June 22, 2006

Tobi Or Not Tobi? That Is One Carseat Buyer's Question

maxi_cosi_tobi.jpgI just read Jen's story of shopping for a new car seat, and I don't know what's more unbelievable:
- that the Maxi-Cosi Tobi doesn't install correctly on cars with either cloth or leather seats [what's left?],
- that the Priori "is a No-No" in Fords, Volvos, or Honda SUV's, or
- that they actually found a sales person at a Babies R Us.

Wait, scratch the sales person; the BRU manager spent an hour with them testing all the carseats to make sure they fit in both family cars. Apparently, it's the only way this store will let a carseat out the door.

Anyway, one carseat that didn't make it out was the one Jen went in for: the new Maxi-Cosi Tobi. According to her account, the Tobi's new over-instead-of-under seatbelt path [see below] results in improper or impossible installation in both their cars [an Accord and a VW Polo] and in many others.

Not that I'm calling for a slackness revolution for the certified car seat installation expert industry, but this BRU manager sounds like a total Carseat Nazi. I'll chant "safety first, install it properly" all day if you want, but it just seems implausible to me that the new top-of-the-line model from the biggest carseat maker in Europe can't be installed in two of the most popular cars on the road. Likewise, that that same manufacturer's existing model, the Priori, is somehow blanket-incompatible with entire marques-ful of cars.

If the problem is seatbelt length, maybe extenders are the easy solution, but still, if this story holds up, Tobi's got some slings and arrows of outrageous fortune coming its way. Read Jen's story in full after the jump. [And while I'm thinking about it, does anyone know of an official carseat-car model compatibility matrix that includes Maxi-Cosi? Carseatdata.org is US-only.]

Jen:

Please, PLEASE, go and see it 'in person', and try and fit it into your car. We headed down to our local Babies R Us, where they shipped in a seat just for us, as I was rather taken by the retracting seatbelts etc etc. We have the Cabrio at the moment, and I was keen to stick to MC.

We got the manager to help us fit it (she was the only one trained), to check it worked in both our cars (Honda Accord, VW Polo). We spent an hour - Priori, Tobi & a Britax - trying them in 2 cars. The Tobi fit - almost. MaxiCosi have changed the way that the Tobi fits into the car - the seatbelt goes all the way over the top of the seat and slots/hooks into a flat channel behind the top of the seat, secured with pull down clips (as opposed to through the bottom under the reclining bucket).

maxi_cosi_tobi_installation.jpg

It means that you need a LOOOOONG seatbelt, one that doesn't 'lock' when you let it go (like the Honda and many newer cars). And it doesn't fit properly - either with leather seats (Honda) or cloth (VW). Even when tightened to the utmost, it shook around, and the manager refused to sell it to us. And I can't see, from the new design, quite HOW it would be secure in any car. Sure, it could be our cars - but apparently not. It doesn't fit in ANY car to the standard of the Priori. Which we opted for - it fit snug as a bug, and was WAY easier to put in.

The Tobi was given a big thumbs down - and this is from someone trying to sell us a car seat. We are lucky, as she cared more for us getting a good car seat than making the extra 50. The lady fitting it said - I quote - "I hate this seat". And she is the primary fitter for a store that does a considerable business in selling and fitting car seats (they won't sell them unless they fit them personally). Their only competition in the area is Mothercare, whose staff I don't rate at all, especially when it comes to customer service.

You have been warned. Try before you buy.

PS when we asked about changing cars, apparently the Priori is a No-No in Fords, Volvos and Honda SUVs. Well, we're ok on the Ford front... ;)

Previously: the Tobi; Maxi Cosi, Volvos, and seat belt extenders

8 Comments

We picked up a Tobi a month back via Babycare NL. (Jr. is still a few months away from making the "jump" to forward facing seat. So, at this point I can only offer up a few "not-yet-really-used-it" thoughts.)

Cost: $486 w/shipping. Ouch. (Yeah, but still less than 1/2 of a Cameleon. Judge me if you must, but we use second hand baby clothes, and I buy my jeans at Mervyn's during pre-school sales.) Keep in mind also that our only shipping option was 2nd day air at 160 Euro. Ouch. Oh yes, also add in a $15 CitiBank foreign transaction fee. Swell.

Quality: Top notch. The thing is built like a tank, but weighs a lot less than I thought (i.e. shipping weight). We passed on the fugly Euro patterns and went with the Black Reflection (no matching beret for dad, sorry.)

Jr. has yet to blow chunks on his Tobi, so beyond a few push and pulls we have not broken the thing down for a cleaning

Install: Goes right into the backseat of our '01 Volvo XC. Actually, a much better fit than the Cabrio (which needed the seat belt extender). I was worried about the extender, because using it would alter the seat belt angle way too much. The Tobi will not fit in the center seat, only the left or right side of the rear seat.

Install took about five minutes to figure out. The only thing I do differently than the instructions is to run the belt through the top of the seat before I do the bottom. Doing so helps me keep tension on the belt so that it does not slide back into the spool and lock up.

Jr. Egress/Ingress: We keep the seat in his room, and put him in it a few times a week to get him used to the thing. The pre-sprung seat belts work well, except now the straps are in "grabbing range," so you have to work quickly. I find a quick distraction (pacifier hide and seek) works well to keep him from grabbing the belts, and relaxes his back enough when he gets the pacifier back in his mouth that he slides right in.

Also, the recline lever is right where one would normally hold the front of the seat while installing/uninstalling. So, the seat can accidently be released.

Still, we have not tried to get him into the seat during one of those "he's fussy/it's raining/you're late and uncaffinated" situtations.

I'm still trying to get past the cost of the thing. That said, the Cabrio and Cameleon were no steal, but they have both paid for themselves in functionality and ease of use to this point. Plus, Jr. sleeps like a rock in both - and we all know what sleep is worth these days.

I have not read Jen's piece, but I can only imagine what they went through. The people who work at our local Baby Box Stores still smell like the fries they burnt at the job they were canned from the day before.

And yes, we do run into people who scorn me for not getting a US certified seat (ALL of them drive oversized SUVs, so don't get me started). However, if you read though the EU safety data, and look at the seats side by side, to me it's not an issue. I think it's more of an issue that you find a seat that works in your car and learn how to install it properly.

Yeah, and good luck finding a Tobi/Auto Compatability matrix...

Cheers.

[wow, I feel like I'm auditing classes at Tobi University, thanks. -ed.]

There`s a car fitting list on the Maxi Cosi website (www.maxi-cosi.nl > Information >Car fitting list). You just enter the car brand, model and seat type.

You can order the Tobi at www.mytoys.de for 229 Euro ($287), but unfortunately they don`t deliver to the US. $486 seems a lot though!

that list is for the ISOFIX/LATCH seats, which Maxi-Cosi took their own sweet time about complying with, seeing as how it's a standard that's been around for years now and is built into almost all new cars.

Meanwhile, their FAQ says, "Our child car seats have been developed as universal car seats. This means that they should fit in almost any car. In accordance with the ECE R44/03 and ECE R44/04 norm car seats are universal if not more than a certain length of seat belt is required for the installation. The car industry is aware of this. Car manufacturers sometimes build the belts into their cars so that the belt is just not long enough for correct installation. If the user manual of your car states that the seat belts are suitable for the use of universal car seats, this should not be a problem. However, we recommend that you fit the car seat first before purchasing it. Your retailer can help you with this."

All technically true, but it sounds like a rather pompous way of acknowledging that their product will not, in fact, fit in some cars. I'm sure they know which ones, but they're leaving it up to you to find out for yourself.

we juz bought the maxi cosi tobi fm babycare.nl too. the price is now $500 incl shipping.

yes.. yes i know it is not US certified!!!

i juz hope they will bring maxi cosi into the US market soon. maxi cosi stuff are juz so so pretty and user-friendly. i am currently using the maxi cosi cabrio and my girl loves it. we had the graco baby seat and she simply hates it!!!

[could you repeat that? I didn't catch anything after you said "$500." holy moley. -ed.]

Just thought I'd add that we have used a MC Priori in a Ford SUV (Explorer and Expedition), Chevy SUV (Tahoe and Suburban), GMC Van (Safari), Dodge SUV and Trucks (Ram 1500, Ram 2500, and Durango) among other U.S. Vehicles and it fit perfect in each and every one of them.

So the Priori is definately not a "no-no" for most American vehicles, I'd say ....


It is by the way one of the BEST seats we own. By far the easiest to install and use - they could add some decent padding to it however ... I think thats where Britax has the one-up on them.

We had never spent any minute on searching car seat when we bought them -- yes, we live in the tiny orange county, the Netherlands. So Maxi-cosi.

First a cabrio, and now a Tobi. They are good (BTW, they fit), just like any proper child car seat should be, we suppose. Now we realize they are actually GREAT, while we are search on a child seat to fit in air plane. However does any Maxi-cosi fit in air plane?

We wanted to travel to China to see my parents in September with our 10-month-to-be son. It's no way to let my even-more-precious-than-myself son to be my extra air bag, he has to sit in a proper fit child car seat!

We are despite. We don't know how a three-point installation car seat can fit on air plane seat. It seems that there is no European standard for car sit fitting in air plane. And KLM requires less than 42 cm/16.5 inch, which almost kills all the American seats.

BTW, my son was 78cm&10.3kg@6month -- Cabrio is definite out for his trip to China, as he came back at 11 month old and he does almost not fit in Cabrio already.

So we'd love to hear from anyone who has tried Maxi-cosi on air plane.

We are also willing to travel to the nearby countries (UK, Germany, Ķ) to buy a guaranteed fit one for KLM. So we'd be happy to know any other model fits in KLM.

Help!

i would like to share my experience i had with maxi cosi tobi. overall the car seat is great.. easy to strap her in and out.

1 downside is the 'wired belts' coz even after u tighten the belts, it actually slide back and became loose. i think the wires that held the belts open is abit too stiff and strong that it just spring back to the 'loose' position.

anyone has any similar experience with this problem or can it be solved?

Well Tobi fits nicely in our Mitsubishi Pajero...

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