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After reading through many reviews on the subject, and being a bit miffed at the thought that I could be buying a car seat every year for my new baby I plumped for the Concord Ultimax.
On paper this car seat was a winner in many ways.
Firstly, it can be used from birth to 4 years due to a clever little rotating wedge under the seat that converts it from rear facing to forward facing. the seat can be used rear facing for much longer than other seats, because it can accomodate a bigger child, which means you can use the safer rear-facing option for longer than with regular car seats.
It also has a handy lever which allows you to recline the seat for a sleeping baby. This is also simple to use as you just grasp the lever at the front of the seat, twist it and pull the seat up. It clicks into several positions and locks in place. The straps can be adjusted both in their length and in their height up the back of the chair.
Secondly it is made my german manufacturers, Concord, who have a reputation for quality and safety. Their products aren't cheap, but they are stylish and well built so you feel like you are getting what you pay for. The car seat has to last 4 years, after all. Details like removable and washable covers are essential once the seat is accomodating a puking, pooping, piddling baby.
Thirdly we DID NOT want a travel system. I am soooooo anti-baby gadgetry and I hated the thought of using a heavy, ungainly car seat to carry my baby around in when the actual baby himself was much small and easier to carry. I stand by this! It is much easier when shopping to lift your baby out of the car and pop them in a sling or wrap than to heft a carseat out, heft the buggy out of the boot, fit the carseat into the buggy and then mow people down as you struggle round the shops. So a stay-in-the-car carseat was imporatnt to us.
The price was £135 and we felt this was a great price considering we only had to pay it once in four years! The combined sum of buying car seats for each age group would have been far higher!
Once our son was born we began to understand the car seat better, as you do when you actually use a product rather than admiring it sitting in your living room!
We found it very easy and secure to install. There is a fat little instruction booklet which can be slipped into a pocket on the back of the car seat - which is a good job, because we've had to refer to it often!. This clearly details how to install the carseat using your car's three point seatbelt. This pretty much welds the car seat to the car and made us feel very safe with it.
Once the base is in, we have always struggled to get the seat in and out! I don't know if that's just because we're a bit rubbish at these things, or whether all car seats are a bit of a faff to handle, or if this is a particularly irksome carseat. But since you only have to remove the carseat to adjust the harness, wash the covers, or move the seat from car to car, this hasn't been much of an issue - DO bear this in mind if you think you are going to be moving your carseat a lot! It's not an impossible task, and there's a knack to it, but it's no isofix.
This applies also to getting the baby in and out when the seat is rear facing. This isn't a problem particular to the concord - we've struggled with it in any car seat we've used - but you have to lift the baby over the seatbelt and into the seat. Because it isn't part of a travel system, you aren't unclipping the seatbelt and hefting the whole seat/baby combo out in one go so you simply have to get good and extracting your baby past the blasted seatbelt.
The second thing we have struggled with is adjusting the harness. Babies grow at an astronomical rate, especially my son who is a beanpole. Adjusting this harness involes removing the carseat, opening the hatch at the back, pulling out some very tightly wedged metal clips, feeding them through the slots, feeding them back through some higher slots, clipping them back into their extremely tight fittings, lengthening the straps and refitting the hatch. Once this is done, you can put your baby back in the seat and adjust the straps to the desired legth by very simply pulling on a strap that emerges from under the seat - that bit is certainly simple.
I don't want this to seem like a complaint, because we love our Concord Ultimax. So much so, that we'll buy another for baby number two. But it is one of those products that has 'knacks'. You need to familiarise yourself with it!
It's all worth it for a good quality, long lasting, safe car seat that my son has ALWAYS been supremely comfortable in. Believe me, we have taken that child on some looooooong car journeys (Why does everyone live so far away? Selfish!) and he never resents being put in his seat.
All Concord X-Line car seats feature high-quality, functional textiles with no less than three convenience aspects that guarantee exceptional easy-care properties, excellent sitting comfort and active breathability. So you and your baby benefit! Easy positioning recline adjustment (forward facing) using single-handed rotary handle. Innovative side impact protection system. No carry handle.