Britax B-Safe 35 Elite

Best Infant Car Seat

 

Last updated: May 1, 2017

Best Infant Car Seat: Britax B-SAFE 35 Elite Review

Best Infant Car Seat: Britax B-SAFE 35 Elite. The Britax B-SAFE 35 Elite ($200) earns the top spot in our car seat picks for this edition. The B-SAFE 35 Elite is a new, improved version of the already excellent B-SAFE, which gets very good marks from readers for usability and fit. The 35 Elite adds a no-rethread harness, additional side impact protection and an improved base that makes installation even easier with LATCH. Stroller compatibility is good but not as extensive as the Graco SnugRide—besides Britax strollers, the B-SAFE now works with Britax’s BOB brand.

Car Seats 101

If you are a first-timer parent who’s never purchased a car seat before or a veteran parent who needs a quick refresher on what to look for in an infant car seat, click here for our Car Seat 101.

How we picked a winner

We evaluate car seats with hands on inspections, checking seats for ease of use (installation and adjusting the seat). We also gather significant reader feedback, tracking seats on ease of use, quality and durability. Besides interviewing parents, we also talk with car seat “techs,” certified child passenger safety technicians who install hundreds if not thousands of seats at safety check points.

We’ve been rating and reviewing car seats since 1994. During that time, we have also visited manufacturer facilities and watched car seat crash tests. While we don’t personally crash test car seats, we compare our reader feedback with crash tests done by organizations like the National Highway Traffic SAFEty Administration and Consumer Reports. We also look at evaluations of seats by groups like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS, they focus mainly on booster car seats).

What does Good, Better and Best Mean?

We divide our infant car seat picks into good, better and best bets. What’s the difference? First, realize that ALL our picks offer excellent crash protection—they all meet or exceed federal safety requirements.

“Good” seats offer basic features and protection. Our “Better” pick adds enhanced side-impact protection and other upgrades. “Best” is the top of the line pick, with additional safety and convenience features.

The Winner for Best Infant Car Seat: Britax B-SAFE

Our Pick

Britax B-Safe 35 Elite

The B-Safe 35 Elite is a new, improved version of the already excellent B-Safe, which gets very good marks from readers for usability and fit. The 35 Elite adds a no-rethread harness, additional side impact protection and an improved base that makes installation even easier with LATCH. Stroller compatibility is good but not as extensive as the Graco SnugRide—besides Britax strollers, the B-Safe now works with Britax’s BOB brand.

$199.00* at Amazon

* Prices change daily. Shop carefully.

Sometimes the second time is the charm.

Britax had struggled for years in the infant car seat category, with a poor-selling offering (the Chaperone, now discontinued) and a weak line-up of strollers. So the company went back to the drawing board and improved on both fronts: the B-SAFE is a winner and Britax’s latest generation of strollers (including the B-Agile) are giving the brand a lift in infant seats.

There are currently two different versions of the B-SAFE—the B-SAFE 35 and B-SAFE 35 Elite. (The original B-SAFE that worked to 30 lbs. is now discontinued).

Both the B-SAFE 35 ($170-$210) and 35 Elite ($200-$250) work to 35 lbs. However, the two models are quite distinct so we’ll go into detail on each one.

The big headline on the B-SAFE 35 is Britax’s improved crash protection (which Britax calls SafeCell, a system seen on its convertible seats). The seat features a deep shell that is lined with EPP foam for additional protection in side impact crashes. The basic B-SAFE 35 has two crotch strap positions and four harness heights (sorry, you have to rethread the harness to change the harness height on the B-SAFE 35 model).

One of the B-SAFE’s key features is a “removable comfort pillow” that better fits smaller newborns and preemies (as small as four pounds). The adjustable base has five positions and built-in lock-offs to help with belt installation. You also get premium LATCH connectors and an excellent overside canopy.

How is the B-SAFE 35 Elite different? This models adds additional side impact protection and a no-rethread harness (Quick-Adjust).  The Elite also has an easier to remove cover for cleaning (hand washing only, unfortunately).

Here’s a look at the additional SafeCell crash protection in the base of the B-SAFE 35 and 35 Elite:

additional crash protection in base of B Safe 35 and 35 Elite

One of the reasons why we like the Britax B-SAFE 35 Elite as the top pick among the B-SAFE family is the no rethread harness feature, which is pictured below. You raise or lower the harness by pushing the red buttons and sliding the harness up or down:

no rethread harness on britax b-safe

 

Real world feedback on the B-SAFE has been generally positive. A mom’s in-depth review posted on Amazon compared the B-SAFE to the similarly priced Chicco KeyFit and we agree with this assessment. She gave the Chicco higher marks for ease of install, but the Britax had better fabric (albeit only two choices) and a superior canopy. As for fit, it is probably a tie. While most parents give the B-SAFE high marks, a few detractors say the infant insert is difficult to use and the straps on the seat are too twisty.

A side note: this reader feedback is on the original B-SAFE; the new B-SAFE 35 and B-SAFE 35 Elite have garnered positive initial reviews from readers, but the most in-depth feedback we have is on the first version B-SAFE.

Consumer Reports judged the B-SAFE “excellent” in crash protection, but gave the Chicco KeyFit better marks for ease of use and install (fit to vehicle). FYI: This evaluation is on the plain B-SAFE, not the B-SAFE 35 or B-SAFE 35 Elite (which came out after CR’s most recent update).

Here is a video overview of the Britax B-SAFE 35 Elite:

FYI: With Britax’s recent purchase of BOB strollers, Britax has rolled out a version of this car seat that matches the fabric on the BOB strollers: the BOB B-SAFE is exactly the same as the Britax B- SAFE, just different fabrics. (The BOB B-SAFE is an REI exclusive as of this writing; $200). And as you might guess, BOB’s car seat adapter now works with Britax infant car seats.

Helpfully, Britax has 13 installation videos for the B-SAFE online:

 

Flaws but not deal breakers

So what’s not to like about the B-SAFE seats? We’ve seen scattered reports from parents who say their babies outgrew their B-SAFE’s too quickly . . . the deep and narrow seat was too  tight for bigger babies. We wonder if the seat criticisms are the flip side of the enhanced side impact protection—Britax’s B-SAFE 35 Elite looks more narrow because it is deeper than comparable seats and the head wings (side impact protection) make it look narrower. But here are the specs: the 35 Elite is 16″ deep (compare that to the Chicco KeyFit’s 14.5″ depth) and 9″ wide (versus Chicco’s 9.75″). So, yes, the Britax seat is 7.6% narrower than the KeyFit, but visually it seems more confining than the specs indicate. Yes, we can see how babies that are at the top of the weight/height chart might outgrow the seat well before they hit 35 pounds. But that’s probably the exception.

Other negatives: the B-SAFE seats lack anti-rebound bars or load legs seen on other premium seats (the Cybex Aton, for example). And the carriers are heavy—the Elite version is slightly over 11 lbs.; the base model is just under 11 lbs.

Another complaint: the 35 Elite harness buckle always seems to fall back into the seat when you are putting a baby in. This isn’t fun, since you have to fish out the buckle underneath a baby’s bum every time you use it! Again, we think the deeper seat depth plays a role here. (Britax could add buckle holders on the side of the seat to remedy this issue; that would be a nice future improvement).

Despite these complaints, real world feedback on the B-SAFE has been generally positive. Most parents praise the seat as easy to install and use; the quality is excellent.

One major consideration for this seat: stroller compatibility. If you are getting a Britax stroller, then the B-SAFE would be a no-brainer. As for compatibility with other strollers, well, that’s going to be hit and miss (mostly miss). Fewer strollers are compatible with Britax’s infant seat, compared with Graco and Chicco.

What makes this seat “Best” versus our other picks

The Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40 and Chicco KeyFit 30 are excellent seats, but the Britax B-SAFE 35 Elite slightly edges both in features and safety. The side impact protection on the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40 is an improvement over the more basic versions of this seat, but we judge the Britax B-SAFE 35 Elite superior on this score. The SnugRide also omits premium, push-on LATCH connectors seen on the Chicco and Britax models.

Chicco KeyFit 30 lacks a no rethread harness and the canopy coverage isn’t as generous compared to Britax, in our opinion.

Who else likes it

Real world feedback on the B-SAFE (original version) has been generally positive. Amazon customer reviewers give it a 91% favorable rating. The B-SAFE Elite comes in for a 76% positive rating, albeit on a smaller number of reviews so far.

Consumer Reports judged the B-SAFE “best” in crash protection, but gave the Chicco KeyFit Best marks for ease of use and install (fit to vehicle). Overall, the B-SAFE ranked sixth out of 25 models, which of course isn’t too shabby. (As of this writing, Consumer Reports  is testing the newer 35 and 35 Elite models. We’ll update this section once they complete their testing).

Also Great

Chicco KeyFit 30

$189.99* at Amazon

* Prices change daily. Shop carefully.

The Chicco KeyFit 30 is one of our top infant car seat picks. Crash protection is excellent, with added side impact protection making a difference. The KeyFit gets high scores from our readers on ease of use (somewhat higher than the Graco or Britax seats)—installation is a snap and adjusting the harness is easy. The seat also features EPS foam and a newborn insert

Chicco KeyFit 30 Best Infant Car Seat

Also recommended

The Chicco KeyFit 30 is our runner-up pick for infant car seats—if you can’t afford the B-SAFE 35 Elite, it is a perfectly acceptable step down in price.

If someone else is giving you an infant seat as a gift and money is no object, there are two other high-end seats we would recommend:

• The Cybex Aton Q is pricey ($350) but loaded with impressive features: an anti-rebound bar (also referred to as a load leg), no rethread harness, disappearing canopy and an automatic seat depth adjustment (that’s unique on the market). The downside: it only works with strollers that are compatible with Maxi Cosi-type adapters.

• The Uppa Baby Mesa. This seat doesn’t have the Aton Q’s anti-rebound bar, but is otherwise loaded with impressive features (no rethread harness, side impact protection, etc). On the downside, it weights a hefty 11 lbs. And runs $300. But, it does work with Uppa Baby’s popular stroller line (with no adapter for some models).

The competition

The premium ($200+) market for infant car seats is crowded with contenders. Some (like the GB Asana 35 AP) are too new or from brands with a too-short track record for us to recommend. Other seats like the Maxi Cosi Prezi retail for close to $300 but don’t offer any real advantages over our top picks that are $200 or so less.

The Nuna Pipa is an excellent seat but lacks a no rethread harness. The $300 price tag. however, is too much—we can’t see any reason to recommend it over our top picks.

The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 earned an A in our book for excellent ease of use and installation, but at $280 is too expensive to win our top nod.

To Sum it Up

The B-SAFE 35 Elite ($200) is our top pick for infant car seats, thanks to enhanced side impact protection and a no rethread harness. Britax’s infant seats have excellent ease of use and installation.

Britax B-Safe 35 Elite

Britax B-Safe 35 Elite

The B-Safe 35 Elite is a new, improved version of the already excellent B-Safe, which gets very good marks from readers for usability and fit. The 35 Elite adds a no-rethread harness, additional side impact protection and an improved base that makes installation even easier with LATCH. Stroller compatibility is good but not as extensive as the Graco SnugRide—besides Britax strollers, the B-Safe now works with Britax’s BOB brand.

$199.00* at Amazon

* Prices change daily. Shop carefully.