- They are very similar
- Much of what separates them is in the eye of the beholder
Still, there is room for choosing wrong.
I’ll hunt those bits of clarity in all major quality aspects.
Let’s start by looking at the two sets separately and then move on to compare them side-by-side.
UPPAbaby Mesa car seat – specs, features & benefits
Specs of the UPPAbaby Mesa
|Weight limits||4-35 pounds|
|Height limit||32 “|
|Weight of the seat||18.74 lbs|
|Installation of the base||Latch, Seat Belt|
|Size||26.5 x 17.5 x 23 “|
Versions of the car seat
The first difference that meets the eye are the colors:
- Charcoal Melange – Jordan
- Blue Marl – Henry
- Black – Jake
- White Marl – Bryce
Still, Merino wool has a unique appeal, and the price difference of 15-20% shouldn’t be the deciding factor.
Features overview of the Mesa car seat:
- Adjustable no-rethread headrest and harness – makes all the difference when you want to adjust the seat size. It’s just much easier to do compared to threaded harnesses.
- Padded chest buckle – the harness is more baby-friendly than those with plastic-only buckles.
- Generously padded newborn insert – makes the seat a solid choice for preemies and smaller babies (as low as 4 lbs in weight)
- Level indicators on the base – helps you find that perfectly flush position.
- Tightness indicator – confirms that the attachment is secure and, well, tight.
- Latch connectors retract into the seat – more convenient and look cleaner.
- Extra padding in the head area for side impact protection – lowers the G forces and minimizes head movement in a crash.
Benefits of the UPPAbaby Mesa
This section will go into the benefits that stand out compared to other car seats.
Check out my UPPAbaby Mesa review for more details on the features and benefits.
The installation system is simple and intuitive
You know the installation system is good is when you use it and feel it’s not a big deal.
It just works.
That’s what I’ve seen with the UPPAbaby Mesa, and it’s far from a given.
To level the UPPAbaby Mesa base, you just place the seat in a rear-facing position onto the vehicle seat and adjust the foot. You press and hold the gray button on the top of the base and move it until the level indicators on the sides turn green.
To secure it using the LATCH system, you press the orange button, pull the straps out, and click them into the anchors.
If you’re using the car seat belt, you just guide it through the belt path (handle-like opening on the base) and click the seat belt into the buckles.
You then make sure the tightness is just right by wiggling the seat down until the tightness indicator turns green.
Finally, the UPPAbaby Mesa carrier fits seamlessly, and it’s easy to remove using one hand because of the button on the handle that unlocks it from a base.
See my detailed Mesa installation guide for more details.
As I said, it all just works without much fuss.
A pioneering approach to safety features and fire protection
Using naturally flame retardant material like Merino wool allowed the UPPAbaby Mesa to be the first car seat to meet the federal safety standards without using flame retardants.
That might not be as big of a deal today as it used to be because other manufacturers followed suit, but it sure matters.
When I say “followed suit,” that doesn’t necessarily mean their infant car seats are as good.
Because Merino wool is not only fire-retardant, it also unique in terms of temperature regulation. It keeps the baby cool in summers and cozy and warm in winters.
Hat off to the Merino sheep.
In other news – EPP saves lives
EPP is short for Expanded Polypropylene, and it’s a unique material. It’s impressive strong for the weight, resistant to chemicals and fire, and changes very little on impact.
UPPAbaby Mesa uses it for the extra padding in the head area of the car seat.
It makes the seat comfier for everyday use and, in the unlikely event of a car crash, it lowers the G forces that act on the baby’s body and keeps them in place.
Bottom line – pair a robust shell with wool and EPP foam, and you have a seat that exceeds the federal safety standards without extravagant safety features.
Hefty infant insert
UPPAbbay Mesa is a great choice for smaller babies. And that includes preemies because the listed minimum weight is 4 lbs.
The only thing that would make the infant insert better is a ‘modular’ design – one that allows the parent to take cushions out as the baby grows and adjust the insert padding, especially in the seating area.
UPPAbaby Mesa is easy to use – as easy as any infant car seat
Mesa had a 5-star rating from the NHTSA for ease of use, which is as high as it goes.
Apart from the stuff I covered above, the two main contributing factors here are:
- Easily removable and machine-washable fabrics.
- It’s easy to use without the base.
Chicco Keyfit 30 – specs, features & benefits
Chicco Keyfit 30 is, without a doubt, one of the most popular infant car seats on the market. It’s also one of the consistently highest-rated.
And the consistency is nothing short of impressive.
Specs of the Chicco Keyfit 30
|Dimensions||27.5 x 17 x 24 “|
|Weight of the car seat||4-30 lbs|
|No. of reclining positions||2|
|Available color combos||10|
|Number of versions||3|
Prominent features of the infant car seat
- Base-leveling foot – spring-loaded for smooth level adjustment
- Buble level indicators – help you make sure that the base is perfectly leveled at all times, both on installation and use.
- Proprietary LATCH tightener (SuperCinch) – fast and straightforward LATCH system install
- Removable newborn positioner – makes the seat comfy for newborns, even preemies.
- One-pull harness tightener – you lock the harness and then tighten it one smooth motion
- One-hand release of the carrier from the base – massive plus if you take the baby in and out more than once a day.
Main benefits of the Chicco Keyfit 30
The Chicco Keyfit 30 is one of the most popular car seats on the market today and for many good reasons. Not only is it affordable but its safety and overall quality can stand up to most premium car seats on the market, including the UPPAbaby mesa.
Let’s take a more detailed look into the
Every source I found cited Chicco Keyfit 30 as one of the safest car seats out there – it excels in crash tests results and shoots well over the federal safety guidelines.
The energy-absorbing foam that improves Side Impact Protection makes the most difference here.
The approach to safety is similar to the UPPAbaby Mesa and its EPP foam, but I’ve seen a substantial difference in crash scores between Mesa and Keyfit 30 (more on that in a minute).
Easy installation with the base and a good LATCH system
Leveling the base and securing it with the LATCH is pretty simple. The foot of the base is spring-loaded and works smoothly, while the bubble indicators on the sides offer precise feedback.
Less than ideal seat belt install
Installing the Chicco Keyfit 30 by using the vehicle’s seat belt, however, leaves much to be desired.
There are too many twists and turns, and the path is not color-coded like most competing models (including the UPPAbaby Mesa). This makes threading unnecessarily complicated as the straps tend to fold and move.
If you get this baby car seat, you’ll probably use the LATCH most of the time.
Not easy to install without the base
If you plan to take the infant car seat into taxis, Ubers, and public transport, you’re probably better off with another seat.
The belt path is American, which should mean it’s simpler, but no such luck.
Leveling the seat without the base is trickier than in most competing seats. The carrier’s bottom feels unstable, and you’ll probably need some add-ons (like towels) to stabilize it.
To tighten the harness, you just pull on a single strap. To release it; you just press the release button (both located on the lower end of the carrier).
The release is not ‘buried’ into the padding as it is with most models. Hiding the release button passes as a “safety feature.”
In reality, the risk of accidentally pressing the harness release button is minimal.
Knowing what I know about Chicco’s approach to safety, leaving the harness release button ‘open’ is a choice. And I like any choice that simplifies the use of the infant car seat for the parent.
The dreaded thread
First of all, the Dreaded Thread would be a kickass name for a rock band.
With that mental lapse out of the way, let me explain how it applies.
I’d put it like this – the harness of the Chicco Keyfit 30 is as good as it gets among the threaded models.
Re-threading the harness might not sound like a big deal because you won’t be using it every day, but why add anything to the parent’s plate.
Because of the thread, the harness points go to Mesa.
The chest buckle isn’t padded but works well
Rigid chest buckles that are hard to work are a common complaint with infant car seats.
Keyfit‘s chest buckle isn’t harsh or rigid, and it locks on and off without much effort. I’d like to see some padding here, though.
UPPAbaby Mesa vs Chicco Keyfit 30 compared side-by-side
- Adjustable harness
- Padded chest buckle
- Level indicators on the base
- Tightness indicator
- Latch connectors retract
- Comfortable and secure
- Simple installation
- Five-point safety harness
- Easy to fasten and unfasten
- Washable fabric
Now that we have all the basics covered let’s pick up the tempo and move to the meatier part.
I’ll compare the two seats in all significant quality aspects, pick a winner in each and keep score. By the end of this section, you should have all the answers to make an informed choice between the two.
I’ll be concise and focus on the quality aspects that make a substantial difference.
Chicco Keyfit and UPPAbaby Mesa – safety compared
The approach to safety is similar in the two seats – a robust shell padded with specialized foam.
Also, Mesa is a relatively new seat, and the Keyfit has a long, proven safety track record.
This one gives Chicco two points
Since safety is the very purpose of having an infant car seat, this category has the most gravitas – the only one that merits two points.
Score: Chicco Keyfit 2 | UPPAbaby Mesa 0
Comparing the ease of installation in two seats is a mammoth task because there are many moving parts – both literally and metaphorically.
You eat an elephant one bite at a time, so that is the approach I’ll take here.
I’ll split the “easy of installation category” into six sub-categories:
- Installation of the base using the LATCH
- Installation of the base using the seat belt
- Tightening the base
- Leveling the base
- Fit of the carrier onto the base
- Install of the carrier without the base
Let’s eat that elephant…
- LATCH install is too close to call. Both are simple and user-friendly, but the SuperCinch is…well, super – a narrow-margin win for Chicco.
- The seat be installation point goes to the Mesa – the path is simpler and color-coded.
- I prefer the more direct approach of Mesa’s level indicators to the bubbles of the Keyfit. It’s a fine line, but the point goes to Mesa.
- The LATCH tightening of the Keyfit base is just too good not to be awarded a full point. I like Mesa’s tightness indicator, but it’s not enough for a tie. Point Keyfit.
- Both carriers snap on and off the base. Mesa’s unlock button is on the handle, which means you can snap it off and take the infant seat with one hand. With the Keyfit, you’ll need two hands to do the same thing – point Mesa.
- Installing and using the carrier without the base isn’t Keyfit’s strong side – leveling the base is a challenge, and the buckles are not color-coded – Mesa wins this one.
Elephant eaten – comfortable 4:2 win for the Mesa.
Note: The differences we’re talking about here are slight in most aspects, and the score above doesn’t mean Keyfit is hard to install. It just means Mesa‘s install experience is, in my opinion, better.
Score: Chicco Keyfit 2 | UPPAbaby Mesa 1
UPPAbaby Mesa vs. Chicco Keyfit 30 – size and maximum weight limit
The dimensions and weight limits of the two baby car seats are:
- UPPAbaby Mesa – 26.5 x 17.5 x 23 inches / 18.7 lbs
- Chicco Keyfit 30 – 27.5 x 17 x 24 inches / 17 lbs
UPPAbaby Mesa is the slightly bulkier seat, and neither of the two is light compared to the competition.
The fact that both seats are on the heavier side offsets the weight and size difference.
My point is this – there is a difference, but it doesn’t merit a full point – I’ll go with 0.5 for the Keyfit.
Score: Chicco Keyfit 2.5 | UPPAbaby Mesa 1
Comparing the weight and height ranges
The lower weight limit of both car seats is 4 lbs, but the upper limit of the Mesa is higher (35 vs. 30 lbs).
The upper height limits are 32 and 30, with Mesa being the more accommodating one.
Half a point in weight and size range goes to UPPAbaby Mesa.
Score: Chicco Keyfit 2.5 | UPPAbaby Mesa 1.5
Chicco Keyfit vs. UPPAbaby Mesa – value for money comparison
A clear-cut win for the Chicco Keyfit in the price vs. value category.
This is a relative category because prices change but, based on all price-tracking apps I looked at, at no point was the UPPAbaby Mesa seat lower than the Keyfit.
The price might change, but I still feel that the Chicco is the better value of the two. I don’t see the price shifting so much to change that.
Harness system and headrest comparison
Mesa was always going to win this category because the adjustable headrest pairs well with the no-rethread harness.
It’s not a full point category, though, because the main difference is the threading of the harness.
Comfort and padding are too similar to separate.
Score: Chicco Keyfit 2.5 | UPPAbaby Mesa 2
Stroller compatibility comparison
Mesa’s compatibility is limited
With an adapter, that list is longer and includes the Minu and Ridge from UPPAbaby and a few strollers from other brands (like Thule, JOOVY, and Austlen).
Keyfit is more versatile
Chicco Keyfit 30, on the other hand, is much more versatile and compatible with many other strollers.
By default, Keyfit works with the Chicco Bravo, GB Zuzu, and a few models from Baby Trend (only for the rear seat).
All that makes Keyfit the apparent winner of the category – 0.5 awarded.
Score: Chicco Keyfit 3 | UPPAbaby Mesa 2
Quality aspects that aren’t listed above all fall into two groups:
- Those too close to call (like comfort and durability)
- Those not substantial enough to make a difference (like the sun canopy)
This makes the 3:2 score final – Keyfit 30 wins the face-off.
Summary & takeaways
The purpose of this comparison wasn’t to find the better seat in absolute terms – it was to give you the tools to choose one that better suits your needs.
I did come up with a rating system but, to get the most out of it, it’s wise to look at it again and decide which categories are important to you.
Once you do that, find your own score and use that to reach a decision.
Also, check out my other favorite comparison between the UPPAbaby Mesa and the Nuna Pipa.