We were very excited about the opportunity to try Graco’s Nautilus 3-in-1 Car Seat. When my 20-month-old son got into it, he exclaimed, “New seat! New seat!” I don’t know if he was excited about the colors (we tested the good-looking Beckett fashion) or the fit, but it was interesting to me that he recognized it wasn’t the same seat he’d been in for the past 12 months.
To back up a bit though … The Nautilus required a bit of assembly, but was easy to install. We tried it in both my car (an SUV) and our nanny’s (a smaller coupe) and found it fit easily in both vehicles. (The seat can be installed using a car’s LATCH system or a seat belt.) I would definitely recommend it for smaller cars as it has a smaller footprint than many competing models and will leave room for other backseat passengers.
The seat is sleek and attractive and has a nice deep cup holder for holding our son’s drink, snack or favorite toy. The seat can be reclined to three different positions to provide the comfiest ride for each stage of growth and the harness (which requires rethreading) and headrest, of course, adjust as well. The Nautilus is a three-in-one front-facing seat, which means it can be used forward-facing with a five-point harness (from 20 to 65 pounds) and forward-facing with a seatbelt as either a high-back or backless booster (up to 100 pounds). I really like its potential for a long lifespan; in fact, it seems this could be the only car seat you need once baby retires from his infant car seat.
The seat is very safe (though I’m trusting Graco’s site on this—we didn’t do any independent testing!), meeting or exceeding U.S. safety standards, boasting EPS energy-absorbing foam, and undergoing side-impact testing. A steel-reinforced frame provides strength and durability.
The only thing that I don’t really like about this seat is the buckles. After having used other Graco and Britax carseats, I was a little disappointed with these. The first time I buckled my son into the seat, I struggled a bit; the buckle doesn’t snap as loudly or as clearly together when fastened as I’d prefer. The belts and harness were strong, but the buckles are all plastic, which is different from the metal buckles to which we’re accustomed. Our son is 30 pounds currently, and we’re using the traditional five-point harness. I’ve read other parent reviews noting that the crotch strap is located too close to the back of the seat to accommodate larger passengers; so far this hasn’t been a problem for us, but it may be worth taking under consideration depending on the size of your child.
Overall, we found the Nautilus to be a good value. At $155, it’s available for a fair price (and frankly a price significantly lower than some of its competitors) and we trust the name Graco. The quality construction and easily cleanable upholstery seem as if they’re made to last, and we’re looking forward to using the seat for the next several years.
To buy: target.com