Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Maxi Cosi Opal

Since J was still quite young (10 months) when he became too long to travel safely in the Maxi Cosi CabrioFix carseat, I was keen to find an alternative that would keep him rear facing for as long as possible, since that is the safest way for younger passengers to travel in a car.

Additionally, he was still under 9kg which is the minimum weight for a Group 1 carseat which made it even more difficult to find a suitable option.

Fortunately, it was around this time that Maxi Cosi launched their Opal carseat. This seat is a Group 0+ and Group 1 combination carseat, which means it’s suitable from birth up to 18kg. Up to 13kg the child can travel rear facing, and up to 18kg forward facing. As it is a combination seat, it offers the same seat size as a normal Group 1 carseat with the added bonus of being suitable from new-born, which meant I didn’t have to worry about J not being 9kg yet.

Maxi Cosi Opal Intense Red

Again we had a physical fitting prior to using the Opal – it is another unit fitted with the 3 point seatbelt in the vehicle. Even in my small 1999 VW Polo it fitted well, and comfortably even in the rear facing position. Many people are put off ERF seats because they think they’ll take up a lot of room – well I can confirm the Opal fitted very well, though it did minimise space for the front passenger as I had to have that seat quite far forward in order to accommodate the Opal rear facing. This meant that when Daddy P travelled with us he wasn't especially comfortable (he's 6ft+) but as we don't tend to do regular long drives with all of us in the car it wasn't a huge issue for us.

The silver hooks on either side of the seat hole the harness out of the way when you're getting the child in & out. The rubber backing on the harness pads ensures they grip the clothes, making escaping the harness much more difficult. Always ensure the harness is correctly tensioned to the child - you should not be able to get more then 2 fingers between the breast bone and the harness. The child should not be wearing thick padded coats or snowsuits which may lead to the harness not being correctly tensioned. 

The only annoying thing I found was the horizontal seatbelt section was right across the gap you had to put the child in / lift them out of the carseat which made it awkward. J was 10 months when he started using it so it wasn't so bad but with a newborn I would think this could be quite difficult. 

The Maxi Cosi Opal fitted rear facing in a 1999 VW Polo. There is a space between the back of the carseat and the front passenger seat as there should always be when fitting a rear facing carseat. The seatbelt in this vehicle was at full length to accomodate the Opal rear facing. There is no standard length for seatbelts in vehicles, so before purchasing one you should always get a physical fitting from trained staff to ensure the seat can be safely and correctly fitted. Sometimes the tilt of the vehicle seat may also make a carseat unsuitable as the carseat cannot be fitted at the correct angle, so it's important to check before you buy.

A comment that a lot of people make is that their child prefers to be forward facing, but I contest this, as J was rear facing and perfectly happy in his Opal up until he was 19 months old. This is beyond the new recommendation to keep babies rear facing til 15 months old. At 19 months old J hadn’t yet met the 13kg maximum weight limit for rear facing in the Opal, but he had reached the maximum height for rear facing travel in the Opal. There’s an indicator on the side of the seat to show you. Once you adjust the headrest to a certain height, it will show you that the seat can no longer be used rear facing – it’s due to the head crowning over the top of the main part of the carseat shell. He weighed 12.5kg by this point so he wasn’t far off the 13kg mark, and like a normal Group 1 carseat this seat can be turned forward facing from 9kg (though the recommendation from Maxi Cosi is to keep baby rear facing as long as possible)

J rear facing in the Maxi Cosi Opal at 18 months old

I love how easy the Opal is to adjust the harness height – there is no messing about. You grab the headrest and bring it forward, then pull the headrest up or push it down to adjust it. By doing this, it also adjusts the harness height. You should always go by the harness height for correct headrest adjustment – when using rear facing the harness should be level with the child’s shoulders, or a maximum of half an inch above or below the height of the shoulders. When using the seat forward facing, the harness should be level with the child’s shoulders, or a maximum of half an inch above. When forward facing, the harness should never be lower than the shoulders as in an impact this could cause compression injuries.

As well as this very easy harness adjustment, the Opal fabrics are even easier than the CabrioFix ones for removing to wash. Again, Maxi Cosi recommend a maximum 30 degree handwash only for optimum care, but again I have washed on handwash setting in the machine at 40 degrees and never had any issues. One thing I notice with the Opal is that after a few months of use the fabric becomes quite flattened, but a wash fluffs it back up again as good as new and again it’s nice and padded and comfy. The downside is that the harness pads can’t be removed for washing, but I found a damp cloth or a baby wipe cleaned them up no problem.  I’ve always managed to adjust the Opal harness to the right height required without any issues and because it can be done so easily & quickly it means you’re confident before every journey that it is correctly adjusted.

A huge bonus for me with this seat is that it is width adjustable. J looks quite lost in a normal Group 1 seat as they’re so broad compared to him, but in the Opal I can have the width set to fit him well and it doesn’t look really wide!

The downside to a combination Group 0+ and Group 1 carseat is that it is like a normal Group 1 carseat in size and weight, which does mean you’re unable to remove it from the car like the CabrioFix and fit it into a pushchair chassis, so it does mean you have to get baby out of the carseat and into the pushchair every time you arrive at your destination. I only ever used to use the CabrioFix on the pushchair chassis occasionally when we went to the shops by car, so it didn’t make too much difference to me not being able to do that.

J is now 100cm tall so the harness is on the highest setting but it is exactly right for him – he is forward facing as he is now 15.5kg but I am proud to have kept him rearfacing til 19 months old as this is far longer than many people manage.

A few months ago I got a new car which meant re-checking the fit of the carseat to ensure it was suitable for use. The new car is a Toyota Yaris Verso, and I find fitting the Opal in this vehicle so much easier as it’s taller than the Polo, with flatter seats in the back and plenty of space and it takes about a minute to successfully fit the Opal into this vehicle and there’s no messing about – the only thing I didn’t like about fitting the Opal into the Polo was the amount of fussing about you had to do because the seatbelt was only just long enough and there was such limited space in the car. Now it’s in and out within a minute and I’ve no issues doing it.

I really like this carseat and it looks so comfy and J can see out of the window brilliantly because of the height of it, it offers recline positions when forward facing so even if he falls asleep in it I can make him comfortable without any issues (there’s a button on the underside of the front edge of the seat to press in and lift the front of the carseat up in order to recline) The guideline is that a Group 1 carseat is suitable until approximately 3.5yrs old (maximum weight 18kg) while J will be well below 18kg when he hits 3.5yrs old he remains a very tall child for his age (on the 95th percentile) and as I mentioned before he is already using the highest possible harness setting so there’s no more scope to adjust it but he continues to be comfortable and safe and I’m in no hurry to change him to a high backed booster seat so I will be continuing to use the Opal for him for as long as possible.

J forward facing in the Opal - 100cm tall, 15.5kg, 3yrs 1month old 


  1. Great review and nice to see that he still fits in it despite top end of the percentiles.

  2. Thanks House of Three Monkeys! :) When he reached 3yrs and was using the top setting for the harness height adjustment I really doubted he would last in it til the estimated 3.5 yrs old, never mind the 18kg maximum weight limit but now at 3.5yrs he is still using the same height setting and is comfortable and secure. Since he's only 15.5kg I am going to keep using the Opal for as long as possible so he's wearing a 5 point harness. Though I am seriously considering a Mobi as I think it would fit our new car but as the maximum harness height is the same I don't know that he would be in it for long enough to justify buying another carseat now! :-/

  3. Super review thank you. I've been given an opal from a close friend (second hand but I know its history so I'm not worried about that) however I took the cover off to wash and now I can't remember how to reattach the harness through the back of the seat. I know it goes onto the metal clip to attach to the front for adjusting but do the straps go over/under the bars at the back of the seat? Any chance you can post a photo to help me out? Thank you.