Lily

Lily
Lily Tessa

Photography

Photography
Photography

Archer

Archer
Archer Leo

To ISOFIX or not to ISOFIX?

...that is the question.

ISOFIX is an expensive and sometimes restrictive technology to buy into if you're in the market for a new car seat, but it does have its advantages. But do these outweigh its disadvantages?

What exactly is ISOFIX?

ISOFIX stands for 'International Standards Organisation Fix’. It is an alternative method of fixing your car seats without the need for seatbelts and is safer, quicker and easier.

Our ISOFIX base connected to the car's anchor point (apologies for the iPhone quality photos!)

Do all cars have ISOFIX points?

As a general rule of thumb, all cars manufactured from 2006 have at least 2 ISOFIX anchorage points within the car, however there are some exceptions to this (and some may even pre-date this). To find out if your car is fitted with ISOFIX anchorage points, both Britax and Maxi-Cosi have an online resource to check the compatibility of their ISOFIX products with your vehicle. If your car is not listed then it may be worth checking your vehicle handbook or with the vehicle’s manufacturer. Failing this, you can simply inspect your seats as any ISOFIX points are usually clearly labelled.

Aren't seatbelts just as good?

Arguably not. Seatbelts do not provide the same rigid support that an ISOFIX system can offer. Research has shown that almost all parents feel that they are proficient with the installation of their child's car seat, but worryingly 51% of all seats checked in 2013 were found to have faults according to research undertaken by Child Seat Safety Ltd. This risk is greatly increased if someone inexperienced is handling the installation of the car seat such as a grandparent. In comparison, it is very difficult to make a mistake with the installation of an ISOFIX system.

Please visit www.childseatsafety.co.uk for further information on Child Seat Safety Ltd.

What are the drawbacks of ISOFIX?

Firstly, ISOFIX car seats tend to be a lot more expensive than their non-ISOFIX alternative. This is to be expected though given that they will have the ISOFIX mechanism built in and thus cost more to produce. Some seats however do not have this built in and actually latch into a dedicated ISOFIX base, almost like a laptop docking station. This means that as well as the expense of an ISOFIX compatible seat, you also require the associated base to attach it to.

There are various models of base available - some which are static, some which recline, and some which have lights and sounds to let you know you've docked your car seat correctly (fool proof!). Obviously the more features, the greater the expense.

The other drawback of this is that only certain seats are compatible with certain bases, so if you buy a particular Group 0/0+ baby seat for a particular base, it means you will be restricted when it comes to purchasing the next seat up (Group 1) and you may only have a small choice, sometimes no choice! If the compatible seat within the line meets your needs then this isn't an issue but it's definitely something to bear in mind; you might find yourself having to buy a new base just to be able to get the next stage up seat that you want when your child outgrows their first.

Another drawback which might not happen very often but can be inconvenient when it does is the inability to fit your seat into someone else's car if they don't have the ISOFIX base or worse still, ISOFIX points! This isn't the case with all seats and certainly not our experience with the infant seat as that had the ability to be strapped in with a seatbelt too, but Lily's Maxi-Cosi Pearl seat is ISOFIX only which means if for some reason we need to put it in another car, we can't do so without the ISOFIX base which can be a bit fiddly to remove and install at times (we prefer to leave ours installed at all times where possible).

3 lights = good to go!

What are the advantages of ISOFIX?

Primarily safety. The main purpose of the ISOFIX system is to provide a solid and safe fixing point for car seats which are easy to install and reduces user error. It is a common misconception that ISOFIX seats are safer than a properly fitted belted car seat however. The key here though is properly fitted. As research shows, there are still a vast number of car seats which are not installed correctly being driven around by unsuspecting parents, and the harsh reality is that sadly it can sometimes be too late before this becomes apparent.

Crash tests sometimes reveal that a front impact can transmit more forces to an ISOFIX seat in comparison to its belted equivelant due to the 'give' that a sealbelt has before it braces, where as an ISOFIX seat is fixed to the car's structure via the anchor points. In contrast however, ISOFIX seats tend to score much higher on side impact test results due to their rigidity and therefore less sideways movement in comparison to belted seats.

Practical advantages of the ISOFIX system is the ability to remove and lock your car seat into position in seconds (more relavant to your Group 0/0+ seats when you will be lifting your carseat in and out of the car with your baby already seated). This is an advantage is you have a 3 door car as you don't need to climb into the back of the car to fiddle with the seatbelt, it's just a simple drop and lock mechanism.

The support leg at the front of the base prevents the seat from tipping forwards in the event of a collision

What have you got?

After lots of research we began by settling on the ISOFIX system as a safe method of retraining Lily, and then went onto find ISOFIX compatible baby seats. We opted for the Maxi-Cosi Pebble as Lily's first car seat when she was a baby. We then looked at what options we had with the bases and opted for the best one available at the time (the Maxi-Cosi FamilyFix base). This was for a couple of reasons; firstly it had both visual and audible feedback which let you know that the seat and base was correctly installed. Most importantly though, and a feature we have found to be incredibly useful, the base has the ability to recline. This meant that if Lily ever fell asleep in the car or if we wanted her to have a nap then we could recline the base / seat for her. A very clever feature which we have made lots of use out of!

With regards to Lily's Group 1 car set, we didn't find ourselves with much choice at the time in Maxi-Cosi's range of seats compatible with the FamilyFix base and were restricted to just the Pearl. This can be one of the pitfalls when it comes to choosing an ISOFIX system as it would mean spending money on another base to be able to get a different seat or discarding the base all together and purchasing a Group 1 seat with the ISOFIX mechanism built in. Fortunately though, the Pearl seemed to suit our needs and performed very well on crash test results which is the most important aspect of any car seat. After spending £150 on the base alone we weren't prepared to get only 12 months of use out of it, so coupled with the Pearl seat we should be able to get anywhere up to 3½ years use from it!

Our Maxi-Cosi Pearl group 1 seat with Maxi-Cosi FamilyFix Base (both seated and reclined position)

Conclusion

I hope this has been useful in helping you decide whether you should go with an ISOFIX system or not. Although it can work out to be the more expensive option, given the room for user error with belted seats vs the ease and simplicity of ISOFIX plus the importance of getting it right each time, I personally find much more comfort in the ISOFIX system.

I would be interested to hear your views and experiences with both types of carseat so feel free to leave a comment below.

No comments