When Josiah had outgrown his infant carrier carseat, we decided to move him to Eila’s (Gray Britax Roundabout) and get her a new one that would last her until she would be done with carseats and boosters, so after much research and hemming and hawing we ended up with the Brown Alpha Elite Apex 65.
I love the Roundabout, except for the price tag, so I knew that I wanted a car seat that had some similar features and was equally well-rated for safety. The features that I was most interested in for this new car seat included: five-point harness for up to at least 65 pounds and booster seat conversion after that, easy pull tightening/loosening system for adjusting the harness each time, and comfortable ride for the lovely occupant. We wanted to be able to use the LATCH system as well. Being easily washable would be nice, but it’s not really realistic in a car seat.
So, in my research, I narrowed it down to the Apex 65 and a Britax. There are lots of Britax models that would work for the harness, but I figured I’d still have to buy another booster seat except with one: Regent with a 5-point harness up to 80 pounds and for up to 53″. In either case, I figure that Eila will outgrow the height before the weight, but I could be surprised. Eila is currently around 34 pounds and 38 inches at almost 3.5 years. She is very average sized (50th percentile). I visited several stores to try to find the Regent and see how big it really was, but never found it. I did see the Marathon and knew that the Regent was considerably larger, so I wasn’t really sure how it would fit in my little Mazda Protege5. With the really big difference in price, I had to go with the Apex. Here are some stats compared.
Regent (harness to 80 pounds):
Seating Compartment Height (in) 27.75
Seat Area Width (in) 12
Shoulder Width (in) 15
Harness Slot Heights (in) 12 / 14.4 / 16.75 / 19.1
Buckle Strap Depth (in) 7.4 / 9.4
Product Weight (lbs) 25
Exterior Product W x H x D (in) 21.5 x 30 x 25
Apex (harness to 65 lbs., booster to 100 lbs.):
Seating Compartment Height (in) 28;
Seat Area Width (in) 13.5
Top Harness Slot Height (in) 17.5
Buckle Strap Depth (in) 4.0/ 7.0
Product Weight (lbs) 17.2
Exterior Product W x H x D (in) 19 x 28.4 x 20
Most of the time, I feel like it was a great decision for our family. The car seat fits in our tiny backseat without any trouble, but there is no room left even for a very small person to sit in the middle. When we want to take more than 4 people in our car, we can only do so illegally, so, of course, we don’t do that! 🙂
The giant Apex 65 takes over the backseat, but on the plus side, Eila has tons of room in it. Honestly, she still looks like you could fit two of her in the car seat and once she did invite Josiah to come sit with her – they both fit (while the car was not running). She can cross her legs and take a nap; her head will still rest easily on the wings. The crotch area fits her snugly, and is not tight yet, but there is not much room for growth. She is already on the third set of slots (our of four).
After about a year of use, there are some regrets in not splurging, but I think if given the choice I’d pick the Apex 65 again. The main complaint that I have is in the tightening and loosening of the straps. We adjust them with each use (as everyone should!), but it is really hard to pull it tight enough. Sometimes, I pull so hard I pick the seat up and it still isn’t as tight as I’d like it. Since this is a feature that I had specifically wanted and that is used every time we get in and out of the car, it can be more than a little annoying, plus it effects the safety, which is the whole point.
The arm rest covers were removed by Eila as soon as she sat down and they remain on the floor of the car (I attempt to replace them every so often only to find them removed again…) The cup holder is removable, which is a good thing as it sticks out from the right side of the seat quite a bit. Eila is currently very interested in making sure that the cup holder is in its proper place to hold her water, but it is a little low and far forward for her to reach it easily while strapped in. She is able to strap herself in, but struggles to get the snap for each side of the buckle between her legs. Unfortunately, I’ve pinched her leg in the buckle a couple of times, which shows how it is a pretty snug fit (or that I wasn’t paying attention).
As for washing the cover, I’ve only done so a few times, but it was fairly painless and cleaned up great. The brown color hides dirt pretty well. I read that only the brown ones have the EPS foam in the head rest, but I don’t know if that is true of newer models as well.
The car seat was fairly easy to install and tethered to the back without any problem. Tightening the latch strap proved to be the most difficult and making sure that there wasn’t too much sway was tricky, but not too bad. I wouldn’t want to install it regularly, but it only takes a few minutes really. Although, the Roundabout is ready in about half the time (still rear-facing, but I don’t think it should make a difference in installation time.)
Car-safety.org is a fabulous site with lots of great info. If you want other options for big car seats/ boosters, check under the Front-Facing and Specialty Models section.
When shopping for a new car seat, it’s a good idea to check out the NHTSA.
So, the Apex 65 is big and not so easy to use, but the price is right. I got mine for just over $100 including tax.