The New Series of Diono Convertible-Booster Car Seats
The Diono company has been manufacturing high quality convertible-booster car seats for many years and these seats have understandably been very popular amongst parents.
This popularity has been largely due to the fact that these seats have managed to combine some great premium safety features with some all important convenience factors. One of the most widely acclaimed practical benefits of the previous range of convertible-booster seats has been that they are very narrow (just 17 inches wide).
This slim profile means that seats like the Radian RXT, R120 and R100 are able to fit “3 in a row” in most (if not all) standard sized family vehicles and this is a great feature for anyone than plans to have at least 3 children.
However, although this previous range of seats is still on the market, Diono has recently released 3 new seats that will probably eventually replace the previous range altogether.
These new Diono convertible-booster seats are called the Rainier, the Pacifica and the Olympia and they all rated as suitable for use from 5 lbs upwards.
The purpose of this post is to compare the middle-of-the-range Pacifica with the entry-level Olympia so that you can make a properly informed decision about which seat is most suitable for your needs.
Whilst the Rainier and the Pacifica are almost identical seats (aside from the extra wide head wings on the Rainier), there are some very important differences between the Pacifica and the Olympia.
The Pacifica has some additional features and costs about $70 more than the Olympia.
The obvious question to ask is, therefore, whether or not these extra features found on the Pacifica are worth the higher price tag?
So, what are the similarities and differences between the Diono Pacifica and the Diono Olympia?
Pacifica vs Olympia – Common Features
Before discussing the differences between these 2 seats, let’s just take a look at the impressive list of common features that are found on both seats.
Both seats come with:
- Full steel frame with aluminum reinforced sides
- Reinforced extra deep sidewalls with energy-absorbing foam provides superior head and body protection
- SuperLATCH system for easy installation (see video below)
- Space saving design allows extra room for passengers while providing spacious interior for child
- Folds flat for travel and is FAA certified for flights
- NCAP crash tested in severe accident conditions
- Memory foam provides added comfort
- Energy absorbing EPS foam
- Side Impact Protection
- Extra-long leg support
- Multiple harness and buckle positions for a better fit
- Safestop® energy-absorbing harness
- Additional forward-facing recline position to accommodate different types of vehicle seats
- 12-position adjustable headrest
- 5 shoulder and 3 buckle positions help to deliver a more comfortable ride.
- Rear-facing tether strap
- Additional set of harness pads included for use when the child is over 65 lbs and using the 5-point harness
- Expandable sides and long seat bottom for proper leg support
- Sits low on vehicle seat for easy child boarding and improved safety performance in a crash
- Angled cup holder keeps a variety of drinks upright and within easy reach
- Cover is machine washable and dryable
- Rubber bottom grips for no-slip installation
- Industry leading 12 year product life (from date of purchase)
One thing to bear in mind about the Olympia and Pacifica seats is that they are wider than the previous models at the top, due to the new reinforced side wings. The seats are still 17 inches wide at the base, but they are now wider at the top (6 inches more) and this “might” affect whether or not you can fit 3 in a row across the back seat of your vehicle.
On the Diono website, they state that the “space saving design allows extra room for passengers while providing spacious interior for the child”.
I would suggest that if you need to fit 3 across the rear seat of your vehicle, you should buy the seat from somewhere that has a Free Returns policy (like Amazon), so that you can confirm that it will fit correctly prior to committing fully to the purchase.
Pacifica vs Olympia – The 4 Differences
#1 Rear-Facing Weight Limits
The Pacifica (and Rainier) can be used rear-facing up to 50 lbs.
The Olympia can only be used rear-facing up to 45 lbs.
As I have previously stated in my reviews of the Rainier and Pacifica seats, this extra 5 lbs is unlikely to be useable for most children. The simple reason for this that kids usually outgrow the height limits before the weight limits.
CDC data suggests that the the average height of a 5 year old boy is between 41.7 and 44.2 inches, but at the same time the average weight is 37.5 to 44.7 lbs.
Note: The rear-facing height limits of the Rainier, Pacifica and Olympia seats are identical at 44 inches.
This means that many kids will not be able to take advantage of the Rainier or Pacifica’s extended rear-facing – certainly those at the upper limits of the normal height/weight ranges will not get full use.
So, whilst it is nice to have the option of an extra 5 lbs rear-facing if your child is on the small side, the reality is that the rear-facing weight limit of 45 lbs is probably going to be perfectly adequate for the needs of the vast majority of children.
Always try to keep your child rear-facing for as long as they remain within the height / weight limits for this!
So, unless your child is likely to be exceptionally short and/or wide, I wouldn’t worry too much about the slight difference in rear-facing weight limit between these seats.
#2 Forwards-Facing Weight Limits (Harness Mode)
The Pacifica (and Rainier) can be used in forwards-facing harness mode up to 90 lbs.
The Olympia can only be used in forwards-facing harness mode up to 70 lbs.
I consider this to be a much more significant difference than the rear-facing weight limits. As any parent that has witnessed their child squirming, fidgeting or sleeping in their belt-positioning booster seat will tell you, harnesses provide a much more reliable and secure restraint than the adult seat belt.
Whilst it is almost impossible for a child to get into a dangerous position when they are wearing a 5-point harness, it only takes a slight adjustment of their shoulder position (either by leaning forwards or to the side, or by falling asleep in their seat) to get the shoulder strap part of the seat belt in an imperfect position.
Personally, I would pay extra money for the Pacifica (or Rainier) to get the peace of mind of being able to keep my child in a 5-point harness for as long as possible, and an extra 20 lbs is a very significant bonus.
Note: the height limit in this mode of use is 57 inches for both seats.
#3 Forwards-Facing Weight Limits (Booster Mode)
The Pacifica (and Rainier) can be used in forwards-facing booster mode up to 120 lbs.
The Olympia can only be used in forwards-facing booster mode up to 110 lbs.
I wouldn’t be as concerned about the booster weight limit since many children will be ready to use the adult seat belt on its own by the time they reach 110 lbs. The CDC growth charts suggest that most US children will outgrown the 57 inch height limit before the weight limits in any event.
It is nice to have the option (if the need arises), but it’s not a deal-breaker for me.
Note: the height limit in this mode of use is 57 inches for both seats.
Safety Note: Please read the IIHS Booster Seat Evaluation Test Results at the bottom of the page.
#4 Deluxe Infant Body Insert
The Pacifica (and Rainier) come with the Deluxe Infant Body Insert.
The Olympia does not have an infant body insert at all.
The relevance of this depends upon whether you are buying a seat for a newborn baby or as an upgrade from an infant car seat.
Personally, I wouldn’t be happy to use the Olympia for my newborn baby and would happily pay the extra for the cosy looking insert to provide added padding and a more snug fit (especially around the head area). I’m not suggesting that this seat is not safe to be used with a newborn (it has a rating of 5 lbs upwards), but I would prefer to buy one of the seats with the infant insert.
Where to Buy the Diono Pacifica and Diono Olympia
If you are still undecided, you can:
Booster Mode – IIHS “Not Recommended” Rating
Since writing this comparison review, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has published its November 2014 “Booster Seat Evaluation” results. Unfortunately, the Diono Pacifica and Olympia seats scored very badly in these evaluations and have been awarded a “Not Recommended” rating.
The problem seems to stem from the fact that the shoulder belt guides on the Pacifica and Olympia put the shoulder belt in a position that touched the child’s face in a number of safety belt configurations.
So, the bad news is that these seats cannot be regarded as safe to use in booster mode.
However, it is not all bad news:
- These seats can still be used in rear-facing and forwards-facing harness modes for longer than other convertible car seats;
- The Diono Rainier does NOT suffer from this problem and intact gets a “GOOD BET” rating from the IIHS. This difference is due to the fact that it has an adjustable head rest that means that the belt guides can be moved into an acceptable position. So, if you like these Diono seats and don’t want to have to change to another high-backed booster seat when your child exceeds the “Harness Mode” weight/height limits (see above), you should consider buying the Rainier instead. Alternatively, you can consider one of the older Diono seats.
Diono Car 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.
If you have any other questions or feedback about my Diono Pacifica vs Diono Olympia post, please just leave a comment in the box below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org