A Helpful Guide of the Best Infant Car Seat for Small Cars

As parents, we want to offer our children with the safest and most comfortable experience in transport. However, traveling by a small car requires an adequate car seat that can present quite the challenge.

The challenge gets even trickier if you can't seem to stay within the budget.

Luckily, you have come across an article designed to review the products of your desire. If you consider the purchase of the best infant car seat for small cars that deliver in budget, comfort, and safety, you have come to the right place.

Top 3 Recommendations

Best Infant Car Seat For Small Cars Money Can Buy: My Top 7 Favorites

Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat - Best In Infant Car Seats

Here is the car seat you won't regret buying in terms of convenience, comfort, and design. The Chicco KeyFit 30 seat has got to be one of the most impressive models of car seats that the brand offers.

So, let's see why you should consider purchasing this model. 

First of all, accessibility is a big plus when it comes to Chicco. With the unique LATCH system, you won't find yourself struggling to adjust the perfect angle. The system is accompanied by two push-style connectors and a middle strap used for further tightening.

If you are buying a baby car seat for the first time, you will love the Chicco bubble indicator.

The indicator helps parents find the correct adjustment angle with the help of the adjustment foot. Therefore, you will not need any pool noodles or any other DIY accessory to level the car seat.

But, the real challenge is, how well does Chicco KeyFit 30 work in a car crash?

With the cinch tightener, the car seat has proved to work incredibly secure in crash tests. Among other popular competitors, the Chicco infant car seat had the best results regarding head sensors and side-impact protection. If you want a stress-free ride, we recommend you go for this type of model. 

Since we are sincere, we have to address a few points we didn't like in this infant seat.

For starters, this may not be the best choice for parents using public transportation daily. The infant seat is harder to install without the base, and it contains the American belt path. For some, the components present quite the problem when the quick installation is required.

The belt is not color-coded, even though it is accessible to the thread, the base-free installation is trickier.

  • Crash tested
  • Adjustment indicator
  • Tricky to install without the base

Britax B-Safe Ultra Infant Car Seat - Rear Facing - Runner Up

If you are familiar with the Britax B-Safe 35 Elite, let us introduce you to the upgraded version. While keeping the previous model's popular features, the B-Safe 35 model added a few new ones you will love.

Starting with the weight limit, this infant car seat can take up to 35 pounds of weight, making it manageable and easy to carry from the car to the stroller.

Unlike the previous model, this car seat allows installation via a European belt without using a base. All the flexibility is right there when you need it the most.

One of the best features, especially during summer days, is the mesh material of the seat. The fabric keeps the baby cool and comfortable without creating sweat marks all over the center's clothes. Parents living in the hotter climates rave about the car seat's cool mesh material.

Not only does the material keep the baby comfortable, but the padding of the car seat provides a snug feeling through the ride.

The infant car seat comes with the removable padding, which you can take off as soon as your baby gets bigger. Along with that, the flip-forward belly pad delivers in front of body protection. This is one of the few features you won't find in the previous model.

You want the baby to be comfortable and secure at the same time. But, can Britax provide that? Absolutely! With the side impact protection and Britax SafeCell Impact Protection system, your baby will be riding safely in their car seat.

If you wonder what the SafeCell Impact, let us sum up its wonders in a few points.

First of all, this is the system of full protection, including an impact-absorbing base, impact-stabilizing base, and side-impact protection.

Here you can read more about the unique safety system.

  • Side impact protection
  • User-friendly
  • Pricy

Evenflo LiteMax 35 Infant Car Seat - Best Budget Buy

If you are on the budget, look no further than Evenflo LiteMax infant car seat. The car seat carries the title of budget-friendly in our article, but the amazement does not stop there. The rear-facing car seat is easy to install, rideshare friendly, and will not break the bank.

The seat's installation contains a seat-belt lock off and SureSAFE connectors that make the process without the base a piece of cake. We mentioned that it's rideshare friendly mostly because of the American-style belt. Although some would prefer the European style better in terms of safety, this one effectively keeps the baby secure.

The belt allows for quick installation without the base, and this is a great feature to have if you are frequently booking an Uber or a taxi.

Evenflo car seat also includes a stay-in-car base, which made the task of installation a lot easier for most parents. Babies weighing from 4 to 35 pounds of weight will fit snugly into the padded seat. Even for the tiniest passengers, the padding is designed to fit comfortably around the baby's body.

Since the padding is not too bulky as some can be, the seat has proved to be the best choice for small cars.

The reclining system is on the trickier side. Some parents had issues adjusting for babies 20 pounds of weight. However, knowing that some babies can outgrow the rear-facing car seats in height before weight may not be an issue for you.

The adjustment knob is slightly different from the other seat models on the market, so you may find it troublesome if this isn't your first purchase.

  • Affordable
  • Public transport friendly
  • Adjustability is tricky

2018 UPPAbaby MESA Infant Car Seat - Best Travel System

The UPPAbaby MESA rear-facing car seat for small car owners is one of the expensive items we picked out. However, with a great budget comes great responsibility. If you invest in a pricer model, make sure that it checks off all the essential boxes.

This rear-facing car seat is easy to install with or without the base, making it the ultimate choice for parents who use public transportation daily. The travel system is a must-have if you don't plan on leaving the car seat in the car most of the time.

By the Federal safety requirements, we have to admit that UPPABaby showed impressive head and chest safety crash tests. We mentioned how much we admire the safety system in the Chicco keyfit30 car seat; consider UPPABaby, a close competitor.

As for the installations, we were astonished by how the LATCH system operates. The connectors are straightforward, easy to install, and won't give you any headache when fast installation is required. The infant car seat also has a level indicator, telling you at which point the seat has been installed adequately via LATCH or a belt.

The one downside of the infant car seat is that it's quite heavy. It stands around 10.36 pounds, which is quite the difference if you used lightweight models previously.

Last but not least is the exceptional comfort and design.

The UPPABaby rear-facing seat is sleek in design, with reliable and sturdy construction. The inside offers a thick, padding seat that keeps the baby comfortable during longer rides.

Also, the padding is made out of wool, which does not contain any fire retardants. The seat's design is a favorite to those who worry about chemical interaction with the baby's skin. 

  • Great travel system
  • Comfortable
  • Easy to install
  • Heavy
  • Pricy

Doona Infant Car Seat & Latch Base - Best Stroller Convertible Car Seat

Meet your new favorite travel buddy. The Doona seat takes the win when it comes to a great travel system in rear-facing car seats.

We have all been there when the baby gets fussy when moving from the car seat into a stroller. Well, with this hybrid car seat, you won't have such problems.

The Doona infant car seat is a practical solution for parents on-the-go. This type of car seat is the only one on the market that converts to a stroller in a matter of seconds-all while not disturbing the baby.

Even though it comes with the base, you can freely install it without one. The installation process is pretty straightforward, but you will need some practice, that's for sure.

One issue we have with the seat is the weight. The weight is a whopping 16 pounds. Add the baby weight to it, and you have yourself a problem. However, many parents commented that it gets easier over time, and the integrated wheels help with not carrying the seat to another location.

You will get the best out of this car seat for about a year or so. After that, consider purchasing a convertible car seat that offers a higher weight limit. The weight limit on the Doona one is 35 pounds, a standard for most car seats on the market.

Another promising feature is bound to turn heads when you take it out for a stylish design walk. The rear-facing car seat has a bamboo charcoal textile called hypoallergenic, heat, and humidity regulating and washable.

Hence the price. As you can see, the Doona car seat is the most expensive model in our article, but you won't get it wrong if your budget allows you.

  • Impressive material quality
  • Convertible Car Seat To Stroller 
  • Heavy
  • Pricy

Maxi-Cosi Mico Max Plus Infant Car Seat with Base - The Best Fit For Petit Babies

The Maxi-Cosi infant car seat comes full front with European stylish features and design. Parents all over the world and especially in the U.S. are loving this infant seat! Though the fashionable seat is not on the affordable side, it sure is a worthy purchase.

Since many are not familiar with this new car seat on the market, let us introduce you to the magnificent Maxi-Cosi Mico infant car seat.

This upgraded version has a 4-30 pound weight limit, making it useful until the baby turns two years old. Some parents commented that by the time the kid was two, he/she could no longer fit in the seat.

So, you should always consult with the instructions on this one. Set some money aside just in case you need to repurchase another car seat that would fit a two-year-old better.

Nonetheless, this one is an excellent choice for infants in travel.

The seat base is made out of a bulkier material and may not be as compact as some other modes. However, don't let that discourage you. We have found that numerous parents excite the seat for the easy installation while traveling.

The safety question is the biggest issue when considering an infant car seat. This rear-facing seat is constructed out of a sturdy frame and comfortable padding, keeping the baby snuggly and safe throughout the ride.

Moreover, the anti-rotation stability leg is there to fold from the base while extending to the floorboard. This safety feature limits the rocking movement and protects the baby's head and spine in case of an accident.

  • Sturdy
  • Comfortable padding 
  • Great travel system
  • Upgraded weight limit

Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Infant Car Seat - Best In Installation

Coming up, we have another budget-friendly option that did not disappoint. When you search Amazon for infant car seats, the Graco brand is bound to pop up eventually. It is a favorite of many, especially those who like to keep it both economical and practical.

The question of safety has to be mentioned when it comes to Graco. Graco's recent crash tests resulted slightly lower than some of our models on the list.

For example, while Chicco Keyfit 30 scored an impressive 330 in head sensor protection, Graco scored 606, and the lower the number, the better is the protection. However, Graco scored impeccably in chest protection.

When it comes to safety, we give a point to the Chicco car seat, but Graco seat sure did not disappoint in this department. So, you decide from there if this is going to be your best pick.

The Snugride 35 has a LATCH style clip. The process of attaching and taking off can present a problem to some. If you are used to more expensive models that connect with ease, you may somehow find the system flawed.

But, the installation with the base is surprisingly well. Not only this, but the combining base with the vehicle seat belt is a quick task.

With this kind of price, you have to be prepared for some compromise.

Speaking of design and comfort, Graco does not revolutionize the whole prospect. Comparing it to other seats, this one has slightly thinner padding. As for the canopy, it is long enough, but it can be tricky to keep it open while the handle is upright.

Overall, the design is not low, but the pricing rage sure does determine the finish and the longevity of the product.

  • Affordable
  • Easy installation with the base
  • Long canopy
  • Thin padding
  • The attachment system is flawed

Buyer’s Guide for Best Infant Car Seat for Small Car

1. Types of Car Seats

The convertible car seat and infant car seats are the two available options for baby transports as you are familiar with.

Therefore, it's quite essential to select the right one for the baby and your car size.

Infant Car Seat

best convertible car seat for small cars 2020

Infant car seat is the right choice for small cars. They are only meant to be installed as rear-facing, so don't even think about using them as forward-facing later on.

Following the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations, infants should be secured in a rear-facing car seat until two.

Also, infant car seats are known to be smaller and more compact for small cars. Moreover, you can find some models in the market compatible with strollers.

Have you seen the Doona Infant Car Seat & Latch Base review? Here is the car seat you should consider if you want to save up on stroller purchase.

Convertible Car Seat

Convertible car seat is the type of seat that can be used rear face until your baby is significantly larger. After that, the convertible car seat can be turned into a forward-facing seat.

Due to this, convertible car seats are much bulkier in design. However, you can find some options that are narrow and can fit into small cars.

So, what is the right option, then?

For small cars, we would recommend you purchase infant car seats. Yes, you can only use them for infants, and use for different ages is not recommended, but they are suitable for narrow spaces.

On the other hand, convertible car seats are a great option if you want to save up on buying forward-facing seats in the future.

2. How Do You Choose the Best Infant Car Seats?

Does if Fit Your Car?

Before you go on and splurge on car seats, make sure you check the dimensions. Many people look past this and end up getting a bigger model than their car can handle.

Also, check if the car seat is compact. Traffic commotion can disturb the baby, and it's peaceful sleep, so you want to make sure the seat you are choosing is a snug fit.

Some car seats have an adjustable positioning system allowing them to fit in most vehicles. On the other hand, most of them lack this feature, so this is another trait to keep an eye out.

top rated convertible car seats for small cars

Are Car Seats Easy to Install?

Technology has come a long way, and hard-to-install car seats should be a problem of the past. Still, please pay attention to the seat base and the installation with or without it.

Some of the seats like Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat, contain a level indicator which shows you the appropriate level of car seat adjustment. The indicator is also a smart feature to look for if you don't want the base to latch off suddenly.

Most of the seats can be installed without the base. However, this can be quite dangerous in some terms, and it's a bit tricky when you are on the go.

3. Features & Safety

You would be pleased to know that even infant car seats meant for small cars have additional features. The features include extra padding, an energy-absorbing layer, temperature regulation layer, etc.

However, those extra features are not as important as checking if car seats have been tested for safety. Usually, car seats have one label on the side, declaring that it passed the crash safety test.


What is the smallest infant car seat?

best convertible car seat for small cars

For small car dimensions, we would highly recommend the Evenflo LiteMax 35 Infant Car Seat.

With the dimensions of 18.3 x 17.8 x 30 inches, the infant car seat is bound to fit right in any car space. We also mentioned the ease of installation for this rear-facing seat and suitable design that will not take up too much space. 

What is the safest infant car seat 2021?

If you scroll up to see the full review, you will notice all the rave about Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat and 2018 UPPAbaby MESA Infant Car Seat.

These two are our ultimate winners when it comes to crash test results and baby safety in transportation.

Also, the two options present a budget-friendly pick and a slightly more expensive one. So, depending on your budget options, you can opt for a favorite.

Final Words

Choosing the best infant car seat for small cars requires a lot of patience. You will find yourself having to compromise on many things, starting with the car seat's price and weight. But, whatever you do, never compromise for comfort and safety.

Buying a car seat, whether it is a convertible car seat, forward-facing, or infant car seats, in this case, represents a challenge. We made a choice more comfortable for you by creating the list of the most popular car seats for small car owners, and it's time to pick our favorite.

The Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat checks off every point on our list when it comes to the best infant seats for small vehicles. You, too, will be amazed by its functionality, comfort, and size.

Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat, Orion*
  • Easiest to install with Recline Sure levelling foot, Ride Right bubble levels, and Super Cinch LATCH tightened
  • Designed for travel system use with compatible Chicco strollers (sold separately)
  • Removable new-born head and body supports
  • 5-point harness with easy-pull tightened

Kathy Warner

Kathy is a busy mother of two and a CPS technician for more than eight years. Her mission is to awaken parents to the importance of child passenger safety and show them the right practice. You can read more about her here

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