Arlo has been in a Britax Two Way Elite behind the passenger seat of our 1998 Ford Focus since he outgrew his Group 0 Maxi Cosi at 15 months old. Fast forward a few years and now with a second baby, we were determined to also keep Rory rear facing, but we knew that putting a second rear facing seat behind the driver in a small, old, non-isofix car would involve a bit more thinking.
Arlo at 4.5 years old in his Britax Two Way Elite ( his seat is very upright to allow space for Sam in front – the propped up towel is an attempt to stop the TWE from being completely vertical on our very sloped Ford Focus seats. PS. He’s not allowed to hold that drink whilst the car is moving)
Luckily for us, we had a bit more time to think about our decision – despite starting out in life as a bit of a giant, toddler Rory is more on the small-ish side, his Maxi Cosi lasting until 20 months. Sometimes, babies reach a stage where they want to be more upright than group 0 seats allow, but Rory remained perfectly happy, so we had no reason to upgrade his seat until his head reached the top of the back of the car seat. (I’ll also admit that I held out as long as possible because it’s far easier to move a sleeping baby from car to house in a portable infant car seat than attempt a car seat to cot transfer).
Things have changed slightly since 2011 when we were searching for an extended rear facing seat for Arlo. Things like the i-Size regulations (from approximately 2018 infants must rear face until a minimum age of 15 months) have meant manufacturers having to develop guideline-compliant car seats, and so we’ve found a (slightly) increased choice in extended rear facing car seats since we were last looking.
There were three main reasons that I chose a Britax May Way to be Rory’s new car seat in our Ford Focus.
1. I was intrigued to try out a different car seat to the Two Way Elite, to see how they compare.
2. It’s one of the smallest seats available, taking up a similar amount of space as the compact Two Way Elite.
3. The Max Way has a support leg.
My thinking behind a car seat with a support leg was that it would potentially give us, literally, more room to manoeuvre if the driver’s seat needed to be adjusted. Currently it’s just me driving, but Sam is taking lessons, and if all goes well, he should be on the road very soon.
The official word from the Britax installation manual is to NOT brace the seat against the seat in front, but to leave a small gap. However, the word from car seat safety experts is that bracing is just as safe, and is fine to do if not enough space. Our thinking was that when I’m driving, we’d have the small gap between seats, and when Sam is driving, he could push his seat back so it’s braced against the Max Way, creating the leg room that he needs.
In actuality, I’m not sure how well this will work out. I think Sam will need more space than the car seat allows. I like to drive quite close to the pedals, and there is really not much room at all to push the driver’s seat back.
There WILL be occasions when Sam needs to drive the kids (that’s sort of the whole point in him learning to drive), so I’m not sure what we will do if we can’t make it work with two rear facing seats in a Ford Focus. I’m not particularly happy with this idea, but I guess one thing we could do would be to turn Arlo’s Two Way Elite to forward facing behind the driver’s seat if Sam needs to take the kids somewhere and it’s on residential roads, and then I would do the rest of the driving and any long distance / motorway driving with them both rear facing. Another option I would consider would be to get a bigger car on finance at the expense of our mortgage-borrowing prospects. It’s well worth it if I know it means Arlo and Rory are much safer in the car.
We haven’t yet experimented with adjusting the recline bar or the leg, to create more space by having Rory more upright, so it could still be do-able, but I have a feeling Rory would have to be REALLY quite upright. Watch this space for an update.
Sidenote over. Back to the Max Way.
I really like this seat. And so does Rory. When he first sat in it, he was so happy to realise he could see out of the windows. The Max Way sits quite high up, so Rory’s head is actually at the same height as Arlo’s in the car now, which is much nicer for them – they can chat and play on the same level now. Looking at pictures, the Max Way looks like a bulkier seat compared to the Two Way Elite, but in the flesh it is compact and takes up no more room when installed in the car.
The Max Way will last Rory until he is 25kgs, or approximately six or seven years old. The Max Way has passed the Swedish Pass Plus test, which is THE strictest safety test, and the only one that measures neck loads. (Forget ‘Which’ reviews, which include a comfort rating as part of their ‘safety’ scoring). There are just SIX seats that have passed the Pass Plus test, and they are all rear facing car seats. In the test that car seats have to pass to meet European Standard ECE R44/04, the effect of a car crash on the child’s neck is not measured. If the test did measure neck loads no forward facing seat would ever pass. Here’s what Britax have to say about their rear facing credentials.
Do I prefer the Max Way or the Two Way Elite?
There is not a simple answer to this question. I prefer the Max Way for a toddler, as Rory looks so comfortably supported, and the higher seat positioning gives a much better vantage point. But the Two Way Elite seems more comfortable for an older child – as their legs grow longer, the flat seat of the TWE gives more options for a child to position their legs, there is room to spread or cross their legs if they want to, whereas the high sides of the Max Way prevent this.
4.5 year old Arlo in the Britax Max Way:
Compared to the Britax Two Way Elite:
Arlo crossing his legs in the Max Way
If I needed to pick just ONE seat to last from baby/toddler to age six or seven, then I’d go for the Two Way Elite. However, if, like me, your older child will have outgrown their TWE in time for your younger child to use it should they find it more comfortable for longer legs, the Max Way makes the perfect interim seat whilst offering good support and a better view whilst your child is still very young. For the ages that my children are, I happy with our TWE and Max Way setup, and prefer this combination to having two TWEs.
The Max Way has an RRP of £225 and needs to be installed by a car seat safety expert. I am incredibly lucky to live right round the corner from one of the most knowledgeable and dedicated car seat safety advisers, who kindly fitted Rory’s Max Way for me.
20 month old Rory in his Britax Max Way:
Margaret is based in South East London – She stocks and fits a wide range of rear facing car seats, as well as checking your group 0 car seats, and dispensing all sorts of knowledge on car safety. To find out what your options are for your specific car once your baby grows out of their infant car seat, or for any advice on rear facing seats, I definitely recommend getting in touch.
Margaret is also holding monthly free car seat clinics in partnership with Good Egg Safety at Sydenham Toys R Us. If you would like to have your children’s car seats checked completely free of charge, this page has the dates and times.
I knew a little about rear facing when we bought Arlo’s Two Way Elite, but I am learning so much more all the time since following Margaret’s Facebook page – it’s the best rear facing resource I’ve come across, and it’s made me resolute in not wanting to turn my children forward facing in the car until they are six or seven. It’s not JUST about rear facing information (although you’ll never find Margaret advocating a forward facing car seat), but it’s also a great resource for child car safety in general (when do babies grow out of group 0 car seats, car seat appropriate clothing, etc).
I don’t really feel strongly about any aspects of parenting. I don’t care about comparing the choices I’ve made for specific, individual reasons, to the choices others have made for specific, individual reasons. But, I guess, I do feel strongly when it comes to a child safety issue that could be done so much better. I do feel that UK parents are currently being let down by a lack of widely available, correct advice on the matter of car safety for children. And I do firmly believe that the big names in infant retail should be investing in good quality training for their car seat advisers, as well as stocking a wider choice of rear facing car seats, so that every parent can make an informed choice.
Follow the Rear Facing for Toddlers FB page to start learning exactly WHY rear facing is so much safer. Once you learn the finer details of the facts, you won’t look back.
(There’s a pun in there somewhere).
Thank you to Britax for supporting and understanding our wishes to keep Arlo and Rory rear facing, and for sending us Rory’s Max Way to review. And a big thanks to Margaret at Rear Facing car seats for toddlers for fitting Rory’s seat for us.