Mother and Baby

Buying Guide: Group 1 Car Seats

Section: Shopping Ideas

A toddler – or Group 1 – car seat is your baby’s next step at around 12 months old. Here is everything you need to know about Group 1 car seats.

When do I need a Group 1 seat?

When your child reaches a weight of 9kg – typically around 12 months – she may move from a first-stage baby seat (Group 0) to a Group 1 seat. If your baby is in a Group 0+ seat, which has a weight limit of 13kg, you can wait a little longer.

A Group 1 car seat can be used until your child weighs 18kg – a typical weight for a four-year-old. Once your child reaches four she will move to a Junior Group car seat.

How is the seat fixed to the car?

A Group 1 seat will be secured to your car in one of two ways. The traditional method uses the car’s seat belt, which threads round the child’s seat and clips into the seat-belt buckle. The second is for newer cars featuring the ISOFIX system, in which a metal bar or brackets are found in the car’s rear backrest.

Car seats with ISOFIX feature arms that connect directly to these brackets. ISOFIX offers a firmer attachment between car and child seat and makes fitting easier. On some models the arms can be retracted into the seat unit. This means they are also compatible with cars without ISOFIX, which is essential if you want to use the car seat on both an older and a newer vehicle.

You will find information on car-compatibility on the child-seat manufacturer’s website. 

How is my child secured?

The standard fitting for a Group 1 car seat is a five-point harness. Your child’s arms pass through two loops so the straps run down from her shoulders and connect to a buckle between her legs. 

An alternative fitting is an impact cushion. This is a bolster that sits across the child’s body and is secured using the seat belt. These only feature in ISOFIX car seats and are designed to reduce the force of a front-on collision. 

Are all seats forward facing?

Under UK law, you can seat your child in a position facing forwards on the car’s rear seats from when she reaches a weight of 9kg. However, European safety regulations launched in July 2013 (called iSize or UN R129) recommend a child stays rear-facing until she’s aged four. This means that iSize seats offer a choice of facing backwards or forwards.

iSize seats offer a choice of facing backwards or forwards

A child in a rear-facing position is at less risk than one facing forward during a frontal collision, as her neck is subjected to significantly less force. 

The iSize rules run alongside the existing standard, but will replace it at some point in the future.

What are the legal requirements?

Children must sit in an appropriate car restraint until they’re either 135cm tall or 12 years of age. When travelling in the UK your seat must comply with European safety standards – check the label for ECE Regulation 44.03 or 44.04.

Never buy a used seat. It may have been in an impact, so its safety could be compromised.

Ask your retailer to confirm if a seat is suitable for your vehicle. Or search for a ‘fit finder’ on the manufacturer’s website.

>> Browse our reviews of Group 1 car seats

The basics: important features of a Group 1 car seat

Machine-washable cover: An easy-to-clean cover is an absolute must as your toddler will be using this seat during potty training. You’ll want to be able to whip off the cover quickly for washing in the case of any nappy leaks or food spillages. 

Carry handle: Unlike Group 0 or 0+ seats, Group 1 models aren’t especially portable. They can’t be used on a pushchair as a travel system or as an infant carrier. Some models feature a handle on the backrest – handy if you switch the seat between cars. 

Some models feature a handle on the backrest – handy if you switch the seat between cars

Side wings: Deep side wings will provide higher levels of side impact protection in the critical head and neck area in the event of a collision. They will also prevent sleepy heads from lolling about during naps. 

Safe installation indicator: This is a visual guide to confirm that the seat has been installed into the car safely. Check whether it is easy to see in the dark. If there is an ISOFIX base you may be alerted by lights and sound if the seat has not fixed properly into the base. 

Infant cushion: Some models feature a smaller, removable cushion that will make the seat more supportive for the youngest users. This is particularly important if you are using an iSize model, as your baby will be in it from a younger age. 

Harness retainer: Small brackets which keep harness straps out of the way while you put your toddler into the seat are included on some models. They mean you don’t have to reach behind your child’s back for the straps. 

The more recent ISOFIX models have a third attachment found at the top rear of the seat

Top tether: The more recent ISOFIX models have a third attachment found at the top rear of the seat. This tether strap hooks to an anchorage point on the vehicle – you should be able to see this in the car’s boot. The additional tether is intended to limit movement of the seat in a collision. 

Recline function: One or more recline positions will maximise comfort for naps, especially on longer journeys. Some models only recline when your child is out of the seat so can be tricky to adjust if she unexpectedly nods off. Younger children are more likely to nap so look for a seat with several recline positions. 


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