One of the things that frustrates me the most with South African car seats, is that so many of our children outgrow their harnessed child car seats before they are able to safely use a booster seat with the car seatbelt alone. I had to face this with our secondary car seat that lives in my mom’s car recently. What am I talking about? Contrary to occasionally misleading salespeople and brand reps, other than 2 car seats in South Africa, all toddler seats – rear or forward facing – only allow use of the harness up to 18kgs and 105cm. (I believe there is 1 that goes to 18.5kgs) This is where my obsession with the BeSafe iZi Plus began, because those 2 car seats are the BeSafe iZi Plus and the Volvo Maxway. And when I first learnt this fact, along with the start of the information on extended rear facing, nobody had yet heard of the Volvo car seats in South Africa.
I can’t tell you how angry it makes me when well-meaning parents are told by untrained sales people that “this car seat goes all the way to 36kgs”! That is so misleading and can cause serious danger to children!! Worse yet, in my opinion, are car seat suppliers that list their car seats as “converting to a forward facing seat from 9-36kg”, and specifying that the seat has a 5-point harness. Besides my very public berating of any seat supporting forward facing from as little as 9kgs… Although some seats can be used up to 36kgs, not one of them can be used with a harness up to 36kgs. NOT ONE. Not even my beloved BeSafe iZi Plus or Volvo Maxway.
And the seats that are positioned as from birth to 12 years… Do not get me started on those seats! They need a whole article to themselves. I do NOT recommend them any more than I suggest buying your infant a pair of adult size 7 shoes and stuffing them with newspaper until they grow into them at 12 years old. The anatomy and development of a newborn baby versus a toddler versus a tween are so vastly different and definitely need specific design features to protect them at each of these stages. You can tell this just by looking at them –
Other than the BeSafe iZi Plus and Volvo Maxway, South African car seats can ONLY be used up to 18kgs with the 5-point harness. Thereafter, it has to be used as a belt-positioning booster seat (which too many convertible seats do very poorly). And in many of them, once your child reaches 22kgs, you have to remove the backrest and just use the bottom cushion. Small fact, there is a movement across the world called “bin the booster”. This is NOT the high back booster seat; it refers specifically to the booster cushions that provide no side impact protection or guides to keep the shoulder belt where it should be.
Ok, I’ve disappeared on a tangent here… Back to my story with the BeSafe iZi Plus.
As much as I hated Charly being in a forward-facing car seat in my mom’s car, we just weren’t in the financial position to get a second ERF car seat. So I panicked and stressed, but I installed that seat so tightly it wasn’t going anywhere and I trained my mom to untwist the belts and to tighten them as much as was possible. And another big thing that helped set my mind at ease a little, is that my mom is not a person who speeds and she never drives on highways. Speed really is the biggest factor in the severity of an accident, so I could be relatively secure knowing Charly was as safe as she could be within our means for a second car that did four 5 minute drives a week. When they needed to travel further, I installed the Volvo Maxway into their car.
What difference can a few kgs or cms make?
A few months ago, Charly had a growth spurt. She hit 18kgs and 104cm from 16kgs and 98cm in a rush over a month or two. I may or may not have cried myself to sleep fairly regularly as I waited for my BeSafe iZi Plus to arrive from overseas, panicking that she was in a seat that she needed to be out of ASAP to be safe. Many people shrug their shoulders and say, “Eh, what difference can a few kgs or cms make?”
The difference between life and death. That is the difference. The harness has been crash tested and found safe only until the weight marked on the orange sticker on the seat. It isn’t a random number. Once your child is over that weight limit – the harness might not hold in a crash. Once they exceed the height limit of the seat, their head and neck are no longer safely surrounded by the shell of the car seat. And this is why I fell in love with the BeSafe iZi Plus – the weight limit with the harness is 25kgs and the height limit is 115cm – and that is BEFORE you take into account the additional safety of having your child rear facing for as long as possible.
Before I go on to review the BeSafe iZi Plus and share the reasons I have for loving it (settle in, the list is relatively long); let’s address the elephant in the room… The BeSafe iZi Plus car seat costs R7,999.
It is expensive. It is not the most expensive in SA by far, even though I consider it the safest seat available right now. A long term investment in keeping my child alive and as safe as she can be… Yes, it is worth it. But I go into a lot more detail around the cost of car seats here.
What’s the big deal about the BeSafe iZi Plus?
As mentioned, this seat is designed to be used with a 5-point harness, rear facing up to 25kgs and 115cm. Depending on your child’s build, they could be comfortably using it until they are around the age of 5. That was the first thing I learned about it from Lauren at Kids Emporium. She spoke very highly of the BeSafe brand and was one of the first people to mention the importance of rear facing to me. And this is a lady who knows her stuff. She tried to put me in touch with the BeSafe team before the first #CarseatFullstop campaign. They were overseas in training at the time and by the time they came back to me, we were already deep into the campaign.
Extended rear facing car seats do not fit in every car
Experiencing an extended rear facing car seat made me even more passionate about them. It also taught me a very valuable lesson on car seats – extended rear facing car seats do not fit in every car. There are plenty of unfounded concerns on rear facing car seats (which you can find addressed here), but the fact that some cars just don’t have the space is not unfounded. This is very important because if a seat does not fit securely in your car, it doesn’t matter how safe the design is – it is not going to protect your child. The BeSafe iZi Plus fits into a lot of cars, you can find out if your car is one of them here. If your car isn’t on the list, you can head to your closest Kids Emporium (or Wheel Well if you are in Joburg) and they will help you check the fit and installation there.
While we are on the topic of installation, let’s chat about installing the BeSafe iZi Plus…
The basics of the BeSafe iZi Plus installation are similar to the Volvo (tethers, foot prop, seat belt), with a few additional safety measures. I felt confident about installing it, until I saw it in real life. It is SUCH an impressive looking seat it is a little intimidating. It is heavy and solid and the side impact protection (SIP) is particularly evident in the way the head rest surrounds the head. Charly loves playing peekaboo when in the seat because her head is barely visible from the side. I had explained that the reason it was so “deep” was so that if we were ever in an accident, her head would be safe in there. When I put her in it for the first time and turned a corner, she gleefully shouted, “My head is so safe it is boinking around INSIDE here”.
Ok, so… I suppressed my confidence and the urge to just wing it (because how hard could it be?) and I did what you should ALWAYS do with any car seat you install – no matter how easy you think it will be. I went online and downloaded the manual and read it cover to cover. I watched the various functions videos on the iZi Plus page and re-read the web page information with the seat in front of me. And then I watched the installation video.
There is a difference between a car seat that is difficult to install and one that has a series of multiple, but simple, steps. These seats are not designed to move between cars, they are designed to fit your car as tightly as if it were part of the car – and they definitely do that. I installed our BeSafe iZi Plus securely on the first try, while filming it one handed or asking my husband to do bits of filming when I needed 2 hands. It was seriously hot that day, so there was a lot of puffing and sweating, but it is literally more stable than the actual seats in the car! (Ok maybe not more stable, but likely AS stable). I am planning on rerecording it with proper spoken instructions and less heavy breathing.
There are 13 very simple steps to install the BeSafe iZi Plus (this is my memory of them FYI, I high-fived myself when I rewatched the video to be sure and was right. I would estimate it takes about 2-3 minutes to install securely once you’ve done it once):
- Move the front passenger seat completely forward to allow space for the BeSafe iZi Plus installation.
- Attach the rear tether straps in 1 of the 3 positions to the back of the front passenger seat (clearly shown in the above instructional video).
- Put the iZi Plus seat into the car sideways, lower the foot prop into a downwards position, turn the seat to face the rear of the car and lower the foot prop until it is about 5cm off the ground.
- Reach under the front of the iZi Plus seat to push the lever that reclines the seat and choose which of the 3 angles your child will be most comfortable in – there is a 10-degree difference between the highest and lowest angles.
- Thread the lap belt of the car seatbelt under the belt positioner, over the belt hook, and under the belt positioner on the other side, and clip it in. Pull all slack out of the belt with the shoulder belt of the car seatbelt.
- Follow the same path back to the other side with the shoulder belt – under the belt positioner, over the belt hook, under the other positioner and pull tight.
- Use the small ratchet handle to move the mechanical front brace towards the back of the car’s seat – because of the threading of the seat belts around the belt hook, this will tighten the car seatbelt further
- When you can’t move the car’s seatbelt at all, take the belt clip and place it across both belts a little away from the belt hook on the buckle-side. Make sure the belts are centred in the clip and push firmly closed until the clip clicks.
- Attach the anchor belts to the matching belts on the rear side of the iZi Plus seat, leaving the belts slack.
- Move the front passenger car seat back and adjust the backrest until it touches the back of the iZi Plus seat.
- Once the front passenger seat is in position, pull the anchor belts until there is no slack in them at all.
- Pull the button on the foot prop to lower it and push it down until it clicks into position. You know it is locked in place when the small areas are completely green on the top of the prop.
- With all of these in position, the base of the seat (and pretty much the entire seat) barely moves a mm.
Just so you are clear on this… The car seatbelt attaches the front of the child seat, with the front brace providing additional tension to the seatbelt – preventing it from lifting in a crash. The rear tethers attach it to the actual body of the car from behind and prevent the back of the seat from lifting in a crash. The foot prop prevents the seat from rebounding backwards, supporting the seatbelt. And then the 5-point harness secures your child safely within the shell of the BeSafe iZi Plus seat.
Positioning the headrest and harness (which move as one) is simple. Loosen the harness by pushing the button under the small covered central adjuster (so no little fingers can get to it). Let your little one settle into the iZi Plus seat. There is a release button at the back of the headrest. Pull it up, keeping the headrest upright, and simply slide the headrest up until the harness straps are in line with or just below your child’s shoulders. This should move the headrest to surround your child’s head.
Oh! I forgot a VERY important point!! The shoulder pads have magnets in them! This means, you can loosen the straps and touch them to the sides of the seat and they STAY OPEN!! They don’t slip under your squirming toddler making them scream that they are “being stabbed to death by a pointy bit” loud enough that people slow their cars to see what you are doing to “that poor child”. No? Just mine then… I get it, it isn’t a traditional safety feature… But when considering making life that little bit less painful when dealing with a threenager, and taking mommy state-of-mind into consideration, it may just qualify as a safety feature in kind!
So besides all the installation stuff and the fact that it harnesses and rear faces to 25kgs and 115cm, who says this seat is so safe?!
Oh! Did I forget to mention? The BeSafe iZi Plus is a test winner four times over (Folksam 2015 & 2017, Bäst-i-Test.se 2015 and auto motor und sport 2014). For context on the Folksam test – they tested 22 different car seats and the iZi Plus is the only seat that achieved the high score of 4. It also passed the Swedish Plus Test; which is the strictest test in the car seat world.
“The Plus test is a voluntary approval that car seat manufacturers may choose to test their car seats for. A child safety seat approved according to the Plus test has passed the toughest crash test and get an additional marking as evidence. The Plus test measures the strain on the crash test dummy’s neck and the requirements for maximum strain are very tough. 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.” There is a section on the BeSafe website that explains the different tests really well.
Soooooo, yeah. I am pretty confident in its safety…
One small note on the seat that I am reviewing right now (in the photos with Charly)… This isn’t our seat. This seat belongs to #CarseatFullstop and will be going into nursery schools around the Western Cape with me teaching our little ones about car seat safety. The colour on this, the #CarseatFullstop mascot car seat that needs a name, is called Premium Car Interior and it really does mirror the interior of my car… Which I only realised after installing it, the name didn’t give me a clue at all 😛 For those admiring it, the cost is slightly higher than the other option, at R8,499.
Charly’s car seat, as a brand ambassador for BeSafe and for #CarseatFullstop, should finally be arriving in South Africa late this or early next week! We (Charly) chose the colour “fresh black cab” for her seat, because “black is my colour”. She has felt the need to remind me that this seat is really nice “actually”, but it “actually” isn’t the black one which is her one. Other than her usual morning tantrums of the harness being tooooo tight (with all the screaming that entails), which is “much better” after I pretend to loosen it (I don’t); she is loving her seat. I have figured out that it is the rubber grip strip under the harness belts that make her feel restricted, because she isn’t used to it. That rubber keeps the harness from slipping from her shoulders. It is a safety feature and already after a week of using the seat, she is noticing it less.
COMPETITION IS CLOSED. WINNER WILL BE ON THE @PREGNANTINCAPETOWN & @CARSEATFULLSTOP FACEBOOK PAGES.
Travelling along with Charly’s seat across the sea right now, there is a beautiful BeSafe iZi Plus in Premium Car Interior looking for a new home… So tell me, are you as obsessed with the BeSafe iZi Plus as I am?
I want to make a personal plea. An appeal to the best part of you. This is not just another high value prize; this prize is an opportunity for a parent or grandparent or aunt or uncle to keep a CHILD safe. This seat can save somebody’s baby’s life. PLEASE do not enter this competition to win it and sell it. This is very simple to my mind – if you enter to make money, you are profiting off the potential death of a child. Do better. BE better. There are things more important than profit.
You must read and accept them in the form below to enter. To clarify – participating in this competition constitutes acceptance of these rules. Any violation or attempt to violate any of the above rules, will result in immediate disqualification. 1. SHARE this article to one of your social media channels with the easy share buttons
2. Answer below: Up to what weight can you use the BeSafe iZi Plus?
3. Comment “#BeSafe with #CarseatFullstop” on the Facebook post.
4. Tell me in the form below who this car seat is for (son/daughter/grandchild/nephew/etc) and the child’s age. — PLEASE COMPLETE ALL ASPECTS OF THE ENTRY FORM TO QUALIFY —
Special note to be taken of the below (these are in the terms and conditions, but I would like to reiterate their importance).
In addition to the requirement which a winner will be required to meet in order to accept and enjoy the prize as detailed in the entry requirements and the terms and conditions above and below, the winner must have a child / grandchild or family member under the age of 5 years old and / or be pregnant with a child who will make use of this car seat to win this prize. By responding to this question in the form below, you are legally representing yourself as having a child / grandchild or family member under the age of 5 years old and / or that you or your child or family member is pregnant with a child who will make use of this car seat.
You should ensure that you are following either “Pregnant in Cape Town” or #CarseatFullstop on one of our social media platforms to ensure you do not miss the announcement of the winner on Friday 22 September.
If you have not acknowledged your win and organised delivery of your prize by Friday 29 September 2017, another winner will be drawn.
With statistics saying that up to 93% of people aren’t strapping in their kids… We ALL know somebody who is adding to that number.
You have the power to save a little life.
One share, seen by one person, who straps in one child, saves a life.
#CarseatFullstop. Every child. Every time. No matter what.
Please follow us on our social media channels and share them to encourage others to follow along too.
If you have an old unused car seat gathering dust in your garage, please consider donating it to our very favourite NPO, Wheel Well. You can drop your seat at your closest Renault dealership and they will get the seat to Wheel Well. They will clean and safety check it, before giving it a new home with somebody in need for a small donation <3
Because of our shared passion for car seat safety, BeSafe allows our supporters to purchase their seats through us. This means that you can buy one of the safest car seats in the world fro us! And the profits will go to maintaining #CarseatFullstop! So saving your littles and helping us to save all the other littles out there!
If you are interested in purchasing a BeSafe car seat, you can join the “BeSafe with #CarseatFullstop” group on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/supportcarseatfullstop/. If you have any questions, you can ask them in the groups or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.