Diono Rainier Convertible Car Seat
Value for money
The Diono Ranier is a great car seat which should last from birth until your child no longer needs a harnessed carseat. It's expensive but fully featured and if you're looking for a long-lasting seat (and it fits in your car) it's a great choice.
I mentioned in my review of the Evenflo Symphony that we were somewhat obsessive in our car seat choosing. We knew from the start that the Diono seats are great, but my sister had already tried to get my nephew’s seat into our car when they were visiting and that didn’t really pan out, so we knew they were too big for our car.
However, I discovered the NZ Carseat Discussion Group on Facebook sometime after our Little Monkey was born. It’s helpful for choosing seats, but also has excellent advice on installation, cleaning, repair and any number of other carseat-related queries (what level of car accident requires replacing the seat? How do you clean a seat? When does this seat expire?). I maintain that successful carseat use is the real entrance exam for parenting so having an expert panel to ask can be pretty useful.
Anyway, through the group I learned that Diono produce an “angle adjuster” — basically a foam platform — which reduces the amount of length the seat takes up in the car. You can’t use it until your baby can sit independently — usually by around 8 months old — but since we were looking to put our big kid into it, and use the Evenflo for baby #2, that was perfect for us.
It does a good job of reducing the space the seat takes, but the seat still only just fits into our car. My husband would debate even that assertion, since he would prefer to have the driver’s seat one notch further back to drive. But we don’t do a lot of driving, and it’s fine for me (I use the car more) so it works for now.
Installation the first time is a bit of a mission. It’s actually pretty simple to get in and out of the car, but there are a lot of components to get set up and it is a wee bit confusing. I don’t think you need to let this put you off if you plan to move it between vehicles, just allow a decent window the first time you put it in (the fact that I did this on my own while 8 months pregnant probably made it harder than it needed to be).
The seat has a great size and weight range, and can be used from birth (well, from 2.2kg) up to 54kg/144cm, and rearfacing to 22kgs / 112cm (which will take you to 5 years of age for the average child). It’s reinforced with steel (most carseats are formed plastic) and can tether rearfacing, which most NZ seats don’t (although this does require a tether point. In some cars you can use the slide rail for the driver’s or front passenger seat but ours doesn’t permit this so we’re not using this tether point). The steel not only increases strength but extends the seats lifespan to 12 years, which may or may not be useful depending on your family’s age distribution.
Unlike the super easy-to-use Evenflo seat, you do need to unclip the harness to adjust it for height. This isn’t difficult but can be slightly awkward in a small car like ours. I also find it a bit harder to tighten and loosen than the Evenflo — another reason I’m glad we’re using a different seat for our rapidly changing baby, but it’s not a big deal for a toddler. It’s not tremendously padded but my vocal toddler hasn’t made any complaints, and the sides are nice and low so it’s easy for him to climb in and out of.
One of the big selling points of the Diono seats is that they are narrow, which means that in most cars you can fit three across (or have two and still use the third seat). The seat folds for travel, and can be used on aircraft, but it’s pretty heavy so I wouldn’t be super keen to tote it around an airport.
Our seat is the one pictured; Diono have recently released an updated range, but though the seats look different, only the fabric and logo are changed (the new colours are pretty cool, but I’m not gonna buy a new $500 car seat just to get a prettier one!).
All in all, I’d say it has excellent safety ratings, is moderate on the ease-of-use scale (still plenty of seats out there which are harder), and will last your family a long time. It’s pricey, though, and may not fit well in your car. I’m very pleased with ours but do like that we have the other seat as well — I can’t call a clear winner.
Awesome or Average: Awesome
Buy from Tweedle (if you’re in NZ)