Best car seats 2024: the safest child seats for newborns and toddlers

Looking to buy a new child car seat? We’ve tested and rated 11 leading examples to help you find the best one for your needs...

Child car seats rated

Navigating the world of child car seats, with all its jargon and advertising spiel, can be confusing. A child seat can also be a big expense, and it’s one of the most vital pieces of safety equipment you’ll buy for your child, so it’s important to make an informed choice.

Once you've chosen the best family car for you, you'll need to know how to choose the best child seat - and how to fit it. We explain all.

But if you're looking for a quick ready reckoner:

  • Best seats for children aged up to four - Joie i-Spin 360
  • Best seats for children aged up to seven - BeSafe Stretch B
  • Best seats for children aged up to 12 - Cybex Solution S2 i-Fix 

You can read the full verdict, plus our scores below.

How to choose a child car seat

When choosing the best child car seat, the first thing to check is that a seat complies with the latest R129 safety regulations rather than the older R44 certification. R129 seats are put through more rigorous testing than R44 seats. In addition to the front and rear collisions that are required for R44, R129 seats undergo a side impact collision, and the crash test dummy has 32 sensors, compared with just three before, so more information can be gathered about potential injuries.

R129 also states that seats should be sold with information on the height of the children they’re suitable for, instead of their weight or age. This is intended to help parents know when to switch to a larger seat. They must also keep children facing rearwards up to the age of 15 months, whereas R44 stipulated that this was required only up to nine months.

child car seats rated

R129 seats can be secured either with a car’s seatbelt or Isofix mounts, and so can the latest i-Size seats – an enhancement of R129 that stipulates a maximum size for the seat, ensuring it will fit in any i-Size-approved car.

To help you find the best child seat for your needs, we’ve tested and rated 11 examples in four age brackets, using a Volvo XC90 7-seat SUV. Although you can still buy R44 seats right now, we haven’t included them in our tests, because they won’t be available after September 2024.

How we test child car seats

To create an overall rating for each child seat, we considered four key areas: ease of use, practicality, value for money and safety, giving a rating for a number of aspects within each category.

child car seats rated

Four factors were considered for ease of use: how easy the seat (and base if there is one) is to install; how easily a child can be installed in the seat; how clear the instructions are on the seat and online, and whether there’s an easily accessible fitting video; and whether there’s a printed or online car compatibility list that is simple to use.

To find out how easy seats are to install, we fitted each one into the rear of a large car (a Volvo XC90) and a small hatchback (a Ford Fiesta) and we sat a 5ft 8in tall adult comfortably in the front. For fitting instructions, our starting point was to try to use a QR code or other information on the seat to get either to an app or website; this is the best scenario because it means parents can check how to fit a seat when they're outside with their car. If we couldn't find a link to an app, we went on the seat maker's website, and searched for fitting instructions there. 

Practicality encompassed five areas: how heavy the seat is; how much space it takes up in the car; how well padded it is; whether the child sits in a good position; and whether the seat cover and any other elements are easy to remove and wash. To assess how much space the seat takes in a car, all seats were fitted into the rear of our two test vehicles. When testing the position of the child, we used a lifelike dummy as well as real children, as this gave us more time to assess each seat. 

To assess value for money, we looked at the cost of the seat (and base where one is needed), and how long it can be used for, calculating a monthly cost for each seat.

Child car seats rated

Our safety ratings are based on the crash performance of each seat in German ADAC tests, because these are carried out at higher speeds than the R129 (i-Size) certification tests and measure both frontal and side-impact collisions in a real car instead of a test sled.

While we’ve taken into account 100% of the scores for ease of use and practicality when calculating the overall scores, we’ve put more emphasis on safety and less on value for money. So, the scores for safety have been boosted by 25% in the overall rating, and the value for money ratings account for 25% less. 

The products or services referenced in this story have been reviewed independently by our experts. When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in this site earning a commission. Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network. However, this will never influence our opinion or ratings.

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Best infant carriers

1. Silver Cross Dream i-Size with Isofix base

Child car seats rated Silver Cross Dream

Suitable for children from 40-85cm tall 

Category Score
Ease of use 70%
Practicality 78%
Value for money 30%
Safety 95%
What Car? rating 74%

The seat and base of this rear-facing infant carrier are light and compact, and the natural bamboo seat fabric is soft and breathable.

There is a QR code on the seat to allow quick access to a five-step installation video with voiceover on the Silver Cross app, which is is clear and easy to understand. You can also access the QR code on the website, but the videos on the site itself have no captions or voiceover and aren't that helpful. 

Fitting the base into a car using Isofix mounts is simple, and the seat clicks easily into place on top of it. The five-point harness has five positions for adjustment as the baby grows; these can be fiddly to set. The straps don’t adjust all that smoothly, either, while the studs on the seat cover are stiff to undo. The newborn insert’s foam pads can be removed for washing.

Because this seat can be used only from birth to around 18 months, it doesn’t score well for value for money, costing £24 per month. It’s versatile, though, because it can be used without the Isofix base and secured via a seatbelt instead. Its ADAC crash test score is the best for an infant carrier. 

2. Joie Calmi and i-Base Encore

Child car seats rated: Joie Calmi

Price £390 
Suitable for children from 40-70cm tall 

Category Score
Ease of use 80%
Practicality 80%
Value for money 20%
Safety 75%
What Car? rating 68%

The Calmi is a modern take on the traditional carrycot. It fits sideways across the rear seats and enables an infant to lie flat – the best posture for breathing and sleeping.

The cot clicks onto an Isofix base, so it’s stable and secure in the car. The base and seat are easy to install, and buckling the child in is easy. Although the QR code on the seat doesn’t take you to fitting instructions, the video on the Joie website is clear and tells you in text form how to fit the base and cot.

The Calmi can be slotted onto the base in one direction only on each side of the car, so the baby’s head is always in the centre of the car – a safer position than next to a door. While this seat doesn’t match the best in its class for crash safety, it is still rated as good.

It’s rated highly for practicality, not only thanks to its ideal seating position but also because it’s extremely light (weighing just 3.6kg). However, it has the lowest score for value, because it can be used only for infants from birth to 12 months old, so it works out at a costly £33 per month.

That said, if you buy a larger Joie car seat afterwards, you will save money, because you can use the same base with child seats for toddlers and older children. The carrier can also be fitted onto a Joie pushchair as part of the Calmi travel system.   

Best seats for children aged up to four

1. Joie i-Spin 360

Child car seats rated: Joie i-Spin 360

Suitable for children from 40-105cm tall 

Category Score
Ease of use 80%
Practicality 76%
Value for money 65%
Safety 85%
What Car? rating 82%

As the name suggests, the i-Spin has a rotating function that lets parents twist the seat around to face them when they’re buckling in a child. It can be rotated with one hand and can’t be locked into the sideways position, so there’s no chance of it being misused. There’s also a sliding lock on the front that can be set to ensure that the seat can only be fitted facing rearwards for children up to 15 months old.

The seat covers are made from recycled materials. They have good padding and a washable infant insert with sizing information on it. The seating position is good for both babies and older children.

Fitting is simply a case of attaching the Isofix mounts and positioning the foot. There’s an indicator on the top of the foot that tells you when the Isofix points are inserted correctly. A QR code on the seat takes you to a comprehensive fitting video, but the online car compatibility list isn’t that easy to read.

Although the i-Spin doesn’t score quite as well as the Maxi Cosi Mica Pro Eco for ease of use, it gains a higher rating for practicality. And while both seats are rated as good by ADAC for crash protection, the i-Spin offers more protection in a side-on crash, with a very low risk of injury to a child. 

2. Maxi Cosi Mica Pro Eco 

Child car seats rated: Maxi Cosi Mica Pro Eco

Suitable for children from 40-105cm tall

Category Score
Ease of use 85%
Practicality 66%
Value for money 65%
Safety 80%
What Car? rating 79%

The Mica Pro Eco is one of the easiest seats in our test to use. It can be rotated through 360 degrees or reclined using just one hand. In addition, its harness straps glide smoothly when they’re being adjusted, and its shoulder pads are attached to the body of the seat, so they don’t move when the straps are adjusted.

The seat covers are made from 100% recycled fabric. The seat has plenty of padding and a soft, thick newborn insert.

The fitting instructions on the seat and online are good. Installation is easy using the car’s Isofix mounting points, and an indicator on the bottom of the stability foot turns green when it’s positioned correctly.

In terms of value for money, the Mica Pro Eco is reasonably affordable to buy and, like the Joie i-Spin, works out at £6 per month. It can be used facing rearwards for infants and then forwards for older children, but it takes up a lot of space in rear-facing mode.

Nor is its safety rating as good as the other seat in this group, because it doesn’t provide as much protection in a side impact. ADAC says the risk of injury to a child in a side-on crash is low (rather than very low for the Joie i-Spin). As with the i-Spin, the risk of injury in a frontal impact is low, too. 

Best seats for children aged up to seven

1. BeSafe Stretch B

Child car seats rated Besafe Stretch

Price £539 
Suitable for children from 40-125cm tall 

Category Score
Ease of use 78%
Practicality 74%
Value for money 60%
Safety 95%
What Car? rating 83%

The Stretch B is a seatbelt-secured seat that keeps children facing rearwards from birth to the age of seven. It’s our top scorer in this group mainly thanks to its exceptional performance in safety tests; ADAC says it presents a very low risk of injury to a child in a front or side impact, and it has passed the stringent Swedish Plus Test.

This seat scores strongly for practicality, too. It has five reclining positions, enabling babies to lie almost flat and older children to sit more upright. There’s a bar at the foot of the seat that extends by up to 26cm to provide more leg space as youngsters grow. There are comprehensive fitting instructions on the seat (via a QR code) and on a laminated paper guide. 

The Stretch B is fiddlier to install than Isofix-mounted seats such as the Cybex Anoris T, though, requiring you to fit two floor-mounted tethers and a stability foot after securing it with a seatbelt. The tethers have a tensioner to help you get a sturdy installation, and the foot sounds a warning if it’s not touching the floor, so you won’t forget to fit it. While it’s not the cheapest to buy, the Stretch is still good value for money, working out at £7 a month. 

2. Cybex Anoris T i-Size 

Child car seats rated Cybex Anoris

Suitable for children from 76-115cm tall 

Category Score
Ease of use 88%
Practicality 74%
Value for money 40%
Safety 95%
What Car? rating 80%

The Cybex Anoris is the world’s first child seat with a full-body airbag built into the impact shield, which is a thick band that also acts as a restraint for the child, meaning there’s no need for a five-point harness. The airbag inflates in milliseconds and distributes the force of the impact, reducing neck strain, making it up to 50% safer than other forward-facing child seats. It gained the same exceptionally high ADAC score as the rear-facing BeSafe Stretch, offering very good protection in front and side crashes.

This is the best seat in this group for ease of use, being a doddle to install using the Isofix fittings and stability foot. There’s an electronic indicator on the top of the foot with an image of the seat and lights that turn green when each element has been fitted correctly. The fitting instructions are on Cybex’s website and include a good video (with captions) that is easy to follow.

At 12kg, the Anoris isn’t the lightest of seats, and it can’t be reclined as much as others here, so it doesn’t put younger children in the best position. It also loses marks for value, because it’s fairly expensive to buy (with a monthly cost of £9) and is suitable only for children from 15 months to six years old. 

3. Axkid One+2

Child car seats rated Axkid One

Price £625 
Suitable for children from 40-125cm tall 

Category Score
Ease of use 75%
Practicality 72%
Value for money 60%
Safety 88%
What Car? rating 79%

The One+ 2 is an extended rearward-facing seat that can be used up to the age of seven. It’s the first rearward-facing i-Size seat suitable for children up to this age, its Isofix fittings make it easier to install than seatbelt-secured alternatives.

Fitting instructions aren’t as good as what some rival brands provide – there’s no QR code to let you watch an installation video – but numbered stickers dotted around the seat guide you through the correct procedure. There’s no car compatibility list in the printed user manual and the online checker is hard to navigate.

The infant insert comes with printed information on the size of the child it should be used with, and the seat recline feature is a button you twist – great for getting a precise seat angle.

While the One+ 2 takes up quite a lot of space, it can be slid forward by up to 30cm to allow better access, if your car has enough room. It's the priciest of all our seats to buy but can be used for a full seven years, so it’s still reasonable value for money, at £7 a month.

As for safety, the One+ 2 has passed the Swedish Plus Test, but it didn’t do as well in the ADAC test as its BeSafe Stretch and Cybex Anoris T rivals, being rated as good rather than very good. 

4. Avionaut Sky 2.0

Child car seats rated Avionaut Sky

Suitable for children from 40-125cm tall 

Category Score
Ease of use 70%
Practicality 62%
Value for money 70%
Safety 82%
What Car? rating 76%

This rear-facing Polish seat is suitable for use from birth to around seven years old. If used for the full term, the Avionaut Sky 2.0 represents great value for money (just £4.50 per month), but so-so scores for ease of use and safety mean it’s at the tail end of this group overall.

Although it has passed the Swedish Plus Test, it is rated as only good for safety by ADAC, being criticised for its “slightly unfavourable” seatbelt routing.

The Sky 2.0 comes with an infant insert and a wedge for smaller babies. There’s decent padding for younger children, but the pads don’t have removable covers, and the main cover is fiddly to unzip for removal. There’s no bar for children to put their feet on, and the seat should be fitted with it touching the car’s rear seatback, so taller kids might have to sit cross-legged.

At 6.6kg, the Sky is one of the lighter seats of its type. Installing it can be fiddly, though; after securing it with a seatbelt, you have to attach and tension two straps and fit a stability foot. Indicators on the foot turn green when it’s installed correctly.

Fitting instructions on the seat are minimal, but the user manual and website provide comprehensive information, including a captioned video. 

Best seats for children aged up to 12

1. Cybex Solution S2 i-Fix 

Child car seats rated Cybex Solution

Suitable for children from 100-150cm tall 

Category Score
Ease of use 85%
Practicality 70%
Value for money 98%
Safety 80%
What Car? rating 88%

This high-back booster seat can be used for children from three and a half years old up to the age of 12. Although the seat doesn’t recline, it has a tilting headrest that can be angled to prevent a child’s head from tipping forward when they’re asleep. It also has 12 height settings and can be adjusted with one hand. Its safety rating is very good, too.

Fitting the Cybex Solution S2 is simply a case of slotting the Isofix fittings into place and using the car’s seatbelt to secure the child. The seatbelt routing is clearly marked on the seat, and fitting instructions are in a book stored in the seat and online. The fitting video is clear and has captions, while the Cybex website has a good car compatibility checker.

At 6.2kg, the Solution S2 is light enough that it can be swapped between cars easily. It’s fairly compact, but the headrest can potentially clash with that of your car’s seat in its higher settings. The seat is well padded yet fairly wide and roomy, so it might not suit slim children. The covers can be removed and washed.

The Solution S2 is the best value for money of all the seats we tested; use it for eight and a half years and it will cost you just £1.45 per month. 

2. Maxi Cosi Titan Pro i-Size 

Child car seats rated: Maxi Cosi Titan

Suitable for children from 76-150cm tall 

Category Score
Ease of use 80%
Practicality 66%
Value for money 95%
Safety 75%
What Car? rating 84%

This multi-age, forward-facing seat accommodates children all the way from 15 months to 12 years old, making it a very cost-effective option, working out at just £2 a month.

Fitting involves slotting the Isofix points into place and securing a top tether – a task that can be fiddly if there’s a headrest to negotiate. The instructions are good and can be found on the seat, via a QR code or on the brand’s website.

The seat offers good head and neck protection, but it isn’t as well padded as those specifically for younger children. The harness – which is employed up to age four, with older children using the car’s seatbelt – slides easily for adjustment and the shoulder pads have two useful features: they stay in place next to the seat, so they don’t need to be altered when tightening the straps, and they have magnets in them, so they can stick to the bottom of the headrest, keeping them out of the way while the child gets into the seat. 

The seating position is good for both younger and older children, and there are four recline settings for children less than 105cm tall. The seat is relatively heavy (12.5kg) and the base is wide, but it’s not too deep, so it should fit in smaller cars. 

3. Silver Cross Motion All Size 360 

Child car seats rated: Silver Cross Motion All Size

Suitable for children from 40-145cm tall 

Category Score
Ease of use 68%
Practicality 70%
Value for money 90%
Safety 75%
What Car? rating 80%

Suitable for a wide range of children from newborns up to the age of 12, this seat represents fine value, working out at just £2.60 a month if you use it for the full length of that term. It can be mounted facing rearwards for children up to age four, then rotated to face forwards for older children. The 360-degree swivel function works no matter which way the seat is facing. There’s no lie-flat option, but there are three reclining positions.

The seat materials are a combination of recycled plastic and bamboo. There’s plenty of padding and soft inserts for keeping newborns snug, while the harness is easy to buckle up and adjust.

Fitting instructions can be accessed via an app or the website, but the website video has no voiceover or captions, so it isn’t the most informative. However, fitting is easy using the Isofix mounts and support leg. It’s not a seat you’ll want to move too often, though, because it weighs 14.4kg.

The foam padding in the infant insert can be removed for washing. Although the information in the book on when to remove the additional padding is good, the website doesn't provide specific information on this. 

What Car? says…

Before you buy a child car seat, think about how you’re going to use it so you can pick the one that best suits your needs. If you have a premature baby or have concerns about an infant being scrunched up in a seat for long periods, a lie-flat seat or carrycot might be the best option. Alternatively, if you just need a seat for the occasional transport of your grandchildren, a multi-age seat that can be used from birth up to 12 years old will be much cheaper than buying two or three different seats.

However, safety experts advise parents to keep children in rear-facing seats for as long as possible, because these are generally better at minimising injuries in front-end collisions, and the latest rear-facing seats that can be used up to the age of seven are well worth considering.

Child car seats rated

As well as ensuring your child is the right size for the seat they’re using, it’s vital to make sure the seat fits well in your car and is properly installed because user error is the main issue with seats checked by police and road safety experts.

So, don’t just buy the cheapest seat you can find online; check the car compatibility lists on seat makers’ websites and visit a shop that has a trained seat installation expert who can give advice about how well various seats will work in your car and how to fit them correctly.That way you won’t find yourself standing in a hospital car park with a newborn baby, wondering how to put the seat in the car. 

Latest innovations in child car seats

Maxi Cosi FamilyFix 360 Pro

Maxi Cosi’s latest child car seats don’t just rotate for easier access; they can also be slid towards the parent, helping to prevent backache and lessening the likelihood of anyone bumping their head on the door aperture.

Child car seats rated Maxi Cosi FamilyFix base

That’s because they sit on the FamilyFix 360 Pro seat base, which features two rails on which the child seat can slide.The base is compatible with the Pebble 360 Pro infant carrier and Pearl 360 Pro, which accommodates children up to the age of four.

BeSafe Go Beyond 

A growing number of seat makers are introducing from-birth seats that provide a flat base for a baby to lie on, because this ensures their lungs aren’t compressed and they can breathe easily.

Norwegian car seat maker BeSafe has taken the concept one step further and introduced an infant carrier with a base that can be stretched out flat but will automatically return the seat to the safest 45-degree angle when it detects a frontal impact, offering the best protection for the baby.

The Go Beyond infant carrier can be used from birth to 85cm. Like other BeSafe seats, it has a spirit level at the top of the stability foot to let parents know when it has been installed at the correct angle. 

What is the Swedish Plus Test? 

Swedish safety experts introduced a tough new child seat crash test in 2007 to encourage European seat makers to develop safer seats. The Swedish Plus Test is primarily concerned with the stress that is put on a child’s neck in a frontal impact.

Studies of real crashes revealed that children suffer more severe head and neck injuries than adults in car crashes, and that they cannot withstand impacts of more than 130kg. The Plus Test measures the force put on a child’s neck in an impact and only awards a pass to seats that keep this below 122kg.

Child car seats rated Swedish Plus Test

(photo supplied by Axkid)

There are three important differences between the Plus Test and the tests that are carried out during homologation for European approval. The vehicle is doing 56km/h in the Swedish test, rather than 50km/h; the braking distance is shorter, so the impact on the car seat is greater; and the forces exerted on the neck of the crash test dummy are measured using more precise sensors.

The Swedish Plus Test is optional and tests only rearward-facing seats suitable for children from 87cm tall. While it’s useful if you’re looking for a rearward-facing seat, it’s not relevant for all child seats, so we’re not currently factoring its findings into our safety ratings.

The brands with seats that have passed the Swedish Plus Test are Avionaut, Axkid, BeSafe, Britax Romer, Joie and Nuna.  

About the author and testers

Claire Evans has been a motoring and consumer journalist for more than 30 years. Prior to joining What Car? she worked as motoring editor for Which?, overseeing its child car seat testing and reviews. She has also contributed to the motoring supplements of The Times, The Telegraph and various parenting magazines including Junior.  

Child car seats rated

Two child car seat experts from the independent advisory organisation Child Seat Safety assisted Claire Evans in assessing the child car seats for practicality and ease of use. Between them, Claire Waterhouse and Julie Dagnall have more than 50 years’ experience in the road safety industry, and they specialise in child car seat fitting.

The pair run the UK’s only child seat fitting courses accredited with the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, providing training to a wide range of people, including the retail experts who help parents pick the most suitable seats. Julie is also Road Safety GB’s national expert on in-car safety, advising local authorities on all aspects of child car seats.  

The products or services referenced in this story have been reviewed independently by our experts. When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in this site earning a commission. Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network. However, this will never influence our opinion or ratings.

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