If you're looking for a safe car seat for your child, see why we think the Diono Radian RXT is top-notch.
You've probably realized by now that I'm pretty passionate about child safety and car seat safety in particular. I've written a lot of on the subject, including my posts: 5 car seat safety tips every parent should read, Car seat use after an accident - what you need to know, and 5 things to consider when buying a car seat. I've reviewed quite a few car seats at this point, but have always wanted to check out the Diono Radian RXT. Thanks to it's versatile design, it's billed as the only car seat you'll ever need, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on one to see if it lived up to it's glowing reputation. Diono sent me a Radian RXT in Storm (at no cost) to facilitate this review.
Diono Radian Convertible Car Seat
Right out of the box, I could tell this seat was innovative. It comes in a slender box and once I pulled it out, I could see that the seat was folded, making it easy to carry via a carrying strap or padded shoulder strap (available as a separate accessory). This really makes this seat ideal for travel. If you've ever traveled by airplane with a baby, you know that lugging a car seat with you can be a nightmare. Being able to carry this compact seat as a backpack is awesome. On a related note, the Diono Radian RXT is FAA certified for use in an aircraft (as a harness restraint, not in belt-positioning booster mode).
The Diono Radian RXT is designed to comfortably seat rear-facing children from 5-45 pounds and forward-facing children from 20 - 80 pounds in a 5-point harness; then it converts to a booster for children up to 120 lbs. See why it's the only seat you'll ever need?! You can see in the photos above that the Radian RXT comes with an infant support cushion. Once your baby becomes a toddler, you can simply remove the infant head pillow and continue to use the body support cushion as needed.
First, let's talk safety because that's what we're most concerned about, right? The Diono Radian RXT is NCAP crash tested. This is the industry benchmark for verifying child seat performance in severe accident conditions. The seat boasts a full steel frame and aluminum reinforced sides for unmatched safety. Speaking of the full steel frame, you'll find this seat is on the heavier side, weighing in at 26.15 pounds (keep this number in mind considering regulations regarding LATCH installation have changed and you shouldn't use the LATCH if the weight of the child PLUS the car seat is greater than 65 pounds. So, once your child reaches 38 or so pounds, you should be using the seat belt for installation). The Radian RXT also has energy-absorbing EPS foam and side impact protection to provide added safety for your little one.
The Radian RXT has a 5-point safety harness that is easy to use and adjust as needed to ensure a proper fit for your child. There are 5 shoulder harness height positions and 3 crotch strap positions. Remember, when rear-facing, the shoulder straps should be at or BELOW the child's shoulders. For forward-facing, the straps should be at or ABOVE the shoulder level. All of these features are amazing, but perhaps my favorite feature of the Radian RXT is the rear-facing tether capability to reduce seat rotation in the event of an impact. I LOVE that you can tether this car seat to a front seat leg that's bolted directly to the floor. It gives it so much stability and makes for a tight, great-fitting installation. The RXT also comes with a SafeStop energy absorbing harness that provides extra protection for forward facing children who weigh 20-4o pounds.
The Diono Radian RXT has an aluminum reinforced headrest that's lined with EPS foam for advanced side impact protection. The head-wings adjust upward and downward (to 12 different positions) by pushing up or down on them with your hands, rather than adjusting with a knob on the back of the seat. When using the bottom two harness slots (for an infant), you'll want the headrest to be at the highest location. When using the top three harness slots, you'll position the headrest so that the bottom edge is above the child's shoulder and about level with the jaw.
You might have noticed how narrow this seat is. Measuring only 17 inches wide, this seat is perfect for those who need to fit 3 seats across in their vehicles. You can see in the photos above that the sides of the seat base are expandable to ensure comfort and a proper fit. I don't have it pictured here, but there are four cup holder installation slots on those expandable sides. The Radian RXT comes with 1 cup holder, but you can purchase an additional Radian cup holder or three if you'd like.
Just a quick look at the back of the seat - you'll see there's storage for the top tether and LATCH connectors. You'll also see the harness straps. This is a rethread system but it's very easy to adjust the straps. Also notice the SafeStop strap on the top left. This is a load-limiting device designed to absorb energy and reduct impact to smaller, forward facing children (under 40 pounds). Although, it's safest for your child to be rear-facing as long as they are under their car seat's maximum weight and height limits for rear-facing (sorry, I just can't help myself. Please, check out this YouTube video to see why rear-facing is safer - you can skip to 1:30 to see actual crash testing).
Now, let's talk about installation. You can install the Diono Radian RXT using the LATCH system or a seat belt (lap belt or lap/shoulder belt). The Radian RXT even features a SuperLATCH system that offers an audible click and visual indication to let you know when the connectors are safely locked. In my compact SUV, I can't safely use the LATCH system in the middle of the back seat because the anchors are too far apart. So, I always use the seatbelt for installation. I stress to you, PLEASE read your vehicle's manual and the car seat manual to ensure that you select the proper installation approach. Also, please remember that the seat weighs 26.15 pounds and, so if your child is over 38 pounds, you'll need to use the seatbelt for installation as most anchor points are weight-limited at 65 pounds (combined seat + child weight). Actually, the Diono manual says if your child is over 35 pounds, do not use the LATCH system.
The Diono Radian has a detachable base that must be used in the rear-facing position. The base is very easy to attach and you simply place the Radian RXT on the seat and move it forward until the restraint bottom and base are both flat on the vehicle seat and the little feet on the base are right in the fold of the seat. Then, I simply installed using my seat belt. I did have a little instability at first, but utilizing the top tether made a huge difference. I had very little movement side to side or front to back (way less than 1 inch). Of note, the Radian RXT also features non-slip rubberized grips on the bottom of the seat to help with traction.
You can see in the photos above that the seat has a really low profile, so it's easier to get little ones in and out of the seat. My toddler can climb right in. Our previous seat was quite taller and we bumped his head quite often on the (albeit cushioned) headliner. You'll also notice how far back the Radian RXT reclines. In the car seat manual it says it may be necessary to move vehicle front seats slightly forward to properly fit a rear-facing restraint. They are not kidding. In the picture above, the front passenger seat is moved pretty far forward and it still almost touches the front seat. For this reason, I'd highly recommend getting a Diono Angle Adjuster.
The Diono Angle Adjuster is made of high-density PU foam and is designed to be positioned underneath a rear-facing Radian car seat to give it a more upright angle for children 1 year of age and up. This allows for an additional 4 inches of room behind the front seat (so, basically the front seat doesn't need to pushed so far forward and the front seat passengers are more comfortable). It's crash tested and fits all models of Radian seats, and it's LATCH compatible. I know what you're thinking - it's just a piece of foam, can't I just get that anywhere?. No. Do yourself a favor and buy the Diono brand so you can be sure it's safe to use with your seat. I've read a few forums online where people have said that they compress over time and you have to replace them every so often. I've just started using mine, but will let you know when/if that is true for me. At about $12-$20 per Angle Adjuster, I'm okay with that intermittent cost if it means I get more leg room in the front seat.
I think the Angle Adjuster makes a BIG difference! I'm very happy I bought it.
We believe in extended rear-facing, and my almost 2.5-year-old is happy and comfy rear-facing in his Diono Radian RXT. In these photos, he's about 34 inches tall and 30.8 pounds. He's got plenty of leg room and usually seems to be perfectly content in this seat. Of note, these were taken before I installed the Angle Adjuster.
If you'll be installing the Radian RXT in forward-facing mode, there are additional forward-facing recline positions to accommodate different types of contoured vehicle seats. Then, when your child is old enough, you can transition the Radian RXT to booster mode (for use with children 50 - 120 pounds and 40 to 57 inches).
You'll also be happy to know the Radian RXT cover is machine washable (although not recommended for machines with an agitator) and dryable. This is lovely considering the seat has a 10-year lifespan and you'll surely need to wash it at some point.
Overall, I'm extremely pleased with the Diono Radian RXT. In fact, after using it for just a few weeks, I talked my friend into buying two of them to replace her outdated car seats. We've been using the Radian for about 2 months now and I love the lower profile and the fact that I was able to get a great installation (thanks in part to the awesome top tether being used in rear-facing mode). I'd highly recommend the Radian RXT to just about anyone. I think I'd still prefer to use an infant car seat for the first several months of baby's life so I don't have to wake him or her to transfer them out of the car, but the Diono Radian RXT can certainly do it all if you want to invest in just one seat. The MSRP is $339, but you can often find it for about 20% cheaper on Amazon. The Radian RXT comes in several great fashions too.
Buy it: You can purchase Diono Radian RXT car seats on Amazon.com, and at major retailers like Babies "R" Us, BuyBuyBaby, Target, and Kohl's.
If you're traveling soon, see why we love the Diono Rainier and Diono car seat travel bag (the same applies for the Radian!). We also feature the Radian RXT in our post about car seats and coats - what NOT to do and the benefits of extended rear-facing. If you're expecting, be sure to check out what to include on your Amazon baby registry.