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Best car seats for toddlers: rear-facing, front-facing and 360 seats from six months

After months of in-depth testing by parents, here’s our roundup of the UK’s best toddler car seats to buy right now.

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Dec 21, 2022

Toddler in car seat Mumsnet Best

Choosing the best car seat for your toddler can be a tricky business and once they've reached the maximum weight limit of their baby car seat, you'll need to move them up to the next stage. Whether you're looking to keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible or want a seat that'll last all the way up to around 12 years old, we've got you covered.

To help you wade through the car seat minefield, we commissioned Alison Williams to research and write about toddler car seats. Alison is a mum to two grown-up children and has experienced almost every stage of the parenting journey. As a freelance journalist, she's written articles on a wide variety of subjects, including Mumsnet guides to the best baby car seats, the best maternity pillows and the best breast pumps.

Alison spent approximately 30 hours knee-deep in research to find the car seats for toddlers. This involved scouring the Mumsnet forums and other review sites for opinions from parents. She also consulted independent crash test results undertaken by ADAC and Which? as well getting to grips with car seat safety laws and speaking to experts in the field. These experts included Jan James, Chief Executive of Good Egg Safety, Nick Lloyd, Acting Head of Road Safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), Margaret Bolt, founder of Rear Facing Toddlers, and Claire Waterhouse, founder of Child Seat Safety.

After assessing all of the above as well as price, overall design and age range, Alison created a longlist of 30 seats, which was later narrowed down to a shortlist of 16. She partnered with parent testers Anna and Abigail to put each seat through its paces.

All products were tested for a minimum of one week each and scored on the following criteria: safety and stability, assembly, day-to-day use, aesthetics, cleanliness and value for money. 

We also have guides to the best baby car seats and the best car seats for older children. If you need to kit out your car with kid-friendly accessories, we have a handy roundup of the best car sunshades for babies

Best car seats for toddlers: Editor's picks

£209
Maxi-Cosi Pearl Pro i-Size car seat
Best overall

Maxi-Cosi Pearl Pro i-Size
Amazon

Buy now
£109
Cozy N Safe Galaxy car seat

1. Best overall toddler car seat: Maxi-Cosi Pearl Pro i-Size

Maxi-Cosi Pearl Pro i-Size car seat

Price: RRP £209 | Buy now from Amazon

Tested by parents: Maxi-Cosi Pearl Pro i-Size full review 

Key specs

Age range: 67 to 105cm (six months to around four years) | Safety credentials: R129 (i-Size) – includes side impact protection | Fixing system: ISOFIX with 3wayFix base | Dimensions: 47.5 × 61 × 500-595cm | Weight: 7.55kg | Guarantee: Lifetime warranty

What we love

  • Rear-facing until approximately age four, but you can forward-face if you want to 
  • Easy to fit with the ISOFIX base – visual and audible feedback confirms correct fitting
  • Five-point harness stays open so you can get your child in and out of the seat easily
  • Adjustable headrest
  • Four-position recline

What to know

  • ISOFIX base must be bought separately
  • Has lots of padding, which means it takes ages to dry
  • Not as much legroom for rear-facing toddlers as offered by other extended rear-facing seats we tested

Our verdict

The Maxi-Cosi Pearl Pro i-Size, an upgrade on the 2wayPearl, is an extended rear-facing seat that'll last until your child is around four years old.

Out of all the seats we tested, this was one of the easiest to install, fitting seamlessly into everyday family life and dealing well with a multitude of toddler-induced stains. A must, if you ask us.

Yes, the cover does take a little while to dry and the seat's ISOFIX base needs to be purchased separately (at a less-than-appealing £200, may we add), but the Pearl Pro i-Size still ticks a lot of boxes.

Read next: The best baby car seats, as reviewed by parents

2. Best budget toddler car seat: Cozy N Safe Galaxy

Cozy N Safe Galaxy car seat

Price: RRP £120 | Buy now from Amazon

Tested by parents: Cozy N Safe Galaxy full review

Key specs

Age range: Group 1 (9kg to 18kg or up to age three/four) | Safety credentials: ECE R44/04; side impact protection | Fixing system: ISOFIX | Dimensions: 67 × 44 × 56cm | Weight: 10kg | Guarantee: 12 months

What we love

  • Quick and simple to fit, with indicators to show it's been correctly fitted
  • Five recline positions
  • Memory foam allows air to circulate to keep your child comfortable in all temperatures
  • Really comfy
  • Adjustable headrest

What to know

  • Cover is tricky to remove and can only be handwashed

If you're looking for a seat that'll take some of the stress out of daily car journeys with the kids, then the forward-facing Cozy N Safe Galaxy could well be it.

While its cover may be handwash-only and a bit fiddly to remove, the Galaxy shines thanks to its easy-to-install top tethering system and deep padding, which will keep your toddler comfy and secure at all times.

Read next: The best child car seats and high-back boosters

3. Best extended rear-facing toddler car seat: BeSafe iZi Modular i-Size

BeSafe iZi Modular i-Size car seat

Price: RRP £219 | Buy now from Kiddies Kingdom

Tested by parents: BeSafe iZi Modular i-Size full review

Key specs

Age range: Rear-facing from 61 to 105cm (six months to four years) and forward-facing from 88 to 105cm | Safety credentials: R129 (i-Size); ADAC 'Good' 2.4; Stiftung Warentest 'Good'; additional side impact protection | Fixing system: ISOFIX with BeSafe iZi Modular i-Size ISOFIX base | Dimensions: 56 × 45 × 60cm | Weight: 8.7kg | Guarantee: Two years

What we love

  • Rear-facing until approximately age four
  • Unique Side Impact Protection (SIP)+ shock absorber
  • Offers lots of legroom
  • Four recline positions – ideal for naps and curious toddlers who want to sit upright to look out of the window
  • Five-point harness has magnets on the straps to hold them back while you get your child in and out of the seat

What to know

  • ISOFIX base not included as standard
  • Covers are difficult to remove and put back on
  • Harness release button can be a bit stiff
  • The side impact protection (a unit that clicks onto the side of the seat) can fall off when carrying the seat to the car

Our verdict

With plenty of legroom and failsafe installation, the BeSafe iZi Modular i-Size is a great choice if you want your child to sit in a rear-facing position for as long as possible.

Tested to some of the highest safety standards and offering safety features like Side Impact Protection (SIP)+ shock absorber, the iZi Modular i-Size should give you that extra little bit of reassurance.

While the cover is tricky to remove and even trickier to put back on, the iZi Modular i-Size is ideal if you're looking for a car seat with top-notch crash test ratings.

Read next: The best car sunshades for babies

4. Best combination car seat: Britax Römer Advansafix IV R

Britax Römer Advansafix IV R car seat

Price: RRP £110 | Buy now from Amazon

Tested by parents: Britax Römer Advansafix IV R full review

Key specs

Age range: Group 1/2/3 (nine months to 12 years or 9kg to 36kg) | Safety credentials: ECE R44/04; ADAC – 'Good' 2.3; pivot link ISOFIX system; SecureGuard; SICT advanced side impact protection | Fixing system: ISOFIX with top tether (Group 1); seatbelt with ISOFIX (Group 2/3); seatbelt (Group 2/3) | Dimensions: 60-83 × 44 × 47cm | Weight: 11kg | Guarantee: Two years

What we love

  • Seat can be fitted with ISOFIX up to 18kg, then ISOFIX and/or seatbelt after that
  • Three-position recline
  • Safety features include highback booster protection, SafeGuard lap belt positioner (once your child has outgrown the five-point harness) and advanced side impact protection, which fits onto the side of the car seat that's nearest the door
  • No need for an ISOFIX base
  • Height-adjustable V-shaped headrest that grows with your child

Cons

  • Cover is hard to remove and takes a long time to dry
  • Five-point harness is a little stiff to release

Our verdict

The Britax Römer Advansafix IV R is a forward-facing-only car seat with a very reasonable price tag – and, best of all, you can use it all the way up to 12 years old!

With more safety features than you can shake a stick at and an installation process that doesn't require an ISOFIX base (hurrah!), the Advansafix is an attractive-looking car seat that will go the extra mile.

It's worth bearing in mind that this is a big seat, one that you'll want to keep permanently fixed in the back seat of your car. You should be able to fit another car seat in next to it, but it's unlikely you'll fit three in a row when you're using the Advansafix IV R.

Read next: The best pushchairs to buy for newborns

5. Best versatile toddler car seat: Britax Römer Evolva 1/2/3 SL SICT

Britax Romer EVOLVA Car Seat

Price: RRP £149 | Buy now from Amazon

Tested by parents: Britax Römer Evolva 1/2/3 SL SICT full review

Key specs

Age range: Group 1/2/3 (9 months to 12 years or 9kg to 36kg) | Safety credentials: ECE R44/04; Advanced Side Impact Cushion Technology (SICT) | Fixing system: ISOFIX and seatbelt or seatbelt alone | Dimensions: 61-86 × 51 × 48cm | Weight: 8.6kg | Guarantee: Two years

What we love

  • Recline position for all ages
  • Advanced side impact protection
  • Soft-Latch ISOFIX installation system connects the seat directly to the car (no need for an ISOFIX base)
  • Highback booster protection
  • Small enough to leave room for two other seats in the back of certain cars

What to know

  • Instructions are a bit confusing
  • Five-point harness quite stiff and difficult to adjust

Our verdict

In need of a car seat that can be fitted using ISOFIX or a seatbelt? Look no further than the Britax Römer Evolva 1/2/3 SL SICT.

A great solution for parents with more than one car (and different car seat fixings), the Evolva will provide a safe journey for your child whatever vehicle they're travelling in. And, like the Advansafix, it'll last well into the pre-teens too.

While the instructions are a little confusing and the five-point harness is stiff to adjust, the versatility of this car seat more than makes up for its shortcomings.

Read next: The best lightweight strollers

6. Best long-lasting car seat for kids up to 12: Cozy N Safe Arthur

Cozy N Safe Arthur

Price: £160 | Buy now from Amazon

Tested by parents: Cozy N Safe Arthur full review

Key specs

Age range: Birth to 12 years – rear-facing from birth to 18kg (or four years) and forward-facing from 9kg to 36kg (approximately nine months to 12 years) | Safety credentials: R44/04, side impact protection, steel frame for improved structural strength and energy absorption | Fixing system: Seatbelt for rear-facing and seatbelt or ISOFIX for front-facing | Weight: 12.5kg | Guarantee: 12 months

What we love

  • Frame reinforced with steel and padded with high-density polyurethane foam
  • Covers are machine-washable

What to know

  • Tricky to install when using seatbelt fixings – you can only use ISOFIX for forward-facing travel
  • Heavy

The Cozy N Safe Arthur is a hard-wearing extended rear-facing seat with an adjustable headrest and four recline positions, including a lie-flat angle for newborns.

Designed to grow with your child from birth to 12 years old, it's a great value car seat, even if you only start using it from 12 months. While it can only be fitted with a seatbelt when it's rear-facing, you do have the option to use ISOFIX points when it's safe for your child to face forwards.

With loads of padding and an in-built ventilation system, the Arthur will keep your child safe and comfy for many years.

Read next: The best baby carriers, as tested by parents

7. Best 360 car seat for toddlers: Britax Römer Dualfix i-Size 360 Spin

Britax Römer Dualfix i-Size

Price: RRP £325 | Buy now from Amazon

Tested by parents: Britax Römer Dualfix i-Size full review

Key specs

Age range: Birth to four years (40 to 105cm) | Rearward-facing from 40-105cm; forward-facing from 76-105cm | Safety credentials: ECE R129; Stiftung Warentest 2.1; ADAC 2.1; ÖAMTC – good; optimised side impact protection; pivot link ISOFIX system | Fixing system: ISOFIX | Dimensions: 48 × 44 × 74cm | Weight: 15kg | Guarantee: Two years

What we love

  • Deep protective side wings, V-shaped headrest and a height-adjustable support leg
  • Machine-washable seat cover that can be removed in a flash

What to know

  • Can be tricky to install
  • The price!

Our verdict

Britax Römer's Dualfix i-Size is designed to keep your child rear-facing from birth up to the age of four.

While it's a huge contraption that'll likely dominate the back seat of your car, it's well padded, has no less than 12 recline positions and can be rotated 360 degrees, which makes it easier for parents to get their child in and out of the seat. Talk about revolutionising the nursery run.

Read next: The best baby carrier backpacks to buy

8. Best easy-access car seat for toddlers: Joie i-Spin 360

Joie i-Spin 360

Price: RRP £340 | Buy now from John Lewis

Tested by parents: Joie i-Spin 360 full review

Key specs

Age range: Rear-facing from birth to 105cm or four years old; forward-facing from 15 months to 105cm | Safety credentials: ECE R129/02; Smart Ride™ lock-off; Guard Surround Safety™ panels for side impact protection; Tri-Protect™ headrest | Fixing system: ISOFIX | Forward-facing dimensions: 65 × 58 × 51.5-76cm | Weight: 13.9kg | Guarantee: Two years

What we love

  • Chunky padding
  • Multi-height headrest and harness system adjust simultaneously – requires no re-threading

What to know

  • Floor leg fixture is a bit fiddly
  • Design makes it difficult to carry the seat to and from the car

Our verdict

If you're after a great all-rounder, the Joie i-Spin 360 may be just the ticket. Suitable all the way from birth until your child reaches four years old, this extended rear-facing car seat has a decent price tag considering how long it lasts.

It's a bit too heavy to be carried between cars, but, like the Dualfix i-Size, it spins, which means you'll be able to wrestle a stubborn toddler into their seat without breaking a sweat.

Read next: The best double buggies to buy

9. Recommended buy: Joie Every Stage FX Signature

Joie i-Spin 360

Price: RRP £200 | Buy now from John Lewis

Key specs

Age range: Group 0+/1/2/3 (from birth up to 36kg or 12 years) – rear-facing from birth to 18kg; forward-facing from 9kg to 36kg | Safety credentials: ECE R44/04; side impact protection; Guard Surround Safety™ panels provide extra side protection for the head, body and hips which fold into seat when not in use; AutoAdjust™ side wings widen as headrest is raised | Fixing system: ISOFIX and seatbelt | Dimensions: 55 × 48-52.6 × 66-85.5cm | Weight: 14.6kg | Guarantee: 12 months

What we love

  • Grows well with your child – 10 position height-adjustable headrest and flexible infant insert
  • Simple to install – less than five minutes with ISOFIX and three minutes with seatbelt

What to know

  • Straps a bit tricky to tighten
  • Heavy – you wouldn't want to move it between cars often

Our verdict

A breeze to install and the highest scoring seat of all on test, the extended rear-facing Joie Every Stage FX Signature is a luxurious take on the Every Stage FX, an upgrade to the ever-popular Every Stage, featuring textured fabrics, faux leather touches and new and improved colour options.

Unfortunately, in safety tests carried out by Which?, the seat scored poorly in frontal impact results when used as a forward-facing Group 1 car seat, which is why it didn't make our top five. It did score well in other seat combinations however, and lots of parents rave about the value and usability this seat offers.

Read next: The best travel systems

Mumsnet's top tips for buying a toddler car seat

  • Don’t move your child up to the next stage seat too early – it’s safer to let them reach the limit of their baby car seat before moving them to a bigger one
  • It's important to keep them rear-facing for as long as possible because it's the safest way to prevent serious injury in a collision
  • Check that your new seat will fit all the cars you want to use it in
  • Try to find a seat that has easily removable covers – toddlers will be toddlers after all

Read next: Tips for keeping you family safe on the road

What type of car seats are available for toddlers?

i-Size car seat: Extended rear-facing seat

  • Suitable from 67 to 105cm (approximately six months to four years) – some can even be used from birth
  • Can typically be used in both rearward and forward-facing positions – some allow your child to rear-face until they're four years old
  • Fitted with an ISOFIX base

Combination seat: Group 0+/1, Group 0+/1/2 and Group 0+/1/2/3

  • Group 0+/ 1 used from birth to 18kg (approximately four years)
  • Group 0+/1/2 used from birth to 25kg (approximately five or six years)
  • Group 0+/1/2/3 used from birth to 36kg (around 12 years old)
  • ISOFIX and seatbelt fittings available
  • Some combination seats offer an extended rear-facing option for toddlers

Forward-facing car seat: Group 1

  • Used from 9kg to 18kg (approximately nine months to four years old)
  • Forward-facing only – it’s recommended that you keep your baby rear-facing until at least 15 months
  • ISOFIX and seatbelt fittings available

High-back booster with harness: Group 1/2/3

  • Used from 9kg to 36kg (approximately nine months to 12 years old)
  • Forward-facing only
  • ISOFIX and seatbelt fittings available

Read next: UK car seat regulations explained

three siblings in car seats

What does extended rear-facing mean and why is it important?

In a collision, a child’s head can be thrown forward with great force in a forward-facing car seat because the body is held in place by the harness but the head and neck are not. An infant’s neck muscles are weak and their head is disproportionately big compared to their body, so this can cause serious injury.

In a rear-facing seat, the force pushes the child into the seat, so the head neck and spine are protected, which reduces the risk of injury.

While they can be more expensive, keeping your child in a rear-facing position as long as you can will be generally be safer for them, especially if you know you'll be driving a lot. It also depends on the size of your vehicle and how the seat is fitted.

What's the difference between R44 and R129 (i-Size)?

At the moment, both R129 and R44 car seats are available to buy and legal to use in the UK, but eventually i-Size will replace all R44 seats.

R44

  • Classification is based on weight
  • Side-impact tests aren’t required, although some manufacturer’s do them anyway
  • Frontal collision testing is done at a speed of 50km/h and rear impact collision testing is done at 30km/h
  • Seat can be fitted using a seatbelt or ISOFIX fittings
  • Seat must be rear-facing until the child weighs 9kg (around nine months)

R129

  • Classification is based on height
  • Side-impact tests are mandatory
  • Seat can only be fitted using ISOFIX – ISOFIX reduces margin for error
  • Seat must be rear-facing until the child is older than 15 months
  • Side-impact protection, which usually takes the form of padding around the headrest and sides, absorbs the force of the impact in the event of a car accident to prevent serious head injuries

Can you use backless booster seats for toddlers?

As of February 2017, a booster seat law came into force which states that children weighing less than 22kg or that are shorter than 125cm tall (i.e. toddlers) should not sit on booster cushions.

Backless booster seats or cushions aren’t meant for toddlers – they offer no side impact protection and they can only be used when your child reaches the height and weight limit of your toddler car seat.

If you already own a backless booster that was designed and manufactured before 9 February 2017, you are still allowed to use it. However, it's always recommended to use a high-back booster seat rather than a backless booster as they offer so much more protection and also position the seatbelt correctly on your child's shoulder.

Three-in-one car seats are an option if you want yours to go the distance. These transition from a forward-facing toddler seat to a high-back booster seat, but check that they fit in your car first.

Why you should trust our reviews

Mumsnet product reviews are written by real parents after weeks of research and testing. We work hard to provide honest and independent advice you can trust – brands can’t pay to be featured in our articles.

We spend hours researching, speaking to parents, analysing data and listening to experts before we test out the products on our shortlist.

Transparency is really important to us and that's why we're always upfront about how we tested the products we recommend. We won't always recommend the cheapest products, or the ones with the most features. We write about products that we feel offer the best value to most parents – the one's we'd recommend to our own friends and family.

How we tested the best car seats for toddlers

How we tested for assembly, and safety and stability?

We analysed what tests the seats had passed and, crucially, how easy each seat was to attach and detach in addition to how useful and effective the designated fixing systems (seatbelt or ISOFIX) were in order to avoid making any dangerous mistakes. We also switched from rear- to front-facing and reclining positions where possible.

We analysed the materials used, studying everything from padding to the straps, and we thoroughly checked the safety features of each, looking for five-point harnesses that couldn’t be clicked open by small fingers.

How we tested for comfort

We made sure that babies were comfortable, that there were no parts that could rub or cause irritation, and that all fittings were baby-proof, with no chance of parts being removed or buckles and belts being undone by the child in the seat or others sitting with them. We noted if there was anything that was distracting about the seat when driving – did the seat obscure your view? Were the colours too ‘jazzy’ or bright?

How we tested in day-to-day life situations?

We then tested how quick and easy it was to get little ones in and out of the seat, if they were able to fall asleep comfortably if they usually did so in a car, if the seat was able to accommodate them when removed from the car if still sleeping, and if they seemed happy in the seat. We also evaluated if the seat was easily adjustable to grow with your child. We took the seats on busy school runs, shopping trips, longer journeys and quick trips out throughout the day, observing how happy and comfortable babies were and how convenient seats were to get in and out of the car if necessary.

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