I’ve only done one other car seat review, and it was also for an Evenflo (the Symphony DLX). This is my first car seat review since becoming certified as a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) by the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada (CPSAC). It was really fun to tackle this review and test the seat through my newly opened CPST eyes.
First of all, let’s talk price. Back in the day, I used to assume that a higher-priced seat meant a safer seat. The Evenflo Sonus is CAN$119.99, even less on sale. There are many car seats on the market with retail prices well north of $300. All car seats sold in Canada undergo the exact same testing as prescribed by Transport Canada. More expensive seats have more ease-of-use features, plusher covers and are constructed with more expensive materials. However, they are not safer. A properly installed and correctly used $119 seat is, in fact, safer than an incorrectly installed $400 seat.
The Evenflo Sonus, while lacking the fancy bells and whistles, is an easy install, both rear- and forward-facing. Its price point means many parents with pricier seats may like it as a second seat for the grandparents’ car or for travel, but it’s also a seat I am comfortable recommending as an everyday seat in your main vehicle. In fact, dare I admit that I actually like the Sonus better than our $300+ Radian R100? Cub has been riding in the Sonus every day, aside from the two days I let Little Miss Cub try it rear-facing, much to Cub’s very vocal chagrin.
Evenflo Sonus Specs
The Sonus is categorized as a convertible car seat. It can be used rear-facing and forward-facing. No assembly is required, and it is easy to switch between modes.
- 5 to 40 lbs (2.3 to 18 kg)
- 19″ to 40″ (48 to 102 cm)
- Top of head is at least one inch (25 mm) below top of car seat shell
- 22 to 50 lbs (10 to 22.7 kg)
- 28″ to 50″ (71 to 127 cm)
- Tops of the child’s ears are at or below the child restraint seat back.
- At least two years of age
There are four harness slots available for rear-facing, with the highest at approximately 12.75 inches (32 cm). The seat is outgrown when the child hits the height or weight maximums or has less than one inch of space between the top of their head and the top of the seat.
It can, in theory, be used right from birth with a minimum weight of 5 lbs (2.3 kg) and the lowest harness slot at 5.5 inches (14 cm). The lowest slot was much higher on the hand-me-down Baby Trend bucket seat I brought Cub home from the hospital in, and I cringe looking back at the straps so high above his shoulders! I have not yet seen a newborn in the Sonus, but it is certainly not an impossible option. The crotch buckle must be routed differently for babies under 10 lbs (4.5 kg), as explained on page 40 of the manual. The harness straps can also be shortened for smaller babies (see page 37).
Little Miss Cub fits nicely in the Sonus on the highest harness height available for rear-facing. She currently weighs 24.4 lbs (11 kg) and is 32″ tall (81 cm). She normally rides in an Evenflo Symphony DLX, which has her a lot higher up in the vehicle than the Sonus, but she didn’t seem to mind riding lower.
One of the primary concerns when choosing a rear-facing seat is whether or not it interferes with the safety and comfort of the passenger in front of it. I have Little Miss Cub’s seat on the passenger side of our 2010 Hyundai Elantra Touring because it is safer for me to offload her onto the sidewalk when we park. I am about 5’8″ (173 cm) and with the Sonus installed behind my seat, I am able to sit with about two inches (five cm) of space between my knees and the dashboard. My seat has to be slightly more forward with the Sonus than it does with the Evenflo Symphony, which is normal since the Symphony has an adjustable headrest, so it’s not set at its tallest when used in rear-facing position. In this picture, the Evenflo SureRide is on the passenger’s side for comparison.
I installed the Sonus rear-facing using the UAS (Universal Anchorage System). One of the downsides of the Sonus, though normal for the low price point, is that it comes with non-premium lower anchor connectors. These can be more challenging to clip onto and remove from your vehicle’s lower anchors, especially if they are set deep into the seat bight (the crack where your seat backs meet the seat). Although not available as of right now, it will probably be possible to order quick connectors for the Sonus at some point.
To use the Sonus in rear-facing mode, you click out the rear-facing recline foot and make sure the lower anchor connector strap is routed in the rear-facing belt path. (And you carefully study your manual and your vehicle owner’s manual before getting started.) The Sonus has a fixed recline, meaning that you must install the seat parallel to the ground according to the arrow molded onto the seat base. The arrow is hard to see, so I like to put a piece of coloured tape alongside it so it’s easier to assess the recline angle. Depending on the shape and slope of your vehicle seats, you may need to place a tightly rolled and taped towel in the seat bight to support the seat at the right angle. I am able to get the right angle without using a rolled towel in our vehicle. I used to think that needing a rolled towel to get a proper install was an indicator of a poor-quality seat and that more expensive seats wouldn’t require such a trick. While having to use a rolled-up towel or a pool noodle to get the right angle with your rear-facing seat is annoying, it is not unique to lower-cost seats.
The Sonus comes with an optional head pillow. I didn’t find it made much of a difference for Little Miss Cub’s comfort, and she didn’t seem to have much “head slump” when sleeping since the seat is quite reclined.
I attempted to install the Sonus in rear-facing mode using our vehicle seat belt as well, just for funsies. Because the seat is so light (it weighs about 15 lbs/6.8 kg), the seat tends to tip when installed with the lap/shoulder belt because the shoulder portion of the belt puts a lot of upward pressure on the seat. Stefanie at The Monarch Mommy successfully used a locking clip to get a non-tipping install, but that’s just too finicky for me. Ideally, your vehicle has a spot with lower anchors where you can install the Sonus. You can use UAS to install the Sonus up to the maximum child weight of 40 lbs (18 kg) since it is such a lightweight seat.
Having struggled with installing our (much more expensive) Radian R100 forward-facing for Cub, it was quite delightful to so easily install the Sonus. For one thing, since the seat is so light, I can still use UAS to install it. (Typically, you can do a UAS install up to a combined child and car seat weight of 65 lbs (29.5 kg). Since the Sonus weighs 11.5 lbs (6.8 kg) and it can accommodate a maximum child weight of 50 lbs (22.7 kg), you can use UAS to install it 100% of the time.) With a knee pushing the seat downwards, pull up on the UAS strap to tighten (use the Inside/Outside Trick), attach your tether and you’re done. (Check that the seat doesn’t move more than one inch from side to side when tugging at the belt path with a firm handshake.) The seat belt install for forward-facing is equally easy.
I really love the low-profile of this seat, which allows Cub to easily get into the seat by himself. Cub is adamant that the cup holders are very awesome and otherwise seems to have no opinion on the seat. (No opinion is good, since it means he has no complaints.) Evenflo is known for having harness straps that can dig into the child’s neck because the straps are fairly close together. While the Sonus straps do touch his neck, Cub seems not to care. I usually just pull the fabric from his shirt collar up a bit to protect his neck, but I have also placed an order with Evenflo for harness covers.
At 45″ tall (114 cm) and 43.8 lbs (20 kg), Cub is already on the top harness slot on the Sonus, but he has room to grow. I am not sure in which of the three ways he will max out this seat first. Remember that this seat is outgrown when the child is over 50 lbs (22.7 kg), taller than 50″ (127 cm) or when the tops of their ears are above the back of the seat.
As mentioned earlier, I really like this seat forward-facing. It’s our regular seat right now, and I’m unsure if I’ll bother putting him back into our Radian. We have a road trip to Vancouver (about a 13-hour drive) this summer, and I think he’ll be plenty comfortable in the Sonus for the journey. Plus, if we need to switch into my parents’ vehicle upon arrival, this lightweight seat will be much easier to switch out than the Radian. I do not plan to put Cub into a booster seat until he is at least six years old, and I’m curious to see if he makes it to age six in the Sonus. (If he doesn’t he will go into the Evenflo Sureride, another awesome, very affordable convertible seat.)
General Observations about the Sonus
The chest clip is difficult to move: I love it.
It is very difficult to slide the chest clip up and down along the harness straps. I like this for a couple of reasons:
Continuous harness: You just need to understand how it works.
As with most lower-cost car seats, the Sonus has a continuous harness. This means that the harness is a single piece. You may find one shoulder strap is tight while the other is loose. Don’t panic! This is easy to fix.
Hip straps often sit over thighs: Totally safe.
Some parents are confused because the Sonus hip straps don’t come out of the back corners of the seats but from the sides. You’ll see what I mean here:
This means that the straps sit more over the thighs of some kids than over their hips. This is fine.
Shoulder straps can dig into necks: You can purchase harness covers.
As mentioned above, this doesn’t really bother my kids. However, it’s easy to order compatible harness covers from Evenflo if you need them.
The seat pad is easy to remove and clean: Hallelujah!
Thanks to Velcro on either side, near the cup holders, it is very easy to pull up the seat cover to access the belt path. It’s also easy to remove the cover entirely for washing. The cover can be machine-washed in cold water on delicate and air-dried. If you have a puker or a pooper or pee-er, this is perfect. In the worst case, you can even order a replacement cover from Evenflo. The seat cover is also very soft and comfortable: it has a memory-foam feel to it.
Considerations when choosing the Sonus:
- The weight maximum of 50 lbs (22.7 kg) is not always enough to get a child to the booster stage. If you have a larger-than-average child, consider the Sureride, which goes up to 65 lbs (29.5 kg) and 54″ (137 cm).
- This seat fits very differently in different vehicles, sometimes seeming very compact and sometimes seeming quite large when rear-facing. Try before you buy!
- To achieve the correct recline, you made need a tightly rolled towel. Always tape the towel so that it remains rolled once in place.
- The seat can be prone to tipping when installed rear-facing using a lap/shoulder seat belt. If you don’t have a position with available UAS in your vehicle and you need to use it rear-facing, this might not be the seat for you.
- The seat base must be fully supported by the vehicle bench in rear-facing mode. (This could be problematic if you have very short vehicle seats.)
- This seat has an age minimum of two years to be turned forward-facing. (Yay!)
Despite also owning a much more expensive seat, I am in no hurry to uninstall the Sonus forward-facing now that this review is done. I am very happy with it as my son’s everyday car seat. I will be bringing it to install on WestJet in August, and I think its easy install, low profile and light weight will make it the perfect travel car seat. For rear-facing, it can take up a lot of room front-to-back, but this seems very dependent on your vehicle seat geometry. Toys “R” Us should let you install their floor model so you can try it out.
This is one extremely affordable and extremely user-friendly seat that can take your average kid from birth all the way to booster-readiness.
- The Monarch Mommy’s Sonus Review
- Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs’ Sonus Review
- Sonus manual (Aug ’16 version)
- Evenflo’s Sonus description