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UPPAbaby Mesa Car Seat Review

I own and use the UPPAbaby Mesa.

And I’m not special because it’s the second most popular infant car seat in the US.

Top Pick
UPPAbaby MESA Infant Car Seat
9.6/10Our Score
  • LATCH connectors automatically retract
  • Tightness indicator
  • Five-point, no-rethread harness
  • Adjustable headrest
  • Hideaway canopy

It’s a unique ‘beast’ because it blows the competition out of the water in some areas and underdelivers in others.

On the one hand, it’s the first car seat to ever meet the federal safety standards without using fire retardants. On the other, the canopy is nothing to write home about.

Conflicting stuff like this makes you, the potential buyer, vulnerable to misleading and incomplete information.

That’s also the reason why I took my sweet time writing this review.

To put it simply, if you’re considering the Mesa but still have dilemmas, this is where all your answers live.

Spoiler alert: The Mesa is one of my favorite infant car seats and that’s why it sits in the Top 3 for both the “Best car seat for preemies” and “Best car seat for small cars” product roundups.

Features of the UPPAbaby Mesa

  • The LATCH connectors automatically retract – makes for an easier installation.
  • Tightness indicator – surefire way to confirm that the seat is correctly installed.
  • Five-point, no-rethread harness – no need to take it apart when adjusting the size.
  • Adjustable headrest – adjusts in one motion with the harness and ensures optimal head support.
  • Hideaway canopy – with a UPF of 25+, the canopy offers sun and light protection and adds a ‘layer’ of privacy.
  • Included infant insert – paired with the crotch strap, the insert makes it a solid choice for preemies and smaller babies.

Specifications of the Mesa infant car seat

Weight range4-35 lbs
Height limit32 inches
Weight of the seat18.74 lbs
InstallationLatch or Seat Belt
Dimensions26.5 x 17.5 x 23

Versions of the Mesa

There are no different models of the UPPAbaby Mesa, but there are four versions of the same seat. I’ll be referencing these versions in some sections, so let’s get that covered first.

All versions carry human names – Jake, Bryce, Jordan, and Henry.

The two main differences between these are the materials and the color schemes.

Jordan (Charcoal Melange) and Henry (Blue Marl) use premium Merino wool blends, and they cost more.

Merino wool is one of nature’s wonders – it’s an insulator that keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summers. It’s free of flame retardants and hypoallergenic (more on that in the safety section).

How different are the Mesa versions?

uppababy mesa review vs

Based on the analyzed data, I saw no significant difference in owner satisfaction between the variants.

On some review platforms where owners share experiences, the last type added (Bryce, 2019) has higher ratings than the premium Jordan and Henry.

The bottom line – even if you don’t go with wool and choose Bryce (White Marl) or Jake (Black), you get premium materials that feel soft and breathe well.

Benefits of the UPPAbaby Mesa car seat

In the section below, I’ll cover the main benefits of the Mesa while focusing on what makes it different compared to other car seats.

Safety features – a different approach

These days, it’s hard to figure out which car seat is actually safer.

One of the reasons is that all seats on the market have to meet the federal guidelines, which makes it hard to stand out.

Another is the vague language that rules the industry – everything is ‘reinforced’ and ‘offers extra protection.’

But what does it all actually mean?

With UPPAbaby Mesa, things are pretty straightforward because it exceeds the Federal safety guidelines. UPPAbaby uses clear language to explain how they got there – by adding a generous amount of specialized EPP foam in the head area.

The keyword here is ‘specialized.’

EPP for the win

EPP stands for Expanded Polypropylene.

This is the foam Mesa uses for integrated side impact protection.

There are two aspects of the added foam that matter most – the extra padding and the energy-absorbing properties.

The first one is not unique to the Mesa; you can see extra padding in the head area in many cheaper seats. It’s the type of padding used that makes the difference.

EPP absorbs energy much better than other types of foam.

That’s not where the EPP’s unique properties end because it also:

  • Maintains shape on impact.
  • Has superior strength to weight ratio.
  • Resists water and chemicals.

Safety rating of the UPPAbaby Mesa – the seat exceeds the Federal safety guidelines, especially in the head support and impact protection category.

The bottom line is this – the EPP makes a difference by absorbing the energy in the event of a crash and keeping the baby’s head still in side impacts. In a crash, Mesa will protect your baby better than most infant car seats out there.

Related reads: Everything you need to know about car seat foam

Merino wool and safety

While I see the appeal, I’m not blown away by the cosmetic advantages of merino wool.

It’s the added safety that does it for me.

Merino wool is naturally fire-retardant, which means UPPAbaby doesn’t have to add anything to make the Jordan and Henry Mesa resistant to fire propagation.

A lot goes into meeting the federal safety guidelines in terms of fire retardancy. When I say “a lot,” I mean all effort, technology, and chemicals.

uppababy mesa 5 point harness

That’s not as bad as it sounds because all of these chemicals have to be approved for use in baby products.

Still, if you’re one of the parents that gets the chills when they see the words ‘baby’ and ‘chemicals’ in the same sentence, Merino wool is an elegant way to get peace of mind.

It does cost a peg more, but it’s worth every penny.

The convenience of the UPPAbaby Mesa

Mesa is a well though-out seat.

It took me a month of ‘aha-moments’ to fully grasp the attention to detail that went into designing it. The more you use it, the more you appreciate the user-focused design.

Below are a few convenience-focused features that stand out.

No-rethread harness

I think that a no-rethread harness should be mandatory for all car seats.

And I’m only half kidding.

Saying that the alternative is pesky is an understatement – getting the baby out of the car seat and trying to figure out what goes where.

With the Mesa‘s no-rethread harness, you just pull on the tab at the top of the car seat, adjust the height of the headrest, and the harness follows.

uppababy mesa harness tab

Granted, you won’t be doing this often, but it can be a real pain when you do. Trust me on this, especially if you have a fast grower on your hands.

Related reads: proper car seat strap placementhow to tether a car seat without anchors

Storage pockets for the buckles

This might seem like a detail that doesn’t make a difference. For parents of fussy rascals, it’s anything but.

The pockets are cut into the sides of the padding and make getting the baby in and out a breeze.

One-hand removal from strollers

We’ll talk more about Mesa and strollers when we talk compatibility.

In terms of convenience, the button on the top of the carry handle makes it easy to remove the Mesa from a stroller.

Installation – as easy as I’ve seen in an infant car seat

According to some of the newer NHTSA* research, 59% of car seats are not installed correctly.

Add to that the fact that a child is involved in a traffic accident every 33 seconds, and it all gets grim very fast.

My point is that, while it might sound elementary, the ease of installation is a massive factor to consider when choosing a car seat.

And it’s not because you want to have it easy. It’s because there’s a much higher chance of getting it wrong if the installation is not simple.

That’s where UPPAbaby Mesa shines.

The two aspects of propper installation are ensuring the base is level and securing it to the seat. I won’t go into depth here because I have a separate guide on UPPAbaby Mesa installation.

uppababy mesa level green

But I will cover the basics because they speak towards Mesa’s parent-oriented design.

*National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Level indicators at the seat base

Leveling the base is pretty straightforward and foolproof. There are two level indicators, one on each side.

You press a button and use the foot to level the base. Once the indicators change from red to green, you’re good to go.

What is a Smart Secure System?

You might have heard this term before. It’s a fancy name UPPAbaby uses for the combination of their LATCH system and the level indicator.

(I know…I’m not a fan of all the lingo acrobatics in the space, either.)

LATCH system vs. seat belt installation

To secure Mesa to the back seat, you can either use the retractable LATCH or the seat belt.

The LATCH system lives inside Mesa’s base. Paired with the level indicator (more on that in a second), it makes the UPPAbaby’s Smart Secure System.

You use the orange buttons on the car seat base to release it.

mesa car seat orange button release

All you need to do is pull those down and click them into the anchors of the vehicle seat. You push the base down once you hear the click until the tightness indicator switches from red to green.

The self-ratcheting LATCH connectors seamlessly slide back into the base when not in use.

Seat belt installation

To attach the Mesa using the seat belt, you just open the blue lock-off at the base, thread the belt through and click it into place on the other side.

NOTE: A properly installed base should not move more than an inch in either direction, whether you’re using the LATCH or the seat belt.

Easy to install/use without the base

If your day-to-day involves taking the baby seat in and out of taxis and Ubers, you’ll need a seat that’s easy to install without the base.

UPPAbaby Mesa fits that description.

It takes seconds to guide the seat belt through the color-coded buckles on the side. It is easy to do, but it’s not ideal.

mesa base belt path

No European belt path in newer Mesas.

UPPAbaby decided to exclude the European belt path in newer versions of the Mesa, leaving only the American.

In my opinion, it’s the one thing they got wrong.

The difference between the two paths is significant – while the American only pulls the seat belt through the front, the European also ‘hugs’ it from the back.

We could analyze which of the two is superior ’till the cows come home, but that’s not my point. My question is, “Why not leave the choice to the parent ?”

I don’t get it…

It’s not a deal-breaker; it’s just something to be aware of if you’re used to the European ways.

UPPAbaby Mesa is sleek yet robust

Everything about this seat feels high-end, from the base to the car seat cover.

It’s structurally solid and feels stable.

The padding is thick and dense without crossing any comfort red lines. Compared to its predecessors, the fabric of the UPPAbaby Mesa is a significant upgrade.

Not to say that the older models from UPPAbaby were bad, but the durability came with compromises like rough materials that felt too harsh for comfort.

mesa side view

The connections (base-to-seat and seat-to-stroller) are seamless and work without jostling. That means you’ll see less wear and tear, and the seat will live longer…much longer than the one year you’ll need it for.

Paired with a neutral, modern design, durability means high resale value.

As long as you take good care of it, you can get a significant part of your investment back. I’d say 30-60%, depending on the condition.

With that said, getting a used one was never an option for me, and I wouldn’t recommend it. Even minor accidents can compromise its performance.

Bottom line – this thing is built to last – take it from someone who used it and abused it.

Removable fabrics are easy to maintain

If (when) messy accidents happen, Mesa will take it like a champ.

All the fabrics come off easily (held in place by clips) and are machine-washable.

More importantly, they wash well and don’t bleed, fade or shrink.

Related reads: best car seat protectors

Mesa is preemie-friendly

Mesa‘s included infant insert is not a unique feature.

However, it’s one of the very few seats that does as good of a job for preemies as it does for average-size newborns.

The cocoon-like padding is generous, the chest buckle is cushioned, and the crotch strap is adjustable.

It’s why we awarded Mesa the title of best infant car seat for smaller and premature babies. See the other picks here – best car seats for preemies.

Mesa or convertible car seats

I’m addressing this separately because I’ve seen a few questions pop up in my inbox.

Compared to convertible car seats, UPPAbaby Mesa is the superior choice if you’ll be switching cars and using Ubers. Any rear-facing car seat is.

If you want to save money, go with a convertible.

Related reads – infant car seats vs. convertible car seatshow long can a newborn be in a car seat

The competition

There are way too many competitors in the infant car seat market and somehow the Mesa still stands out in the crowd.

Just like parents, UPPAbaby does not compromise on safety and quality. This puts parents’ minds at ease when deciding which product to purchase.

I compared the Mesa to many other car seats but the two closest were the Nuna Pipa and the Chicco keyfit 30. I put together comparison articles for each of these because they were such different products but both brought something different to the table that made me consider my purchase.

Check out my Nuna Pipa vs UPPAbaby Mesa and Mesa vs Chicco keyfit 30 comparisons.

What I liked about the UPPAbaby Mesa infant car seat

Choosing one thing that I love most about the UPPAbaby Mesa is a no-go for me. I do want to be concise, but the best I can do is pick three – materials (read: wool), intuitive installation feedback, and ease of use without the base.

Those three add to a massive advantage Mesa holds over other car seats in its price range.

The wool padding is the proper separator because it’s unique in the price range. For the safety-conscious parent, just hearing about the difference between chemical-free wool and other materials will be enough to choose the Mesa then and there.

In terms of installation, its main advantage is the feedback you get. Check out my UPPAbaby Mesa installation guide for detailed intructions.

You pop the base on and adjust the angle until the indicator turns green – intuitive.

You pop the carrier onto the base and wiggle it until the tightness indicator turns green – intuitive.

mesa base and latch

This might not be impressive if you don’t know just how many infant car seats get this part wrong.

Did I mention it’s intuitive?

Finally, UPPAbaby is one of the few baby gear manufacturers that still have my complete confidence, despite the recall of their Knox convertible car seat. In fact, the way they handled the recall is one of the reasons they have my trust.

Bottom line – what happened with Knox had zero influence on this infant car seat review.

What could be better about the infant car seat?

Stroller compatibility

This is not a minus per se because Mesa is compatible with a few great strollers.

The ‘problem’ is the limited choices – you can either pair it with an UPPAbaby stroller or use an adapter to pair it with a few other brands (Thule, Mima, Veer, BOB).

Again, this is only a problem if you already own a stroller.

If you don’t, it might be a plus because choosing UPPAbaby Mesa will make the stroller choice a no-brainer. It’s going to be the UPPAbaby Cruz (big enough for most people), the Vista (if you want the option to fit two carriers), or the UPPAbaby Minu if you want something lighter (you’ll need an adapter, though).

Ideally, you’d bundle the Mesa with a stroller and save a pretty penny.

Size of the canopy

Mesa‘s canopy is nothing to write home about.

The build is OK, and it neatly packs away into a flap, but it falls pretty short.

uppababy mesa canopy back

If I were to split hairs, I’d also mention that the handle brushes lightly against the sides of the canopy when both are up. It’s not a functionality problem because the handle is well distanced at the top.

Still, I’d like to see a bigger canopy at this price point.

It’s among heavier infant car seats

Coming in at over 10 pounds, Mesa is on the heavier side.

The max listed weight of the baby is 35 lbs, which brings the total to 45 pounds.

As the baby grows, the weight offsets one of Mesa‘s main benefits – the easy carrier-only installation.

UPPAbaby Mesa car seat review – bottom line and takeaway

UPPAbaby Mesa is a quality car seat with a price tag to match.

All the CONs I ever found were minor and vastly overwhelmed by the positives.

I’m a conservative buyer if there ever was one and feel Mesa was a great investment. I’ve used it with two kids and wouldn’t have it any other way.

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