Working with Parents

My experiences of advising parents on child safety

Group 1 seats!

on February 14, 2013



Weight: 9-18kg

Height: Top of ears level with top of seat

Direction of travel: Front or rear facing

Fitment: Seat belt or ISOfix

Other options: Impact shield


A group 1 car seat is designed to restrain a child in the event of an impact.  They normally have a 5-point harness and are designed to hold the child in the seat and spread the force through the shoulder straps, hip and crotch straps.  It is law for every child to be restrained in the car in a suitable child restraint and there are very few exceptions.



Emergency journey (not shops or school!)

In both cases the child must the wear the adult seat belt, if available.

Why are there such big price differences?

This is such a common question and a valid one too.  Why would you pay £200 for a seat when you can get one from a supermarket for £25?!  I can fully understand a parent taking this view, especially in the current climate when we are all watching every penny.



There are a number of factors that will dictate the price of a child seat:

1)    How much research and technology that has gone into the seat – Major manufactures spend hundreds of thousands of pounds developing technology to keep your little one safe, and are constantly crash testing and evolving their designs to make them the safest they can be – this is often reflected in the price.

2)    The name.  Yes you do pay for the name!  A Maxi Cosi seat is going to cost a lot more than a Nania supermarket seat or a newer brand seat.

3)    The deal the retailer has got:  the cost of the seats to the retailer will differ on how many they have purchased, if they’re the end of line or latest models and then how much profit the retailer adds on.

4)    It also depends on how much the seat cost for the retailer to buy – following on from the previous point.  The £25 seats are very, very cheap to manufacture and are made from the most basic materials that can be used, because of this they have a low base price; however a Britax will be made of much higher quality materials, fabrics and safety components – which all add to the base cost of the seat.

So are all seats not equally safe?

In a word – No.

How safe a seat is depends on if it is suitable for your child’s height and weight, fitted and used correctly and is suitable for your car.  It is also worth considering what sort of driving you’ll be doing. Once you have established what fits your car and what is suitable for your child, you can then look at the different seats available.  Some may have only passed the basic crash test, others may have been NCAP tested, or you could get an extended rear facing – all offer different and varying levels of safety.

Crash Tests

ECE Label


This is the basic standard that every single child seat on the market must pass in order to be sold in Europe and the UK.  The previous standards of R44.01 and R44.02 are illegal to be used and sold (including second hand sales) and R44.03 may still be used but not sold.  It is also worth noting here that seats from America are illegal to use in the UK.

1 frontal impact at 32mph

1 rear impact at 18mph

NO side impact test

Also tests: buckles, ease of use, ease of understanding instruction, ability to release a child from a seat in 1 movement (why chest clips are illegal in the UK)


Stiftung Warentest (Germany)

The Stiftung Warentest is the consumer council in Germany; it is the equivalent of the UK’s Which?  They carry out independent testing on child seats and award seats a rating based on how good they are.  Stiftung Warentest does its own tests in collaboration with ADAC.

The ratings are:

1.0  – 1.5 = Sehr Gut (Very Good)

1.6 – 2.5 = Gut (Good)

2.6 – 3.5 = befreidigend (Satisfactory)

3.6 – 4.5 = ausreichend (Bare minimum)

4.6 – 5.5 = mangelhaft (Poor)

These ratings are formed on the following tests:

Part 1:

Frontal impact: 64 km/h (about 40mph)

SIDE IMPACT: 30km/h (about 18mph)

Part 2:

The next part of the test looks at usability and ergonomics of the seat.  It tests how easy the seat is to fit, the ease of understanding the instruction manual, how easy the seat is to adjust, space for the child, seating positions and quality of materials.  It also tests for harmful substances although this category will not fail a seat, but it will down grade the score and cause a warning comment to be applied to the award.

The Stiftung Warentest is a great award to look out for when buying a child’s car seat.  It gives you the peace of mind that it has had additional crash testing but will also be comfortable and easy to use.



The ADAC testing is very similar to the Stiftung Warentest and the awards work on the same system, of Sehr Gut to Mangelhaft (very good to poor) it is worth noting that the awards on the same seat can be awarded differently from each organisation as they are looked at by different people.

ADAC is Europe’s largest auto club and their publication ADAC Motorwelt gives results of crash tests on cars, restraint systems, special crash testing and much more.

ADAC awards 50% for crash test result and 50% for user friendliness, comfort and instructions.



Which? is the UK’s leading independent consumer organisation.  They award child seats a best buy, but they also have don’t buys – helping parents make an informed decision.

The awards are based on a star rating:

5* = Excellent

4* = Good

3* = Satisfactory

2* = Poor

1* = Very Poor

The stars are awarded based on the outcomes of various tests.  60% of the award is based on the crash test result, and 40% is based on ease of use – installation, risk of mis-use, comfort, cleaning and workmanship.

The frontal impact is around 40mph and there is also a side impact test performed.



The VTI and NTF introduced the Plus Test in Sweden in 2009. This test provides a stamp of quality for seats that are so good that they are recommended in Sweden. The Plus Test has such strict requirements that forward facing child car seats would not be able to comply with them. The thinking behind the test is that no children sitting in a child car seat which is Plus Test approved would sustain any serious/life-threatening injuries in a collision.*

So, when you are looking to buy your child the next stage seat – keep an eye out for these awards, as they will indicate what other testing the seat has had.


The features of a seat are also really important to take into account, as they range from safety features through to making life a lot easier features!  Here are a few of them and an explanation of what they mean to you:

Side Impact Protection (SIP)

This means a seat is claiming to be able to protect your child in a side impact collision.  Be very careful here – there is legally no crash test for side impacts.  Make sure the seat you are looking to get has been awarded one of the above crash tests awards to prove it has actually been tested.  Once you have established that fact however, it is an essential feature in working to keeping little one protected in an impact.  Side impacts account for 25% of crashes on Britain’s roads* and 20% of child car crash fatalities*

Click and Go/harness indicator

This is a device on the seat which will tell you when the harness is tight enough on your child; either a marker will turn green or something will click.  They are good for giving a parent peace of mind, but should be used with common sense and the finger rule – you should be able to get 1 finger between your child’s harness and chest.

Seat belt tension system

This is something on the seat which will allow you to fit the seat belt even tighter.  It is normally some sort of lever, compress or ratchet system that is applied after installation.  It gives a firmer fit and therefore less movement of a seat in an impact.

ISOfix – Top Tethers and Impact legs

Some ISOfix seats require you to use a top tether strap, or come with an impact leg.  You must check with the child seat manufacturer as to whether you need a top tether.  If a child seat has an impact leg, it must be extended right to the floor, and you can have a 1 finger gap underneath if the alternative is the child seat being lifted off the vehicle seat.  You must never use an impact leg on a floor storage box, because of the box the floor is weakened and will not be able to support the seat in an impact.

Height adjustable headrest and harness

Some seats will advertise this as a feature and it is incredibly useful.  It is a quick and easy way of adjusting the harness to the correct height on your child – particularly useful if a seat is used for different children.  You simply lift the head rest up and the harness will move with it.  It takes away the risk of the harness getting twisted when the straps are being unhooked to be moved up.


This is a very important feature for many parents and definitely one to look out for.  This stage child seat normally offers some sort of recline or sleep option that can often be adjusted without interfering with the installation or use of the seat.  Many seats offer multiple reclines to get the perfect position for your child.

Swivel function

There are not many seats on the market that offer this – only the Maxi Cosi Axiss (seat belt) and the Cybex Sirona (ISOfix, group 0+1) to my knowledge.  If you suffer with back problems or struggle to lift your child this may be a very good option for you.  The seat swivels toward you so you can fasten the child in the seat and you simply spin it round for it to lock into place.  Another good option for parents with bad backs is extended rear facing seats.  This is because you have a much bigger gap to get the child in and out of, reducing the lift and twist motion you find with front facing seats when you’re trying to squeeze in between the door and seat.

Things to consider

– Is your LO really ready to be front facing?  This is one mile stone that parents should be dreading, but many seem very keen for baby to be a ‘big boy’ or to have a ‘big girls seat’.  It’s very dangerous for babies to front face too early and they should remain in their rear facing seat as long as possible (see Group 0+ blog for further info)

– What cars will the seat be fitted into? Will the chosen seat fit every car well?

– Who will be fitting the seat?  Make sure everyone is fully aware of how to correctly fit the seat, particularly grandparents who won’t be doing it very often.

– Cost: An expensive seat doesn’t generally mean the best, but try and spend as much as you can to get the best.  If a seat is recommended and a bit more than you have liked to have paid consider what that seat will be offering you.  Is the extra £40 worth the extra features that will keep LO safer and make your life easier for the next 3 years?

– Is the seat going to be moved regularly? If it is consider seats that have very easy seat belt routings, ISOfix or buying 2 seats.

– Above all, make absolutely sure that your chosen seat is suitable for your child’s weight and height, that it fits all cars it will be used in and that it is fitted and used correctly – 100% of the time.

A few tips when using the seat

No winter coats – see previous posts

Harness properly tightened – every time

Correct harness height

– Front facing: Level with or just above shoulders

– Rear facing: Level with or just below shoulders.


Just because front facing children is the ‘norm’ in the UK it doesn’t mean it is the only, and safest option.  You don’t actually have to front face your child at all and extended rear facing seats are available.

So what’s the difference?….

Extended rear facing child seats are up to 5x safer in a frontal or frontal offset impact* as the child is pushed back into the seat – which massively reduces the force of the crash on the child, as the seat back absorbs it (rather than thrown forward into the harness with massive strain to the neck and shoulders)

Why are they more expensive?

As with cheap vs expensive front facing restraints – these seats have had lots and lots of research and technology put into them, and have more components which bumps the price up.  Add to the mix that these seats are not made in as large quantities as a front facing restraint results in a higher price tag.  However, seat belt fitted group 1 rear facing child restraints actually generally cover group 2 as well as they are certified to 25kg, rather than 18kg – so they will last your child 2/3 years longer.   Prices start from around £220, depending on the seat.

So, are they safer?

In a nutshell: Yes.

These seats are up to 5x safer than a front facing restraint and provide a 95% chance of surviving a crash without sustaining serious injury.


They have all the features of a group 1 front facing seat but it is also worth bearing in mind that some offer the option of front facing later on.

I will be writing a blog all about extended rear facing seats at the end of the month so stay tuned and in the mean time take a look at

*(borrowed from the BeSafe website:

* Reference: Loughborough University, 21st International Tech Conference on the Enhanced Safety of Vehicles, 2009 Stuttgart

*Reference: 2005 BRITAX Study



So that is your Group 1 seats lowdown!  Keep checking back for the Group 1,2 extended rear facing blog due at the end of the month!


4 responses to “Group 1 seats!

  1. inniee says:

    Brilliant thanks! 🙂

  2. inniee says:

    Reblogged this on A Rear Facing Family and commented:
    “IS there a difference in testing and quality?”
    A reblogg of a friend of mine’s exelent information post on Group 1 seats and the difference between ALL the testing that we do here in Europe. She also brilliantly explains why, in car seats as with a lot of other products, you really do get what you pay for, and cheap is not necessarily good. 🙂

  3. […] It’s always saddening to hear of a child being injured in a car accident, and this Mother like so many others simply assumed a car seat was compatible with the car, fitted correctly and just as good as a more expensive alternative.  To read more on what the basic R44.04 crash test is and other crash testing a seat can have, read my blog on group 1 seats here! […]

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