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Offering “excellent longevity”, the Silver Cross Balance i-Size multi-stage car seat is designed to grow with your child, from the age of 15 months to 12 years. It is, in theory, the only car seat you will need to buy after your baby has grown out of its original newborn seat.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a brand that has historically been given the royal seal of approval, the Balance i-Size has the appearance of a high-end car seat, with plush memory foam padding, cushioned side wings and a head hugger that Silver Cross has covered in a stylish and hypoallergenic “signature” bamboo fabric.
We’ve put the Balance i-Size to the test with a toddler and child to see how well it fares between both ages, and to test the level of safety and comfort it offers for both.
Megan is a freelance journalist and mum to Jack, 4, and Billy, 2. She tested the Silver Cross Balance i-Size in her Volvo XE60 on short daily drives within her local area and a longer 1-hour car journey.
What were your first impressions of the Silver Cross Balance i-Size?
On opening the box I felt that the car seat was larger and bulkier than car seats I’ve used before. Our current car seat is already quite bulky but is only designed for children up to the age of 4.
I would struggle to see a 12-year-old in this seat because it feels and looks like a toddler seat. Still, in exchange for its cumbersomeness, the car seat felt strong, sturdy and robust. It looks comfortable and well made, and is the most attractive car seat I’ve come across.
How does it compare to other multi-stage car seats?
With an RRP of £225, the Silver Cross Balance i-size seems to be very much in line with competitors on the market. The Maxi Cosi Titan group 1/2/3 seat has similar features (although is not i-size compliant) at an RRP of £199. However, there are much cheaper ones too, such as the Joie Elevate Group 1/2/3 which costs £53.99, but this does not have Isofix connectors and is much more basic.
The Silver Cross Balance i-Size does not rear-face, so some might prefer a Group 1/2/3 seat that allows for that in younger age, such as the Joie Every Stage (£150) which offers rear-facing seating up to 18kg (approx 4 years).
How does the Silver Cross Balance i-Size compare to the original model?
Silver Cross launched the original Balance (£220 on Amazon) alongside 3 other car seats (Dream, Motion and Discover) in 2019. The new Balance i-Size is very similar to its predecessor, although as its name suggests, it now complies to the new i-Size regulations. This means it has undergone some different stress tests and meets some more stringent requirements – especially when it comes to side impact protection.
In addition it has an extra recline position – 4, instead of 3 on the previous model – but it does weigh more than the previous model, 14.1kg rather than the previous 12.8kg.
What age is the Balance i-Size suitable for?
As the Balance i-Size complies to the new regulation, its weight/age range has slightly adjusted in comparison to the original model. Age suitability is now from 76cm (around 15 months), whereas the previous model was from approximately 9 months, and the new version lasts until your child is 150cm (still approximately 12 years).
How do you install the Silver Cross Balance i-Size?
When your child is between 76-105cm you install the seat using the integrated ISOFIX base with connector arms and a top tether that goes over the top of the seat and attaches to the anchor point in your car. The ISOFIX indicator should turn from red to green once the seat is securely installed.
Once your child is above 105cm you can install the seat just using the ISOFIX connectors (without the top tether) or with your car’s seat belt, however it is recommended to use ISOFIX where possible.
For more detailed instructions on how to do this you can use the Silver Cross Car Safety Made Simple app which you can find on the Apple App Store or Google Play, or by scanning the QR code on the car seat.
You then need to choose the car seat model that you’ve got and follow the onscreen instructions. There are computer-generated images and audio commentary, which are easy to follow and gives you great peace of mind that you’ve secured the seat properly. Vehicle fitting lists, product registration and other helpful information can also be found within the app.
How easy was it to install?
As seems to be the case with most car seats, I had to hunt around for the instructions. I found them in a pull-out compartment on the back of the seat, which is useful, as you can easily access them every time you want to remove or install it.
After reading through the written and picture instructions I installed the car seat in about 5 minutes. I also watched through the steps on the Silver Cross car seat app (I discovered this by accident as it wasn’t mentioned in the instruction manual or anywhere inside the box). I felt confident installing the car seat as green indicators on the ISOFIX let you know that you have fitted the base correctly.
I had problems fitting the “Top Tether” strap (which runs over the top of the back seat into the anchor point accessed from the boot of your car) as the tether didn’t fit through the gap in my car’s head rest. However, I did manage to fit it slightly to the side of the head rest and the indicator turned green. When testing the original Balance, reviewer Claire also found the securing the top tether tricky – especially in order to turn the indicator green.
What are the key safety features of the Silver Cross Balance i-size?
As well as ISOFIX connectors and a 5-point safety harness, the Balance features a top tether that you connect to an anchor point on the back of the seat. This is accessed from the boot of the car and secures the car seat even further.
In terms of safety credentials, the i-Size base has been given the highest “Very Good” rating by independent testing organisation ADAC. The i-Size regulations also require significant side impact testing, that all seats need to meet, which is a great extra safety guarantee.
Its safety credentials and comfort are the most commented on features among Amazon reviewers of the original Balance. It has an impressive 5 out of 5 stars on the online retailer.
Can the Silver Cross Balance i-Size be rear-facing?
The Balance does not rear-face, as is the case with a lot of group 1/2/3 car seats. According to i-Size regulations children must stay rear-facing until 15 months, but now more car seats offer extended rear-facing up until 25kg/approx 5-6 years so it’s worth looking at these if rear-facing is a priority for you.
While my children have not been happy rear-facing past the age of 18 months, it is a feature I would like to see in more multi-stage car seats.
Does the car seat rotate?
Again, it doesn’t rotate, which is definitely a challenge for me. We had previously been using a Britax Römer seat that swivels, and I rely on this function a lot to get my younger child in and out of the car. At 2 years he’s heavy and doesn’t always play ball when getting into his car seat.
There are also lots of occasions when we have had to slot into narrow car parking spaces (a common feature of UK car parks!) and without a swivel function it can be quite a challenge to get him in and out.
Having said that, the furthest rotating car seats, that are currently on the market, go up to is 4 years. When you consider that you are likely to only want a swivel feature for the baby and toddler years, you’ll have to decide if you want to prioritise longevity over a swivel function.
How comfortable was the car seat?
Comfort features are king when it comes to this product. There are 2 different-sized removable inserts and a supportive head hugger, plus memory foam seat padding on the base.
The fabric coverings are all anti-bacterial, hypoallergenic and with thermo-regulating properties to absorb moisture, so they’re very practical.
The seat also offers 9 headrest positions and 4 recline positions, so you can keep adjusting it as your child grows.
How easy is it to recline the Silver Cross Balance i-Size? Does it recline far enough?
There is a mechanism underneath the front of the seat that you pull towards you to recline the seat. There are 4 reclines positions (all marginally different), and the most reclined position offering a nice position for sleeping. My child looked comfortable when he slept on a longer journey.
How effective is the headrest?
There are 9 headrest positions. I used the car seat without the extra insert provided as my 2-year-old didn’t need it. I then set the headrest to the lowest position for my 2-year-old.
My 4-year-old also tried the car seat and used the head rest in a higher position. Both children looked and seemed comfortable.
How well did the Silver Cross Balance i-Size work with different age children?
Both children fitted well into the seat. For my older child, we used the conventional seat belt fitting instead of the 5-point harness (it is recommended that the 5-point safety harness is used up to a maximum weight of 20.5kg – it then stores away neatly within the seat).
My older child is used to sitting in a Maxi Cosi seat designed for children from the age of 3 that feels less bulky and a bit more “grown up”. He wasn’t impressed with being back in a “baby seat”, or so he called it! This may have been because it felt too elevated compared to the other seat we have, and it takes up far more space in the car.
If you have more than one child, it is worth thinking about how all your car seats fit together in the back of the car, and whether you still have space for a third back seat passenger (or third car seat).
How easy were the straps to adjust?
I had no problem with the straps – they operate very similarly to the straps on our Britax Römer and are easy to adjust and clip in.
I know others have been concerned about their child being able to access the strap release button, but I don’t think my children would be able to open it – there is quite a lot of dexterity and pressure required.
How do you find the car seat to carry around and swap between cars?
At 14.1kg this is a large, heavy, bulky seat so it’s not particularly easy to carry (although I did manage it), so it may not be best suited if you’re regularly transferring the seat between cars.
How easy is the Silver Cross i-Balance to clean?
The covers are wipe clean, or they can be washed on a delicate cycle with a mild detergent at 30 degrees. To remove the cover, you unfasten the 7 fastening points and gently pull it away from the seat. I had no trouble in removing the cover or wiping it clean.
What’s in the box?
- Car seat (with integrated ISOFIX base)
- Instructions (tucked into the seat)
What are the additional accessories that you can buy?
There are no additional accessories.
Now you’ve tested it, what would you have wanted to know before using the car seat?
Without being able to go to a shop and speak to a sales advisor (shops were closed at the time of review due to Covid-19), it is quite tricky to get your head around all the features and safety points of this car seat online. However this is where Silver Cross’ Car Safety Made Simple app comes in handy, particularly with installation.
For me as we’re firmly in the toddler phase I would have liked a rotating function, so something like the Silver Cross Motion (£350 on Amazon) may have suited these needs better. But there’s no doubting the longevity of the Balance i-Size, with its upper age limit of 12 years which saves an additional purchase once your child has outgrown their toddler seat.
If buying for an older child, I would probably go for something less bulky and where I could fit 3 passengers in the back of a standard-sized car.
Does the Silver Cross Balance i-Size offer good value for money?
At £225 it’s not the cheapest, but if using for its full life span (15 months – 12 years) you could view it as an investment purchase.
Where can you buy the Silver Cross Balance i-Size?
A very safe, comfortable and stylish car seat that’s super-easy and quick to install, the Balance i-size would suit a new family that’s after quality and longevity, as it should last a number of years. Its bulkiness is worth keeping in mind if you’re short on space as well as its increased weight from the previous model, which makes this better suited to staying secured in one car.
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Dimensions & Weight
|Child age (approx)||15 months to 12 years|
|Child weight||Up to 20.5kg|
|Child Height||76cm to 150cm|
|Removeable cover for washing||Yes|
|Height adjustible headrest||Yes|