Quick Summary: It takes a brave step for any brand to produce a product that is so far away from their normal range, but Britax have done it and most importantly succeeded in producing an excellent, very stylish product. The Britax brand may not have the cache of say Bugaboo, iCandy or Stokke but the Affinity is almost half the price and just as eye-catching as their flagship single models.
Whats not so good?
- Recline mechanism
Colour packs are a big thing at the moment. The ease of which you can personalise a pushchair and then swap the colours when you get bored is a big seller and many brands now take this approach. Britax has joined this set with the launch of the Affinity. In standard form the Affinity costs £360 and comes with a choice of three frame colours black, white or silver. In this box, you get a grey seat and a from birth covered seat insert (lovely soft material!) plus a raincover. In addition you will need to purchase a colour pack in order to get the hood and customise the pushchair. However in the colour pack you also get a seat liner, apron basket liner, shoulder pads and buckle pad. This costs, get this, just £48!
Britax have really gone to town with the Affinity Chassis, their traditional black chunky styling has been thrown out and in its place comes beautiful seamless curves. I especially like the way the handle has been ‘kinked' and the wheel design matches the shape of the Britax logo. The designers of this pushchair were obviously asked to consider the details as much as the overall philosophy. There are no unsightly rivets, no ugly welds, you just get the pure design of the frame. The Affinity really does look great!
Our Affinity chassis is finished in white which really sets off the cool berry colour scheme. This is complimented nicely by the leatherette covered handle. The Affinity's handle bar height can be adjusted by rotating and locking it into one of 7 different position over a 180 degree angle. There is a position to suit almost everyone and an excellent ‘hands upright' position for when you need some extra manoeuvring oomph. Last but not least the designers have included the now obligatory rubber ‘bumpers' to protect the leather handle bar in the event it touches the floor during folding or when standing.
The Affinity's basket is nice and large – perhaps not the largest in its class, but still capable of holding a very large bag of shopping plus nappies etc. The shopping basket is very accessible when the seat is in its forward facing mode. With the child facing you, the basket can be accessed from the front of the pushchair via the gap between the seat and top basket ‘lip'. One nice touch is the basket liner you get with the colour pack. This liner press studs in place and lines the bottom of the basket providing a nice little colour lift.
Ride is provided by front and adjustable rear suspension. The front wheels measure 6 inches in diameter and are EVA, the rears are 12 inch and air filled. The brakes are lovely on the Affinity. They are operated by a very clear flip flop friendly see-saw type pedal located on the right hand wheel hub. Red for on Green for off - simple.
Britax are the first pushchair manufacturer to directly tackle theft and re-sale of the Affinity. On the Chassis is a sticker with a Code number that you register at www.code-no.com. Once registered, you can indicate the status of the pushchair. Say its stolen, then alter the status of your code number to stolen. Anyone inputting the code number into the code-no site will be able to see this making them aware of the status. Will it catch on? I am not sure, but it should, as it is a great way for people in the used market to protect themselves.
When you purchase the pushchair you get a basic seat in grey. Add the colour pack to bring the pushchair to life. The padded liner has horizontal sections which have the effect of allowing it to ‘mould' to the contours of the seat more effectively. The 5 point harness design makes fitting this a doddle. The Britax Affinity's hood itself has a myriad of features. Attaching requires pushing hood connecting lugs into two receiving points on the frame, you then have to zip it into place round the back. Once attached you will see it has: front sun shade extension, rear zip out ventilation section and rear peep window with silent magnetic clasp. With the sunshade deployed, the hood extends quite some way, however it is not quite as massive as the 2012 UPPAbaby Vista Hood with UV shade extended!!
The seat itself is reversible and a good size measuring 33cm wide with a seat back height of 50cm. It comes complete with an excellent fully adjustable 5 point harness. The shoulder straps can be adjusted across 2 positions and the main harness adjusted for width and buckle height. The release buckle itself is a nice centre push round button that requires reassuring force to get it open. Britax have used the same leather from the handle to cover the gate opening bumper bar. This is a lovely design that rotates and swivels completely out of the way if required. If only every bumper bar was designed like this!
The seat can be adjusted across 4 positions, fully reclined and then 3 positions until your child is upright. It's here I think Britax have missed a trick. The recline is facilitated by two triggers located at seat base level, underneath the seat frame. Slide these down the frame and you can move the seat to the angle you require. All of us in the office had varying degrees of success with everyone saying that the triggers were too stiff and that you had to squat down on your haunches to comfortably move them if you wanted to recline the seat from upright (not great if you are in a long coat and the floor is wet). If only they had used a one handed recline. The seat has a nice large adjustable footrest covered in part with mud repellent wipe clean textured plastic where muddy feet will sit.
The Affinity comes with a baby insert that sits in the seat in the lie flat position allowing you to use it from birth without a carrycot. This insert can be fitted in minutes in place of the seat liner. It's covered in a lovely soft fleece. With the hood up, it still looks a little exposed from where we are standing. The bumper bar must be removed, so your child lies up in the seat without a huge amount of side protection. Although this is not a full carrycot and certainly not suitable for overnight sleeping, some people will find this useful at some point. Really though, the hard carrycot is a much better option.
Designed in three panels, two grey kagool type material and one clear, the raincover may prove a little contentious. If your little one is a little short, or if the seat is reclined, they may find themselves staring at a grey panel if they wish to look ahead. That said the materials it's made from means it takes up much less room and take seconds to fit, which is often just as important as visibility!
The Affinity can folded with the seat removed and the seat in the forward facing position. It's a really simple affair and with the seat removed produces a very small package. To fold the Affinity with the seat removed put your fingertips into the seat where the lugs that connect it to the pushchair are and then lift up. The seat comes away easily. Next, locate the two triggers that sit just underneath the handle at the top, push the little button in on the right hand one and pull the triggers towards you. The frame will now ‘break' at the midpoint allowing you to fold it. A good tip here. Fold the chassis with the brake on and make sure that at the last moment you push it closed (engaging the auto lock) with the front wheels touching ground (they will be by your feet). This will stop the metal parts of the frame from getting scratched. To open, undo the auto lock and lift the handle up. The frame will open and lock in the open position. Now place the seat onto the fixing point and push down to attach.
Folding the Affinity with the seat in place take a little preparation, but this is actually the most simple way to fold it. With the break applied, place the seat in the fully upright position and rotate the handle up and as far away from you as possible. Next push the button in on the right hand trigger and pull both triggers towards you as before. The pushchair will ‘break' in the middle and the handle will drop down to the floor (don't worry the leather is protected by the rubber bumpers). A little push sees the auto lock engaged and the pushchair is now free standing, folded and upright! You can now angle the footrest to create a more compact fold. To unfold, reposition the footrest, undo the lock and lift the handle to open it out.
The carrycot can be purchased separately and costs £110. It is a very serious bit of kit. Assembly takes a few seconds (and a bit of strength). Once ‘built' the carrycot feels really sturdy and very safe. Inside, it is well padded with soft complementary fabrics and has a well padded mattress. The carrycot hood doubles as the handle and is moved by pressing in the two (sometimes stiff) buttons on either side at the hinge point. When all the way up, there is an additional extra hood that rotates down giving a really enclosed look. If we could ask for anything it would be a single button to adjust the angle of the carrycot hood/handle. With two hands it can be just a little awkward. The raincover for the carrycot has three panels as per the one for the seat with two grey non-see through type and a clear one so you can see in and baby can see out. Again, it packs away small and is very quick to fit.
It takes a brave step for any brand to produce a product that is so far away from their normal range, but Britax have done it and most importantly succeeded in producing an excellent, very stylish product. The Britax brand may not have the cache of say Bugaboo, iCandy or Stokke but the Affinity is almost half the price and just as eye-catching as their flagship single models. The quality of the engineering and obvious thought that has gone into producing this pushchair are clear. The frame shape really stands out as something different in today's marketplace and is something of a breath of fresh air.
There is not much to fault. We would like to see a clear panel at the bottom of the main seat rain-cover giving better visibility. But mostly, we wish Britax had used a one handed recline. As an element of the product you will use every day, it's a shame the Affinity recline method is, in our opinion, flawed. It's so close to being a 5 star product, this just holds it back that tiny bit. You must go and take a look at the Affinity if you are looking for a from birth pushchair. The style, mix and match colour options and eye opening price point mark it out as something really special.