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Customer Review

568 of 649 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Would have been a 5, except for one thing..., January 29, 2009
This review is from: Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 Car Seat, Matrix (Baby Product)
The crotch strap.

This seat looked ideal in every way. I liked it right out of the box, and when I put it together. It was exactly what I was looking for.

Then, I sat our average-sized 3 1/2 year old in it, boxed it up and sent it back, very disappointed.

The crotch strap, in the closest position, was beneath the back of my son's crotch. In the farther (and only other) position, it was even with, and slightly pressing against, the front of my son's crotch. In other words, no room to grow whatsoever. There is no way possible that this seat would allow my son to sit comfortably in a five-point harness all the way up to 65 pounds. At that point, the strap would be well beneath his crotch and be uncomfortable and dangerous. No way... and I really wanted it to. If there was one additional slot for the strap, an inch or so farther out, this seat would be PERFECT, in my opinion.

So, I gave this seat a 3 out of 5. For a younger child, or one just reaching my son's age and size (again, he is very average in weight, height), I would probably rate this seat a 5. But, since it clearly will not be able to do what it says it should do, up to 65 pounds, I cannot give it a 5. I honestly don't know how any child can be accomodated in this seat up to 65 pounds, unless they are a very, very skinny 65 pounds.

If Graco updates this seat to add one extra slot an inch or so farther out for the strap, I would buy it again immediately. I was, and am, a little angry that the seat won't work as advertised. Buyer beware; look up the few other comments on the crotch strap first. Then, please, go to the store and "test sit" this seat before buying, and please consider how big your child will be at 3 1/2, or older. Otherwise, you may find the same disapointing fact I did.
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Showing 1-10 of 31 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 20, 2009 8:07:45 AM PDT
So, if you were so disapointed, could you share what car seat you settled on? The only other one I've seen that compares AND gives more crotch room is the Britax Frontier - which is an extra $100. Not a deal breaker, but it's really more like an extra $140, because you'll probably have to buy a plain bottom booster if you buy the Britax (it's just a high back booster). With our two cars, that's and extra $280. Buys a lot of Leggos :)

Would love for you to share what you found as an alternative to this seat.

In reply to an earlier post on May 6, 2009 3:13:02 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 8, 2009 1:29:08 PM PDT
Hi Tim. Loved your show. Sorry about the slow reply.

I will get back with more info, but here is the short (or not) story. My wife and mom-in-law both got identical, cheap (@ $90, because it was a less popular medium brown color), five point harness seats from Big Lots soon after my initial review. I will check on the exact name, but Safety 1st Apex 65 springs to mind. My son (3 years, 10 months, 37 pounds) seems to like it fine... but more than I do.

For those reading this... keep in mind the following comments are about the Safety 1st Apex 65, not the Nautilus.

It seems to fit him okay, but isn't as padded. It has shorter armrests and a much lower sitting position, so he has trouble seeing over the car door now (but, reminder to myself that he will grow taller - just disappointing for him now). It is also hard to pull out slack on the shoulder straps. I took it out of the car to see why; as you pull the tether to tighten the shoulder straps, the metal clip that holds the straps behind and below the seat moves further under the seat itself, which makes it much harder to pull tight (and I'm no weakling). It (the clip) seems poorly positioned; if it were futher behind the back of the seat, and less below it, it might be better. Also, lastly, the seat as it sits in my wife's Buick Century is reclined pretty far, so that my son's knees are a few inches higher than his thighs. He says it doesn't bother him, but I fear if this was the "every day or long trip" car seat, his feet would go to sleep. Maybe not. Anyway, my son says he likes the seat, but I think it could be better.

I have not yet bought a replacement for my car, but need to asap (my Nautilus purchase was forward planning, but now my son's size dictates I get something soon). I may very well get a Britax Frontier, for the very reasons you mentioned. If not, I may get the same one I got for the other two cars. I am sure you would agree that cost is far second to safety. I don't have the impression that the seat we bought is unsafe, but it seems much less comfortable and user friendly than it could be. I did send my Nautilus review to Graco and got a nice thank you in response, as well as a promise to forward the review to the car seat design team. If they would just move that darn crotch strap slot out 1 inch, I would buy it again in a minute, getting the best of the other seats at much less cost. I just got a 15% off coupon for Babies-R-Us in the mail, so I might bite the wallet and get the Frontier this weekend. I will try to remember to post my next move.

I hope this proves helpful to you. If you find a good alternative, please feel free to respond, and I will do the same. Thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on May 8, 2009 1:18:53 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 8, 2009 1:31:06 PM PDT
Hello again. I bought another Apex 65.

Today, 5/8/09, I stood in Babies-R-Us, coupon in hand, looking at the Nautilus and the Britax Frontier next to it. I bought neither.

Again, I wanted the Nautilus to work, but it wouldn't. The crotch strap is simply too close (its farthest out of two positions is equivalent to the CLOSEST slot on the Britax Frontier.) So, the Nautilus is, sadly, out.

The Frontier? Well, it offers a weight advantage over the Nautilus when comparing the 5-point harness max: 65 vs. 80). It only offers 52 or 53 inches in height, versus 57 for the Nautilus. So, advantage, Frontier, as long as my son gets heavier before getting taller. So, spend $279 for the Frontier, or go online again and buy another Safety 1st Apex 65 (again, in a less popular color) for $89 (though more popular colors went up to $139). The Apex 65 is not as nice or plush as the frontier, but seems to fit my son well, seems as safe as any other seat, will accomodate him up to 65 pounds (ties Nautilus, 15 pounds less than Frontier), and up to 57 inches tall (ties Nautilus, beats Frontier by 5 inches - so he can grow taller and still fit, unless he gets heavier faster (unlikely, given his parent's builds)). My son says he likes it and that it is comfortable. So, I called my wife and she ordered the Apex 65 online for $89, with free shipping.

Now if Graco would only add one more crotch strap slot, about an inch or so farther out... they would have one of the best (if not the best) seat on the market, in my opinion. Still disappointed.

Incidentally, I spoke to a woman at the store who was comparing the Nautilus and the Frontier. I showed her the great difference in the crotch strap positions, and she agreed that the Nautilus might be better for her daughter, who was growing tall and slender. Then, she sat her son in the Nautilus, and put it back on the shelf. She left the store with neither, but with the name of the Apex 65 that I called my wife about. I also mentioned the Radian 65 and 80, but said the cost was comparable to the Frontier.

I hope all this helps.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 5, 2010 3:21:32 PM PST
SandyLynn says:
Thank you so much for your posts. I have 2 boys, as well, (3 1/2 and a newborn) and have been struggling to decide which seat to get. I've been considering the Apex 65, but haven't found a place to see it in person, and haven't talked to anyone who owns one.

I haven't been able to find a width measurement on the Apex 65. Could you supply that info? Also, I had read some feedback that the cupholder is really unusable when the child is in the harness. Any feedback on that issue?

Thanks so much for your information.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 26, 2010 9:37:43 AM PST
Hello CynLynn. I haven't looked at this post in a loooong time, so I am glad I checked it. I will try to remember to look for the exact width measurement; if I can't find it, I will measure it myself. I can say that my now 4 1/2 old still fits just fine, both heigth and width wise. He is still average size, but has grown tall enough that he can now see over the car doors (both mine (a Nissan Rogue) and wife's (Buick Century) easily. My car was never really an issue with door heigth because the seat sits less reclined in my car than my wife's. So, I feel the width of the seat is still plenty adequate for an average size boy; he still has room to grow taller and wider (though, I must say, width MIGHT become more of a concern before height. I think I like the Apex 65 more now than when I bought it, because it does it's job just fine, and I saved quite a bit of money over the Frontier which I considered.

As for the cupholder, I will say this. I later bought another Apex 65 from Big Lots in a discontinued color for $89. This one is in grandma's car. I noticed right away that the cup holder was re-designed; I THINK the seat I bought later is the newer version (though it is possible that the one I bought later was an older version that simply had been sitting in a warehouse until it sold). The cupholder on the first two I bought is very solid when clipped on; I have had no trouble at all with it. In fact, sometimes it is hard to get the darn thing off because it is so stable. The newer cupholder is not as good or as stable, but I think is sufficient (grandma hasn't mentioned a problem, but they don't ride in the seat often or for long distances). I will say this, both the newer and older seats are wide enough that my older son often puts his drink (a normal, plastic kids cup with fold down straw, often in a cozy) right next to himself in the seat itself. It is tucked back far enough that it doesn't fall out forward, even with hard braking. The seat is plenty wide enough so that the cup fits beside him on either side. My son has no trouble reaching the drink when in the cup holder, but prefers to put the cup next to himself when the holder is being used as a "volcano" or "swimming pool" for his toy dinosaurs.

Lastly, I would buy this seat again. It could be better, and if the later version I bought is the newer version, then it is not quite as good as the first ones I bought. But, NOT a deal-breaker. That being said... for your younger son, you might consider the Nautilus, as it is a terrific seat with better (perceived, by looking at it) comfort and the other positives (built in cupholder, fold-up and longer arms). It would be a great seat, up to about 3 1/2 or 4 years old; in fact, your older son might be able to use it for a few months before running into the crotch strap issue I've detailed. I should check the stores to see if the Nautilus folks have "fixed" that one flaw.

I will try to remember to post the exact width later, but it isn't an issue now and won't be for awhile, based on my son's size...maybe even until he outgrows the seat entirely.

Sorry for the long-windedness. I "agonized" over this same decision for quite awhile, and hope my comments help those reviewing this and other seats. I still think the Apex 65 is very adequate and a good buy for the cost. Money is far second to safety, and I would have spent $1,000 on a seat if I truly felt I needed to in order to keep my son (1) safe and (2) comfortable. I didn't need to do that, and feel better about my purchase now than at first. I hope this helps.

Posted on Mar 11, 2010 6:41:31 PM PST
Katy Scott says:
thanks so much for your review. we own two frontiers and really love them, but they are not easy to install and we need a third seat for occasional use (such as on school field trips when my sons need to ride in someone else's car). I was strongly leaning towards the nautilus due to the 5 pt harness, but the crotch issue makes it a complete nonstarter for us. I really appreciate that you even mentioned how the crotch strap positions compare to those in the frontier, it made it very easy for me to visualize that yes, this would be a problem for us, rather than abstractly wondering about it.

Posted on Aug 12, 2010 11:10:36 AM PDT
JT says:
Thanks for such a thorough review. My 4 year old is 47 lbs and 44 inches and I was considering these options for him. I think I am just gonna stay with the Sunshine Kids Radian 80, which still fits him fine and I like that he is in a 5 point harness. I had heard great things about the Nautilus from friends, but based on your review, I am sticking to what we already have for as long as it fits. Thanks!

Posted on Aug 22, 2010 9:44:54 AM PDT
Kiwi says:
I agree with the crotch strap. I was trying to see if it can be adjusted. My daughter is only 35 pounds, and it fit perfectly for her now. I think I will have to get her another seat since the crotch strap is not adjustable. Too bad I didn't know about this before buying it.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 15, 2010 2:14:32 PM PDT
Katy Taylor says:
We just bought the Apex 65 and already I can tell it is going to work great for my son! We actually got it on a competitors website for $62 so I couldnt pass it up. Definitely a good deal if you find one in an 'off color'. Ours is tan... same color as dirt, which for a boy- is a good thing. It isnt as padded as I would like, but my son has no complaints.

Posted on Nov 27, 2010 4:41:47 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Nov 27, 2010 4:47:32 PM PST]
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