Cosco Scenera Next

Good Convertible Car Seat

Good Convertible Car Seat: Cosco Scenera Next

Last updated: May 9, 2016. Good Convertible Car Seat: Cosco Scenera Next. For a decent, no-frills car seat, we recommend the Cosco Scenera Next. Yes, it lacks the whiz bang features of newer models, but this seat is the quiet, unsung hero of car seats. That’s because it retails for $44—yes,  you read that right: $44. This seat’s low price makes the Scenera perfect for that little-used second car or Grandma’s vehicle. The Scenera is a basic, bare-bones convertible that works to 40 lbs. and is easy to install. With the prices of some car seats pushing $400, it’s nice to know you can find a decent seat for well under $100.

Car seat 101

There are three types of car seats: infant, convertible and booster seats. This page focuses on convertible seats. Want to learn a bit more on choosing a convertible seat? Check out our Car Seat 101 for a quick overview.

How we picked a winner

We evaluate car seats with hands on inspections, checking seats for ease of use (installation and adjusting the seat). We also gather significant reader feedback (our book, Baby Bargains has over 1 million copies in print), tracking seats on ease of use, quality and durability. Besides interviewing parents, we also talk with car seat “techs,” certified child passenger safety technicians who install hundreds of not thousands of seats at safety check points.

We’ve been rating and reviewing car seats since 1994. As part of our research, we have also visited manufacturer facilities and watched car seat crash tests. While we don’t personally crash test seats, we compare our reader feedback with crash tests done by organizations like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Consumer Reports. We also look at evaluations of seats by groups like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which focuses on booster car seats.

What does Good, Better and Best Mean?

We divide our car seats picks into good, better and best bets. What’s the difference? First, realize that ALL our picks offer excellent crash protection—they all meet or exceed federal car seat safety requirements.

Good seats offer basic features and protection. Our “better” pick adds side-impact protection, upgraded LATCH connectors, built-in lock-offs (for bullet installation) and other upgrades. Best is the top of the line pick, with additional safety and convenience features.

This review features our pick for a GOOD convertible car seat. Click here for better and best picks.

The Winner for GOOD Convertible Car Seat: The Cosco Scenera Next

Cosco Scenera Next

Our Pick

Cosco Scenera Next

For a decent, no-frills car seat, we recommend the Cosco Scenera Next. It works to 40 lbs. rear-facing or forward-facing and has a new narrow profile (17” wide). It is a Walmart exclusive at $44—perfect for that little-used second car or Grandma’s vehicle. With the prices of some car seats pushing $300, it’s nice to know you can find a good, safe seat for well under $100.

$44.00* at Walmart

* Prices change daily. Shop carefully.

This simple seat is our top pick for that occasionally-used second car or Grandma’s vehicle. The Scenera isn’t fancy: you get a five-point harness with four height positions and three crotch slots. The padding is very simple and there isn’t any EPS foam, side-impact protection or other goodies. But then again, this seat is about $44—perfect when you need an affordable seat that is easy to install and use.

The Cosco Scenera has been around for many years. In a recent refresh, Cosco debuted an updated version of this seat called the Scenera Next, which works to 40 lbs. rear-facing and has a new narrow profile (17” wide). It is a Walmart exclusive at $44. In coming months, Cosco will phase out the older Scenera in favor of this new model. (As of this writing, you can still buy the old Scenera online … but we’d recommend the new version for the improvements).

Key features of the Scenera and Scenera Next include:

 • Machine washable pad—it’s amazing more seats don’t allow you to throw the pad in the washing machine. As any experienced parent will tell you, just about anything can happen in a car seat. Kudos to Cosco for this.

• Removable cup holder.

• Comes fully assembled. Four harness slots—the top one is 15.25”.

 • Light in weight—compared to other convertible seats, the Scenera is lightweight and a good choice for travel.

 • A zillion color choices. The Scenera has many fabric choices, so you aren’t locked into just one or two patterns.

 

Here is a quick video that covers the basic features of the original Scenera:

 

 

Consumer Reports picked this seat as a best buy in their most recent rankings, giving it an “excellent” in crash protection. As for ease of use, the Scenera earned just two stars from the NHTSA, with rear facing installation holding the seat’s rating down. Nonetheless, we think this is a good, basic seat for secondary use.

Cosco has posted several videos on how to install the Scenera Next. Here’s a sample of how to install the seat rear-facing with a vehicle belt:

Reader feedback on the Scenera Next is much the same as the Scenera—the same complaints about rear-facing installation and skimpy padding are outweighed by the light weight and the 40 lb. rear-facing limit. The cover on the Next is machine washable and dryer safe.

Flaws but not deal breakers

Perhaps the biggest concern we have with the Cosco Scenera is the lack of side impact protection. Here is a video that shows the Cosco Scenera side impact crash test:

 

 

As you can see from the video during the side impact crash, the Scenera’s lack of side impact protection could mean a child could make contact with the vehicle door in such a crash—especially if your vehicle does NOT have side-curtain air bags in the rear seats. If this keeps you up at night, consider our Better or Best picks that have more side impact protection.

The  Scenera garners mostly positive reviews, with most parents finding it easy to install and use. The only hitch: the original Scenera has a kick-stand that has to be flipped out when forward facing. Some folks forget to do this and complain about difficulty of installation. FYI: Cosco has eliminated this feature from the new, similarly priced Apt seat, (which is somewhat wider).

Another negative: in order to install the Scenera with the proper recline in rear-facing mode, you may have to use a rolled-up towel or pool noodle to get the proper angle. This depends in your vehicle (those with deep sloping back seats are more of an issue when installing the Scenera). Using these aids is perfectly safe, we should note.

Critics note the lack of padding or fancy fabric; the Scenera also lacks an infant insert, which means the smallest infants may not fit well in the seat. And the top harness slot is only 14.5″ (Scenera) or 13″ (Scenera Next), so it is doubtful a kid will hit the 40 lb. weight limit before outgrowing this seat by height. But that’s the trade-off for getting the price so low—again, we think this seat is best for that little-used second car or Grandma’s car. Fans love the Scenera for airplane travel, where the seat’s light weight is much appreciated.

Also: the Scenera lacks EPS or EPP foam for additional crash protection. This is helpful in a side impact collison to prevent injury to a child. Despite this omission, Consumer Reports still gave this seat excellent marks in crash protection given their crash tests. We deem the lack of foam an acceptable trade-off for a seat that will only get occasional use in grandma’s car or a second vehicle. The lack of foam keeps the price low.

A final negative: the Scenera shell edges can be rough. Without a seat protector (a thin towel will do), your car’s upholstery may get scratched or damaged when using the Scenera.

Also Great

Cosco Apt

$52.52* at Amazon

* Prices change daily. Shop carefully.

The Cosco Apt is basically an updated Scenera—the main differences are deep side walls for side impact protection and two cup holders. The additional cup holders make the seat wider than the Scenera, however. If you’d like a bit more side impact protection, then the Apt is a reasonable upgrade.

Cosco Apt

Also recommended

The Cosco Apt is basically an updated Scenera—the main differences are deep side walls for side impact protection and two cup holders. The additional cup holders make the seat wider than the Scenera, however. If you’d like a bit more side impact protection, then the Apt is a reasonable upgrade.

The competition

In the sub $100 category, most of the competition to the Scenera is from Evenflo–specifically, the Evenflo Tribute seat which runs about $50-$60. The Tribute does include EPS foam, which the Scenera omits. Overall, however, we found the Scenera easier to use and install than the Tribute.

To Sum it Up

The Cosco Scenera Next is the perfect seat for those on a tight budget . . . or if you need an affordable seat for grandma’s vehicle. While it doesn’t have the bells and whistles of other seats, you do get a good basic seat that is easy to install—and easy on the wallet.

Cosco Scenera Next

Cosco Scenera Next

For a decent, no-frills car seat, we recommend the Cosco Scenera Next. It works to 40 lbs. rear-facing or forward-facing and has a new narrow profile (17” wide). It is a Walmart exclusive at $44—perfect for that little-used second car or Grandma’s vehicle. With the prices of some car seats pushing $300, it’s nice to know you can find a good, safe seat for well under $100.

$44.00* at Walmart

* Prices change daily. Shop carefully.