Diono Pacifica Review


Since Penny was born, we’ve had a few car seats: her infant car seat, and two convertible car seats.  The first convertible we bought Penny she didn’t like because she couldn’t see out the windows.  We bought a new one that sat her higher up and she much preferred that to the old one.  As she grew, it became harder to get her in and out of the car seat due to the high sides.  I grew frustrated of having to lift her in the seat and sometimes almost hit her head on the top of the car!  We started researching and came across the Diono Pacifica, and fell in love.  The Diono Pacifica is sleek, has low sides for easy loading, and is also very narrow, making it a great choice.  We are still rear facing Penny and plan to until she is at least 4 years old.  Penny is now 3 years old, about 36″ and 24 pounds.   The Diono Pacifica is installed with LATCH in a 2005 Ford Freestyle.

The basics:

    • Rear facing weight range: 5-50 pounds
    • Rear facing height range: under 44″, or until there is less than 1.5″ of shell left above the head
    • Forward facing weight range: 20-90 pounds
    • Forward facing height range: under 57″
    • High Back booster weight range: 50-120 pounds
    • High Back booster height range: 40″ and up, and shoulders above 4th harness position



Rear facing

One of the largest benefits of the Diono seats is their capability for extended rear facing.  The recommendation for rear facing children now is at a minimum of two years or until the maximum of the seat limits.  The Dionos have one of the highest weight limits for rear facing children at 50 pounds.


When installing the Diono rear facing, there are a few things to remember.  The detachable rear facing boot must be attached, the angle adjuster may be used, and the seat may be tethered rear facing if the manufacturer of the vehicle allows it.  The seat may be installed with LATCH (as long as the child is under 35 pounds) or seatbelt.  I tried both, and prefer the LATCH install although the seat belt install was just as secure.  The Diono seats have “Super LATCH”, where the LATCH connector has 4 “teeth” in the middle versus the standard 1 on other seats.

A rear facing child must have the harness straps coming out of the car seat at or below the shoulders.  The Diono seats come with harness pads, which also help reduce impact on the child in the event of an accident.

The rear facing boot helps the car seat obtain the current angle for the vehicle.  At first, I thought I wouldn’t like the fact that there was an extra part to have to keep with the seat, but now I appreciate the idea.  I’ll explain why in the forward facing part of the review.

The angle adjuster is a great addition to the seat.  It is manufactured by Diono, and the purpose is to gain more front to back room and make the car seat at a more upright angle.  It can be used with babies that have good head control and can sit unassisted.  It’s important to note that it’s not safe to use products that don’t come with (or aren’t made by the manufacturer) with car seats.

One bonus safety feature of the Diono Pacifica is the rear facing tether.  In the event of a crash, a rear facing tether will help limit the rebound of the car seat.  Many vehicle manufacturers do not allow rear facing tethers, so it’s important to check with your vehicle manual before using the rear facing tether.

The Diono brand is unique as they allow “bracing”, which means the car seat can touch the front seat.  It’s important to remember that the car seat must be installed securely and not rely on the bracing as a tight installation.

The harness tightening is a unique system in that it is a ratcheting system.  After loading the child into the seat, the harness glides through the adjuster and then stops at a certain point.  To check for tightness, use the “pinch test” at the shoulders and make sure you cannot pinch any slack in the harness.  If there is slack, just gently pull the adjuster strap and the Diono ratcheting system will tighten, ensuring you don’t over tighten the child.  I love this!


Forward facing

When the car seat is turned forward facing, the rear facing boot is removed and the seat sits pretty low to the vehicle seat, making it almost seem like it’s part of the car.  Many other convertibles sit the child up higher, which makes it harder to load the child in and out of the seat.  There is a recline built into the car seat, which can only be used in forward facing mode to accommodate different vehicle seats.

The Safe stop must be used for children weighing under 40 pounds in the forward facing position only in a seat that has been top tethered.  The safe stop is a load-reducer, which helps limit the forces a child experiences in a crash.  For forward facing, the harness straps must be at or above the shoulders and the chest clip must be level with the child’s armpits.

For forward facing installation, LATCH install can be used up until the child is 40 pounds.  After that, the seat must be installed with a seat belt installation.  It’s important to make sure to top tether the seat to tether anchors in the vehicle.  The top tether helps keep the seat in place in the event of a crash, and limits a child’s movement.

The Diono seats have some of the highest harness slots out of any car seat, which makes it a very long lasting car seat.

Booster Mode

The high back booster mode is for children weighing between 50-120 pounds and 40″ or taller, with the child’s shoulders above the 4th harness position.  For booster mode, the harness straps must be removed from the car seat.  The manual has detailed instructions to help.  The booster will help route the seatbelt in the proper location for the child.


These are some of the many benefits that the Diono seats have to offer:

  • Memory foam is in the seat padding, which makes for a very comfortable ride.
  • Full steel frame and aluminum reinforced sides.  I feel safer knowing Penny is in a car seat that has a full steel frame.  I think steel beats an all plastic car seat.
  • Narrowness.  Many people with small cars are able to fit three Diono car seats across because the car seats are so nice and narrow.
  • Diono makes a pee pad that has been safety tested to use with their seats. I cannot tell you how helpful this is!  One of my friend’s little girls had an accident in her car seat and they never could get the smell out no matter how many times they washed the cover or the seat.  The pee pad is pictured above.
  • For travel, the seat bottom folds up into the car seat and Diono makes a carry strap so the car seat can be carried. I don’t know of any other seats that offer this!  I believe this would really help with travel through the airport, as the seat can basically be worn as a back pack!

I’ve been using the seat for a few weeks now, and I’ll be honest. I thought I would fall in love with the seat, and I am right!  My 3 year old loves it as well, and seems very comfortable.  Given the choice to ride in this seat versus our old one, she picks the Diono!  I feel like she’s very safe using her Diono, and that is priceless!

Diono generously provided the Pacifica for review.  Find them on Twitter at @DionoUSA.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.




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