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Superhero car seat doesn't leap to the top of our ratings

Superhero car seat doesn’t leap to the top of our ratings

Even kids who usually squirm in their car seats might jump at the chance to sit in the lap of a superhero like Batman or such cartoon characters as Dora the Explorer or SpongeBob SquarePants. And thanks to KidsEmbrace they can. For $160 you can buy toddler booster seats imprinted with those characters as well as race car driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. But when the testers at Consumer Reports tried to install the fanciful KidsEmbrace seats, they were not amused.

Although the instructions and labels for the KidsEmbrace toddler booster were clear, it is one of the more challenging toddler boosters to install in a vehicle. Our child seat testers, all of whom are nationally certified child passenger safety technicians, found that in some cases they had difficulty tightening both the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) strap and top tether due to limited access behind the padded seat cover and headrest. Though you could eventually get a secure fit, the seat required more effort than most.

Once it was installed correctly, however, the KidsEmbrace did very good in our crash tests, which simulate a 30-mile-per-hour frontal crash into a wall or other fixed object. But because the fit-to-vehicle with both the car’s seat belt and LATCH was challenging, the car seat did not make our list of top picks. Still, if sitting with a superhero will encourage your child to use a booster seat, it’s a safe choice.

At $160, the KidsEmbrace cost as much as our top pick toddler booster, the Graco Nautilus 3-in-1, which we named a CR Best Buy. The Graco Nautilus has excellent crash protection and scored well on ease of use and fit to vehicle using both seat belts or LATCH.

Toddler booster seats, also known as harnessed or combination seats because they have a built-in five-point harness, are the next seat for kids who’ve outgrown their convertible car seats in forward-facing mode. The KidsEmbrace toddler seat, like many harnessed boosters, can convert from a harnessed to a belt-positioning booster seat where the child is restrained using the car’s lap and shoulder belt. When used as a booster, the KidsEmbrace provided good belt fit in all five major vehicle types in which it was installed, including compact cars, midsized sedans, small SUVs, large SUVs, and minivans but took some care to guide the belt correctly into the shoulder belt guide.

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