Shopping for baby’s arrival can seem overwhelming, from a baby monitor to a bassinet and hundreds of tiny socks ready to be eaten by the washing machine. While the life-size toy giraffe for the nursery is a nice-to-have, a baby capsule is a must-have. In Australia, it’s illegal for a baby to travel in a car without a car seat, even for the trip home from the hospital. We’ve dug into independently tested car seats to understand which baby capsules provide great protection and comfort for your little one.
How we picked
With baby car seats we were lucky, as most of the hard work had already been done for us. Enter Child Car Seats. This website is an initiative of the Child Restraint Evaluation Program (CREP) and aims to provide consumers with information to help choose and use safe child car seats. They independently test Australian car seats and award each one a maximum of 5 stars for protection and ease of use.
Choice, Australia’s leading consumer advocacy group, has done an excellent job at using the CREP ratings to create a guide to choosing the best baby and child car seats.
We also looked at Canstar Blue, an Australian consumer review and comparison website. This gave us an idea of the brands Aussie customers love and trust, but not individual car seats.
So, we took our CREP top-rated baby capsules and checked ProductReview.com.au. This gave us the impartial insights and experiences of real Aussie customers. We were looking for car seats that got 4-stars and higher, from at least 70 reviews. While we were there, we checked to see what the most popular car seats on ProductReview were and then ran these through the Child Car Seats website to see how they performed. Ideally, we wanted to see 3- or 4-star ratings for protection.
Safety was our number 1 priority for all contenders. All car seats tested by CREP meet the Australian Standard and provide good protection. However, we wanted to find car seats that exceed these minimum standards and show true excellence in safety. We also looked for standard features, such as a 5-point harness, moveable handle and compatibility with a range of strollers.
This gave us our shortlist of Australia’s best baby capsules, informed by independent testing and real customer feedback.
8 best baby capsules in Australia
Important features to consider
When shopping for a baby capsule, it must be rear-facing. This is the safest position for small babies and it’s Australian law. Here’s what else to look for:
Most baby capsules come with a detachable base that lives in your car. This allows you to easily click the capsule in and out of your car. You can also carry baby around in the capsule or attach it to a stroller. With some capsules, you’ll need to buy a base separately. Only 1 of our picks (Phil & Teds Alpha) requires you buy a base. You don’t have to have a base; you can sometimes install a capsule into the car with just the seatbelt. However, most sleep-deprived parents enjoy the ease of simply clicking the capsule in with no fiddling around.
Length of time
Most capsules are intended to use for babies up to 6 months old. Some claim to hold babies up to 9-12 months old. How long your capsule will last you will probably depend on the size of your baby.
If you’re not sure about spending hundreds of dollars on something that may only last you half a year, you could opt for a car seat that’s both rear- and forward-facing and will take you from newborn to up to 8 years old. We’ve got a guide to those too.
ISOFIX is a car seat installation system that clips the car seat into anchorage points in your car. The advantage of ISOFIX is that they’re usually easier to install than using a seatbelt. There should be no difference in safety. You’ll find most car seats are ISOFIX compatible. Check to see whether your car has ISOFIX anchorage points in it.
Your capsule needs a label showing that it meets the safety standard AS/NZS 1754 (either 2004, 2010 or 2013). If you pick a car seat that appears on the Child Car Seats website, you’ll know that it meets mandatory safety standards and is considered safe. If you choose a seat with more than 1 star, it’ll provide more protection than what’s legally required. In this guide, we’ve specifically chosen car seats that have 3-5 stars for protection.
If you’ve got a small car or need your seat pushed back to accommodate long legs, check out the capsule dimensions. They can be big and bulky. This is even more of a problem if you need more than 1 capsule in your car. The best way to see if a capsule fits your car is to go instore and try some out.
A key benefit of a capsule is that you can quickly and easily transfer baby from home to the car / café / stroller. This is far easier if your capsule is lightweight. Most capsules are around 3.5-4kgs which is manageable.
Easy care and easy use
Babies are messy (we won’t go into the details). Check all the covers and inserts are easily removable, machine washable and quick dry. Try the handle – is it ergonomically designed so you can hold it easily and pleasantly? Does it click into multiple positions smoothly? Are the straps simple to adjust? All these things will make your life a lot easier.
Because a capsule is intended to form part of a travel system, it’s good to pay attention to which strollers they’re compatible with. Some only work with the same brand, others offer a variety. Unless you’re a fan of a brand, opting for a capsule that works with multiple brands is a good choice. You’ll get more affordable options of strollers.
All modern capsules should use a 5-point harness. A 5-point harness adjusts over baby and holds them in the seat. The 5 points are the spots where the harness attaches to the car seat: 2 points at each shoulder, 2 points at baby’s hips and 1 point where it buckles between baby’s legs.
With the bright Aussie sunshine, it’s important a capsule has a decent hood that’ll protect little eyes and delicate skin. This should be a standard feature.
Most capsules come with removable newborn inserts. Cushioned, they provide extra support to tiny heads and limbs. As baby grows, these can be removed to give them more space.
What you get if you spend more
Given that our baseline is excellent safety that exceeds the standard, by spending more you won’t be getting a safer capsule. But you might get:
Especially with strollers that aren’t the same brand.
Some capsules feature a place for airplane seatbelts to pass through and are approved for airplane travel. This means if you’re planning overseas travel with your newborn, you won’t need to worry about how you’ll travel with them on a plane.
Sun or sleep shade
Pay extra and you might get a SPF-rated sun shade that extends the protection offered by the hood. Or you may get a sleep shade, a darkened mesh-like shade that creates a cosy snoozing spot.
These tend to be things that’ll give you increased peace of mind. Think bubble level indicators that show you when the capsule is flat or locking indicators that turn green to show you when the capsule is safely locked in the base. None of these are essential. An audible click or waggling the capsule will also let you know when it’s safely installed.
Best Overall: Nuna PIPA Klik
The nuna PIPA klik is our top pick because it’s currently Australia’s safest baby capsule. This is proven by independent testing by CREP. It was the only 1 of 22 baby and child car seats that scored the maximum 5 stars for its protection against traumatic head, neck and torso injuries in a head-on collision at nearly 60km/h.
An upgrade to their already-popular PIPA, the klik benefits from what nuna reckons is Australia’s first rigid ISOFIX system. This means you’ll get a more secure, firm installation in your car. To make it easy, locking indicators turn green to show you that the base is correctly locked into place.
Soft ISOFIX connectors need strap lengths to be adjusted, which leaves room for errors or doubts. But with this rigid ISOFIX, there are no additional adjustments needed when connecting to the anchorage points. Nuna reckons with this new system, you can install it in your car in 5 seconds, although we can’t find any independent testing that confirms this. In short, this rigid ISOFIX system – which is the attachment system that CREP tested – offers a quick, secure install system. It can be installed with a seatbelt, if your car isn’t ISOFIX-compatible.
It also boasts dual bubble level indicators, so you’re sure the angle is right, and a Dream Drape so bubs can snooze in private. The biggest criticism that’s levelled at baby capsules is that baby outgrows them quickly. Most of them only accommodate babies for up to 6 months. The klik does try to accommodate your growing baby. There’s a comfy infant insert, which you can remove when baby is too big. It also offers 2 crutch positions and 3 shoulder positions to grow with your baby. In fact, parents on ProductReview.com.au testify to how old their baby was before they outgrew it.
Why buy the Nuna PIPA Klik
Compatibility: because the klik works with nuna and Maxi-Cosi car seat adaptors, you get over 60 compatible prams in Australia. This opens a world of more affordable strollers to custom-make the best travel system (capsule and stroller combo) for you.
Safety – it’s currently Australia’s safest baby capsule, being awarded 5-star protection by CREP.
Peace of mind – not only do you get peace of mind from its safety rating, but also from all the extra features that ensure you’ve installed the capsule correctly. This includes the locking indicators which turn green and dual bubble level indicators.
Quick and easy – nuna reckons it takes 5 seconds to clip the capsule into your car. Presumably this doesn’t include the time to install the ISOFIX base, it’s just the time it takes you to correctly slot the capsule into the base. This is important if you’re trying not to wake a sleeping baby… to take it out again, you simply lift up the capsule while pulling up the release latch on the back of the base. However, CREP gave the klik 2.6 stars for ease of use, with only 1 star for securing baby into the capsule. This is compared to our runner-up, the InfaSecure Arlo Infant Carrier’s, 3.1 stars.
Supports sleep – the klik has a removable, full coverage, two position UPF 50+ canopy with flip out eyeshade, plus an additional Dream Drape. This attaches with hidden magnets and tucks away in its own compartment when not in use. This gives baby protection against the harsh Aussie sun, and hopefully promotes some peaceful shut-eye. Parents on ProductReview.com.au rave about the Dream Drape.
Aircraft certified – if you’re planning any plane journeys, you can take your klik with you on the plane, no problem.
Adaptable – its multi-position base accommodates a range of car seat angles and lengths.
Mesh peek-a-boo window – which means you can sneak a peek at baby without disturbing them.
Weight – it weighs just 3.5kg which means it’s quite light and easy to carry around (depending on the weight of your baby!).
The not-so-good bits
Size – the klik isn’t the most compact capsule, probably because of all the safety features it crams in. It’s 68cm high, 45cm wide and 74cm long. If you’ve got a small car, you may need to check it’ll fit.
Price – this is the most expensive baby capsule we reviewed. Its RRP is $599. Which, for something you may only get 6 months use out of, could be too expensive for some.
The nuna PIPA klik is currently Australia’s safest baby capsule. Its rigid ISOFIX system ensures a safe, stable and easy fit with plenty of features to deliver peace of mind, including locking indicators. It’s crammed full of features like a Dream Drape and UPF 50+ canopy to keep bubs protected against the Aussie sun.
It also grows with your baby, including a removable insert, 2 crotch positions and 3 shoulder positions. Although it’s the most expensive capsule we’ve reviewed, we reckon all this goodness justifies its price tag.
Also Great: InfaSecure Arlo Infant Carrier
With a RRP $200 less than our top pick, the InfaSecure Arlo Infant Carrier is a more affordable, yet still excellent, option. The nuna PIPA klik received 5 stars from CREP for its protection. The Arlo received 4.7, making it highly comparable for safety. Style-wise, you’re not getting quite the European looks of the klik. Instead, InfaSecure opts for a range of bright primary colours rather than the klik’s muted neutral tones.
InfaSecure believe the Arlo has the most compact rearward facing depth currently available on the Australian market. This means it’s a great choice for small cars or long-legged family members. It features a pop-out recline foot to help achieve the optimal level of recline.
A good safety feature is the anti-rebound bar, which prevents rear-facing car seats from rebounding and causing extra motion. It’s not compulsory for car seats to have this in Australia. In the Arlo, it’s integrated into the carrier handle. Other car seats have it attached to the front, making them even deeper. By integrating it into the handle, the Arlo achieves its more compact dimensions.
InfaSecure has a great piece on their website explaining their anti-rebound bar positioning. You can use the handle in the forward or upright position: they’ve both passed the rebound requirements of the Australian Standard.
The Arlo offers 2 installation options: ISOFIX and seatbelt. The seatbelt installation still earned 4.3 stars for protection and saves you a little money, roughly $40.
It’s compatible with Arlo strollers and some Baby Jogger strollers and aircraft-approved, thanks to its special belt path for use with aircraft seatbelts.
InfaSecure topped Canstar Blue’s star ratings for baby car seats. They received 5-star reviews for overall satisfaction, look and style, durability, flexibility and value for money. They also received 4-stars for comfort and support. Which means InfaSecure is a brand that’s known, trusted and loved by Aussies. Bonus points to InfaSecure for being a 4th generation, 100% Australian owned and operated family business.
Why the InfaSecure Arlo Infant Carrier is worth considering
Size – the Arlo is more compact than the klik. It’s 50cm high (compared to the klik’s 68cm), 46cm wide (1cm bigger than the klik) and 54cm long (a whopping 20cm less than the klik). Which means it’s far more suited to a bigger range of cars. If anyone in your family has long legs and needs their car seat pushed back, the Arlo could be a good choice.
Safety – the Arlo is comparable to the klik when it comes to safety. CREP rated its protection 4.7 stars for the ISOFIX installation, versus the klik’s 5.
ISOFIX optional – unlike the klik, you get a choice with the Arlo whether to buy the ISOFIX model or not. Choosing the seatbelt model gets you 4.3 stars for protection and a slightly cheaper price. CREP didn’t test the klik’s seatbelt installation so we can’t compare that.
Price – with a RRP of $399, the Arlo falls firmly into the affordable category.
Easy clean – with removable inserts, you’ll be able to clean up any spills easily.
Airline-approved – making it a great choice if you’re planning any overseas adventures with baby.
Ease of use – it looks like the Arlo is easy to put in and take out of the car. It simply snaps into its ISOFIX base. You take it out by releasing a large button on the back. With limited reviews on ProductReview.com.au and an inability to find non-InfaSecure-sponsored reviews, we’re not sure how this works in real life. It did get awarded 3.1 stars by CREP for its ease of use though.
The not-so-good bits
Weight – the Arlo weighs 4.6kg, over 1kg heavier than the klik. Add this to your baby’s weight and it could be tricky to carry easily around. If you’re simply transferring from the car to home, it may not be a problem.
Limited adaption to a growing baby – unlike the klik which offers different shoulder and crotch positions to accommodate your growing baby, the Arlo only offers a removable newborn insert. Which means baby may outgrow the Arlo quicker than the klik. InfaSecure claims that it will suit up to a large 6 month old (or average 12 month old). We haven’t found any Australian review that backs this up.
Hood and insert set sold separately – a UV-rated canopy seems standard for an Aussie baby capsule. With the Arlo, you need to buy this separately. It comes with a newborn insert set. The insert set includes a head hugger pillow, comfort insert with side wings, shoulder pads and crotch buckle pad. With a RRP of $65, it’s an affordable but, in our opinion, necessary, extra - shame you have to pay more for it.
The InfaSecure Arlo Infant Carrier is a great, affordable baby capsule. Comparable safety to our top pick, the nuna PIPA klik, it’s more compact, making it suitable for small cars and long-legged family members, and comes with a roughly $200 saving. It’s let down by its weight and the need to buy the UV-rated canopy separately.
A reminder again that all the car seats we looked at meet Australian safety standards. Even receiving 1 star for protection from CREP doesn’t mean it’s an unsafe or bad seat. It simply means it meets the minimum standard but doesn’t exceed it. Ideally, we wanted seats that would exceed the minimum and really excel at safety. These are the car seats that didn’t quite make the cut.
Chicco KeyFit Plus
The Chicco KeyFit Plus is 1 of only 2 baby capsules (the other is the Steelcraft Baby Capsule) we’ve reviewed that isn’t ISOFIX compatible and doesn’t offer an option to be. This means it’ll suit pretty much every car (space dependent!) because it doesn’t need ISOFIX fittings. According to CREP, it offers 4.6 stars of protection and 3.4 stars for ease of use, making it a great choice and highly comparable to our InfaSecure Arlo runner-up.
It reckons it fits babies up to 9 months old and has an easy installation system with similar features to our nuna PIPA klik winner. That’s 2 precision bubble levels to show you the capsule is level, plus a push button base levelling adjustment which ensures the correct positioning of the seat in the base. It can be combined with a wide range of strollers, including with Bugaboo, Baby Jogger, Phil & Teds, and Mountain Buggy.
The KeyFit Plus has a higher RRP than our runner-up but offers less. It’s a lot larger, isn’t airline-approved and doesn’t have a large enough pull-down sun visor. It’s still a safe and well-priced option that seems to last longer than the standard 6 months. If you don’t have ISOFIX fittings in your car, the Chicco KeyFit Plus could be right for you.
Phil & Teds Alpha
Phil & Teds reckon their Alpha is a safe and lightweight capsule, and we’d agree. CREP awarded it 4.4 stars for protection, although it’s not clear what installation they tested. Which is quite important because the Alpha offers multiple installation options. You can buy 2 different bases, universal or ISOFIX. It can also be installed without a base, using your car’s seatbelt. If you’d like a base, you need to buy it separately.
Its slimline, which allows you to fit multiple seats in the back of your car. It’s 43.5cm wide, smaller than both the klik (45cm) and the Arlo (46cm). But it’s higher than the Arlo (54cm versus Arlo’s 50) and a lot longer – 68cm to Arlo’s 54cm. It’s light, at just 3.4kg, making it basically the same as the klik.
CREP found it easy to use, giving it 3.5 stars, beating the Arlo’s 3.2. This could be the 1-hand release base mechanism and 1-hand pull-shoulder-strap adjustment coming into play. It has a large sun hood with UPF50+ sun protection and a removable, hand-washable liner and lumbar cushion for small babies.
The Alpha is the joint most affordable baby capsule we reviewed, the second one being the Steelcraft Baby Capsule. It has the in-built extras that our runner-up lacks (the hood and removable inserts) but you do need to pay extra for a base (although you can install just using a seatbelt). It also seems to only be compatible with Phil & Teds strollers, which is limiting. If you’re a fan of Phil & Teds and have an existing stroller, or will buy one, and are happy to pay extra for a base, this simple, lightweight capsule is a good choice.
Mountain Buggy Protect
From the same company as Phil & Teds comes Mountain Buggy’s offering, the Protect. The same RRP as our runner-up, unlike the Phil & Teds Alpha it comes with a base, which is ISOFIX compatible. However, when CREP tested the protection of the ISOFIX capsule, it was awarded 1.9 stars. In comparison, it got 3.6 stars for seatbelt installation.
The Protect can be used with Mountain Buggy strollers and claims to be compatible with other strollers but doesn’t say which ones. It has a removable soft liner for newborns and a multi-adjustable sunhood. It doesn’t claim to hold babies beyond 6 months old and is lightweight (3.9kgs).
If you’re in the market for an affordable baby capsule, we reckon you’re better off with our runner-up because of its far higher CREP protection rating.
Britax Safe-n-Sound Unity Infant Carrier
Britax Safe-n-Sound is the second most trusted brand by Aussie parents in the most recent Canstar Blue survey of car seat manufacturers. Their Unity Infant Carrier is unusual in that it claims to fit babies up to 12 months (the standard is 6 months). Britax claims it’s Australia’s first baby capsule to do this. As well as accommodating older babies, it’s also the only baby capsule suitable for low birth weight and premature infants without restrictive medical conditions thanks to its multiple position shoulder harness and crotch straps, like the nuna PIPA klik. This claim doesn’t seem to be independently verified or backed by evidence.
It’s ISOFIX compatible, and compact, being even smaller in height than the InfaSecure Arlo. It’s 43cm high (compared to the Arlo’s 50cm), 47cm wide (1cm bigger than the Arlo) and 54cm long, like the Arlo. It weighs around 5kg, heavier than both our top pick and runner-up. Unlike the Arlo, it includes a large sun canopy and comfort inserts. With its integrated Britax CLICK & GO adaptor, it’s compatible with a range of Britax, Steelcraft, and BOB strollers.
CREP gave it 2.8 stars for protection and 3.8 stars for ease of use – this second rating is higher than both our recommended picks, implying it’s easier to use. Although it’s got a respectable 4.0 rating from over 100 reviews on ProductReview.com.au, recent reviews are mixed with concerns raised over its claims to last for up to 12 months, installation issues and lack of head support.
If you have a premature baby or would like to try a capsule that’s intended to last longer than the standard, the Britax Safe-n-Sound Unity Infant Carrier is worth a go.
Maxi-Cosi Mico AP
With the Maxi-Cosi Mico AP you can choose an ISOFIX-compatible version or seatbelt installation. CREP rated the seatbelt installation better for protection (3.6 stars) than ISOFIX (1.9 stars). It includes an insert for extra support for smaller babies and a multi-position sun canopy with a flip-out visor for baby eye protection against bright light. It’s also compatible with a large range of premium strollers, including Bugaboo, Joolz and Stokke.
It features Cool Baby wicking fabric, which is designed to draw moisture away from baby’s skin and allowing air to flow, keeping baby coolly comfortable. The covers are machine washable for easy care. Unusually, it comes with a lifetime warranty, which may explain the higher end price tag – its $549 RRP is almost as much as our top pick.
It has good reviews on ProductReview.com.au with Aussies praising its quality and ease of use. If you’re a fan of the brand and are ok spending a little more for a quality capsule that’ll last 6 months, you should consider the Maxi-Cosi Mico AP. We still think our runner-up InfaSecure Arlo Infant Carrier is a safer, more affordable choice.
Steelcraft Baby Capsule
Along with the Phil & Teds Alpha, this is the most affordable capsule we’ve reviewed, with a RRP of $350. Alongside the Chicco KeyFit Plus, it doesn’t offer an ISOFIX-compatible base. It’s basic but has everything you need, including removable head support, harness pads and crotch buckle cover and an inbuilt fold-out sun canopy.
It has a 1-hand release from the car seat base, making it easy for 1 person to operate. It’s compatible with Steelcraft strollers only. Its biggest advantage? Its weight – it’s only 3.75kg, just 250g heavier than our klik winner.
For such an affordable capsule, it performs well in CREP testing, getting 3.1 stars for protection and 2.9 for ease of use. If you’re looking for a basic, affordable capsule to go with your Steelcraft stroller, try the Steelcraft Baby Capsule.