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Mainly because I have an 8-month-old little boy, Teddy, who HATES his stage 0 car seat and really doesn’t like being rear facing.
The age range of birth to 6 years is unusual is it not?
Yes, it is. The Group 0+/1/2 car seat is unusual as it goes past 4 years of a Group 2 car seats but doesn’t go to the 12 years of a Group 2/3 car seat. That’s because Phil & Ted’s is a Kiwi brand and in New Zealand the child restraint laws are a little different. Case-in-point; in New Zealand a child is required to sit in a car seat until the age of 8, after that kids can wear seat belts. Whereas our little ones in the UK must sit in car seats until they are 135cm tall or around 12-year-old.
Although it has a New Zealand design, it has been through rigorous safety approval stages, to meet with the UK safety criteria and has been tested and safety certified to EU standard ECE R44/04.
How does the Phil & Teds Evolution compare to other car seats?
The Evolution is often compared to the Joie Stages car seat and I can see why. They are both compatible for babies from birth to approx 6/7 years of age and can be rearward and forward facing.
They both offer similar plus points, however, I think the Evolution trumps the Stages slightly as it has an additional recline position, wipeable fabric, which is easier to clean and mop up and it has the added SideArmour protection, which offers extra padding and protection.
How does it work as an infant car seat?
In theory, for this seat to act as a stage 0, all you need to do is install it rearward and flip the incline switch (5 incline positions – not bad) to the lowest of the 5 recline positions, and you have a perfect newborn nest!
It’s worth noting that this is a pretty hefty car seat. If you are using it from birth, it is very different to the portable stage 0 car seats, which you can pop in and out of the car and secure into a buggy. I found when we put the seat in, we left it in!
With his old stage 0 car seat, every journey was a nightmare, including the one home from the hospital! He just hated facing backwards and the position he had to be in, in the seat – not helped by the fact that he has bad reflux!
So I couldn’t wait till he was big enough to be put in a seat facing forward. For the purpose of the review, we tried it in both positions. Hmm. Let’s just say, if you are using this forward facing from the start, installation is nice and easy (once you get the hang of it) but if you are putting it in rearward from the get go, if you are like me, you might have a bit of trouble. More on that later though!
Tell us about the rear-facing mode
Rearward facing car seats are what you would normally use from birth to around 15 months of age, but when your baby is big enough (which happens so quickly) and makes the jump from a Group 0 car seat (for babies up to 10kg, or roughly newborn to 6-9 months), or a Group 0+ car seat (for babies up to 13kg, roughly newborn to 12-15 months), it’s normal in the UK for the seat to face forward.
While we champion rear-facing for as long as possible, sometimes, babies who might not have particularly enjoyed riding rearward, such as my stubborn Teddy, really seem to like the move from facing the back seat to facing the front of the car.
When trying it out rearward facing, I have to admit that I couldn’t imagine a baby much older than 18 months or so using it, as their feet would smoosh against the back seat, depending on how tall they are. I have 2 long skinny little boys and I personally would put my little ones forward facing, as soon as it is safe to do so.
I know they would always prefer it, but I suppose you have the option of keeping them rear-facing for as long as you think they would be comfortable to do so.
And this is when a chair like the Phil and Teds Evolution Car Seat comes into its own.
What’s it like to install?
The Evolution is universal fit, meaning it’s not ISOFIX and is installed with the vehicle seat belt. There are guide hooks, which show you how to correctly align the 3 point belt. Still, it’s a bit fiddly.
I would say is that it is easier and more convenient to fit the Evolution forward facing. When it is installed rearward, it seemed to be a really tight squeeze to get our seatbelt hooked around it. I thought a few times that it wouldn’t fit at all, but with a lot of tugging and yanking, we got there. There are lots of paths you need the belt to go around, in order to install it correctly. Although this is frustrating, it is better to have extra security at the end of the day.
After doing a bit of research on the seat, I found a few forums where parents complained they couldn’t get their seatbelts around the seat at all, rearward facing, and they had to return the seat. I think this is probably true, as it was really tight with ours.
Fitting it forward facing wasn’t as difficult – but it wasn’t easy either. There are safety bars at the back of the seat, which you remove to flip the seat forward, so you can insert the seatbelt and secure it tightly behind the seat.
Yes there are a lot of steps, but once it’s in, it’s in, and I don’t really expect to be moving the seat in and out of the car very much, so it’s not really an issue.
Once fitted, we double checked to make sure we used the right belt paths. I would recommend that before purchasing this seat for birth and rear facing, that you actually try and install it first, just to make sure you don’t have a mad panic when your waters break and you realise the seat doesn’t fit correctly!
Also, the car’s seat belt crosses over the Evolution car seat in rear facing mode, which means you have to reach your child over and around the belt to place them in the seat. A bit of a faff really, but then I was planning on using the seat forward facing from the get-go, so I didn’t really need to experience this issue, but it’s definitely something to watch out for if using it rear facing from the beginning.
Luckily the instruction manual is pretty good and there is an installation video on Phil & Teds’ YouTube channel, which I found really helpful.
At just over 9kgs, this is a pretty heavy seat – although it is the norm for Group 1 seats to weigh up to 12kgs – and I needed my husband to help with the schlepping and installation. Although it is a big seat, it didn’t seem that clunky and actually, it seemed quite slim line when we put it into our Nissan Qashqai.
What about strapping your baby in?
It has a 5 point harness, which can be removed to create a seatbelt, once your little one is old enough to have graduated the harness. The multi-adjustable harness is pretty easy to lengthen, with a little pulling and tugging, to accommodate your growing baba.
What are the safety aspects like?
It has trademark SideArmor protection, which is what makes this such a secure feeling (and looking) car seat. The SideArmor creates almost a padded border around the seat, meaning your little one has added protection from any side impact, around the head and neck.
There is also a full layer of moulded EPS foam under the cover for shock absorption, which they refer to as “CuddleMe technology.”
There are removable padded liners, which is handy as you do need them when your little one is teeny, but as they grow, it is useful to be able to remove them to allow for more space for your growing babe.
Is it comfy for little ones?
I really believe so. All that padding and protection really makes this seat look so comfy! I kind of wish they made an adult version so I could curl up in it. The cover is black PU leather, so, although slightly boring, it is a safe enough option to suit pretty much anyone’s taste and – plus point – it is super easy to clean! Always a big bonus for me.
Does the car seat recline?
Yes it does. Another thing I love about the Evolution, is that it has 5 recline positions. And it’s very easy to find all of them. The handle is right under the seat, and it means you can keep your little traveller really comfy.
Perfect for if they nod off, you can smoothly pull the incline lever towards you and lower the seat, without disturbing them with clicks or bumps. There is also a nifty little foot rest for when your baby is less of a baby and more of a child. Seriously, can they make these in adult sizes?!
A further point is the height of the chair. It’s pretty high! This I really liked, because it meant Teddy could actually look out of the window and see what was going on. This seemed to really distract him from crying and gave him something to do.
Is it value for money?
It certainly is. With a RRP of £199 and being a 3 stage car seat, it means you miss out buying a new seat at every new stage.
Baby can sit secure and comfy from birth right up until they are approximately 6-years-old. The harness can be removed, transforming the Evolution into a booster seat, which installs easily with the car’s seat belt.
This option can be used up to around 25kg. So no faffing at the car seat section at your local retailer every year when you need to upgrade in size!
What’s in the box:
- Evolution car seat with 5-point padded safety harness
- Extensive instruction manual
I have to say that I am a fan of the Phil&Teds Evolution car seat. I’m really sold on the fact that it can be used until my little one is a proper child! I think the added benefit of the extra shock absorption foam and the unique Cuddleme padding really adds to the car seat. I love the removable liners, which makes it easy to make the seat more suitable for older children.
The 5 recline positions are also a great feature, which means my little one can comfortably snooze while in the car, and when he is awake, the height of the seat means he can see what is going on in the world around him. Great if you have a curious baby like my Teddy!