Both my parents have newer cars than I do. They both have IsoFix points, three point seatbelts in the centre seat, top anchor tethers and approval pretty much across the board for any type of IsoFix fitted carseat to be used in any of the three rear seats – and that’s in both their cars.
When I discovered I was pregnant, their idea was simple – to purchase a good quality carseat system suitable to use in either car and made to last for a long time. It’s reasonable to expect that another child may join the family within the recommended five year life expectancy of the carseat so they wanted something that would be useable as long as it was looked after.
After checking both their vehicles on the website and confirming suitability with a physical fitting from a trained member of staff, they purchased the Maxi Cosi FamilyFix base along with a Pebble and
Pearl carseat in Jet Black. The Mother was won over by how comfortable and cosy the carseats looked, she saw a baby in the store in a Pebble when they went to buy it and she melted at how the baby looked all snug and safe and that was it for her. The Father was impressed by the pretty lights and chirpy sounds.
The FamilyFix base is fitted with IsoFix points only – unlike its predecessor, the EasyFix (which can be fitted with IsoFix points or the three point seatbelt). The first green light comes on and the ‘yes’ beep sounds when you connect the base to the IsoFix points and they are both correctly connected. The second is once the support leg has been adjusted and is in the correct position, and the third is when the seat is placed onto the base and locked in successfully.
The FamilyFix base can be used with the Maxi Cosi CabrioFix or Maxi Cosi Pebble (both Group 0+ carseats, from birth to 13kg) and the same base can be used with the Maxi Cosi Pebble carseat (Group 1, from 9-18kg) While both the CabrioFix and the Pebble can also be fitted without a base, using the three point seatbelt in a vehicle, the Pearl can only be fitted with the FamilyFix base.
When The Boy was little we went out a few times in either of my parents cars, and to be honest I normally used our own CabrioFix in the FamilyFix base instead of using their Pebble. This was only for the fact that the CabrioFix was in our house, so we’d put him in the carseat to get him out to the car and then lock the carseat into the base. The times we did use the Pebble, it proved a very good little carseat.
The Pebble is an updated version of the CabrioFix – you can see the similarities in the styles, but instead of the CabrioFix headhugger which is an upside down U shape which is also attached to the lumbar support cushion fabric, the Pebble headhugger reminds me of a polo mint. Much more easily adjustable and capable of hugging much smaller heads than the CabrioFix, the headhugger contrasts with the colour of the Pebble harness pads and carseat fabrics for a modern, contrasting style. The Pebble harness is a ‘easy out’ harness, which means that it is spring loaded at the shoulders so when you click that red button to release the harness it opens up and effectively out of your way. This helps to stop the baby from getting their arms caught in the harness, which I didn’t find a problem with The Boy in the CabrioFix when he was very young but as he got older and started flapping more when he was excited about arriving somewhere, then I understood the appeal of a harness that got out of your way! The Pebble is also very easy to adjust the harness height – you unlock the headrest by depressing the button on the back, and you can move the headrest up and down, so adjusting the harness height in one easy movement. This makes it very easy to ensure the harness is no more than an inch above or below the height of the child's shoulders (where a correctly adjusted harness should be). When used with the FamilyFix base, it can gradually sit more upright, providing an extended lifestyle of the carseat by continuing to provide ample leg room as baby gets older, enabling you to keep baby rear facing for longer (max weight 13kg in this particular carseat – my son didn’t reach 13kg til he was 19 months old) Like the CabrioFix, the Pebble can be fitted onto most Maxi Cosi or Quinny chassis to form a travel system. (Check the specification of the particular chassis you have for confirmation)
The only Group 1 carseat currently suitable for use with the FamilyFix base is the Maxi Cosi Pearl. The Pearl can only be fitted with the FamilyFix base, so if you have a car without IsoFix that is regularly used for transporting your child, this option is not for you, as you would need an entirely different carseat fitted with the three point seatbelt, which the Pearl does not have the option of doing. The
is a forward facing Group 1 carseat, suitable from 9-18kg. The Boy first used the Pearl when he was a year old, because at that point he was too long for the Pebble (even making use of the FamilyFix recline positions) and I didn’t want the fuss of moving my Opal from my car into my dads when he had the FamilyFix base and Pearl ready and waiting. I was nervous at The Boys first forward facing journey, but I kept him reclined and he was excited about the different view. Pearl
offers a modern appearance and has the same ‘easy out’ harness and can be purchased in a range of colours to match the Pebble, so if you have two children of different ages they can use matching colour carseats. My parents went for the Jet Black as it was gender neutral, and went well with the interiors of both cars (one featuring black leather, one with the standard Vauxhall grey) but there is a wide range of colours available in the Pebble and Pearl range, though the collection colours do vary year to year so there is no guarantee that the colour you choose now will still be available next year. The Pearl with FamilyFix base offers a range of recline positions and the same easy way of adjusting the harness height as the Pebble. Pearl
I find the whole system very easy to use and customer friendly – it gives a visual as well as audible indication that fitting is correct which provides plenty of confidence. The only thing I do find is that when going around corners in my dads car the support leg indicator goes off and on again as it struggles to keep a footing – but I think this says more about my dads driving than it does about the base. The harnesses on the Pebble and the
are very smooth running and easy to tighten correctly, though my mum still needs additional encouragement to do it up properly (Remember, if you can fit more than one finger between the child’s chest and the harness then it is too loose!) The times we have used either carseat, The Boy has always been comfortable and secure, and I am pleased with this system on the whole. Pearl
Verdict: Though expensive, worth the extra money if you can afford it for ease of use and for the fact that you can be confident you’ve fitted the seat properly. However if, like me, you’ve got an older model car without IsoFix points this system isn’t for you.