- Rating: ★★★★☆
- Price: £375
- More info: Cybex website
CHILDREN are expensive but precious things. When babies reach 10kg or approximately one year of age, they grow out of their first car seat, known as a group 0. The price of that mass of black plastic and spider’s web of straps still makes parents smart when they think back to buying it.
Baby seats in group 0 all face towards the rear of the car, as countless studies have shown that it’s the safest position for very young children, whose heads are disproportionately heavy for their body size.
The next size of seat is group 1, for children weighing 9kg-18kg, or aged nine months to 4½ years old. Many are forward-facing, but this is not as safe as a rear-facing seat, and children will still be at an age where they need manhandling into their seat, putting a strain on the back of mum or dad.
The solution? Invest in a seat that can face the rear and then, later in the child’s life, be turned to face in the direction of travel. And if it can be swivelled to face the door, so parents don’t have to contort themselves through a door opening and around the outer edge of the seat to lift children out, all the better. But does such a versatile seat exist?
Yes, it does. The manufacturer claims the Cybex Sirona reduces the risk of injury in the most common, head-on type of collision by more than 80% compared with a forward-facing child seat.
It looks great, like a scaled-down version of the Ovalia egg chair that appeared in the Robin Williams TV sci-fi comedy Mork & Mindy. But that shape means this is a big, bulky seat, suited to cars with plenty of rear legroom. So it’s advisable to check that it fits comfortably, especially if any front-seat occupants are tall and set their seat far back.
It’s also heavy, weighing 15kg, so moving it from car to car – for instance when the grandparents step in for a weekend of childcare – is a job that not everyone will be comfortable with.
Fitting it is fiddly and not the work of a moment. You feel another pair of hands wouldn’t go amiss. However, once it has been locked securely in place, and the support leg adjusted to the correct length, the seat can be spun to face the door aperture. This proves a godsend, making it much easier to put children in the seat or to lift them out.
The five-point harness is well padded and the seat covering fabric is washable. There’s a tough fabric flap to stop dirty shoes scuffing the seat frame, and telescopic side arms that pull out to face the door are said to absorb energy in the event of a side impact. Neat touches include a zip-up cover beneath which hides the instruction manual.
Once junior reaches about two years old, she probably won’t have enough legroom to remain comfortable in the rear-facing position. In that case, the Sirona seat can be switched to be forward-facing. You’ll know when it’s time to do this, as a red marker line on the seat side shows when the headrest – which should be adjusted to the child’s height – is above the threshold for turning the seat around.
This involves a lot of messing around: hiding away the five-point harness inside the seat, removing a stabilising plate and putting in place a restraining cushion that can be adjusted, with belt buckles, to the child’s size.
The reason for this is that Cybex considers a cushion restraint system safer than a five-point harness, arguing that it absorbs the energy of an impact over its entire area, much like an airbag.
It’s unusual, and takes children a while to get accustomed to having a great big cushion restraining them, rather than belts, but once they are facing forward, there’s much more room for them to stretch their legs.
The Sirona is well made and has earned plenty of impressive scores in German crash-simulation tests. But it comes at a price — £375, to be precise. You can also pay an additional £50 to have a seat inlay, which makes it safe for newborn babies, giving it a potential working life of four years.
The Sirona is stocked by high-street chains such as John Lewis and Mothercare — check stockists here — so it’s possible, and recommended, to try it before you buy it.