After a lot of discussion and debate with various car seat retailers, health visitors and family members my boys were in their "first" stage 0 rear facing car seats until they were almost 18 months old. My boys are particularly small for their age which was the main reason and even at 2 years old they had not reached the 20lb weight limit for them to move into the next stage/ stages of car seat. However my both my boys were able to break free from the rearward seats and break free when I was driving. Certain car seat retailers told me it was unsafe to have my boys in a front facing seat and one actually refused to sell me these style car seats however after my boys climbing out of their rear facing seats whilst I was driving on my own with them on a 70mph dual carriage way with them I made a judgement call and moved them into the next stage of seats as I felt no car seat was a lot more dangerous than a front facing one that secured them in so we opted for the BabyStart 123 Car Seats after much research and debate.
***BabyStart 123 Car Seat***
The BabyStart 123 Car Seat is a multistage car seat and as stated in the name is a group 1-3 forward facing car seat. It is to be used with 3 point seat belts and although recommended for rear seat usage it can also be fitted into the front seats of the car.
The BabyStart 123 Car Seat has an adjustable head rest and cushions for younger children to ensure that they are safe and supported in the car. The seat has side impact protection, a 5 point harness, 1 pull harness adjustment, harness sleeves and a buckle pad.
The guidance on this car seat is that it is suitable for children from 9 months to 12 years or 9kg to 36kg.
The car seat is 71cm in height, 45cm wide (at its widest point) and 50cm deep.
The car seat is stated to be a stage 1-2-3 car seat but does not convert to a booster seat.
The car seat comes in black or pink. I have two of these car seats in black therefore my review will be based entirely on my experience of the black version. The covers are removable but hand wash only.
The BabyStart 123 Car Seat in black is available from Argos and Amazon. Argos are slightly cheaper and sell this for £47.99 whereas Amazon sell this for £64.99. We actually bought two of these car seats during a money off event at Argos and per car seat paid £35.99. I think this is an extremely low price and compared to other car seats on the market it is very cheap.
We should have been spoilt for choice when it came for choosing a new car seat for my twin boys because there was so many on the market and we had just ordered a new car (for me!) which size wise was a lot larger particularly the back seat. However Mr Lools and I were considering the long term and baby number 3 (which a few weeks later we found out we were expecting again). With 3 children under 3 comes the challenge of finding the right combination of a large enough car and car seats which fit into a car (without the need for a bus). I had ruled out certain "bus like" cars so we decided to go for a Nissan Qashqui +2. We did have 2 pull up seats in the boot however I knew from friends owning the same model of car it was possible on fitting 3 seats across the main back seat and having lots of boot space. This did rule out certain car seats automatically especially the stage 1 seats which tended to be very bulky as was my favoured brand of Maxi Cosi. I must admit I'm a car seat snob and prefer to purchase the more well-known brands (despite being a lot more expensive) however I also knew I had to compromise as we had just spent a considerable amount of money on a new car. So after speaking to friends and trying out many different seats we ended up with the BabyStart 1-2-3 seats.
As a stage 1 car seat-
Fitting the car seat is very simple but can only be used with a 3 point seat belt. I must admit on the first few attempts I did need to refer to the instructions however on the back of the actual car seat there is a diagram that clearly shows how you fit the seat belt. You simply pull the adult seat belt out as far as you can, then loop it into the slot on the front side of the car seat, through the two loops at the back of the car set and then back through around the arm rest of the car seat under a clip and lock the adult seat belt into place. To ensure the car seat is secure in place you then pull the adult seat belt tight and push the car seat back into the seat. I used to regularly transfer these car seats between cars (either Mr Lools' car or my parents cars) and after a few practices I could probably take two of these car seats out of my car and fix securely into place into another car in 5 minutes which I think is very reasonable and not at all tricky. I tend to not move so much now as we have a second set of car seats which a friend gave to us.
We tend to use these seats in the back seat of a car in the back left and back right seats and leave the middle seat free. I have used once or twice in the front seat of my car and the seat fits fine however this tends to be for occasional use when one of my sons has been poorly and I have been taking to hospital or doctors. In these cases I always ensure that I turn the passenger airbag off. If you have a car where you can't turn the airbag off then you should not put a child or the BabyStart 123 Car Seat in the front seat of the car.
With expecting baby number 3 any day now we have also experimented putting these seats into different positions. In our 2012 model of a Nissan Quashqui+2 the BabyStart 123 Car Seat fits into all of the seats on the standard back seats; in fact when the time comes we could fit 3 of these seats into the car across the back. The BabyStart 123 Car Seat also fits into the two very rear seats which pop up from the boot although we have not really used these yet as there has been no real need.
As a stage 2-3 car seat
For older children once they reach around 15kg usually they move onto a stage 2 car seat. My boys are nowhere near this yet so as a stage 2 car seat these seats have not been used regularly. I have used on my friends children once or twice when giving a lift home and the five point harness clips out and you attach through the buckle loops using the adult seat belt to go around the seat and then around the child. Recently Mr Lools and I played taxi between the church and reception venue for a few family members and their children. Mr Lools took our boys in the stage 1 car seats in our car (a different brand to the BabyStart) and I took family members and their 4 year old and 5 year old in the BabyStart 123 Car Seat using as a stage 2 seat. It did take me about 5 minutes to fit each seat converting from stage 1-2 however if using as a stage 2 you would not have to do this usually every time so these seats are still relatively simple to fit.
As a stage 3 car seat-
We have not used these car seats as a stage 3 car seat yet so I can't comment on how easy these are to fit or use. Personally I do not think as my boys head towards 12 years old that we will still be using these seats as they seem too bulky and can't be converted into standard booster seats which is what my cousins who are 8 and 10 use and I feel would look too big and squashed in these seats as
I must admit when I first bought the BabyStart 123 Car Seat I wasn't overly impressed with the appearance. The seat in black is not a bad looking seat, it is a nice curved shape, is mainly black but I did feel the grey section on the back rest and the red clips on the side of the seat for fitting did make the seat look a little cheap. However at £50 per seat these are not premium seats and compared to the Maxi Cosi car seats I had previously used these were less than half the price. Once fitted into the car however these seats do not look overly cheap and the colours are not overly gaudy or look out of place. However the pink version of this seat the same can't be said for it!
Not only are the seats very easy to fit into the actual car, putting a child into the car seat is also very easy. I started using these car seats from when my boys were 18 months old. At this age they were walking, climbing and sitting no problem so as soon as they went into these car seats they seemed reasonably happy and comfortable. My biggest reservation was putting them into a car seat meant for children over 20lbs when they were just under 19lb which certain retailers told me was extremely dangerous and I should keep them in rear facing seats until they hit 20lb (which to note on this rationale at 27 months they would still be in!). As soon as they first sat in the seat I knew I had made the right decision. My boys sat up perfectly in the seats. The five point harness fit securely around them and the seat was cushioned around them and they did not sit too low down in the seat or look too small for the seat. From a safety perspective over the last 9 months neither of my sons have been able to free their arms and shrug off the shoulder straps when sat in these car seats which they can do on our other car seats in the other car. This makes me very confident they are secure in the seats if we were to have an accident unlike when they were in the rear facing seats and not only pulling their straps off but actually pulling themselves out of the car seat!
We also have stage 1 seats (which a friend gave to us) for use in Mr Lools' car and to for grandparents to use in their cars. In comparison the biggest drawback of the BabyStart 123 Car Seat to these is the lack of padding in the seat and the fact that these seats do not recline. I would say I probably would not use this seat (or this style of seat) for a child under around 15 months because the multistage car seats tend to be more upright and less padded. If I had been putting my boys into a car seat at 9 months I would have probably put my boys into a stage 1 only car seat so it could be reclined to a less upright position.
Although this is not the most padded of car seats (which reflects on them being slim line) on the market my boys always seem comfortable in these seats even for long periods of time. We have driven for 3 hours at a time and my boys have been perfectly happy sat in these seats. Although my boys to me look more comfortable when asleep in the more padded stage 1 car seats as the seat is more padded around their head they still will sleep in the BabyStart 123 Car Seat. With this style of car seat many parents say a child's head flops about when they fall asleep however on the occasions my boys have fallen asleep in the car this has never been the case and they tend to have their head to the side slightly rather than it flopping forwards.
The adjustment on the straps for stage 1 use also means it is very easy to adjust the strap depending on the size of the child. This can be done with the pull of the strap to tighten and then a squeeze and pull on the strap to make the strap bigger. I tend to find myself adjusting the straps each time my sons go in the car as the difference between wearing a coat or no coat can often mean the straps seem loose. This takes less than 10 seconds to do and ensure my sons can't escape and they are tightly in place.
At 27 months old my boys have recognised that the press of a button on the crotch strap of the harness sets them free however despite regularly trying they have not been able to free themselves. It takes quite a hard press of this button for the harness to release which a child of 3-4 years old may be able to do however they would need to use considerable force and pressure.
When using as a stage 2-3 seat the seat belt in my car fitted around the car seats with no issues and both the 4 and 5 year old sat in these seats looked comfortable although the drive was only a short 10 minute journey. I would say both children are pretty "average" sized and I feel for children that are on the taller side these seats are quite rounded inwards towards the hips so they may find this restricts them slightly more so than more open stage 2-3 seats. Although we have not used these seats for a child over 5 years old I feel for a much older child nearer 12 these seats would not be very suitable as they seem a little small.
Safety wise I can't really comment on how these perform in a crash as thankfully we have not been in that situation. My friend who recommended this seat actually had a low speed impact with the children in these seats in the car and her children were fine however as after all impacts you should replace the car seats.
With the covers of these seats being black they do not show up dirt too easily and mucky marks from shoes can easily be wiped or brushed off. The covers are removable however which is lucky as one of my sons was VERY sick whilst in this car seat which covered the entire seat (and back of my car). The covers are only hand wash only but this removed all traces and smells of vomit and when put back on after being dried out on the radiator the covers fitted fine and looked (and smelt) like new. The main issue I did have is that the harness straps are light grey and although I was able to clean these up it did take a lot of scrubbing (and cleaning between the buckles) and I feel because of the light colour for general use the straps do get mucky so require regular cleaning to keep clean and looking new looking.
Although the BabyStart 123 Car Seat would not be my first choice of car seat if space was not such an issue I would definitely recommend them to other parents especially as an occasional use seat or for use in a second car. At under £50 per seat they are excellent value, reasonably comfortable and very easy to fit. The biggest selling point for us is that they are a reasonably compact car seat and in our car it allows us to fit 3 car seats across the back seat (2 of the BabyStart 123 Car Seats and 1 Maxi Cosi Cabriofix).
We have mainly used these seats as a stage 1 seat with some occasional use as a stage 2 seat. For my boys from 18 months old these seats have fitted them securely into the car and they have travelled comfortably. The seats do not recline and are not as padded as many other brands of car seats however my boys have still been able to sleep in these seats. A drawback of the BabyStart 123 Car Seat is that they are a very upright seat so unlike the Stage 1 car seats they are a little less padded and can't be reclined. Therefore for those looking to put a young baby of under 1 year old into this style of seat I would probably not recommend and think these are more suited to children and toddlers over 18 months old. I find the seats very easy to transfer between cars and the five point harness is easy enough for me to adjust quickly (for example when my boys take off jackets and the harness needs to be tighter) but also secure enough that they can't escape as one of my sons in particular can escape from car seats and highchairs VERY easily.
The seats are also reasonably easy to convert from stage 1 to stage 2 although as a stage 2 -3 seat these are then not the most compact of car seats which for us is the greatest selling point of them as a stage 1 seat. I do feel because these do not convert to a booster style seat for stage 3 we probably will not use and look for something that gives larger children a bit more space.
A great seat just not the most padded but excellent value!