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May 31, 2006

My Name. Is. Tobi. Maxi-Cosi's Inexplicably New Car Seat Model

maxi_cosi_tobi.jpgI guess living in a country that produces automobiles makes me expect models to evolve slightly year after year, with new features added and improvements made, problems fixed, that sort of thing, and then every few years, there's a big redesign.

And I guess that the same mentality is not prevalent in the Netherlands. Instead, when they have some improvements, the baby gear companies there like to introduce entirely new models. Bugaboo did it with the Cameleon, which is an evolutionary step from--but not substantially different than--the original Frog.

And now Maxi-Cosi has done the same thing with their car seats. The Tobi debuted a few months ago, and while it has a host of nice features, it appears to be just a better Priori. And not even wildly better, just a Priori with some of the rough edges polished off.

The Tobi's most prominent differences from the Priori are: 1) stiffened, padded straps which don't require digging around for the buckles, admittedly, a handy everyday feature, and 2) an integrated, adjustable shoulder strap and headrest which can be raised together. This is a significant improvement from the current slide-and-tug-into slots mode of the Priori, and it also cleans up the fabric on the headrest (just one set of strap holes). But that is a feature you'll only care about once every six months when you change it.

[That said, due to repeated machine washings following our Priori pukefests, our seat cover is falling apart exactly along the shoulder strap holes. The seams are fused, not sewn, together, and I'm sure they were not tested to withstand Brutal American Washing Machines. FWIW, the manual says to handwash with mild detergent, and the 12 month fabric warranty is expired anyway, so we're SOL.]

Other than that, though, the Tobi has all the features of the Priori, good [goodlooking, side protection system, reclining lever reachable from the front, which is huge] and bad [weighs a ton, base has near-unreachable crevasses which can fill with puke, is occasionally sold by clueless idiots on ebay.de].

Which is pretty spectacular, because the Tobi is anywhere from EUR60-120 more than the comparable Priori XP. A Tobi in Black Reflection fabric is EUR259 at babycare.nl, while a Priori XP is EUR199 (actually, it's marked down to EUR169 now). I'm looking forward to hearing from anyone who's shopped for Maxi-Cosis recently, especially if you opted for the $120 seat belts.

Maxi-Cosi corporate site [maxi-cosi.nl, note the difference between English website and UK models]
Babycare in the NL ships to the US [babycare.nl]
And while they don't yet show the Tobi, dt reader David had a great experience buying their Cabrio from Baby Huys [babyhuys.com]
Previously: Why I love and hate the Maxi Cosi Priori

posted May 31, 2006 1:34 PM | add to del.icio.us | digg this


Since you live in the US why don't you buy a US seat, or at least one that is legal and crash tested in the US? There are better seats on the market than Maxi Cosi. I do have one but I bought it back when it was sold in the US so it has the US required chest clip. If your daughter is under 2 then she sould probably still be rear facing and since the MCP is not used rf she is not in the best seat possible.

posted by: Rachel at May 31, 2006 6:24 PM

fair questions, and ones every parent should ask. I found the EU safety requirements to be comparable or superior enough to the US standards for my own confidence.

It's worth noting that neither regime requires testing of rear-facing seats popping up into the backseat in an impact. But the M-C Cabrio's handle is designed to prevent just such an occurrence. The only other carseat I know that takes this scenario into account is the Orbit Baby System; that thing is a tank.

But obviously, if someone has qualms about the security and safety of a car seat's testing, though, they shouldn't buy it.

As for the rear facing thing, the AAP recommends a rear-facing seat until the kid turns 1 AND weighs >20 lbs. The M-C Cabrio we had lasted until she was 15 mos, and over 20 lbs, so we're square with them, too.

posted by: greg from daddytypes at May 31, 2006 6:45 PM

Actually they are now reccomending rear facing to the limits of the seat. Britax seats all have a rear facing tether which prevents it from cacooning. Britax is the only seat I would use rear facing because of that. This page http://www.cpsafety.com/articles/StayRearFacing.aspx has great crash test footage of a rear facing seat compared to a forward facing seat. Britax has a few seats that can fit a 3 year old rear facing.

I have a MCP and Britax, the Britax is much more comfortable for my son, more padding. Your site is great and has tons of good info but telling people to go and buy an illegal seat is not a great idea. Since Britax can be bought in the US and they are better quality and can be used rear facing you should try them.

You do have good tase in strollers though!

posted by: Rachel at May 31, 2006 8:40 PM

I'm sure you know this, but the Graco Toddler SafeSeat (Stage 2) has a recline handle reachable from the front

[I'm sure I didn't, actually. Thanks for the correction. -ed.]

posted by: NB at June 2, 2006 7:11 PM

Greg before writting such a critical review, I hope you've at least seen the seat in person. I have & since ordered one from Babytrader. Where I've made multiple sastisfied purchases from. Unfourtunatly the GriphiteGrey(you pictured) won't be in prodution again untill week 33-34(mid. Aug.). So we've gone with the DeepRed. I'll let you'll know what I realy think about it after we've received it & put it through its paces...

posted by: Sam at June 4, 2006 12:57 AM

I didn't think it's that critical, actually, except from a business standpoint. Based on the company's own descriptions and features/specs, I can't see where the actual EUR100 difference between the two models comes from, so please show me what I'm missing, and I'll happily revise the post. Nothing beats firsthand user/shopper experience for stuff like this, I think.

I'd love to be able to actually review and test all the things I write about, but it's not like I've got a Consumer Reports-sized staff or anything, I don't take freebies, and it's not like giants like Dorel give a damn about some blogger in a country they don't even sell in anyway. So when it's products I don't actually own, I just try to read as closely and extensively as possible to assess what's different/new vis a vis what I DO know (i.e., the Priori).

As for firsthand experience buying our Priori from a total tool, I hope everyone can learn from that and find a better retailer to work with. Babytrader's gotten good marks from several people around here, so I'm not surprised to hear you've had good experience with them, too.

posted by: greg from daddytypes at June 4, 2006 1:14 AM

my son is starting to outgrow his Maxi-Cosi Cabrio. He's only 4.5 months old but he's a big one...18 pounds. His feet are already right up against the edge and slightly sticking out. My guess is that this car seat will last him another 3 months or so.

But that's ok...I'll probably pick up a MCP ISOFIX on my next trip to the UK (which happens to be next week). The hard part is convincing the wife that a car seat is worth 219 british pounds (like $400!).


[nice work. my mom recently told me I weighed 20 lbs at 4mos, but that was because she fed me everytime I cried. As for the car seats, the weight limit is one to consider, of course, but the height limit is really about the kid's head, not his feet. as long as his head's not sticking above the seat, it's still fine. There's a post about that somewhere, carseats for tall kids/big kids that has the regs on it...-ed.]

posted by: Dan at June 6, 2006 12:31 PM

I am a bit behind on DT (I read via RSS) but hope this message is useful for those considering the TOBI and are buying online.

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).

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... ;)

posted by: jen at June 22, 2006 4:28 AM

I bought the Maxi Cosi Tobi via Ebay. I received another bill for the VAT of approx $17 after I bought it too. Total cost was about $350. It was worth every penny. It is so easy to use and looks great. The best part is that the straps never ever have gotten twisted because they spring back. It takes me 10 seconds to put my baby into the seat. That alone was worth the price. Why car seats in America don't have any of these features I don't know. The looks of this super cool car seat beat any carseat hear. I have not had any problems installing it or using it. My baby loves it. I got the version in Papillon fabric. I loved it so much, I decided I would go with the less expensive Priori model that is available in the US for our other vehicle. Though the fabric is nice, the features just aren't as nice as the Tobi. The buckling and the straps seem a little cheaper and takes a little longer to buckle. I just wish they would sell the Tobi here because I would have bought another Tobi. Anyways, for anyone wishing to buy a Tobi, the only place I found was through Ebay. I emailed Babycare.nl and they were honest and said that their shipper wasn't too reliable.

posted by: npng at November 3, 2007 4:15 PM
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