This month is the first of our group tests where we are comparing high-end pushchairs against one another to find out what real Mums and Dads think. From our 7,000+ Facebook members we randomly chose six parents from those that applied, to join us on a day out around town, to use the pushchairs as they would on a daily basis, score the pushchairs on set criteria and give us their feedback .
Introducing the testers....
Heather Bilton with Max and Scarlett
Heather is a Mum of four from Lincoln. She brought 11 month old Max along to be our pushchair guinea pig. Where some women like shoes and others handbags, Heather’s ‘thing’ is pushchairs, in fact it would probably be easier to list the pushchairs she hasn’t had rather than those she has!Shown here with daughter Scarlett
Dave Bilton, (Heather’s husband and chauffeur) with Max and Scarlett
Dave was unwittingly promoted to tester when we had a last minute applicant drop out through illness. Although he doesn’t share his wife’s fanaticism about pushchairs, he has seen enough pushchairs in his time to have a considered opinion. It was also very handy to be able to gauge a Dads perspective.
Kimberley Cameron with Fraser
Kimberley, from Boston, doesn’t have any pushchair-o-holic tendencies but is discerning when it comes to baby wheels, so wanted to get involved in our test to find out more. Fraser, 14 months and youngest of two, is currently conveyed in a Concord Neo.
Amanda Moore with Ben
Amanda is from Market Deeping, near Peterborough and she has two children, including 19 week old Ben. She applied to join our test because she has recently become a Mummy Blogger and wants to start reviewing baby products...so what better way to start!
Sara Owston with Scarlett
Sara, from Old Leake, is predominantly a Bugaboo fan and currently drives a Bugaboo Cameleon and a Bugaboo Bee+. She loves the fact that she can customise the Cam and personalise it to be what she wants it to be. Scarlett is 11 months old and, like her mum, knows what she likes.
Natalie Paul with Callum
Natalie is from Boston and has two children. Callum is a year old and currently chauffeured in a Bugaboo Cameleon although this is the latest in a long line of pushchairs. Like Heather, Natalie is a pushchair-o-holic with a track record and an encyclopaedic knowledge of too many pushchairs to mention.
Vicky Gannon with Lenny
Vicky and Lenny are from East Kirkby in Lincolnshire. Lenny is a big boy for his age and at 14 months he is the youngest of three children. Vicky is a unashamed, self confessed ‘Pram Nerd’ having had over ten pushchairs in six years.
Introducing the pushchairs...
Some of our pushchairs are only sold as a 2-in-1, so to compare like for like, we are showing all the final prices with a carrycot included
+ carrycot £175 = £944
Chassis, seat unit, change bag, mosquito net, rain cover. (Carrycot extra)
Pushchair weight: 10.5kg
Silver Cross, Surf:
Price: £470 + carrycot £160 + basket £30 = £660
What’s included: Chassis, seat unit, rain cover, seat liner, apron, parasol, canopy, baby nest. (Basket and carrycot are extras)
Pushchair weight: 11.3kg
+ car seat =£690
+ car seat and carrycot= £899
Pushchair, canopy, 2 cushions, raincover, Recaro Young Profi Plus car seat adaptors, car brace.
Pushchair weight: 10.8kg
Chassis, seat unit, carrycot, carrycot rain cover, pushchair rain cover, carrycot insect net, pushchair insect net, Maxi-Cosi car seat adaptors.
Pushchair weight: 11.3kg
Price: £770 includes carrycot
Chassis, carrycot, seat unit, pushchair canopy, carrycot apron, carrycot canopy, rain cover, mosquito net, shopping basket (car seat adaptors sold separately)
Pushchair weight: 9.28kg
Mamas & Papas, Mylo:
Chassis, seat unit, padded seat liner, co-ordinating seat back, pushchair canopy and raincover, carrycot with apron, canopy and raincover, shopping basket.
Pushchair weight: 15kg
Quinny, Buzz 3/4:
+ carrycot £150 =£545
What’s included: chassis, seat unit, canopy, Maxi-Cosi car seat adaptors, rain cover and shopping basket.
*We wanted a Buzz 4 (normally £395) but it is only available in Rocking Black, so we used a Buzz 3 in Electric Blue and upgraded with a double front wheel set (Cost £45).
Pushchair weight: 12.8kg
What did we get up to?
A grey day in Boston, Lincolnshire was not the most inspirational of settings to conduct our first Pushchair Group Test, but for a long time we have been toying with the idea of getting a group of our Pushchair Expert Facebookers together to analyze and compare a selection of pushchairs. As Pushchair Expert’s editor and mother of three, I was looking forward to meeting our like minded, pushchair-curious panel.
Our first event was for pushchairs at the top end of the babywheels tree, models costing £400+ and, as you can see from the list, we had some credible pedigrees among the brands on test. Some of the models have been around a while, like the Quinny Buzz and others are fresh from the stable, like the Recaro Babyzen, but all of them were put through their paces in exactly the same manner by our pushchair loving parents.
We based ourselves at the White Hart Hotel in the centre of Boston, a location that was carefully selected to ensure we had enough room for everyone to use the pushchairs indoors in the wide walkways if the weather did it’s worst. Luckily we were spared severe downpours so were able to take the party outside during the course of the day.
After introductions, we got straight down to business. I demonstrated the pushchair folds and highlighted the pros and cons of each model. Our panel were then let loose to play with the pushchairs and ask questions. Everyone was supplied with a crib sheet to make identification easy and to see what’s included in the price.
Time to play
Our panel wasted no time in pouncing on the pushchairs they hadn’t seen or used before. After examining the features of each one, they then picked a pushchair and took their children for a stroll around town. The route included a cobbled street, many kerbs and two bridges. Upon their return we sat and discussed the pros and cons of each model over some lunch.
After lunch, we ventured outside again for another everyday test. Boston Audi provided us with two cars to establish the fit of each pushchair; an Audi A1 with a small boot and an Audi A3 with a medium sized boot. Taking extreme care not to scratch either car we loaded the pushchairs in and out of the cars to determine whether they needed to be disassembled to fit or whether it had the luxury of room to spare, the results were reflected in their final score.
Both Heather and Vicky have previously owned a Stokke Xplory, however the rest of the testers emanated towards it and initially considered it the most desirable pushchair in the line-up. Sara commented “It’s lovely looking, looks very space age, however it feels a bit rattley and plastic, considering the very expensive price tag. But it would last Scarlett a long time and the seat is huge!” Kimberley was also disappointed saying, “The recline button seems to be in the most awkward place plus the bumper bar isn’t gate opening so you’ve got to slot your child in behind it”. Heather, a Stokke lover said “The great thing about the Stokke Xplory is that my two and a half year old has loads of room. Yes, I don’t like the price tag, but it’s worth it!”
In the car test, the Xplory, not known for it's compact fold, just managed to fit in the Audi A3, but was a wheels off squeeze in the Audi A1, so not for use in a small boot without a lot of fiddling and a bit of swearing.
Everyone liked the height of the Stokke Xplory even though it has been nicknamed ‘the golf trolley’ for it’s unique look. We love the fact that it will fit your child up to an average-sized age 4 and still remain comfortable and uncramped. Their greatest dislike was the price - £944 with carrycot. Not surprising when you see it next to the UPPAbaby, which also has many great features, includes the carrycot and comes in at £579, nearly half the price!!
The Bugaboo Cameleon was always going to be a firm favourite because most of the testers had owned one at some point. Amanda who was one of the few who hadn’t, wasn’t keen at first as she said ‘it looked too bland’, however she changed her mind after the road test. “I would consider buying one if it came as a package with a footmuff etc and it was more reasonably priced”. Sara loved the Bugaboo, “I think it’s a fab pushchair, the interchangeable fabrics are a brilliant idea. If I get bored with my fabrics, I can just buy new ones and to suit my mood.” Natalie agreed “I love the fact that you can change the colour, it’s like getting a brand new pushchair all over again.”
Out in the car park, the Bugaboo did better than expected in squeezing into the boot of the Audi A1, however we did have to remove the wheels plus there wasn't any room left for shopping. In the A3, we left the wheels on and had room for bags on top. So if you have a small car, the Bugaboo Cameleon would only be a practical option for you if you can be bothered to remove the wheels every time you want to go anywhere!
The fold is not easy to master straight away, and the ‘less is more’ look doesn’t appeal to everyone, so the adaptability of the Bugaboo Cameleon means you can make it suit you. It has a huge basket and great suspension. (Review coming soon)
Silver Cross Surf
All the testers thought the Silver Cross Surf is extremely attractive and very well made. Attention to detail, like the zips and the branding combine to make it a firm favourite on first impressions. Dave led the scrutiny to discover that you cannot remove the shopping basket without first removing the seat unit. “It looks good, but the basket a waste of time!” he said. Sara agreed and said, “The basket is very small and wouldn’t hold much shopping at all”. We contacted Silver Cross to see if we were missing something and they confirmed that this is a problem to which they have been alerted and it is in the process of being rectified.
Another point highlighted by Vicky was the size of the seat, “It’s great from around a newborn -1year old, but my 14 month old is already too big for this”. However, Amanda with the smaller, younger Ben on board, thought it was very light to push, “Even with a 20lb baby in the seat it was easy to manoeuvre and he looked very comfortable and cosy”.
In the car test, the Silver Cross fitted comfortably in the A3 but struggled in the A1. The shopping basket can be collapsed flat, but we left it open and we had to remove the wheels from the chassis.
The Silver Cross is undoubtedly attractive, it is a beautiful design and very well made. We think it is fairly priced however we’re not sure that the shopping basket is worth £30, especially given it’s current failings.
The entire panel were initially wowed by the Recaro Babyzen. I demonstrated the impressive fold with one hand, (as they do at the trade shows) which makes it look so simple. Having a go yourself is not as easy as it first appears but great fun when you get the hang of it. Only then do you realise how ingenious it is and what a bonus this pushchair would be if you are a ‘make-my-life-as-easy-as-possible’ sort of person.
The fold aside, opinion was mixed; it was Dave who liked the Babyzen the most. “I think it looks good and I love the small compact fold. The light is brilliant for safety but I don’t like the harness clip, it kept popping open when we thought we had Max safely installed. The biggest problem is the price, it’s too expensive.” The dislike of the price was echoed by everyone.
Sara thought her daughter looked very uncomfortable in the Babyzen. “Scarlett didn’t look like she enjoyed being in the chair. The light is a good idea, however the frame in white looks like it would mark easily and the basket could do with being a bit bigger.”
The depth and comfort of the seat was something that all our testers found to be inadequate. Vicky said “The seat depth is rubbish, Lenny is only 14 months and he’s already too big for it”.
As we know, the fold is where the Babyzen is a pack leader, so when it came to the car boot test it was never going to suffer any popularity problems. In the A1 it could fit flat into the boot but in the A3 the depth of the back seats allowed the car brace to be used. This handy strap holds the folded pushchair upright, out of the way, to allow you to use your boot for other things.
Clearly not for everyone, we love the technology incorporated in this pushchair. With some added built in comfort it would tick many more boxes. However, you forfeit a rearward/forward facing pushchair for a fantastic fold and a headlight, to most of our panel, this punched a hole in the value downgrading it to an expensive, one position stroller.
Mixed first impressions were muted over the UPPAbaby Vista, many of the team placing it near the bottom in an initial straw poll. Being a name that the majority of the panel hadn’t heard of, it had its work cut out to impress. Curiosity was roused when I did the demonstration and they all saw how easily everything functions. However, with it having achieved one of our highest scores in review, I didn’t want to influence their opinions. Once they started to use the Vista you could hear their earlier assumptions being thrown aside.
David and Heather approached it objectively. “The seat unit is large, comfortable, lightweight and reversible. It is brilliant to push; I had no problems, even up and down kerbs. It folds relatively small, has an enormous shopping basket and a fabulous sun visor that tucks away in the canopy. There is nothing to dislike!” said Heather. “Best one here and it will last your child” said Dave, “although I don’t like the welded area at the front, it could be tidier.”
I caught Amanda trying it out with Ben and she loved all the features but said “The only thing I don’t like is the look. I could get over this with the different colours that are available. I’m definitely bugging my husband for one now, although it’s a shame you can’t buy it without the carrycot because Ben is too old for one now!”
Natalie liked the fact that is was spacious and sturdy, “I also like the big basket and especially the one handed recline at the top of the seat”. This is one of the plus points we brought up in the review, a function that works particularly well, requires only one hand and is in the right place for easy access.
Outside, with the cars, the Vista was a perfect fit in the A3, but as with the most of the two unit pushchairs, we had to take off the wheels to fit it into the A1. Removing the wheels is a simple procedure so nothing to fear if you do have a small boot.
Although the UPPAbaby Vista doesn’t scream ‘sexy’ at you, we think its subtle qualities, brilliant functionality and build quality will mean the UPPAbaby brand will win the approval of many pushchair-o-holics as it did our testing panel.
As we have already explained, in this group test, we used a Quinny Buzz 3 and upgraded it to a Buzz 4 using the double front wheel set so that we could choose a colour other than 'Rocking Black'.
Being one of the most popular pushchairs in 2010, Quinny have taken a lot of consumer feedback to make further improvements on their latest 2011 model. It now comes with one spacious seat, instead of two (one small, one large), it also has three harness height positions instead of the previous two and a new shopping basket. See our review of the 2010 version.
It has to be said, the Quinny struggled for attention during the test, even though I highlighted the changes in the new version, all the testers were familiar with this strong and popular brand, so it skulked in the shadows while the new kids on the block took all the limelight.
I tackled Vicky on her thoughts while she was unloading Lenny from a walk around town. “The suspension’s fabulous and I love the gate opening bumper bar, it makes getting a child in an out so much easier. I found the back wheels very wide. The hood is useless, it wouldn’t shade a baby from anything”. Natalie echoed Vicky’s thoughts: “The Quinny is lovely to push but it has a small seat unit and the hood is too small and low down on the chair”.
Amanda and Ben have had some previous experience with the Quinny Buzz: “When I first bought my pushchair I loved it, it makes a fantastic travel system but the base is a bit heavy”.
In the car test, the Quinny Buzz had room to spare in the Audi A3 (pictured left) but was only able to fit into the Audi A1 by removing the wheels. However with the seat unit sitting so neatly on the folded frame, it still left room for plenty of shopping.
Quinny have ironed out a grumble that we’ve picked up from the Quinny users on our Facebook page; the self-opening frame on the 2011 version has a heavy duty plastic clasp to keep it under control when folded.
There is no escaping the quality of the Quinny Buzz, the fabrics and the styling are contemporary and the colours are funky. We love their design and innovation and always relish the launch of new Quinny products, they seem to hit a desirability nerve every time.
Mamas and Papas Mylo
We haven’t reviewed the Mylo yet, so when we were preparing the pushchairs for the test, I had to make sure that I could walk the testers through the fold and the features with some eloquence. The Mylo, once assembled (not the simplest task but great when you get there) is attractive and so easy to fold. The seat unit lifts off with the two paddles under the seat and the frame collapses by twisting and lifting the chunky handles near the seat fixing; a dream to demonstrate and a doddle to pick up.
Kimberley was first in the driving seat on her test run with Fraser. “The Mylo is really easy to fold but it doesn’t lock flat when folded. I love the looks, the colours are gorgeous but when I actually used it, it felt very flimsy. It seems expensive for what it is”.
In a similar vein Heather said, “I really liked the Mylo, until I tried it! The chassis seems heavy to push, the seat needs to be bigger. I love the fold and the colour but wish you could buy it without the carrycot”. This was reiterated by Amanda: “On first look I was really excited about trying the Mylo. It looks really different and I love the colours. I was so impressed with the fold/unfold, it couldn’t be any easier, but then I actually used it....horrible! It felt really flimsy, the handle was shakey while I was road testing. Not as impressed as I thought I would be”.
Apart from the fold, one of the things we love about the Mylo is the way that you can customise the pushchair fabric. The choices are all natural colours, with names such as ‘raspberry ripple’, ‘plum pudding’ and ‘welly green’, a welcome departure from the primary colour palette of most manufacturers. However, it’s good looks were where the Mylo stopped feeling the love from our panel, with most of them not rating the ride...however pimped!
This price range, £400+, is where all the pushchairs that incorporate comfort, technology, functionality and luxury reside although, as we have found, they don’t necessarily contain all these qualities at once. Opinion among our panel was seldom divided, they all seemed to agree on the pros or the cons.
The Recaro Babyzen, although a brand new concept, needs more work to make it meet the requirements of Mum, Dad and baby. At the moment, it seems that Dad will be the only member of the family that will be struck dumb by the brand name and the useful gadgets.
The Stokke Xplory hits the mark for many parents with it's height and fluid pushability being it's major selling points. The price keeps the Xplory out of reach of many pockets which has lead to it becoming an aspiriational set of wheels. Realistically, it doesn't warrant the price tag but this fashion statement softens the blow of motherhood when you are having to trade in your Christian Louboutin heels.
The Silver Cross Surf, and the Mamas and Papas Mylo are both practical and attractvie for the price. The choices of colour in both models are exquisite for girls or boys. Yes, they both have basket issues and a few glitches but overall they represent good value for money with the build quality on the Surf pushing it slightly ahead of the Mylo in our opinion. Plus you can buy the Surf for £470, independently of the carrycot which appealed more to our panel.
The UPPAbaby Vista scored well in it's review because it really ticks the boxes on functionality - the bits you are going to use every day. The fabrics are sumptuous, the recline and the fold are easy to perform, the basket is huge...need I go on! The panel, having never heard of UPPAbaby were genuinely impressed, however it was interesting to find that they didn't like it's chunky looks.
The Quinny Buzz is also among our highest scoring reviews. It is a fantastic pushchair and with the refinements made to their latest model it means that Quinny have ironed out any problems from previous incarnations. However, even though the development has been perfected, consumers are still after new blood and want to be seen with the latest creation, the Buzz is brilliant but it's desirability is waning.
Bugaboo, since they first started, have been the designer label of pushchairs. The Cameleon has been amazingly popular despite it's high end price. Being the choice of many celebrities it has filtered down into the High Street as a 'must have' item. The ability to dress it in any style is very appealing but over time this utilitarian look will slip from contemporary to old-hat very quickly.
Each of our panel was asked to score the models out of ten in six categories; fold/unfold, comfort, looks/desirability, manoeuvrability, functionality and finally value for money.
Congratulations to UPPAbaby, with a resounding win in this category. Keep your eye out for this exciting pushchair, not only did it score 4.5/5 in the Pushchair Expert review, come top in the Pushchair Expert £400+ group test but also won a ‘Best Buy ‘ from Which? this February. Do you need any more convincing?....