Britax Frontier 90 Recaro Performance Sport
The Common Features
The Britax Frontier 90 and Recaro Performance Sport are both excellent premium 5-point harness to booster car seats and it comes as no surprise to me that they are very popular amongst parents.
These 2 seats share some common features, but there are also some important differences to bear in mind when making your purchasing decision.
One obvious difference is the price. The Recaro Performance Sport costs about $210, whereas the Britax Frontier 90 costs about $264.
So, the big question is whether or not the Frontier 90 is worth the extra money?
But, before considering the differences between these seats, let’s have a little look at the similarities.
The main common features include:
- Side Impact Protection for your child’s head & body
- Energy-absorbing EPS foam
- Easy to adjust “No-rethread” 5-point harness
- Integrated cup holders and storage
- Comfort foam
- Lower LATCH and top tethers
- Can be used in Booster mode up to 120 lbs
- Certified for aircraft travel in harness mode
So, you can see that both of these seats come with the fairly standard safety features that one expects of premium car seats.
Both Seats Rated as “Best Bet” by the IIHS in 2014!
The great news for parents considering either of these seats is that they recently received the highest rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Booster Evaluation Tests.
You can read more about these test results here.
Note: It is only the 2014 version of the Britax Pinnacle 90 that received a “Best Bet” rating. The previous version received a “Check Fit” rating when used in backless booster mode and required an after-market workaround when used in some vehicles.
You can check the latest prices of the 2014 versions of the Britax Frontier 90 here.
7 Big Differences Between the Frontier 90 & Performance Sport
The 7 main differences between the Frontier 90 and Performance Sport are:
- The Frontier 90 has higher weight / height limits for harness mode
- The Frontier 90’s top harness setting is higher
- They have different shoulder strap / pad designs
- The Performance Sport has a higher LATCH limit
- Different Belt Installation Methods
- Recaro Performance Sport has Metal Reinforced Side Wings
#1 Harness Mode Weight / Height Limits
The Frontier 90 can be used in harness mode until your child’s weight exceeds 90 lbs or their height exceeds 58 inches.
The Performance Sport can be used in harness mode until your child’s weight exceeds 65 lbs or their height exceeds 50 inches.
So, you can see that there is a very big difference between the maximum weight and height limits on these seats. Personally, I would very much like to have the option to keep my child harnessed for as long as possible (even if I subsequently decide not to make use of that option) and so the Frontier 90 is the clear winner on this issue in my opinion.
I should add that the Frontier 90 also has a bigger height limit in Booster mode than the Performance Sport (62 inches vs 59 inches). However, this is far less likely to be an important issue since most children measuring over 59 inches in height will pass the 5-step test to enable them to just use the adult seatbelt.
#2 Top Harness Setting
This is very much linked to the difference in maximum height limits between these seats.
The Frontier 90 has a maximum top harness height of 20.5 inches.
The Performance Sport has a maximum top harness height of 18 inches.
Again, the Frontier 90 wins on this issue, but I suppose this can’t be classed as a full point since it is closely connected with the height limits that I have already mentioned above.
However, in addition to the extra height range, the Frontier 90 does also seem easier to adjust since it can all be done from the front of the seat without needing to disassemble the harness straps or remove the seat.
Conversely, the Performance Sport requires that you remove the seat first before adjusting the harness height and this can be a bit of an annoyance for some parents.
#3 Shoulder Strap / Pad Designs
The Frontier 90 comes with HUGS Chest Pads with SafeCell Technology.
Britax claims that the SafeCells are designed to compress in a crash and thereby reduce the magnitude of impact forces that are transmitted to your child.
Britax boasts that these SafeCell pads have 2 safety benefits:
- they help to manage energy transfer to your child in a collision
- they reduce forward movement and thereby reduce the risk of head injuries
You can find out more about HUGS by watching the video below.
The Performance Sport comes fitted with Recaro’s HERO Harness system. This system is said to increase the level of protection and comfort for your child by positioning the shoulder pads to appropriately fit the their neck, head and shoulders while resisting harness twisting and ensuring a proper chest clip position.
The HERO Harness resists twisting because each side of the shoulder pad is joined to each other via a central piece of padding that hides neatly underneath the headrest. There is also some sort of tacky material inside the pads to further stop of them from twisting. This obviously prevents the common problem of fully independent shoulder pads twisting out of proper alignment, which can cause discomfort to your child and also means that the shoulder pads are not working as they are supposed to.
The HERO Harness system also prevents the shoulder pads from slipping down the strap.
I find it difficult to prefer one car seat over the other on this issue. The HUGS Chest Pads are impressive and reassuring, but the anti-twisting and anti-slipping feature of the HERO system makes it very easy to ensure a proper comfortable fit. It also avoids the problem of twisting and slipping altogether.
#4 LATCH Installation Limits
Unless your vehicle manufacturer states otherwise, the LATCH installation limits are as follows:
- Frontier 90 – 40 lbs
- Performance Sport – 52 lbs
So, the Performance Sport wins on this issue. However, if your vehicle manufacturer demands a lower limit than that then this feature is going to be of no practical use to you.
Also, this is a somewhat temporary victory for the Performance Sport since when you do need to re-install using the seatbelt, the Frontier 90 is easier to work with in my opinion.
You can find out more about LATCH limits below.
#5 Belt Installation Methods
You can can see from the video below that the Frontier 90’s ClickTight system is very easy to use and gets a very secure installation.
The Performance Sport is a little more difficult to work with and the seat belt shoulder strap actually feeds behind the back of your child rather than underneath the seat.
You can read user reviews of the Recaro Performance Sport seat to see whether or not this is a big issue for other parents.
#6 NHTSA “Ease of Use” Rating
Let me make it clear that an NHTSA “Ease of Use” rating is not an official safety performance rating.
Instead, it represents an evaluation of the following important issues:
- Evaluation of Instructions: Examines the content and clarity of the instruction manual for the restraint.
- Vehicle Installation Features: Examines the ease of using features that pertain to installing the child restraint in a vehicle.
- Evaluation of Labels: Examines the content and clarity of the labeling attached to the child restraint.
- Securing the Child: Examines the ease of using features that pertain to securing a child correctly in the restraint.
The Frontier 90 scored a 5-Star rating in Harness Mode and a 4-star rating in Booster Mode.
The Performance Sport has not been rated, but the model that it replaced (ProSport) scored a 3-Star rating in Harness Mode and a 1-Star rating in Booster Mode.
So, the Pinnacle 90’s “Ease of Use” scores are excellent and, whilst I cannot measure them directly against the Performance Sport, the previous ProSport did not score very well at all.
In fact the Pinnacle 90 and Frontier 90 were the highest scoring combination seats.
#7 Recaro Performance Sport Metal Side Wings
One advantage of the Recaro Performance Sport over the Britax combination seats is that it has a metal re-enforced side wings to provide added stability in the event of a collision.
Britax Frontier 90 Review Video
Britax Frontier 90 Installation Video (including ClickTight)
HUGS Chest Pads Video
Here is a Demonstration of Belt-Installation of the Performance Sport:
February 2014 LATCH Guidelines
Recaro now advises that the LATCH connectors should only be used on the Performance Sport until your child weighs more than 52 lbs. Britax now advises that the LATCH lower tethers should only be used on the Frontier 90 until your child weighs more than 40 lbs. You can still continue to use these seats until your child’s weight exceeds 120 lbs, but only if you re-install the seat using the adult seat belt instead. Read more about this law change here.
Is the Britax Frontier 90 Worth the Extra Money?
This is a very tight call and there are always going to be perfectly valid differences of opinion on this issue. But, for me, I would probably choose to pay the extra for the Frontier 90 due to the fact that it has the option of using the 5-point harness for a significantly longer length of time than the Performance Sport.
Having said that, the Recaro seat is an excellent alternative and I would be very happy to have my child use one.
Also, a number of the user reviews that I have read speak of the Performance Sport being a little tricky to install using the the seat belt. The Frontier 90’s ClickTight system, on the other hand, is very simple to use. The simplicity of the Frontier 90 to install is borne out by its 5-Star NHTSA “Ease of Use” Rating.
Where to Buy the Frontier 90 and Performance Sport Car Seats
After purchasing any child car seat, you should always read the User Manual thoroughly before using it. It is also advisable to visit your local Fire Department or NHTSA Child Car Seat Inspection Centre to ensure that the seat is definitely suitable for your child’s specific requirements and that you have installed it correctly. These services are usually provided free of charge.
You can find your nearest NHTSA Centre here.
Do You Need More Help?
I know from personal experience that choosing the best car seat for your child can be a daunting and confusing process. I have 3 small children and a garage full of used child car seats! If you need any further advice or assistance whatsoever, please feel free to contact me and I will do my very best to help. If I don’t know the answer off the top of my head, I will certainly know where to find it and get back to you within 24 hours. If you have any other questions or feedback about my Britax Frontier 90 vs Recaro Performance Sport post, please just leave a comment in the box below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org