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I'm a married mum who loves chocolate & music & having an opinion on just about everything! E-Mail summermama@hotmail.co.uk

Monday, July 4, 2011

Product Review: The Maxi Cosi Opal (Group 0+ and Group 1)

What? The Maxi Cosi Opal carseat (Group 0+ and Group 1)
How Much? RRP £220
Where? Available from all authorised Maxi Cosi Retailers

The Boy is particularly tall for his age. Despite his height, he isn't a very heavy lad; At 10 months old he weighs in at 22lb and is 77cm tall. As he is still below the 28lb maximum limit for him to be in a rear-facing Group 0+ carseat, I am keen to keep him rear-facing, as we all know it's better for children in the event of an impact, due to their delicate neck and spinal muscles.

I used the Maxi Cosi CabrioFix carseat from the time The Boy was born until he was nine months old. At that point, he became too tall to safely continue using the CabrioFix - his head extended out the top of the seat and the harness was more than 1cm below the height of his shoulders at the maximum setting. This is the guideline; this means the child is now too tall to use the carseat.

As I didn't want him going forward facing just yet, the Opal was my first choice, as it is a combination seat. It is the only combination Group 0+ - Group 1 seat that is offered under the Maxi Cosi brand name, and I was dubious at first whether it could be truly successful. How can a carseat be suitable for a tiny newborn infant and still be comfortable until that child is about 3.5 years old?

The Maxi Cosi Opal is a chunky beast, but it feels solid and well padded. There's a lumbar support cushion for tiny babies, but we didn't need to use this due to The Boys age when we first got the seat. The headrest and harness adjustment is similar to the Maxi Cosi Tobi, Pebble and Pearl design; where you move the headrest up or down to adjust the shoulder height of the harness straps. Unlike the Tobi, Pebble and Pearl, the Opal carseat harness is not spring loaded, so it doesn't open out automatically, but there are handy hooks either side of the seat to get the harness out of the way. There's a large grey knob on the front of the seat which you turn to open out the carseat - this really is brilliant - you can have it very narrow for a younger child, and gradually open out the width of the seat to suit an older child. It isn't just the sides of the seat part that open out either, the whole side impact system opens outwards with an easy twist of the knob so you know your precious cargo is going to be as comfortable as possible, and as safe as can be.

As I've said before, I only have a little car, and for the moment the Maxi Cosi Opal is fitted rear facing as The Boy is below the maximum weight of 28lbs for travelling rear facing and using the seat in the Group 0+ state. There is a handy indicator at the side of the seat, printed on the fabric of the seat that you expose as you move the headrest up to adjust the harness, and it tells you that if your child is below a certain height you should use the seat rear facing - and there is a 'grey area' in the middle to show you could use rear facing or forward facing, depending on weight of the child - and a final area at the top, to indicate that by the time the child is this age you need to be using the seat forward facing. The Boy is about three quarters of the way up the 'grey area' and as I am confident of his weight I am keeping him rear facing. However, in my little car, this is easier said than done.

To begin with, The Hubby had to have the front passenger seat quite far forward to accommodate the EasyBase 2 when we used that with the CabrioFix, and I wasn't anticipating the Opal being any bigger than that was; But it is, so the front passenger seat is now pretty much as far forward as it can be. It means my 6ft 1ins Hubby sits with his knees up his nostrils, and on a long journey (like the 100 mile trip on Saturday) this became very uncomfortable for him and he complained of back and hip pain after a couple of hours in the car. Also, when the seat is rear facing, the seatbelt has a long way to go round, and we discovered upon fitting the seat in my car that it uses up every last centimetre of available seatbelt in my car - making a physical fitting doubly important, as I expect a lot of cars will fall short on seatbelt length!

Fitting the Opal into my little car took the pair of us about 10 minutes to do successfully, and this was after I'd had a 30 minute demo and play with the seat from one of the wonderful Maxi Cosi carseat fitter trainers, so it is fairly straightforward to do, but the difference between doing it on a training rig and doing it in a car is huge! In the car I kept bumping my head on the doorframe as I got the seat into the right position, and getting the horizontal part of the seatbelt in the correct position in the car was much more difficult than it was on the training rig! But once we'd got it and put on the three tensioners (I remember that by saying the seat is Once, twice, three times a lady!) the seat is then very secure and you know it isn't going anywhere! I will be shocked if I don't have marks on my vehicle seats after using this carseat, some people moan about that but I am happy because it means my carseat has been well installed!!

The problem I find with this is that it leaves part of the seatbelt coming out from the shoulder part of the carseat and going across the doorway so getting baby in and out is a bit tricky as you have to try and post them through the gap between the top of the door opening and where the seatbelt is when you're using it rear facing. With The Boy this isn't so bad, as he is old enough to think its fun when I hold him and say "Whoosh" ready to post him in through the gap, but for a young baby I think this could be problematic especially when they don't have much neck/head control it will be awkward. When you then go to take baby out of the carseat again you have to be careful to get them out of a narrow gap but this time you have the added concern of the corner of the car door - a couple of times I have been so concerned about getting The Boy out of the space that I have inadvertently bumped his head on the car door, causing lots of tears and noise, so again that’s something to watch out for. And again, I would think with a younger baby this would be even more difficult as they can't 'help' you as much as an older baby can with getting in and out.

Once The Boy is in his seat though, it offers him plenty of space, and we have it on the narrowest setting at the moment as he is quite slim. The harness pads on his shoulders are rubber backed, so when you put them on the child they stay put (not like some which can slip and make escaping easy!) This also helps ensure the harness is positioned correctly when you tighten it up. There is an easy tensioner strap in the centre of the seat just under the crotch strap of the harness and you feel confident when you tighten the harness that it is secure and your little one won't be getting out without your say-so. The harness release is the standardised red button on the centre of the harness, with the lengthening of the straps being done by a small metal catch, hidden under a plastic bump which makes it difficult for the child to get into but easy for you. Having said that, I have noticed a few times when I'm loosening the harness before getting The Boy out, his little fingers creep around to feel what I'm doing, so it is something I'm conscious of and I do have the Maxi Cosi PlayTray which fits onto the product and will prevent him getting to the release button and the lengthening catch.

Every time I have used this carseat so far The Boy has fallen asleep, even on very short journeys, which tells me he is comfy in it. We have the Intense Red colour which is a lovely vivid pillar box red colour with the Maxi Cosi circle pattern stitched on one side of the seat, the fabric feels quite soft and cottony even though its a man-made fabric and one thing I have noticed is even though The Boy fits nicely into the seat he doesn't get half as hot in it as he used to with the CabrioFix (before we used the summer cover). This is just as well, as unfortunately Maxi Cosi has decided not to offer the Opal summer cover for sale in the UK, which I was hugely disappointed with. I am considering importing one over from Germany but for the time being I am happy to use it without as The Boy has been very comfortable in it, even the other day when we were stuck in sun for an hour in a traffic jam on the motorway!

When the time comes for The Boy to go forward facing, the Opal will need to be completely removed from the car in order to be twisted to the forward facing position and then re-installed, which is a bit of messing about but then it isn't something you'll be doing frequently so it isn't so much of a big deal – and for the added benefit of him staying rear-facing for longer and being as safe as possible it isn’t something that concerns me! I would mess about much more if it meant he remained as safe as possible on car journeys.

I've only used this carseat rear facing so far, so this may be amended at a later date, but so far I'd give the Maxi Cosi Opal carseat a solid 4 out of 5 - my only issue is the seatbelt getting in the way when you're using it rear facing!

1 comment:

  1. The headrest and harness adjustment is similar to the Maxi Cosi Tobi, Pebble and Pearl design; where you move the headrest up or down to ... maxicosipebble.blogspot.de