by Amy Venzke April 28, 2020 10 min read
If you're considering an UPPAbaby stroller, you probably know that the UPPAbaby MESA is the go-to choice of infant car seat for many families.
But UPPAbaby strollers are also compatible with a number of other car seats, one of the most popular being the Nuna PIPA series.
Both the UPPAbaby MESA and Nuna PIPA are highly rated for safety and ease of use, can be installed in a matter of seconds, and offer a similar price, style and level of comfort for your baby.
In this post, we'll compare the UPPAbaby MESA to Nuna's PIPA car seats series which includes six models: the PIPA, PIPA RX, PIPA Lite, PIPA Lite R, PIPA Lite LX and PIPA Lite RX.
See below for a video version of this comparison, including a review of safety features, installation, compatible strollers and more.
Paired with an UPPAbaby stroller, the UPPAbaby MESA creates the easiest of travel systems: Connect the car seat directly to the frame of the UPPAbaby VISTA or CRUZ (no adapters required) and disconnect it by pressing a button on the top of the handle.
Awarded the government's highest ease of use rating, the MESA simplifies car seat safety with features like a tightness indicator that signals a safe installation and a no-rethread harness that allows parents to make adjustments for a growing child without having to remove and re-attach the straps. Side impact protection and an adjustable headrest with EPP foam wings help keep babies safe as they grow.
UPPAbaby is not making any changes to the MESA for 2021.
The Nuna PIPA is one of few infant car seats rated "best" in crash protection by Consumer Reports. Along with side impact protection, the PIPA offers a steel load leg that extends from the base to the floor of your car—adding stability and absorbing crash forces through its crumple zone.
Among the features that make the PIPA a best-seller: an innovative "Dream Drape" cover that protects baby from the elements, as well as compatibility with strollers from Nuna, UPPAbaby and several other brands.
The four "Lite" versions of the PIPA—PIPA Lite, PIPA Lite R, PIPA Lite LX and PIPA Lite RX—are the lightest on the market, weighing more than 2.5 pounds less than the original PIPA and other car seats.
Three Nuna car seat models—the PIPA RX, PIPA Lite R and PIPA Lite RX—come with the RELX base, which offers four recline positions and more adjustable components, allowing the base to fit a greater range of vehicles and troubleshoot common installation problems.
Learn about the differences between the six car seat models in this Nuna PIPA comparison.
Two colors of the UPPAbaby MESA—Henry Blue Marl and Jordan Charcoal Gray—cost an extra $50 because they're made with merino wool instead of polyester.
Because merino wool is naturally fire-resistant, the Henry and Jordan MESAs are free of added flame retardant chemicals. Merino wool also helps regulate the baby's body temperature, keeping her cool on warm days and warm on cool days.
The Nuna PIPA Lite models also command a higher price point because of their materials. The PIPA Lite models are made with a proprietary type of foam that's lighter and more flexible than that of most car seats. The LX and RX versions cost $50 more than the Lite because of its magnetic "Dream Drape" cover and merino wool fabric.
With its added features, the RELX base on the PIPA Lite R and PIPA Lite RX also adds $50 to the car seat, compared with the models using the original PIPA base.
The Nuna PIPA Lite models are the lightest car seats on the market, weighing 2-4 pounds less than most others.
See the manufacturer-provided weights for each car seat below (Nuna weight measurements do not include the canopy or insert, components that typically add about 1.5 pounds to the seat.)
All infant car seats are similar in their height and weight limits and can be used for about a year, depending mostly on the height of the baby.
Consumer Reports performs independent testing on car seats for its "basic, better, best" rankings for crash protection.
The Nuna PIPA earned a "best" rating for crash protection, compared with the "better" ranking for the UPPAbaby MESA. Consumer Reports has not tested the RELX base or the other Nuna car seat models.
What makes the PIPA safer than most car seats? Consumer Reports found that the "load leg," the steel stability leg seen on the Nuna PIPA and three other seats it tested, reduced the risk of head injury in a crash by 46 percent.
However, the MESA scored slightly higher in Consumer Reports' overall rankings, which also consider ease of use and fit to the LATCH system and seat belt. The MESA earned an overall score of 72, with reviewers praising the seat's indicators, labels and no-rethread harness.
The PIPA earned an overall score of 67. Consumer Reports noted that the car seat could not be installed with the seat belt in many cases but did not further explain the problems.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ranks car seats not on crash protection but on their ease of use, considering that three in four car seats are used incorrectly. The NHTSA rankings consider evaluation of instructions and labels, installation, and securing the child.
UPPAbaby MESA earned the highest score of five stars in every category, while the Nuna PIPA earned an overall score of four stars. With the PIPA, the NHTSA critiqued a lack of illustrations and labels, as well as the need for disassembling and rethreading the harness through its slots for height adjustments and cleaning.
Both manufacturers say their car seats can be installed with the base in a matter of seconds, using either the LATCH system or the vehicle seat belt. Both methods are equally safe; the LATCH system was designed for convenience.
To install the MESA, first level the base until the indicator turns green. Then, press the orange button on top of the base to remove the LATCH connectors from storage. Attach the LATCH connectors to the lower anchors. Push down on the base until the tension indicator on the top of the base turns green.
Watch how to install the UPPAbaby MESA base in the video below.
Unlike the MESA, the PIPA's LATCH connectors are metal (also called rigid) and do not need to be removed from the base. Slide the connectors into the lower anchors until the indicators turn green to signal a secure connection. Adjust the load leg until it hits the floor of your car and the indicators turn green.
Check the bubble indicator on the side of the base. If the base isn't level, pull out the recline foot on the underside of the base to create a more reclined angle, or readjust the length of the load leg.
In this video, The Car Seat Lady provides a walkthrough of installing the PIPA base.
The Nuna RELX base seen on the Nuna PIPA RX and Nuna PIPA Lite R models solves common installation problems by offering more adjustment options: The load leg has additional positions to fit more vehicles, including cars with a center seat hump, and the LATCH connectors rotate to four positions and ratchet closer to the seat for a tighter installation. Additionally, the base includes a recline button with four positions to ensure a level installation and a comfortable angle for your baby.
See the video below for a look at installing the Nuna RELX base.
If you're traveling or taking a cab, you'll need to install your car seat with the seatbelt instead of the base (assuming you don't want to carry the base around).
While the Nuna PIPA can be installed with a seatbelt, the PIPA Lite and Lite LX cannot and therefore must use the base at all times.
The MESA uses what's known as the American belt path, in which the belt is routed through guides at the front of the car seat. The PIPA uses the European belt path, which also routes the seatbelt through a guide at the back of the car seat.
See how to do a carrier-only install for both car seats below.
That makes the PIPA a more versatile choice if you're looking to use the car seat on a jogging stroller, travel stroller or on a double stroller in the future.
The UPPAbaby MESA fits the UPPAbaby VISTA and CRUZ strollers without the need for adapters.
While UPPAbaby does not manufacture any car seat adapters for the MESA to fit other brands' strollers, the Baby Jogger, Thule and Mima brands make adapters for the MESA and some of their strollers.
Adapters are needed to attach the Nuna PIPA to any stroller but are included with your purchase of a Nuna stroller. For any other brand, adapters are sold separately.
* = not compatible with PIPA Lite versions
Colors available for the UPPAbaby MESA include:
The Nuna PIPA comes in these colors:
The PIPA RX comes in:
The Nuna PIPA Lite is available in these colors:
The Nuna PIPA Lite R comes in these colors:
The Nuna PIPA Lite LX comes in:
These colors are available for the Nuna PIPA Lite RX:
So which car seat is better: the UPPAbaby MESA or one of the Nuna PIPA versions? Only you can decide which is best for your family, but here are the benefits and drawbacks we see.
Deciding between all six Nuna versions? See our Nuna PIPA series comparison.
The Nuna PIPA and UPPAbaby MESA are both highly-recommended car seats regarded for their safety, quality, comfort and style. The PIPA adds a measure of safety with its load leg base, but the MESA has a higher ease of use rating.
With five car seat models, Nuna offers more options to fit your needs, including the PIPA Lite versions that are the lightest car seats on the market, as well as two types of bases, the PIPA and RELX bases. The PIPA connects to a wider variety of strollers, but the MESA offers an adapter-free connection to UPPAbaby strollers.
Strolleria is a family-owned and operated retailer dedicated to making the baby gear buying experience less overwhelming for parents. If you have more questions about the Nuna PIPA vs. UPPAbaby MESA, feel free to contact us at 480-442-9433 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shop Nuna and UPPAbaby infant car seats below!
Amy Venzke is the co-owner of Strolleria, along with her husband. Together, they have a mission to make the gear-buying experience easier on parents. Contact the Strolleria team with questions at email@example.com or 480-442-9433.