When buying a car seat, this is what you should look for.
I call it the Zzz Factor. It is the ability of a car seat to make your child feel sleepy within 5 minutes of popping him in.
Take it from a mum of a toddler. A mum who drives quite a lot. A mum who's had to endure long distance drives with him. Whether it's a macet situation in Jakarta or the M... whatever number dual carriageway that takes us from Liverpool to Scotland, there is no bliss like a quiet, sleeping child in the back seat of a car.
If you buy a car seat from a reputable manufacturer like your Maxi-Cosis and Britaxes, they're made to the required safety standards. So I don't think safety would be an issue here unless you're scrimping and buying a car seat from oh I don't know... Uncle and Aunty Car Seat Sdn Bhd. As we drive around a lot, a car seat was one that I knew we would not compromise on. We bought one from Recaro, I think it's the Signo. Dear Hubby's reasoning was that Recaro make excellent car seats for big boys so they should also make excellent ones for little boys. It wasn't cheap even after a 20% discount and for the longest time, I wondered if I'd gone overboard with this "My one and only son! I need him to be safe!" bit.
Then we went to the UK for a holiday and since we needed a car seat for only 2+ weeks, we bought a basic one from Argos. It cost us $45 (quid... not dollars but I don't have the pound sign on my keyboard) vs $200+ (quids again) that we paid for our Recaro. It was basic, it got the job done ie kept Connor safe. But it did not have the Zzz Factor. So when we did our annual Liv-Aberdeen drive, Connor was quite the pain in the rear.... seat. When we were finally back in KL and Connor was safely harnessed into his Recaro again, it was Dear Hubby, not I, who said "Thank god we bought this car seat."
Forget the cup holder. Car seat toys, snacks, drinks... okay, but they only keep the bub quiet for so long. What you need is a total knocked-out snoring child for driving bliss. Unfortunately, you can't test the Zzz Factor out in the store but I guess a nicely padded car seat would be a good indication of its Zzz Factor.
You've been warned.
(This is not a paid post. Just an expression of my relief that the money we paid for this Recaro seat was well spent after all. Phewww...)