Did you know that children under the age of two are 75% less likely to be severely injured or die in a car accident if they are sitting in a rear-facing position?
The American Academy of Pediatrics revised its statement in 2011 and since, many parents have been on the hunt to find an extended leg car seat that leaves their little one room to grow for two years sitting rear-facing in the car.
One of the latest car seats with extra leg space was released by Chicco in January of 2021 – the Chicco NextFit Zip Max Convertible Car Seat.
Disclosure: I received the Chicco NextFit Zip Max Extended-Use Convertible Car Seat for the purposes of creating this review.
Let’s take a closer look at the Chicco Next Fit Zip Max and how it stacks up against some of its top competitors.
Let’s jump into what every parent should be concerned about when getting a new car seat for their little one safety.
The Chicco Next-Fit Zip Max Extended-Use Convertible Car Seat has extended leg room and is designed to keep your baby safe (and comfortable) longer. This best convertible car seat is no exception, with manufacturer recommendations that this seat can accommodate your little one rear-facing until they are 50 pounds.
Once your little one does turn around, you can use it until they are 65 pounds and ready to transition to a booster seat.
Parents will also like how this seat allows them to be prepared even premature babies can travel safely with the newborn position insert, designed for babies from 4-11 pounds.
This means even babies born early or with health problems can make it home safely and the car seat comes with the infant seat pre-installed. If you want to remove the infant seat, you’ll need to unhook the strap. This is easy enough, but you have to find it first and the hook is inside the seat cover.
Something that I really liked regarding safety was how tightly the car seat sits against the seat of my vehicle. It has SuperCinch LATCH connectors and lockoffs when using the seatbelt that hold it tightly to the seat.
When properly installed, there’s no wiggle room forward or backward or side-to-side. (I’ve had two different models tip over while I was driving with my littles in the back seat, so this is definitely an important feature to me.)
The Seat Belt
The harness inside the car seat is comfortable and easy to use. It uses a standard five-point harness that is easy enough to operate. Parents will also appreciate the covers that stop the metal pieces of the seat belt from heating up too much on hot days.
Other Safety Features
At first glance/feel, this car seat feels very sturdy. It has a reinforced steel frame and foam padding that remain stable and absorb impact if you ever are in a car accident with your little one.
The car seat also features DuoGuard side impact protection to protect your child’s head and neck.
This also has a dual-level bubble indicator that helps you be sure the car seat is in the right position. One side indicates where the bubble should sit when rear-facing and the other indicates where the bubble should sit when forward-facing if it’s properly installed.
The seat reclines in nine different positions, so there is a wide range of compatibility regardless of what the seats in the back of your car look like.
The harness can also be adjusted without rethreading it, which is great for parents who hate the lengthy re-threading process as much as I do. This is possible using a nine-position adjustable headrest that grows with your child.
As a veteran mom that has gone through quite a few car seats, some are notably easier to install than others. This is one of the easier seatsyou can literally take it out of the box and put into your car within ten minutes. (We do advise you take the time to read the manual, though).
All you’ll need to do is install the cup holders, remove the tether straps from their compartments (though ours were already out), and install.
Using the LATCH System
The LATCH system makes it easy to secure the car seat from all angles.
Just install the LATCH straps on either side of the car seat and pull it tightthe SuperCinch LATCH tightener takes care of the rest.
The straps are labeled pull first’ and pull second’ to be sure you get the best possible step without having to read the fine print of the manual. And don’t forget the top tether when in forward facing mode!
Seat Belt Installation
When installing with a seat belt, there’s an area to secure the belt. Then, you pull your car’s seat belt out to lock it and hold it in place. This works with the top LATCH tether to provide the same security as the LATCH system, without any wiggle room forward or backward or side-to-side.
Other Installation Considerations
Another great feature regarding the installation is that if there is any part of the process you are confused about, Chicco has several NextFit Zip Max Extended-Use tutorials on their website. They’ll walk you through features like how to install at every stage in both rear-facing and forward-facing position and how to remove and replace the washable fabrics.
The included manual also provides insider safety tips (it’s worth a read even if you know what you are doing).
The major benefit of car seats with extended leg room is the extra space.
As your little one grows, it is tempting to turn them around and give them more leg room in the car. With safety as a top concern, car seats like this give more space for your little one to sit comfortably longer.
This model has 25% more rear-facing leg room than Chicco’s other NextFit car seats. (You can check out our review of the Chicco NextFit iZip here.)
The size and shape of your little one’s seat impacts everyone’s comfort.
Not Too Bulky
Many parents who consider a car seat with extra legroom like the Chicco NextFit Zip Max Extended-Use Convertible car seat worry about how it’s going to fit in their car. Fortunately, this model provides extra legroom without taking up too much extra space. We easily fit it in the backseat of our Honda Civic.
Airflow and Extra Support
Other comfort features for your little one include a 3D AirMesh backrest that allows airflow through the seat. This stops your little one from getting hot and sweaty, especially in the summer.
There is also extra calf support for your child in forward-facing mode. Adjusting for comfort is easy, as the levers for the adjustable headrest and recline are easy to access and smoothly move the car seat into position.
The same foam that makes the car seat safer by offering side impact protection also looks soft and cushy. Kids will appreciate the softness, especially if they like to nap on long car rides.
Other Features and Considerations
The one thing I would note is that this car seat is a little on the heavy side, about 26.5 pounds. It doesn’t seem like it is heavy enough to be an issue when switching between cars though. On the bright side, the heaviness does make the seat seem sturdy.
However, this does not have a handle and is attached to the base, like infant car seats, so you won’t be able to bring it into the store with you if your little one falls asleep in the car.
Zip-Off Seat Pad
This is also easy to wash. The washable fabrics unzip from the car seat and the cup holder can be set inside the dishwasher to clean. It can be a hassle to undo the entire thing, but this would be a hassle regardless of the car seat.
It’s a nice option to remove all the fabric and the zippers zip and unzip smoothly. They are also large enough that they are easy to pull.
Why Do Parents Turn Kids Around Sooner?
For my youngest, car rides became disastrous after the age of one. He was no longer willing to nap through the ride and he was cranky from the way his legs cramped in his seat. It was tempting to turn his seat aroundbut his added comfort didn’t make it any safer and I knew what was best.
The earliest car seats didn’t account for this, as the AAP had confusing recommendations about when babies should be turned forward-facing. The recommendation was after the first birthday and once a child had grown out of the size limits of their forward-facing car seat.
However, many children were cramped before they met the limits and parents turned them around earlier.
How Does the Chicco NextFit Zip Max Compare to Other Extended Leg Room Car Seats?
Even though the AAP announced their new recommendation of keeping children rear-facing longer in 2011, car seats offering more leg room are relatively new. Even so, there are several models that will give your child a little more space. Here’s how the Chicco NextFit Zip Max Extended-Use Convertible Car Seat compares.
The Graco Extend2Fit is perfect for parents who want to use the LATCH system longer since the Extend2Fit LATCH system works with children up to 45 pounds and your child can sit rear-facing until they are 50 pounds.
This is a more budget-friendly car seat with extendable legroom.
It also has some similar features as the Chicco NextFit Zip Max including a 10-position headrest and no re-thread harness, machine washable fabrics, and a steel reinforced frame. It has less adjustable recline positions (just 6 instead of 9) and features a pull-out extender that sits against the back of the seat and offers more leg room for your little one.
We’ve compared the Graco Extend2Fit against the Graco 4Ever car seat here.
Diono Radian 3RXT
The Diono Radian 3RXT is a convertible car seat that turns into a booster, usable until your child is 120 pounds.
It’s a good choice if you don’t want to buy more than one car seat in your child’s life. It works rear-facing until your child is 45 pounds. Additionally, a narrow exterior means more backseat room without sacrificing safety or roominess on the inside.
This seat also has extended leg room when rear facing because of the recline of the seat.
You can take a closer look in our Diono Radian 3RXT review.
Safety 1st Grow and Go MultiFit EX Air 4-in-1
The Safety 1st Grow and Go MultiFit EX Air 4-in-1 is the most budget-friendly option.
It has a reclining design that naturally leaves more room for your little one’s legs and works in the rear-facing position up to 50 pounds. It also features a 3-position recline, machine washable fabrics, and a patented air protection cushioning system for side-impact protection.
The one downside is that this does not leave a lot of room behind the front seat of the car in some vehicles.
- Rear-facing up to 50 pounds
- Extended legroom
- Easy to install
- Newborn insert (for 4-11 pounds) is included
- Super easy to install
- No wiggle room for added security in the back seat
- Works with LATCH system or seat belt
- No-rethread harness
- 9 position adjustable recline
- AirMesh backrest to provide air flow and keep your little one from overheating
- Washable fabrics and cup holder
- Soft, cushy fabrics
- Side impact protection
- Sturdy, durable build
- Does not move easily between vehicles
- No handle to carry inside
- On the heavy side
Is the Chicco NextFit Zip Max Extended-Use Convertible Car Seat worth its cost? Definitely.
I wish this had been around when my oldest was still sitting rear-facing, as he was always large for his age. I’m glad I’ve gotten to use it with my youngest, who loves moving around and isn’t always content with the cramped space offered by most rear-facing car seats.
The Chicco NextFit is definitely a good choice for parents who don’t mind spending a little extra for comfort, but there are plenty of alternatives if this model doesn’t work for you. As more car seat companies find the value of adding rear-facing legroom, odds are there will be more similar car seats to come.