Now that we’ve been using this car seat for a year and a half and I have completed my Child Passenger Safety Technician training, I have added some updates in red!
When Cub was a baby, I knew diddly squat about car seats. Unlike many other pieces of infant gear, I didn’t research car seats at all. Why? Because we didn’t own a car.
We brought Cub home in a borrowed bucket seat, which I now know (and cringe to think) was not even properly installed. Times have changed!
I can now make a list of things I hate about the different car seats I’ve tried. I certainly haven’t tried as many car seats as I’ve tried cloth diapers, but I’ve used a couple different ones in our travels.
This led me to create a mental list of exactly what I DID want in a convertible car seat for Little Miss Cub:
- Light enough for me to easily lift in and out of a vehicle, since I’m the main car-seat installer in our house, and I’m a weakling;
- A no re-thread harness that doesn’t get twisted;
- An easy-to-tighten tether strap for forward facing;
- An easy-to-tighten harness with an easy-to-access strap even when rear-facing;
- Decent rear-facing height and weight limit (I say decent because Little Miss is significantly smaller than her big brother, and seems to be on a very-average-to-below-average growth curve.);
- Usable as a booster once we get to that stage;
- Easy to clean;
- Idiot-proof installation.
Pleased to meet you, Evenflo Symphony DLX!
RF: 5-40 lbs / 19-37 inches || FF: 22-65 lbs / 28-50 inches || Booster: 40-110 lbs / 43.3-57 inches / AND the tops of their ears are below the top of the child restraint headrest (and at least 4 years old)
Note that although the stated height maximum for forward-facing is 50″, the top harness height is fairly low, about 15″. Many children will outgrow the harness on this seat before they are tall enough for the booster, so a different seat must be purchased. Ideally it will work for you to hand the Symphony down to a younger sibling at this point.
Evenflo recently retroactively increased the height maximum for the Symphony in rear-facing mode to 40 inches. This information can be found in their FAQs.
My Symphony manual states that you can only use the headrest in its first and second positions when rear-facing. This has recently been updated by Evenflo. To accommodate a child closer to 40″, you may use the third headrest position.
When our Evenflo Symphony arrived, the very first thing I noticed was that I could lift the box. This boded well for my desire for a lighter-weight seat than what we use for Cub (a Radian R100). I easily slid it out, and Cub claimed the box as his own.
The seat is big. It’s cushy. It’s deluxe. I’ve had one reader describe it as her son’s Cadillac. She ain’t lyin’. I was skeptical, at first, that teensy Little Miss Cub would be able to sit properly in it, even though the seat is designed to fit a 5-lb newborn.
The seat has an adjustable head rest:
The seat has a no re-thread harness. You simply move the straps up or down as required: no need to unthread the straps and rethread them through tricky slots. Let’s say you’ve got the Evenflo installed but you’re giving a different child a ride. Assuming they meet the criteria for whichever direction you’ve installed the seat, it doesn’t matter if they are taller or shorter than your child! On the other seats we have tried, adjusting the harness height means removing the seat from the vehicle, unthreading the straps, re-attaching them to the yolk and then rethreading them.
It might seem like a minor detail, but I really appreciate the reminder for harness positioning and chest-clip positioning, since *ahem* other people in our family forget:
Alright, let’s talk install. No matter what safety features a car seat has, they’re all moot if you don’t install it properly. The Evenflo Symphony really makes install as quick and painless as possible. Having spent the better part of an hour trying to get some seats installed properly, this is a huge selling point for me.
Cub is too tall to use this seat rear facing. He’s 40 inches tall and 35 lbs (he’s 3.5 years old). Since I wanted to use the bucket seat just a wee bit longer with Little Miss Cub, I figured we’d first give the Symphony a whirl on big brother.
The first install I tried was forward facing using the seat belt. Other seats I’ve used require you to shove one hand through the hard plastic body of the seat, and reach your other hand through the opposite end to maneuver the seatbelt through the belt path. I’ve often cut my hands doing this. Not the Symphony! You just lift up the seat cover, exposing the belt path, and allowing you to easily thread the seat belt all the way through. This makes the install much less frustrating!
The tether strap for forward facing is extremely easy to tighten, which is another problem I’ve had with seats in the past.
But if they can, most parents would prefer to install a seat using their car’s built-in anchors.
The most impressive feature of the Evenflo Symphony is its SureLATCH® Connectors. Evenflo describes them like so: “Just Click, Click, Push for super-fast, super-snug installation in less than 60 seconds.”
The SureLATCH connectors essentially tighten themselves. Clip them onto each of your lower anchors, then push on your seat. With your usual LATCH connectors, you apply weight to the car seat while pulling on a strap to tighten the LATCH. With SureLATCH, as you apply pressure, the strap is retracting itself, and you can hear it!
You can use the LATCH connectors to secure the Symphony up until a child-weight of 45 lbs.
The one drawback of the seat is that it is super high profile. Cub can climb into and out of his Radian R100 easily, but he needs a boost to get into the Symphony. That said, the Symphony makes him nice and tall, and he was immediately a fan of his better view out the window. (Not to mention the cup holders.)
I love the way the head rest cradles his floppy neck when he falls asleep. While I know kids can pretty much sleep in any position, it’s got to be a nicer snooze when your head isn’t bopping from side to side!
The seatbelt install in our 2010 Hyundai Elantra Touring is also very easy to do!
Although he was unimpressed about sitting in his sister’s seat, I recently made Cub test out the Symphony again in forward-facing mode with Cub, who is now 45″ tall (114 cm) and 43.8 lbs (20 kg). Note that he would not have fit much longer in the Symphony because it has a relatively low top harness height of about 15-16″. Many children outgrow the harness before they are ready to be boostered.
Anyone who’s got experience with car seats will tell you that the rear-facing install is more challenging than the forward-facing install. Once again, those SureLATCH connectors make it as easy as pie. (Except I have never made pie in my life, because it’s too hard. So, let’s call it “easy as boiling water.”)
You can get plenty of slack on the connectors to reach your anchors, then, just like forward facing, you push down on the seat and the belt tightens itself.The Evenflo manual says to use a tightly rolled towel, if necessary, under the car seat base to get the perfect angle. Parked on a flat surface, the indicator arrow was not perfectly parallel to the ground, so I did end up adding that towel. Because it’s so easy to use the SureLATCH connectors, adjusting the angle a bit with a towel isn’t a hassle as it is with other seats I’ve tried.
The Symphony has a fixed recline, and this means that you may need a tightly rolled towel underneath the base to achieve the proper recline for rear-facing. The towel should be taped so that it doesn’t come unrolled. There is a line on the side of the seat that must be parallel with the ground when the vehicle is on a flat surface. It can be hard to see the line, so I suggest using a piece of coloured tape to make it more visible.
Here’s how the seat looks in our 2010 Hyundai Elantra Touring. There’s enough room for my long legs in the passenger seat even with the Symphony installed behind.
Now when I install the Symphony, I get up and behind the seat and use my body weight to press down, as well as my hands pressing into the seat, listening for the SureLATCH connectors to ratchet tighter. I also pull up a little bit at the front of the seat to keep the seat at the right angle. Installing this way, I am able to achieve the right angle without a towel.
The strap to tighten the 5-point harness is perfectly accessible when the seat is rear-facing. The harness tightens from the hips rather than the shoulders.
Here is Little Miss in the Symphony at about 23 lbs and is 31″ tall. At the time, I still had both of the included body pillows in place, but noticed her head was being pushed forward by the head pillow and the bum pillow was interfering with the crotch buckle. She fits in much better now at 24 lbs and 32″ without the body pillows.
I had no idea what I was missing in a car seat until I tried the Evenflo Symphony DLX. This seat has everything.
- Easy install, whether you’re using the SureLATCH or the seat belt (remember to never use both);
- Surprisingly lightweight, making it less cumbersome when transferring vehicles;
- Removable and easily-washed cover;
- No re-thread harness;
- Usable from newborn all the way to booster;
- Competitively priced for a seat that has all the bells and whistles, keeps a child rear-facing til 40 lbs/37 inches and can keep a child harnessed up to 65 lbs;
- Little details that add up to awesome: reminders printed on the harness and chest clip for proper positioning; D-rings to store SureLATCH connectors when not in use; headrest that is easy to raise and lower, integrated cup holders on both sides.
A few drawbacks:
You need to reposition the SureLATCH connectors by lifting up the seat cover, depending on if you are using the seat forward or rear facing. This is done in 30 seconds, but it’s worth mentioning. Depending on your vehicle and your needs, keep in mind that this is a wide, high profile seat. You would not be able to get three Evenflo Symphony DLXs across the backseat of your car. That said, with the skinnier Radian on the other side, a slender adult can sit in the back of our Hyundai if necessary (and it’s rarely necessary). Because of the high sides, Cub cannot climb into the Evenflo easily on his own, however, he appreciates being so much higher up and having a better view. Because he is particularly tall for his age, Cub could not use this seat rear facing (he exceeds the height limit). He would’ve been able to rear face to about age 2.5.
Note that the Symphony has a low top harness slot compared to other seats on the market. It will not be a good choice for most tall children as it will not keep them harnessed until they are ready for a booster.
The Symphony can take up too much room rear-facing in some vehicles given its fixed recline, and depending on your seat geometry you may need a rolled up towel to achieve the correct angle. Like all Evenflo seats, the harness is fairly narrow, and can dig into some kids’ necks. Unfortunately, for this seat Evenflo does not make harness covers. There is only one position for the crotch buckle on the Symphony. This can cause smaller kids to slump in their seat when there is a gap between them and the crotch buckle. Evenflo addresses this in their FAQ:
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