Editor’s Note: These car seats are no longer available. Following a recall of 173,000 car seats in 2015, Recaro decided to no longer do business in North America.
Can a well-known racing brand really make safe and comfortable car seats?
I’ve run across the Recaro brand name before when looking at car seats, but I never gave it much thought. I was always more focused on those really big brand names like Graco, Safety First, and even Britax. But I wish I had given this car seat company more attention from the beginning.
They make some car seats that are both safe and comfortable. You might be intimidated when trying to buy one of their car seats because of the big price tag and the seemingly small popularity because of fewer reviews on various websites. But trust me, when you buy a Recaro car seat, you won’t be disappointed.
A Brand Built on Safety
Before I get into the three best Recaro car seats themselves, let’s talk a little bit about the company. This company actually makes aircraft and race car seating as well as car seats. I don’t know about you, but that gives me a lot of confidence in this company from the get-go.
A word that they like to use in a lot of their advertising is ergonomics. That’s because not only are they concerned about how safe a car seat is, but they’re concerned about other aspects, like how it works and how it looks as well. All of their car seats are inspired by aspects of their racing seats, like the support at certain impact points and harnesses.
They also all integrate this racing design with continually evolving German engineering and testing. No standard of safety is left out of the design equation, as this car seat meets all federal and international safety standards. The end result is car seats that are loved by both parents and kids all across the globe.
Recaro Performance Coupe
The first car seat I’m going to review is the Recaro Performance Coupe. This is the only infant carrier-style car seat that Recaro makes and it’s made for infants from 4 to 35 pounds. I personally like that this car seat can be combined with Recaro strollers to create a travel system. For each seat, I’ll look at the safety features, followed by the comfort features.
This car seat has safety features inspired by a racing seat. The biggest draw of this car seat is the side impact safety. The deep side wings are designed to protect the five most vulnerable places of a child’s body in case of an accident: the head, face, neck, torso, and pelvis. Keeping these areas properly shielded and aligned will mean that your child would suffer less injury in an accident.
The seat surround is made from EPS foam, which will absorb energy away from your child. The way the car seat is shaped, it has a large and deep shell that provides a lot of protection. The downside of this is that does make the car seat very narrow and very long. This makes it difficult to fit in pretty much any vehicle but a large SUV without sacrificing all of the front passenger space.
Other than the actual design and components of the car seat, most of the safety features center around the harness system. Recaro uses their HERO harness system in the Performance Coupe. It’s designed with a racing stripe down the straps that help alert you when straps are being twisted, since this is one of the most common safety hazards in children’s car seats.
The HERO harness system also has shoulder and chest padding. These serve a dual purpose: they help with keeping the straps straight, and they also help align them properly on your child’s body. By keeping your child’s head, neck, and shoulders in the proper place, the straps can do their job and the chest clip will be positioned properly to ensure safety in case of an accident.
Although intended to be a safety and comfort feature, I will say that this feature does nothing for comfort. If you have a child that is tall or long-bodied, they won’t be comfortable in this car seat for long. The shoulder straps don’t adjust very high, so your big baby will have to hunch over in order to get the HERO harness to fit correctly. This means that larger babies will outgrow this car seat long before the first year is over.
We all know a car seat can’t be safe unless it’s properly installed. This car seat has everything you need for a safe installation. It has an easy-to-use latch system that allows you to simply push a release button on the latch strap itself instead of having to un-click it manually like some systems. It also comes with a convenient storage compartment for the latch system. That way you can store the latch straps when you’re not using them so they don’t get in the way and cause a safety hazard.
The base also has a micro-adjust knob to get the car seat to just the right reclining state to provide protection for whatever size baby you’re moving around. It has a kick foot stand that instantly stands the car seat up straighter. You know you got the car seat to the right height when you look at the bubble level indicator that is attached to car seat base itself.
I usually like car seat and base systems, but this one has a couple of problems. First of all, you can’t order another base for it. The manufacturer will not sell it by itself, you have to buy a car seat and a base together. Second, this car seat likes to stay in its base. While this does technically make the car seat safe, it does not make it very user-friendly. I don’t want my car seat to be stuck in the car 24/7! Just another feature that makes it not a very good product for long-term use.
The Performance Coupe is undoubtedly comfortable for smaller babies. The seat has underlying memory foam that will cushion your baby. However, the memory foam itself does tend to wear down after lots of use. The memory foam is wrapped in a luxuriously soft and breathable fabric. This fabric cover is entirely removal and machine washable, so it wins extra brownie points for me.
Baby has a nice surface to sit on, but the 5-point harness has some issues. You can adjust it to five different heights and two different buckle positions. However, I have found that these positions tend to favor smaller babies. Even at the outermost settings, the harness straps just don’t seem geared towards big babies who are long in the body and have a broader chest. I think that an older child or bigger baby would not be comfortable in this car seat for long.
But what’s funny about all that is that this seat seems like it’s geared more toward older children. The design is supposed to allow for the child to sit in an ergonomically correct position. But I feel like they’re sitting too straight up when I align them to the correct level indicated on the base. I will say that I love the removable infant pillows, because they provide a really good and solid head support, as well as torso and body support, to keep your little baby from slouching. In the end, I feel this car seat is best suited to smaller babies or babies on the lower end of the growth charts.
The final comfort features are a large, extendable canopy and an ergonomically shaped handle. I have no complaints about the handle, but I don’t like the canopy. I feel like the material is very cheap and thin. Also, you have to use two hands to adjust the canopy because it won’t adjust evenly if you try to pull it with one hand.
Overall, I feel like this infant convertible car seat is okay. I like that it’s from Recaro because that company is known for making people safe in the car. However, I feel like they’ve just missed a lot of opportunities with this car seat. This plain seat does feature good safety ratings, and the comfort is pretty good, however, it just doesn’t seem like a good long-term infant seat.
I wish the quality was higher, since the price isn’t cheap, and I also wish that the design was slightly different to allow my kid to actually grow in this seat during the whole first year and into the second. I feel like this seat works well for about the first 6 months, but after that, you’ll definitely have to upgrade to a different car seat. Unless you are deeply attached to the Recaro brand, I would say get your infant car seat from a more well-known baby brand with a few better features and a more growing-friendly design.
Recaro PROride Convertible Car Seat
The next Recaro car seat I want to talk about is the Recaro PROride Convertible Car Seat. This is a simple but safe convertible car seat that can be used both rear-facing and front-facing. It’s rated for rear-facing children from 5 lb to 40 pounds, and it’s safety rated for front-facing for children 20 through 65 pounds.
The safety features in this car seat are very similar in nature to the ones in the Performance Coupe infant seat. Because of their racing roots, Recaro provides great impact protection, especially in the case of side impact protection. Side-impact collisions usually create the worst injuries and damages to the vehicle. That’s why protecting your kid in the case of a side-impact collision is so important at Recaro.
The EPS foam that this car seat contains will help to absorb any extra energy in the case of an accident. Another feature that this particular car seat has is a headrest that offers great side wing protection. This helps protect the head, neck, and face in case of an accident. The headrest is made of PUR foam, which is both very shock-absorbent and very comfortable. The removable plush insert also offers additional support for the back, pelvis, and torso. Plus, it makes it much comfier for babies.
Just like the infant seat, this seat also features the HERO harness system. This system not only protects all vulnerable places on the body, but it also makes it easy to see when the harness fits properly. The design of the system will help you to get the straps, chest clip, and buckle fitted properly, all while being able to see when they are beginning to twist. The harness is EasyAdjust, which means you don’t have to re-thread the straps to adjust them. This means less chance of re-threading them wrong and creating an unsafe harness.
This convertible car seat from Recaro also features a great latch system. The latch tethers themselves are very easy to install and uninstall, with a bright red button to push to get them to click out. This does make them very user-friendly, even if this sturdy and heavy car seat takes muscle to latch down tightly.
There are storage compartments when not using the latch system, including a compartment for that also essential top tether. If you do decide to use the vehicle buckle system for forward-facing, it has a really awesome vehicle belt lock-off feature. This means that it will lock onto the vehicle belt in a certain spot to keep this car seat secure. It won’t allow the vehicle belt to loosen and slide around. This makes this car seat very safe no matter what installation system you’re using.
When installing rear-facing, you can be sure that your child will be safe, because it has a very good reclining feature. You can recline this car seat in a variety of positions using the micro adjust knob to get it to be both comfortable for your smaller baby and safer for them as well. Since this is an important part of the installation process for rear-facing car seat, it is, of course, one of the safety considerations that Recaro has made.
My favorite comfort feature of this car seat is the ventilation system for the entire shell of the car seat. Not only is the shell ergonomically designed to be safe and comfortable for your kid, but it also features air vents at strategic locations. Combining this with the breathable CoolMesh fabric (which is also easy to clean) will result in a very happy toddler. The removable cushion insert is still very breathable, despite being so plush. It really will keep smaller babies comfortable if you’re starting out with this thing rear-facing for a child who is under 1. No matter what though, this car seat breathes well and won’t result in a sweaty child.
The headrest and harness adjust to several different positions to keep your kid in the right spot. I do love the plush and soft headrest. It provides a soft place to lay when your kiddo falls asleep, and it helps keeps their head where it should be, which is not on their chest.
I have a love-hate relationship with the shoulder pads on the harness strap. I like that they keep my kids safe, however, I don’t like that they are hard to adjust for a comfortable fit for a taller kid. I feel like a non-padded strap would have been less irritating.
The final feature that this harness has is a place to go when getting the child in and out of the car seat. There are two side pockets that will store the chest clips themselves when getting kids in and out. I like this better than a lot of other harness holding systems because it actually hides the chest clips in the side of the car seat. It keeps them more secure and really out of the way for getting in and out.
I like this convertible car seat much more than I like the Recaro infant seat. The PROride feels like it’s more sturdy and higher quality. It’s extremely safe, has a fantastic latch system, and really keeps my kid comfortable. I like that the seat has a breathable design, because the summer months here get extremely hot.
That white racing stripe on the safety harness also keeps the straps from getting twisted, which is a problem that has plagued me with every other car seat I’ve owned. I do wish that this took up less room rear-facing, because we can’t even get it in my husband’s car when rear-facing (he drives a small Suzuki car). I also wish that it had at least one cup holder, because as you use it forward-facing for an older child, a cup holder becomes more and more important.
Overall, I would say this is very comparable to some of the other, similar convertible car seats on the market from other brands. I feel that if you chose to buy this car seat over, say a Britax car seat, you wouldn’t regret it. It would be a little bit cheaper and you would feel very comfortable about the safety of it.
Recaro Roadster Convertible Car Seat
The Recaro Roadster is another convertible car seat from Recaro. Like the PROride, it’s made for rear-facing from 5 to 40 pounds, and forward-facing from 20 to 65 pounds. Since this car seat is a whole lot like the PROride, let me just save a bunch of time and let you know the features that it has in common with the PROride, and then the features that are just for this model.
This seat has a lot of things in common with the PROride. It has basically all the same safety features (plus an added feature or two) and is only different in a couple of tiny ways.
Same as the PROride:
- Side impact protection
- Headrest with side wings and PUR foam
- EPS foam for energy absorption
- Great latch system with built-in storage compartments
- HERO harness system with racing stripes for less twisting and better fit
- Reclining made easy with level and micro adjust knob
- High impact energy-absorbing structure and materials. This just increases the overall safety of the ergonomically designed car seat shell.
- HERO harness system padding. While similar to that of the PROride, the padding on this harness isn’t adjustable. That means that it won’t slide up or down, which means that your straps will stay properly aligned better in this model.
Most of the Recaro seats are designed the same way. The PROride and the Roadster are very similar, except for the shape of the shell and the materials used.
Same as PROride:
- Great airflow from CoolMesh breathable fabric and integrated shell venting system
- Removable cushion insert
- Easy-to-adjust headrest and safety harness with no rethreading
- Chest clip storage pockets
- Cloud Comfort memory foam. This memory foam makes the seat both more cushioned and more comfortable for your child, while still allowing for maximum breathability.
- A cup holder! This model features a removable cup holder.
The PROride and the Roadster from Recaro are both extremely similar. I do feel like the Roadster is the upgraded version of the PROride. It has higher quality materials and a better overall design. It also has more safety features then the PROride, like the energy-absorbing shell design and higher-quality building materials.
The only huge differences in the car seats, besides the quality and comfort, are the added cup holder for the Roadster as well as the non-movable strap pads for the Roadster. If given the choice between the PROride and the Roadster, I would pick the Roadster. Only a few more dollars gets you a much nicer car seat with the all-important cup holder. That tiny, but great feature aside though, your kid will be safer and more comfortable in the Roadster.