching past more than one height adjuster as I lifted it up and down.
How portable and easy is it to get in and out of the car? Is it lightweight?
A great thing about the Malmo is that it is only 4.7kg, very lightweight to get in and out of the car. We had previously used a Graco Nautilus Elite which weighs 9kg, making it harder to manoeuvre, especially on top of the wardrobe when it’s not in use.
Mothercare’s Malmo is really good to store – it separates into two pieces and can be stacked neatly to around 65cm by 40cm by 24cm, the size of a small suitcase.
Is it easy to clean?
Yes, as I’d expect, the covers all come off and are machine washable.
How does it compare to previous car seats?
The Malmo’s five-point harness is easier to adjust between different-aged children than our previous Kiddicare Shuffle but not as convenient as the Graco Nautilus Elite, something that is reflected in the price.
Is it value for money?
Yes, the Malmo costs £49.99 (the Graco costs three times that) and represents value for money, especially if you’re looking for a multi-purpose car seat that will span a wide age range. It’s not an all-singing, all-dancing award winner but it will do the job at a decent price.
The Malmo is a great option for grandparents or child minders who need seats for occasional use for children of different ages but don’t want to pay big money for fancy extras. It’s also a budget option for cash-conscious parents looking for a seat that will last their child through the years.
What do you think of the design?
The classic black colour scheme ticks all the boxes for me and the Mothercare name is on the removable five-point harness straps, so an older child won’t think it’s babyish. I thought the side impact protection and head protection seem nicely rounded, offering a decent amount of protection and more peace of mind compared to some of the more basic group 2-3 car seats on the market.
The Malmo is a great budget option for cash-conscious parents looking for a seat that will last their child through the years.
It’s also great for grandparents or child minders who need seats for occasional use for children of different ages but don’t want to pay big money for fancy extras.
I’d say this is better for older children (I’d suggest 13kg) who no longer need to nap in the car. Saying that, it’s suitable for children up to age 11/12 (36kg), but the seat is only 25cm wide. My friend said her eight-year-old had room but was unlikely to fit comfortably for another three years.
I’d recommend visiting a Mothercare store to get help from a trained fitter to give you peace of mind it was correctly – and securely – fastened in when using the five-point harness.