Single-purpose car seats
Nuna Pipa Klik (tested with ISOFix) CF-06-001AU
Safe-N-Sound Maxi Guard BS8300B-020133
Nuna Aace CS-41-001AU
Australia’s safest car seats have been revealed, with recent tests uncovering some disturbing – and potentially fatal – flaws.
In its latest round of assessments, the independent Child Restraint Evaluation Program (CREP) found that a seat on sale in Australia catastrophically failed a safety test by ejecting a toddler-sized crash dummy.
The seat – a Joie I-Travvel Car Seat – has now been recalled by its manufacturer, with consumers urged to stop using it and return it to where it was bought for an exchange, credit or refund. But the distressing footage has left parents understandably worried about the reliability of child car seats.
CREP is a national consortium including Kidsafe, RACV and the Transport Accident Commission. RACV’s Elvira Lazar says the program exists to enable parents to compare and find the seats that have the best protection ratings, “but in the latest round of testing we discovered a seat that didn’t provide the safety expected by the testing program or parents”.
For the assessments, test dummies measuring the upper end of the height and weight limit for each type of seat are put into a crash simulation to measure the forces experienced by the dummy on impact. The car seats are scored based on several performance aspects, such as how well they maintain structural integrity and how well they protect the child’s torso in a car crash.
The CREP assessments aim to educate parents about which restraints offer the best protection, by assessing child car seats not only on how they perform in crash tests, but also how easy they are to install and use.
“Parents often ask me about the best or safest car seats on the market,” says Elvira. “With so many seats on the market, it’s useful to be able to distinguish which seats provide better safety and protection than others.”
The results once again demonstrate that not all car seats are created equal.
All seats tested by CREP comply with Australian Standards (which specify a range of design and performance requirements and involve some crash testing), but the CREP ratings assess how a seat performs over and above those minimum safety requirements. Even a one-star seat performs over and above the minimum requirements.
“The CREP independent testing is tougher than Australian Standard requirements in order to help parents make an informed decision about which seat to buy based on actual performance, not what they are being told by a salesperson,” Elvira explains.
While overall protection ratings are paramount, Elvira says ease of use should also be taken into consideration as the simpler a car seat is to install and use, the more likely it is to be used correctly.
“The results demonstrate that not all car seats are created equal and price is not a good indicator of safety so parents need to remain vigilant when it comes to choosing the appropriate restraint for their child.”
CREP has tested many of Australia’s top-selling car seats. These are the highest-rating seats by category.
Once a child outgrows a single-use seat, they will need a new one.
These seats can only be used in one way. Once children outgrow their seat, they will need a new one.
These seats are commonly called capsules and click into a base installed in the car. Some brands also offer an option that clicks into a pram.
Age of use: Capsules are generally for use from birth to at least six months; however, some are available for use from birth to 12 months.
Highest rated: Of the seats tested, Nuna Pipa Klik (CF-06-001AU) tested with ISOFIX was the highest rated, with a 5-star protection rating. To see all seats tested in this category, click here.
Parents are spoilt for choice in this category, with nine seats receiving four-stars and above as a protection rating. Remember that kids should keep using a booster for as long as possible, at least until they can pass the five-step test for good seatbelt fit.
Age of use: Four years to at least seven years old. There are also booster seats that children can use until they are at least 10 years old.
Highest rated: Of the seats tested, Nuna Aace (CS-41-001AU) was the highest rated, with a 5-star protection score. To see all seats tested in this category, click here.
Most convertible seats have higher protection ratings in rearward-facing mode.
All convertible seats can be used for longer because once kids outgrow one mode, the seat can be reconfigured. Most of the seats tend to have higher protection ratings in either rearward-facing or forward-facing mode so it is important to check the safety rating across all modes.
Age of use: There are typically three types of rearward to forward convertible seats on the Australian market:
Best performer overall: Of the seats tested, the Safe-N-Sound Platinum Pro SICT (BS7200A-i20133) tested with ISOFIX and with seatbelt performed the best in both modes, with overall protection scores of 4.3 stars and 4.2 stars respectively. To see all seats tested in this category, click here.
There are a number of choices for seats that perform consistently as a forward-facing seat and as a booster.
Age of use: Six months to at least seven years.
Best performer overall: Of the seats tested, the Infa-Secure (CS7113 - Odyssey II, Rally II, Rover and Lantra) was the highest rated in forward-facing mode, with a protection score of 4.7 in forward and 3.8 in booster mode, while the Safety First Solo GMBE 2013 was the highest rated in booster mode, with a protection score of 4.8 and a 2.7 in forward-facing mode. To see all seats tested in this category, click here.
Remember to check safety ratings in all modes.
These seats can be used from birth until kids outgrow the restraint and are ready to travel with a seatbelt. However, seats can wear out over time, so make sure parts stay in good working condition.
Age of use: Birth to at least seven years or 145 centimetres tall.
Highest rated: Of the seats tested, the Infa-Secure Luxi II Treo (CS4313) has its highest protection rating in booster mode with 4.1 stars. Rearward mode received 2.9 stars and forward received a 1.8-star rating.
Full results: To see all seats tested in this category, click here.
Children must be at least 145 centimetres tall before they move to an adult seatbelt.
With such a big range of seats on the market, you can ask yourself a few questions to narrow your search.
*By law, children need to travel in a suitable restraint and, for children aged seven to 16, that restraint can be a booster seat or seatbelt. It’s important to use the restraint that is suitable for the child’s height.