Anything new can be seemingly complicated so let's get immediately to work and simplify rear-facing car seats. Indeed, the options are pretty straightforward.
Rules and regulations
In 2013 an EU car seat regulation known as i-size but officially called R129 was introduced. It is supposed to replace R44.04 because it extends the minimum age a child needs to be before they can travel without a rear-facing car seat. But for now, the two exist together, so as long as you buy a rear-facing car seat that adheres to either of these, you are complying with regulation.
In real terms, this means children in i-size car seats must use them until they are at least 15 months old. But whether a child can stop using a rear-facing car seat depends on their height.
Rear-facing car sear options
Extended seat: You might want to consider an extended rear-facing car seat if your child has almost outgrown their Group 0+ car seat, and you’re shopping around for a toddler seat (Group 1). This is because it offers better protection than a forward-facing one. It's a good idea if you’re buying a baby car seat for use from birth too since it enables you to keep your baby in the safest possible position for longer. It's also better value for money.
Forward-facing seat: Some rear-facing car seats can switch to forward-facing once the child reaches the correct age or weight. But you don't have to change to front-facing as soon as possible. It’s a common misconception that children don’t like facing backwards as they get older, but if your kid only knows a rear-facing seat, they're unlikely to complain. Extended rear-facing seats can appear cramped for toddlers, but they’re much more comfortable than they look.
Fixing to a pushchair: Extended rear-facing car seats are meant to stay in position in the car.
Annoyingly, not all car seats are approved for use in all vehicles, so this needs to be checked. But most cars use ISOFIX seats, meaning the connector points in the base of the seat plug into metal anchor points built into the car’s chassis, with a support leg or top tether to prevent it from tipping up in a collision. Check whether you can try the car seat in your vehicle before you buy it.
When it comes to installation, some car seats are easier to install than others. It’s vital you know how to fit them correctly in order to offer full protection. Some retailers will install the seat for you, and some of the seats included in this round-up have installation features that indicate when they’re correctly in place.
The best rear-facing car seats for toddlers
Cosatto RAC Come and Go i-Rotate
Extended rear-facing suitable from: birth - 4 years Weight: 14.5kg
This seat has an integrated ISOFIX base and is available in three different eye-catching patterns. It comes with Cosatto’s clever ‘anti-escape’ system, which can be added to the seat to stop your little one from slipping an arm out of the straps mid-journey. Some users have found this car seat a little fiddly to install, but many considered it impressive value for money.
Britax Dualfix i-Size
Extended rear-facing suitable from: 3 months - 4 years Weight: 17.6kg
This i-size seat is installed using ISOFIX anchor points and has 360° rotating functionality. It has passed Britax’s additional safety testing standards and is suitable for children from three months old, offering a flatter lying position but also extra legroom for older or taller children. We found it a little on the bulky side, but it's a popular one for its comfort.
Cybex Sirona S2 i-Size
Extended rear-facing suitable from: birth - 4 years Weight: 14.1kg
This is a sleek, stylish seat that, as well as rotating 360 degrees for easy access, has built-in technology to stop it being positioned facing forwards until your child has reached a minimum height of 76cm. It’s an ISOFIX seat that’s easy to install. We particularly like the fabric quality and the comprehensive seat-recline options.
Axkid Minikid 2.0
Extended rear-facing suitable from: birth - 6 years Weight: 11.5kg
This non-ISOFIX seat offers the ability to have your little one sit facing rearwards until they are an impressive 125cm tall – around six years old. We like that tightening the belt automatically adjusts the headrest to your child’s height and size, too, so it offers a really comfy fit. This seat has five seat recline positions, as well.
BeSafe iZi Modular RF i-Size
Extended rear-facing suitable from: 6 months - 4 years Weight: 12.5kg
This rearwards-facing seat is installed in your vehicle using a modular base, which can also be used with the infant seat. Its front brace allows more legroom for your growing child, and the straps are helpfully held out of the way by magnets. It is easy to install in two pieces, but it could do with deeper recline positions.
Joie Every Stage
Extended rear-facing suitable from: birth to 12 years Weight: 8.86kg
This seat from Joie comes with built-in ISOFIX installation when forward-facing for group one as well as an ISOSAFE connection to keep the seat securely in place when in group 2/3 booster mode. The AutoAdjust side wings and Grow Together multi-height headrest and harness enable easy adjustment of the seat as your child grows, with no rethreading of harnesses required.
Joie Spin 360
Extended rear-facing suitable from: birth - 4 years Weight: 11.95kg
Spinning in every direction at just the touch of a button and locking securely in place, this i-size safety seat has safety features like the auto-engaging side impact protection panels, rearward-facing longer usage, new test dummy technology, ISOFIX-only installation, and improved fit formula for peace of mind.
Rear-facing toddler car seat buying advice
Safety features: Look for a deep headrest, energy-absorbing fabric, and side-impact protection (i-size seats are tested for side-impact protection as part of compliance).
Support leg: This is a bar that extends from the bottom of an ISOFIX car seat down into the footwell to prevent it moving in a collision, but it may not be suitable for use if your vehicle has under-floor storage.
Base: Some car seats have a separate base unit. It plugs straight into the ISOFIX anchor points in your vehicle, and the car seat clicks in place on top of the base. Check whether you need a separate base, and if it’s an additional expense.
Rotation: Some of the car seats we have included have 360° swivel functionality, so you can spin the seat to face you when you’re lifting your child in and out. It is a useful feature, but it is a luxury extra you likely need to pay extra for.
Seat recline: Babies under six months should lie flat when sleeping so their spine and lungs develop healthily, and no child should sit in a car seat for more than two hours at a time. But quick naps are unavoidable in the car, so choose a seat with a deep recline for comfy snoozing.
Buckle and harness: The harness should be easy to adjust for the perfect fit over your baby’s body, especially if they have an overnight growth spurt.
Top tether: This is a strap attached to the back of an ISOFIX car seat. It hooks onto a fixed point in the back of the car to prevent the seat from moving in a collision. With an ISOFIX seat, it’s essential to use this or a support leg in addition to the anchor points.
Adjustable headrest: The headrest must be correctly positioned to adequately support your baby’s head and spine – check that it’s easy to adjust.
Fabric: Machine-washable fabrics are ideal in order to be able to whip the cover off and put it in the wash.