Our overall category winner for 0+/1 car seats is the Recaro Zero.1. After weeks of thorough testing, it came out top in both our Infant and Toddler categories, making it one of the best seats on the market. Its unique 360-degree swivel transforms travelling with your little one, making it easy to get them in and out of the car without hurting your back.
The Zero. 1 car seat is ultra padded for comfort and safety, and can be used in the rear-facing position for up to 4.5 years – much longer than most of its competitors. Ultimately, this i-Size (or Group 0) seat is a dream to use, and its long lifespan means that at £399 it’s excellent value for money.
The Recaro's standout feature is the swivel (advertised as 360 degrees, but in practice you’ll only use half of this), which allows you to turn baby to face you to strap him or her in. For parents who've experienced years of awkwardly twisting, this seat is a game-changer in terms of comfort and ease of use.
Quite apart from the backbreaking position, getting your child into a car seat can be a nightmare, especially if you’re in a rush, they’re wriggling to get out, or if you’re parked in a tight spot. The Zero. 1’s swivel almost eliminates this stress. At the flip of a switch, the seat turns 90 degrees to face you, so you can easily put your child in and adjust the straps before clicking the seat safely into place. The height of the straps and headrest can be adjusted easily without uninstallling the seat, and it's easy to see what you’re doing, even in a tight spot. The swivel works both in forward- and rearward-facing mode.
However, getting your child into the seat is only half the battle; you’ve also got to make them stay there. The Zero. 1 didn’t let us down; its HERO safety system ensures that the straps can't be wriggled out of. Unlike the Recaro Monza, which uses a shield, the Zero. 1 uses padded straps. We loved these; they made escape very difficult while also providing extra comfort. In fact, the Zero. 1 is the comfiest car seat we’ve seen, with wings around your child’s head, shoulders, hips and sides, and even some extra ones which pop out near the headrest for side-impact protection. In terms of comfort, the memory foam padding of the seat is luxuriously deep and moulds to fit your child – we actually felt a little jealous as the kids drifted off to sleep!
To switch from rear to forwardfacing, you will have to remove the seat – but you shouldn’t have to do this often. The Recaro has plenty of room for growth so you can stay rear facing for up to four-and-a-half years, which is longer than other seats. Although rear facing is considered safer, once your child is old enough to be able to see out of the window they may object to being turned away, so you can also use the forward-facing position from 15 months (and not 12 months as is sometimes stated).
The seat itself is attached using Isofix, making it easy to install and reassuringly safe. There’s even a helpful set of safety indicators on the foot support that we loved; you can see in one glance whether the Isofix base is locked in correctly and the foot support safely attached.
When lifting the seat into the car, we did find it quite heavy. It was possible for our tester to do it alone, but if you have an extra pair of hands about we’d suggest you call for assistance! If the seat will mostly stay in the car, this isn’t much of a problem. However, if you’re planning to use it as part of a travel system, you may want to look at a lighter option (like the Maxi Cosi Pebble Plus).
Recaro's video (below) shows how to correctly install the seat.
The fabric is comfortable and easy to clean; it's removable and goes in the washing machine.
The only real downside to the Recaro is the recline. We found that for our tester’s 15-month-old son, there weren't enough recline positions for the seat to go back far enough. This meant his head lolled forwards, which isn't ideal. However, if this is an issue, Recaro will send a slimmer insert free of charge, which it says fixes this problem. The seat does come with an (ergonomic and ultra-comfy) infant insert, which makes the seat flatter and so fine for a newborn.
How much does it cost?
At £399 at the time of review, the Recaro is one of the pricier models. We know the cost of baby products does stack up, but when you consider it’ll last until your child weighs 18 kg (age three to four), we think it’s a great investment that is well worth the money. Both our tester and her kids loved this seat; ultra comfortable and very safe, it really does come out top in terms of ease of use. And at the very least, you’ll save money on physio.
Suitable from: Birth to 105cm tall (approx. 3-4 years old)
Weight: 17.9 kg
Dimensions: H68 x W46 x D70 cm
Available in black, grey, red, blue, pink and purple, and red and black.