Jané Matrix Light Review
In 2015 we published a piece called “Why babies should travel laid flat in a car seat infant carrier” which highlighted the dangers of having a young baby in a conventional upright baby car seat for more time than absolutely essential. In 2016, further research was published in the British Medical Journal: Is the infant car seat challenge useful? A pilot study in a simulated moving vehicle, which once again highlighted health concerns of having babies in upright car seats.
The concerns surround a baby’s ability to maintain an upright head position especially when sleeping; because the head can flop down and restrict the baby’s breathing and airways. This latest research, which was funded by The Lullaby Trust, concluded that there were significant signs of potentially adverse cardiorespiratory effects when a baby travelled in the upright position of 40 degrees, which can potentially lead to oxygen desaturation and even to the baby dying. There are currently many deaths per year in the UK from babies sleeping in car seats, whereas the chance of a baby dying in a car seat in a crash is almost negligible these days thanks to modern technology. Having the baby laid flat both removes any health risks associated with sleeping positioning, but also allows for correct posture and spinal development.
There are alternative lie-flat options that parents can choose, and one of these is the Jané Matrix Light. We rarely review car seats, but we really wanted to review the Matrix Light because we feel it is important to highlight the availability of lie flat options for transporting a newborn baby.
The Jané Matrix Light
The Jané Matrix Light is unique because it is both a lie flat hard Group 0 (up to 9kg) car approved carrycot, as well as being an upright Group 0+ (up to 13kg) car seat. The carrycot is completely flat (180 degree recline) with hard plastic sides, and can be transformed to sit upright so that the baby can see out. However, each mode needs to be fitted differently – the carrycot only fits sideways on the rear seat (and uses two seat spaces, which needs to be noted if you have a second child in the car); and the upright position needs to rear face. In our photos the Matrix Light is fitted using an ISOFIX base which has a rotating platform which maintains the secure ISOFIX fitting for each position. However, there is no requirement to use an ISOFIX base, and the Matrix Light can be anchored into the vehicles using the standard seat belt.
Our first impressions were that the seat itself is large, however we expected this. It feels more compact than a carrycot, and is beautifully made and well padded on all sides.
The quality looks fantastic with good attention to detail which we will discuss below.
The ISOFIX base, as all ISOFIX bases are, is large and heavy, but once installed in the vehicle, should not need to be removed until the baby has outgrown the seat.
The Carrycot / Infant Carrier Seat
The carrycot is unique because it can go from being a hard carrycot into an upright infant carrier, in one simple quick and easy movement, using a lever on the rear of the seat. This makes the Matrix Light a really fantastic option especially for an older child who sometimes wants to look out, and yet still needs to be laid flat to nap. It is simple to adjust the seat back when the seat is on the floor. However, you would need to stop the car and importantly, adjust the direction of travel, if you needed to alter the position when driving.
The seat itself has a hard solid plastic shell – it is good quality with no give. It takes a while to become familiar with the various buttons, levers and clips on the seat shell.
At the rear of the seat are several details to note:
At the top, nearest the hood, is a silver clip with a red button which releases the spring loaded. This is a clamp into which the seat belt must be threaded when not using the ISOFIX base. There is an identical clamp at the foot end of the seat too. This is because two car seat belts are required to fit this seat – one at each end.
Below this is a silver sliding button. This is the adjustor for the recline.
Underneath the recline adjustor, is a large blue clip with a hinge. This is for routing the seat belt around the Matrix Light when used in rear facing mode.
Finally, there is a harness height adjustor mechanism. Under the right hand harness is a small orange slider button. Push this upwards and the plastic harness height adjustment bar can be lifted up or down to the perfect height. This needs adjusting as the baby grows.
The interior of the seat is very well padded almost all the way around the seat. The Matrix Light is one of the most padded infant carriers that we have seen. Jané also have placed a newborn inlay in the base of the seat. This has an round moulded supportive head area, and a very thick padded cushion on which the baby lies. Any baby is guaranteed to be comfortable and well protected from the inside. Jané have also thoughtfully provided excellent ventilation to keep a young baby’s body temperature regulated. The fabrics can all easily be removed for washing.
There is a 5 point harness which has two parts which come together easily to fit into the buckle at the same time. The buckle is chunky, and the button requires a firm press to open it. The harness is released and pulled tight using a typical one pull car seat harness to ensure the safety of the child. The harness pull exits the seat at the front of the seat. It is simple to pull taut, and it is also fairly easy to locate the simple push in release button just above the harness strap, which facilitates the harness extension. The harness has thick harness and crotch pads. All parts work fairly easily although we did find some of the harness straps did stick at times when tightening. The harness also had to be carefully tightened whilst holding the shoulder pads into position in order to stop them rubbing the baby’s neck.
The Matrix Light comes with a zip on apron which makes the seat a lovely cocooned environment for a baby, whatever the weather. There is a press stud on each side to secure the front of the apron up neatly. It is the apron which really makes the Matrix Light into a good carrycot alternative – with the advantage of the built in 5 point harness. We didn’t have a compatible pushchair (Jané or the Bugaboo Cameleon), however we would not have hesitated to use the Matrix Light on a pushchair chassis. It would look very smart, and be a great way to allow a sleeping baby to have uninterrupted sleep time. There are built in Pro-fix connectors underneath the handle for the Jané strollers, and there are additional adaptors available for the Cameleon. There is an overnight mattress available which could make the Matrix Light an excellent travel companion especially when used with a compatible pushchair chassis.
The Matrix Light has a chunky handle. It may be a little too chunky for some, however it feels sturdy and secure. Attached to the handle is the hood. The hood is a thin lycra type material with a thick sun visor at the front. The hood can be unzipped and removed if required. We have found that the hood is problematic in several ways. First of all although the handle protrudes through an opening in the hood, the fabric on both sides obstructs being able to quickly grasp the handle each time….it is necessary to push the fabric down with your finger tips as you grab the handle with the palm of your hand. It is easier to grasp the handle with the sun visor tucked away, but then the edge of the visor rubs on your hands. The hood is connected to the hood, so if the handle is down, then the hood is down too. If the visor is pushed back to grasp then handle, then it sits directly above the face of the baby, so needs flicking out again.
More of an issue is that when the Matrix Light is used in the car, the handle needs to be put into a forwards position, to stop the seat rotating. This means detaching the hood each time you wish to do it. Quite frankly its a real pain to keep on detaching and reattaching the hood from the handle, or unzipping the hood at the rear of the seat. We think the hood would quickly be removed, and then this leaves the baby exposed to the elements! Jané really need to work out how to make the hood work independently from the handlebar.
We struggled with how to fold the handle up and down for a while. There is a grey button on each side if the handle bar. These appear to press in, however, most of the time they will not move unless you slightly bring the handle forwards before pressing the grey buttons in. Then the handle slides very easily.
There are actually four recline positions for the Matrix Light. However, it is vital to note that only two are safe for use in the car. The fully upright position can be used in Group 0+ (up to 13kg) mode where the baby is sat upright. The completely lie flat mode can be used in Group 1 (up to 9kg) mode. We would recommend that only the lie flat position is used until the baby is 6 months of age.
Being honest, I usually fear ISOFIX bases and fittings! I usually get my fingers trapped, or can’t release the pins, or the support leg hits me in the shins when carrying! So we were pleasantly surprised how easy, smooth and refined the Jané ISOFIX base was.
First of all the base whilst heavy (as all ISOFIX bases are) was easy to grasp and carry thanks to a T shaped part at the leg end which is easy to hold. The base can then easily be carried in such a way that the leg won’t flap out and hit you! The ISOFIX arms are extended out using a wheel at the front of the seat. This is a bit of a slow process, but once fitted, it shouldn’t need doing again! The base slots easily into position onto the ISOFIX fittings. The leg needs putting into an upright position. The leg is held by a small plastic pin which needs pushing in to fold the leg. Half way down the support leg is a knuckle with a slide for easy adjustment to the correct height. There are indicators all over the base, and on the seat which all need to be green before use. We particularly loved the green car indicator on the seat itself. Very neat.
Putting the seat onto the base isn’t as simple as many (where you simply drop the seat on). There are two small metal pins at the front of the seat. These need to latch into the sockets on the base. Once these are in position, then the larger plastic pins (under the handlebar) need to fit into the larger rectangular sockets on the base. This is trickier than it sounds especially with a baby in the seat. We would recommend practicing several times before putting a baby in. We found that sometimes it was necessary to push the sockets inwards to make the two parts meet. You need to be sure that all 4 points of contact are properly clicked into position.
The genius comes in the form of the rotating base! This makes it so simple to put your baby in facing you which makes harnessing up easier. Then simply pull the large grey button hard, on the side of the base towards you, and the seat will easily rotate the seat around to face the rear of the car (if sat upright), ready for the journey.
To release the seat from the base, press up the two grey levers below the handle, and give the seat a tug forwards, off the small metal pins, to pull it free.
We particularly love the highly polished leg joint – it is a lovely detail.
Seat Belt fitting
It is useful that the Jané Matrix Light can be fitted with the car seat belts as well as the ISOFIX base, especially if you have two cars, or need to let someone else care for your little one, or for going on holiday. We found that it was relatively simple to fit the seat – two seat belts need simply fitting into the spring loaded clamps on each side but it is tad fiddly and means running around both sides of the car! We recommend the ISOFIX base.
Additional Comments and Conclusion
There is no doubt that the Jané Matrix Light is a heavy car seat, however, it has a particular lie-flat purpose and function, and this is why the seat would be purchased. It certainly did give our parents reassurance that their little one was safe during some long car journeys. She looked very comfortable and secure and slept well in the car.
It is excellent to have the versatility of the carrycot type function which easily converts into an upright seat. We love the padding for the baby, along with the ease of use for most of the functions. Jané seem to have thought of everything including air flow, easy harness adjustment and even an overnight mattress.
We have been highly impressed by the quality and attention to detail. We absolutely love the rotating base and easy to fit ISOFIX base. It was simpler to fit the seat in the upright position than in the flat position, however practice does make perfect.
There is no doubt that the Matrix Light needs space to be fitted correctly. We were unable to fit the seat into a smaller sized car (VW Polo) and even in a larger car, the seat took up a lot of space, especially when using the flat position. The seat takes up less room when the ISOFIX base is used. Even in the upright position there are compromises to be made, if a taller passenger needs to sit in the front, so it is worth checking the fit of the seat in both positions before use. As our testers discovered they were unable to have the Matrix Light flat even on the ISOFIX base, and fit another child’s seat in next to the Matrix Light. When used with a seatbelt, there would be no room for anyone else in the rear of the car as the seat takes up most of the rear seat.
We have concerns that parents (and we have since seen this on one forum) will use the seat incorrectly, in one of the two mid-way recline positions, especially if space is tight in the car. Or that they may forget to rotate the seat round, and therefore use the seat sideways when in the upright position. Or they may forget to fold the handle forwards before setting off.
Getting to know the car seat and base, hasn’t been easy. The instructions are poor, however there are good installation videos and photos to help wit fitting on the Jané website here. We recommend you ask your retailer to show you how to fit this infant carrier into your car.
Ultimately, the Jané Matrix Light will be bought for one main reason – to keep a baby in a lie flat position when travelling – which ensures that they are transported in the most healthy and safest way possible. Having the baby laid flat ensures that their air way will stay open, and that their body functions are not compromised whilst travelling. Current research along with real life press reports, are flagging up that there needs to be change in the way that young babies are transported, we applaud Jané for providing technology like the Matrix Light as a sensible option for babies.
Taking everything into consideration, we have awarded the Jané Matrix Light a four and a half Best Buggy gold star rating. Well done Jané on such an innovative product.
With thanks to Jané and to Christopher, Melanie and their baby daughter, for helping us with this review.
Other Car Seats and Infant Carriers Reviews: