A few months ago we made the decision to sell our increasingly impractical convertible and get a grown up family car. We loved our old car but with our now 2 year old girl it was becoming more and more difficult to get her in and out of her seat.
In the process of selling the old car, once we found a committed buyer, it was time to take the baby seat out and prepare the car for the new owner. It was still few weeks before the delivery of the new car so I decided to do some research of the latest car seats, given that ISOFIX had finally (officially) landed on Australian soil. Honestly, it started with me looking for a seat that had a smoother base which would not destroy our new car but it ended up being a little bit more.
Before I go on, you need to understand that I have never felt comfortable with the seatbelt mount of car seats, particularly when I think about the protection required in the case of a side impact. Cars these days employ seatbelt tensioners that tighten the belt in case of an impact – which works great in case of a front or rear collision but less effective in side collisions. And, frankly, no matter how well the belt type installation of your child seat is, there is still movement when you give it a push. (Go out to your car and test it for yourself.) I had seats installed by a licensed, professional installer in both of my cars and in both cases I had to tighten the installation myself as either the base was still sliding or the sideways movements of the seat were too great when I gave it a nudge. It just shows how much room for error (and improvement) there always is with seatbelt type installations - I call it the "grey area".
That issue simply doesn't exist with a rigid connector ISOFIX car seat. And ANYONE can properly install a baby seat - it's black or white, on or not. Being an IT geek I can compare it to a difference between analogue and digital.
The original, rigid connector, ISOFIX technically bolts the seat through its base to the frame of the car, similar to the way a driver or passenger seat is. I say original, because some manufacturers offer a flexible connector system which simply put is two ISOFIX attachments connected with a belt that's threaded through the base of the seat, similar to what the old style seatbelt system does. The latch based ISOFIX is still better than the old seatbelt system because it minimises the risk of incorrect installation. It's as simple as click, click and tighten the belt, but it's not regarded as secure as the rigid connector, built-in ISOFIX where there's nothing to tighten.
Unfortunately, the differences have not been explained well and some people do not realise that there is a difference. Frustratingly, as I found out, neither do some of the sales staff at baby stores. Many, if not most, parents are coming there looking for the best advice and end up hearing sales staff saying with a straight face that Australia is leading the world, when clearly we are 15 years late in adopting ISOFIX.
Do your research yourself – work out what kind of car seat your car can actually fit. But certainly as a parent I would (and have) chosen to go with the rigid connector system.
If you want to read further here is what the manufacturers have to say: