Mothercare is one of the UK’s most trusted brands when it comes to babies and toddlers. Founded in Surrey in 1961, it now has a presence in around 45 countries across the world. Selling everything from maternity wear to toys, it also offers a range of own-label car seats that are great for price-conscious parents.
The Mothercare Tulsa, the newest addition to its family of car seats, is a Group 1/2/3 car seat, meaning it can be used from 9 months up to 12 years (approx. 9-36kg). The multi-stage car seat is a growing market, and at £120 the Mothercare Tulsa car seat is the cheapest of its competitors, working out at just £10 a year if it lasts you the full 12 years. But unlike its rivals this car seat doesn’t have any unique key features.
The Cosatto Hubbub, a Group 1/2/3 car seat with a 5-point harness plus anti-escape system, retails at £185. And the Recaro Young Sport Hero, a Group 1/2/3 car seat that boasts a hero safety system harness, will set you back £175.
Buying the right car seat can be a tricky, and pricey, affair, so the idea of only having to buy one car seat that could last me nearly 10 years (my youngest, Theo, is 2) is very appealing.
Maxine is mum to two boys, Ellis, 4, and Theo, 2. She tested the Mothercare Tulsa car seat in her four-door Volvo on short, local journeys.
First impressions of the Mothercare Tulsa car seat?
You can tell when you take it out of the box that it’s a pretty basic car seat; there are no innovative extras. But the most important thing for me is that it keeps my kids safe and secure and this looks like it will do the job.
Is it easy to install?
It is fairly easy once you know what you’re doing. I struggled with the instructions as they’re pictures with very few words. It would have been helpful to have some copy explaining each step in a bit more detail. I ended up looking on YouTube for instruction videos as I wasn’t 100 per cent sure I’d installed it correctly and wanted to double-check.
Does the Mothercare Tulsa have Isofix?
Yes. Ellis’s previous car seat, the Jane Gravity, was also an Isofix car seat, but it had a leg that extended to the floor to give the seat extra security when fitted. The Mothercare Tulsa doesn’t have an extendable leg; instead it uses a top tether to keep the seat firmly in place. Initially, I was unsure whether you needed to use the Isofix and the tether together, or if it would be OK to use the Isofix on its own, as it’s not totally clear from the instructions. Further research revealed that you do have to use both the tether and the Isofix to make it safe.
The tether works by putting it over the back of the seat – ours went underneath the headrest on our car, but, depending on your car, you may need to secure it over the top of the headrest. On the back of our seat there are some little bars that you hook the tether on to. You need to pull it tight to make sure it’s secure enough, and a box on the top should go green. I had to open the boot of our car to secure it, I wasn’t able to just reach around the back of the seat.
It wasn’t clear from the instructions if there’s any point in using the seatbelt in conjunction with the Isofix to make it super-secure, or if in fact this may create a problem.
Does your car need to have Isofix to use the Mothercare Tulsa?
No. The Mothercare Tulsa is a universal car seat, which means that if your car doesn’t have Isofix, the seat can be secured using a seatbelt instead, which is an added bonus.
Does the car seat feel secure once installed?
Yes, it did feel secure. If you just do the Isofix there’s still some movement, so you need to have the tether anchoring it to make it as secure as possible.
Does the Mothercare Tulsa comply with new i-Size regulations?
i-Size is the European-wide car seat regulation that aims to make car seats safer and ensure they’re fitted correctly. The Mothercare Tulsa has side impact protection, a requirement of i-Size. The use of Isofix and a top tether to keep it in place also adheres to the i-Size regulations. But the Mothercare Tulsa can only be used forward-facing. Current i-Size regulations require children to sit rear-facing until they’re at least 15 months old, so although Mothercare describes the seat as being OK to use from 9 months, it isn’t really recommended.
Is it easy to strap your child into the car seat?
Strapping the boys in was a bit of a nightmare. The set-up of the harness itself is fairly straightforward. The clip is slightly more basic and fiddly than some of the others I’ve used as you have to align both sides to be able to fit it in. There’s a small button you press upwards to loosen the straps, which is easy to use. When it comes to tightening the straps, it’s a different story. They were so stiff that each time I tried I had to ask Ellis’s dad to help me, and it was an effort even for him. As I cannot drive this isn’t an issue for us, but if I could there’s no way I’d be able to use this car seat by myself as this is something I’d need to do every time I used the seat. Another negative was that Ellis was able to undo the buckle himself pretty easily – but then he and his brother have managed to get out of most of the car seats we’ve tried.
How comfortable is the Mothercare Tulsa for your child?
Ellis said he found it comfy and the seat does have some padding, but it doesn’t look as plush as his Apramo All Stage car seat. When I asked him again if it was comfy after he’d been sitting in it for around 15 minutes, he said it wasn’t any more. Theo was really happy in the car seat when we’ve been out and about, although he still wears a nappy so that may give him a little extra padding. There is an insert you can use for babies/ very small children to make them feel more snug.
Does the Mothercare Tulsa recline?
The car seat claims to have various recline positions, but I’d say that’s a bit of a stretch. You can move the position of the car seat but it’s fractional so barely worth it. Also, the lever to recline it is underneath the seat rather than at the side, making it impossible to adjust while your child is in it. If you want to change the recline, you have to remove the child and release the seat from the Isofix and then reinstall again. This is why I feel that this car seat isn’t ideal for younger children as you can’t recline it while they’re sleeping.
What do you think of the size of the car seat?
It’s pretty roomy and has a lot more depth and height than Ellis’s current car seat, the Apramo All Stage. Theo previously had a Cozy N Safe Merlin, and I was able to comfortably sit in the middle of the back seat between the two boys. When we switched Theo’s car seat for the Mothercare Tulsa, I was quite squashed and we have a big car.
What age child is the Mothercare Tulsa car seat suitable for?
Both of my boys (aged 4 and 2) were happy using the car seat, but we’ve only been on relatively short journeys where neither of them have fallen asleep. The recline function is virtually pointless, so the seat is not great for napping. For this reason I think it’s better suited for children aged 4 and above.
Is the Mothercare Tulsa easy to swap between cars?
At 11.8kg the seat is light enough for me to be able to carry it and it’s easy to install, although it’s something I’d prefer not to do on a regular basis.
Is the car seat light enough to take on holiday with you?
Although it’s not ridiculously heavy, it isn’t the kind of car seat to take on holiday.
What do you think of the design?
The design is basic and functional, there are no fancy extras, but I thought the colour scheme was quite stylish.
Is it easy to clean?
One of the things I’ve learned the hard way when it comes to buying stuff for toddlers and younger children is that you need to check whether you can put it in the washing machine. Sadly, this is only hand-washable, which is a no-no for me with two children that get sick when travelling long distances.
What do you like most about the Mothercare Tulsa car seat?
The headrest – it’s plush and you can move it up and down to adjust the height using just one hand.
Who is the Mothercare Tulsa car seat best for?
Older children that travel forward-facing and don’t need to nap any more, so wouldn’t miss the recline function.
How easy is it to remove the harness when your child grows?
From the instructions I was confused about how to remove the harness and I couldn’t find a video to help, so I enlisted my other half to try and work it out. He said it was fairly easy to remove, you unzip the back and unclip it and then pull it through the front, but you need to remove the harness clips to be able to get it through. What isn’t clear from the pictures is whether there’s anywhere to store the harness inside the car seat once you take it off.
Will your children fit the Mothercare Tulsa until they are 12 years old?
Ellis isn’t especially big, but I’d be surprised if this car seat lasted him until he’s 12.
Is the Mothercare Tulsa good value for money?
The Mothercare Tulsa retails at £120. This does feel quite expensive for what it is, but it’s still cheaper than its main competitors. When you consider that it should last you at least 10 years, it’s pretty good value.
Would you recommend this car seat?
If you’re looking for a good-value spare car seat for occasional use that you only need to buy once, I’d recommend the Mothercare Tulsa. I wouldn’t personally want to use it every day, because I found the straps too difficult to tighten and the cover isn’t machine washable.
I love the idea of only having to buy one car seat that will last you around 10 years. And while the Mothercare Tulsa isn’t an all-singing, all-dancing car seat, it’s functional and serves its purpose. I’d recommend this car seat if you’re looking for a multi-stage car seat for a decent price, aren’t bothered about the frills and don’t need it to be rear-facing. Just be prepared for a workout when tightening the harness.