The Good – Base with SafeCell technology; Integrated Steel Bars; Energy-Absorbing Versa Tether; Premium Lower LATCH Connectors; True Side-Impact Protection; No re-thread harness system; Multiple Recline Positions; Comfort foam; Cup and Snack holders; Click Tight Installation; EZ-Buckle System and Harness Holders; HUGS Chest Pads; Side Impact Cushion Technology; 5-Star NHTSA Ease of Use rating (see below).
The Bad – It is expensive; You will not be able to fit 3 of these is a row within a normal sized vehicle due to the width of the SICT side-wings.
The Bottom Line – The Britax Pinnacle 90 is a top-of-the-range combination harness 2 booster car seat. It has every possible safety feature that one could imagine in a car seat. In addition to the comprehensive safety features found on the cheaper ($95 less) Britax Pioneer 70, it also comes with Click Tight Installation, EZ-Buckle System and Harness Holders & HUGS Chest Pads. Unlike the cheaper ($20 less) Britax Frontier 90, it also has Side Impact Cushion Technology (SICT). This is a nice extra feature if you can afford it and have room in your vehicle to accommodate it. Since I need to fit 3 seats in a row, this would not be an option for me and I would happily chose the Frontier instead.
Britax Pinnacle 90 – Overview
This is my fully independent and objective Britax Pinnacle 90 Review.
The Britax Frontier 90 is a forwards-facing combination harness-2-booster seat that is designed to be used by children weighing between 25 and 120 lbs. In order to use this seat in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines, your child must also be within the height range of 30 to 62 inches. The recommended minimum age is 2 years and so this seat complies with the American Academy of Paediatrics’ advice that children should remain in rear-facing car seats until they are at least 2 years of age.
This seat promotes extended 5-point harnessing up to 90 lbs, thus avoiding the problems of trying to get your young child to sit up straight and remain safely restrained within a belt-positioning booster seat. Once your child weighs more than 90 lbs, the seat converts into a belt-positioning booster seat that can be used until your child’s weight exceeds 90 lbs.
They all have exactly the same basic features but there are a few differences that I will explain below.
The Pioneer can only be used in harness mode until your child exceeds 70 lbs in weight (as opposed to 90 lbs with the Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 seats).
The Frontier and the Pinnacle also have the following additional features:
- Click Tight Installation
- EZ-Buckle System and Harness Holders
- HUGS Chest Pads
- Tangle-Free, 5-Point Harness with 7 height positions to restrain your child and distribute collision forces across the strongest parts of their body
- 70 lb Weight Capacity in Harness Mode
- 110 lb Weight Capacity in Booster Mode
- Easy-Access Belt Paths for simple installation when using the adult seat belt
- Energy Absorbing Tether anchors the top of the car seat to the vehicle, thus minimizing the amount of forward movement of the car seat.
- Front-Adjust Recline
- Comfort Foam provides an extra layer of padding to cushion your child
- Quick-Adjust No Re-Thread for easy adjustments to the harness shoulder height and head restraint from the front of the seat
- Integrated Cup Holders and Storage
- Easy Transition from Harness to Booster Mode without removing harness straps
- Easy-Remove Cover allows easy cleaning without disassembling or uninstalling the car seat
- Color-Coded Vehicle Belt Guides provide clear indication of the path and positioning of the vehicle seat belt for use in either harness or booster mode
- Armrests provide a natural and comfortable place to rest arms
- Two Buckle Positions for your growing child
- Click Tight Installation
- EZ-Buckle System and Harness Holders
- HUGS Chest Pads
- Side Impact Cushion Technology (SICT)
- Premium Lower LATCH Connectors included
- Certified for Aircraft Travel in Harness Mode
- Made in the USA with global components
Why the Pinnacle 90 is Better than the Pioneer 70
Apart from the fact that the Pinnacle 90 can be used in harness mode for 20 lbs more and its life as a booster seat is also extended by another 10 lbs. (120 lbs vs 110 lbs), its has 4 other features that are not present on the Pioneer 70 seat:
The ClickTight Installation System is a series of components engineered to simplify the process of securing your child’s car seat into your vehicle using the vehicle seat belt instead of the lower anchors that are a part of the LATCH system (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren).The System simultaneously tensions and locks the vehicle seat belt. The result is both a tight and secure installation using the vehicle seat belt. This feature is now even more important since the February 2014 LATCH Law changes – you will need to install this seat using the adult seat belt instead of the LATCH connectors when your child’s weight exceeds 38 lbs.
The EZ-Buckle System and Harness Holders – convenience features that simply keep the straps to the side to make it easier to place your child into the seat.
The Height Limits – The Pinnacle 90 has more generous height limits than the Pioneer 70 in both harness and booster modes. They are as follows:
- Pinnacle 90 Harness height limit (standing) is 30 – 58 inches, (seated shoulder) is 12.5 – 20.5 inches
- Pioneer 70 Harness height limit (standing) is 30 – 56 inches, (seated shoulder) is 12.5 – 19.5 inches
- Pinnacle 90 Booster height limit (standing) is 45 – 62 inches, (seated shoulder) is 15 – 23 inches
- Pioneer 70 Booster height limit (standing) is 45 – 60 inches, (seated shoulder) is 15 – 22 inches
HUGS stands for “Harness Ultra-Guard System”. It assists in reducing forward movement of your child in the event of a crash by adding friction to the harness against your child’s chest as they move forward.
Side Impact Cushion Technology comprises energy-management cushions on either side of the seat that reduce side impact collision energy by 45%. The cushions absorb side impact forces before they reach your child, thereby reducing the risk of serious head injuries. It does, however, mean that the seat is significantly wider that the non-SICT versions – this can cause installation difficulties if you need to have 3 children in car seats in the same row of a standard sized vehicle.
The Pinnacle 90 has SICT – Is it Worth the Extra $20?
The only difference between the Pinnacle 90 and the Fronter 90 is Side Impact Cushion Technology.
What is SICT?
SICT comprises energy-management cushions that are positioned on either side of the seat. Britax claim that they reduce side impact collision energy transfer by 45%. The cushions are said to absorb side impact forces before they reach your child, thereby reducing the risk of serious head injuries. I ought to make it clear that I have not seen any independent test results to support Britax’s claims, but that does not mean that they are necessarily false. The cushions certainly do look reassuring and Britax claim that they make a significant difference in side impact collisions.
One thing to bear in mind though is that, even if you do think the SICT cushions are worth paying for, the Pinnacle 90 seat is significantly wider that the Frontier 90 seat due to the SICT cushions – in fact, it’s 3.5 inches wider. This can make it difficult to install if you have 3 children that need to be seated in the same row of a standard sized vehicle. It certainly wouldn’t work for me since I have 3 kids under 6 years of age on the same row. For that reason, I would have to buy the Frontier 90 instead.
Britax Pinnacle 90 Installation Video
NHTSA “Ease of Use” Rating – 5-Stars!
What is an “Ease of Use” rating?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was established by the Highway Safety Act of 1970 and is dedicated to achieving the highest standards of excellence in motor vehicle and highway safety.
I ought to make it clear that an Ease of Use rating is not an official safety performance rating.
Contrary to popular belief, there are in fact no universal independent safety performance ratings for child car seats in the US. All car seats rated by NHTSA meet Federal Safety Standards & strict crash performance standards.
The overall Ease of Use rating is awarded based upon an examination of the following factors:
- 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.
Why is the “Ease of Use” rating important?
It is thought that as many as 75% of car seats are incorrectly installed – this is probably the biggest car seat safety risk to your child since the best seat in the world will not protect them adequately if it is incorrectly fitted.
In order to increase the chances of choosing a safe seat for your child, you should ensure that it
- is appropriate for your child’s age, height and weight
- fits in your vehicle correctly
- is easy to use
Once you have purchased a car seat for your child, you can take it to an NHTSA Child Car Seat Inspection Station for them to show you how to correctly install and use it. They will usually perform this check free of charge and you can find your nearest station here.
Given its five-star status, the Britax Pinnacle 90 has achieved the Highest Possible Ease of Use Rating when used in harness-mode (up to 90lbs).
When used in booster-mode, it scores a very good four-stars (no seats in this class score five-stars).
The only other seat in this class to achieve a five-star status is the Britax Frontier 90.
February 2014 LATCH Guidelines
Britax now advises that the LATCH lower tethers should only be used on this model until the child weighs more than 38 lbs. You can still continue to use the seat until your child’s weight exceeds 120 lbs, but only if you re-install the seat using the adult seat belt instead. You should still use the top tethers as they are not affected by the law change.
Peace of Mind
Britax make great car seats – all 3 of my children currently use them. Although it would be nice to have the SICT technology, it wouldn’t be a realistic option for me due to lack of space on the rear seats. Instead, I would be very happy to use the Frontier 90 for my children.
Value for Money
This seat will cost you between $300 and $350.
It has every conceivable safety feature that you could ever ask for in a harness to booster seat and I would personally choose to pay extra for the Pinnacle 90 if I didn’t need to fit 3-in-a-row.
Where to Buy the Britax Pinnacle 90
I discuss the Pinnacle 90’s different fabric color options here.
Britax Booster-2-Harness Seats in Canada
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?
If you need any further advice or assistance whatsoever, please feel free to contact me and I will do my very best to help.
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