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Old 06-04-2006, 09:04 PM   #1
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JANE Indy Plus Review

JANE Indy Plus High Back Booster Review



Photo Courtesy of JANÉ USA http://www.janeusa.com/

Review Introduction

The Indy Plus is one of two new booster seats from JANÉ (Pronounced ha-NAY). This model is a belt-positioning booster, rated for children 30-80 pounds, up to approximately 12 years of age. The label on the booster adds that children should be 4’9” tall or less. It is not a combination model, and does not have an internal harness. Other notable features include an aluminum reinforced frame, side impact protection, rigid lower LATCH attachments, recline settings and adjustable width.

As with all boosters, the Indy Plus must always be used with both a lap AND shoulder belt. Children 12 and under should always be seated in the rear seat, even if there is no active airbag in the vehicle. You may not use this booster in the front seat of a car with airbags. Otherwise, JANÉ defers to the vehicle owner’s manual for placement near airbags.

Features and Advantages

Side Impact Protection- After frontal impacts, side impacts are the most common and severe. Most child restraints provide good protection in frontal impacts when used properly. Unfortunately, side impact testing is not mandated and has not been a main design feature for many carseats and boosters in the USA. With very little vehicle structure between a child and a side impact, these crashes are very dangerous and are the most deadly to properly restrained passengers. Side impact testing is done in Europe, where the Indy Plus has been on the market for a couple years. It has wide, adjustable "wings" around the torso and head, using EPS foam on the inside surfaces and behind the head for energy absorption. New research is showing that restraints with rigid LATCH attachments may be improving safety in side impacts. Boosters with high backs are showing similar, preliminary results, so the Indy Plus has all the bases covered. Also, for these safety reasons, the Indy Plus does not allow removal of the back for use as a backless booster. Finally, an added bonus of the head wings is to help support the head of a sleeping child.

LATCH- The Indy Plus is one of the only boosters that allows the use of LATCH along with the lap/shoulder seatbelt. It is the only booster of any kind with rigid LATCH attachments. Unfortunately, other seats with rigid ISOFIX attachments have all but disappeared from the USA market, including the Britax Expressway ISOFIX and Britax BabySafe infant seat. The Baby Trend LATCH-LOC infant seat remains, but can be difficult to find. I’ve also reviewed the Expressway and LATCH-LOC and can say that they are among the easiest child restraints to install in many LATCH-equipped vehicles. The Indy Plus is no exception. Though it may not install well in certain vehicles with high-mounted or hidden LATCH anchors, it should install quickly and easily in most. This ease of installation and potential improvement in safety are great features unique to the Indy Plus. Also, LATCH installation keeps the booster from sliding around when unoccupied, when loading, unloading and around tight turns. Note that a top tether is not used, nor is it needed for a booster. Unlike harnessed carseats, the LATCH attachments on this booster only hold the weight of the booster itself and not the weight of the child. So, because the child's weight is restrained by the seatbelt in a booster, the LATCH system on the INDY PLUS may be used until 80 pounds in any LATCH equipped vehicle. Like other high back boosters, the Indy Plus can also be installed without LATCH, using just a lap/shoulder seatbelt system in the normal manner.

Open Loop Belt Guide- Unlike some combination boosters, the Indy Plus has an "open" guide for the shoulder belt. This allows the shoulder belt to slide freely and not get caught in the narrow guides found on some combination seats. This should not normally happen with the Indy Plus, though this can vary from one car, seating position or seatbelt to another. For example, the guide could restrict the belt in certain vehicles where the shoulder belt comes from well above and behind the captain's chair. With the seat back very upright, I found the shoulder belt could get compressed between the headrest and the back of the vehicle seat and restrict movement if the head wings were in the widest setting. In any case, The shoulder belt should be adjusted such that it is across the center of the shoulder and center of the chest of your child, and not on the neck, arm or tummy. The guide positions the shoulder belt correctly for comfort and safety, though feeding the shoulder belt through the slot, into and out of the guide can take a few seconds. You should always check to make sure there is no slack in the seatbelt around the child in any booster seat.

Easy Height Adjustment- A gentle squeeze of a handle at the top on the back of the booster is all that is needed to raise or lower the height to accommodate different children. This also adjusts the shoulder belt positioning. A child outgrows the Indy Plus if the middle of their head (around the top of their ears) is above the top of the head rest at the maximum height setting. In the Indy Plus, that is just over 30”, from the top of the seating surface to the top of the backrest in the highest position. The highest shoulder belt guide setting is about 22" from the top of the seating surface. The height is adjusted correctly when the shoulder belt guides are at the level of the child's shoulders or slightly above. There are six height adjustment positions, held with a “click” as you adjust the backrest. My son is over 52” tall and has at least 6” of seated height remaining in the highest setting. For now, one of the middle settings provides the correct fit. At 44” tall, my daughter fits well into the lowest height setting.

Width Adjustments- This model has adjustable width in the head and torso area. This helps to fit the child better for comfort and possibly for lateral impact safety. The head and torso wings have separate adjustments for width in the form of a knob on the side of the booster. The adjustment is easy to turn, even when in use. The wings actually pivot so that the angle of the wings changes, rather than just moving closer to or farther away from the head. The width of the base is about 17.5" at the back and at the armrests, narrowing at the front. It is not one of the narrower boosters. The torso wings are about the same when in their narrowest adjustment, but a few inches wider at the maximum setting.

Padding and Comfort- The Indy Plus is reasonably padded and comfortable. There is adequate padding on the bottom, back and inside the wings. There is no padding on the neck and upper back extension when the height is raised. My son said it was “fine” and liked riding in it, though it is my daughter who says it is really comfortable. Mine had the Black and Gray G71 color choice that has red trim. The quilted fabric is somewhat soft, but not plush. It seems breathable and durable. It also has vents in the shell to improve airflow. The cover definitely has a racing appearance to it, as the “Indy Racing Team” logo suggests. The armrest is also slightly adjustable with a button on each side to raise and lower it to 3 separate settings. Seat depth is about 14”, pretty typical for a high back booster.

Adjustable Backrest Angle- The recline adjustment in the base of the booster has 3 settings when used with LATCH installation. This is done by lifting the handle at the front of the seat. Depending on the vehicle seat and lower anchor location, you may not be able to adjust the Indy Plus to the most upright position on the base. This adjustment is handy in sedans and wagons that have upright rear seats with no adjustments of their own. In addition, the back of the booster also reclines independently to match the vehicle seat back with either LATCH or seatbelt installation. JANÉ recommends that you adjust this when the vehicle is stationary, because it may cause the seatbelt to need adjustment, also. In some vehicles, especially with a taller child, you may find the vehicle’s head restraint interferes with the booster recline. Since the back of the Indy Plus is reinforced for head and neck protection, you may raise or remove the vehicle headrest if this is a problem.

This booster is easy to adjust, comfortable and has a number of great features. Perhaps most importantly, my 7.5 year old son and especially my 5.75 year old daughter like it. Both kids can buckle themselves in it with average difficulty, occasionally needing help depending on the vehicle seat and if there is another passenger or child seat next to them. The wide base makes it more difficult to reach the seatbelt buckle than the narrowest boosters and sometimes it takes them a few seconds for them to get all the slack back into the seatbelt retractor. On the other hand, there is plenty of room under the armrests to route the belts, especially if they are in one of the higher adjustment positions. Also, the LATCH installation helps keep it from tipping while they buckle themselves, so that helps, too.

All vehicles since 2003 have LATCH, and some as far back as 2000 have these anchors, also. If your vehicle is equipped with these anchors, the additional installation should be very easy. First, you remove protective caps by squeezing the release button on each side of the attachments. Next, to extend the rigid attachments, you squeeze small red levers on both sides of the base. This is easiest using both hands and having the booster on its side or back. Once extended, they click right onto the anchor bars in your vehicle. You then push the base of the booster into the vehicle seat and it will click as it ratchets into place tightly. To release the base from the vehicle, you squeeze the same release button as you do to release the protective caps. All in all, it should take just a minute or two of time once you learn how to do it. If you are in a hurry or in a seating position that is not specified for LATCH in the vehicle owner’s manual (like a center seat in many vehicles), you can use the booster with just the lap and shoulder seatbelt.

Some vehicles have hidden anchors that are recessed into the seat cushions or bight between the vehicle seat bottom and back. JANÉ does include two guides that snap over the lower anchors to aid installation in these cases. Some other vehicles have high mounted anchors or have a vehicle seat design that just does not accommodate using a rigid LATCH attachment system. In the case of an incompatibility, you can simply leave the attachments recessed with the protective caps in place and use it with just the lap and shoulder belt.

Please remember that this booster does not have an internal harness. Even if you use the LATCH lower anchorage system to attach the booster, you must still use a lap AND shoulder seatbelt to restrain the child!

The official recommendation is that children should be in a booster until they are 8 years old, unless they are already 4' 9" tall. This is only a rough guideline. Because both kids and vehicles differ, the best way to know if your child is ready to move out of a booster is by fit. Children are not ready to move from a booster to a regular lap/shoulder seatbelt until.
1) They are tall enough so that their legs bend at the knees at the edge of the seat; and
2) They are mature enough to remain seated with their backs flat against the back of the seat and not slouch; and
3) The lap belt sits high on the thighs or low on the hips (NOT on their tummy!); and
4) The shoulder belt crosses the shoulder and chest (NOT on their arms or neck!); and
Each passenger must have their own lap AND shoulder belt and remain seated properly for the entire trip! Never allow children to share a seatbelt!

Finally, though made in China, the quality appears to be acceptable. Other than a few loose threads and fragments of EPS foam, it seems stable and the adjustments work well. The snaps holding some of the fabric work fine, but as they are plastic I would not want to be removing the cover frequently for cleaning. Also, the base sometimes slips out of its recline position when a child isn't in the seat. It is certainly much sturdier than the discontinued Nania Airway, the only other [combination] high back booster that allowed the use of LATCH.

Disadvantages

Fabric Care- Removing the cover is moderate in difficulty, with small snaps and elastic straps. Care is hand wash in warm or cold water. I suspect it is also air dry, but the manual does not specify this.

No cupholders- I don't generally have a need for cupholders since anything the kids have will usually be spilled, cupholder or not. Plus, most vehicles seem to have about 20 cupholders already. Even so, some parents prefer boosters that have one or more cupholders built-in.

Owner’s Manual- The owners manual is concise and gives you everything you need to know without a lot of extra information. On the downside, it could use some additional proofreading and spellchecking. To be fair, I suspect at least some of it was a translation from the original Spanish version that is also included in the manual. One important point is that the manual says the seat may be used from 1.5 years and 30 pounds. Most advocates recommend that children continue to use a child restraint with a 5-point harness until at least 40 pounds or around 4 years of age, according to best practice.

Price- I think it is a fair value for all the safety and convenience features. Even so, $199 suggested retail price is somewhat high, especially for a product made in China. Considering the various features and adjustments, I would have appreciated a warranty longer than one year for the cost. Other popular boosters with side impact protection sell for under $100. On the other hand, the Recaro Start is the only other high back booster with an Aluminum reinforced frame and head width adjustments and it sells for $300 or more.

These disadvantages are all relatively minor, and are mostly personal preference. Like all boosters, the Indy Plus cannot be used on aircraft. As with any child seat, the Indy Plus may not fit some kids or vehicles. In particular, the rigid LATCH system can be difficult in vehicles with poorly placed lower anchors, but should work quickly and easily in most models. I also note that the bottom of the booster is not very rounded and could leave impressions on some vehicle seats.

Conclusion

The Indy Plus is a great new high back booster with some unique and innovative safety features. If your child is above 40 pounds and mature enough to ride in a booster full-time, then the Indy Plus should be among the models you consider. The side impact protection alone makes it a top choice if you are using it in an outboard seating position. The other great features put it on par with competitive models. If you have LATCH, I highly recommend it as one of the best options on the market and rate it 5 stars. If your vehicle does not have LATCH, I rate it 3.5 stars. In that case, unless you have plans to get a newer vehicle with LATCH, you might consider a less expensive alternative like the similar JANÉ Indy or one from a competitive brand.

As with all child restraints, it’s a great idea to try one with your child and vehicle before you purchase, if at all possible. The Indy Plus is sold primarily through specialty baby stores. Online, I have purchased from www.kiwi-kid.com in the past and their service has been good with fast shipping.

JANÉ is new to the USA market but has been in the Spanish/European market for decades. They operate their own advanced crash test research center and released the Indy Plus in 2004.

Details on the JANÉ Indy Plus can be found here:
http://www.janeusa.com/indyplusinfo.htm

For more information on carseat safety please visit:

http://www.car-safety.org

http://www.seatcheck.net
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Old 06-04-2006, 10:04 PM   #2
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How does it compare height-wise with the PW (sitting height to shoulderbelt guides)?
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Old 06-05-2006, 10:07 AM   #3
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Unfortunately, I do not have a Parkway for comparison or side-by-side photos. The maximum height to shoulder belt guides is about 22".
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Old 06-05-2006, 10:03 PM   #4
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thanks, stuill trying to get the booster with the tallest torso height. lol
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Old 06-08-2006, 11:44 AM   #5
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How many years is it good for before it expires, the normal 6 or longer?
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