One of the most talked about pushchairs to have ever evolved is sitting in my office, can you guess?...yes, it's not tricky, it's the Bugaboo Donkey. I have seen so many Bugaboo fans that blindly follow where they lead that I am taking a measured approach to my review to ignore the hype and examine it on it's own merits rather than on it's publicity.
At last...since seeing the funky display at Kind & Jugend in 2010 I have been dying to get my hands on a Bugaboo Donkey – but not for the reasons you might think. You see, generally I am a cynical sort of person and I resist falling for the hype around ‘labels', until they can prove to me that they are worth all that extra, hard-earned cash. I'm not easily swayed by a flashy presentation, in fact, quite the opposite...I'm actually thinking "How much is all this pomp and circumstance adding to the cost of this pushchair?"
My gut instinct is usually right and on closer inspection the product doesn't live up to the red carpet reception that the company have laid on for it. However, some of the time I am wrong, or shall we say, pleasantly surprised......!
The Bugaboo Donkey arrived in the office in its perfect packaging, so I got to work putting it together. As you can imagine, I am quite a dab-hand at pushchair assembly and like to abandon the instruction manual and wing-it, until I get too stuck to carry on. This was not the case with the Donkey; it almost self assembles it is so obvious and so easy. I love the way that all the straps have a defined area on the moulded plastic parts to distinguish where they should sit. Although, I did make the classic mistake of initially putting the seat fabrics on the seat frame the wrong way up, but that was soon rectified and we were back on track!
What's in the box
In mono mode
The RRP of the Bugaboo Donkey Mono is £899
In this configuration the seat sits next to a narrow basket which makes the overall width of the pushchair 60cms. Personally, I think you can never have enough storage, even if you only have one child, it feels like you are constantly carting half your house around with you. Not only do you have a large deep basket under the seat but this side basket has multiple uses: It can store all your children's toys for easy access while you are out and about, can be unclipped to become an over-the-shoulder shopping bag or left in situ and used in place of a supermarket basket (we've all tried to precariously balance a wire basket on our pushchair in some way with limited success!).
The width is not a problem; it is easy to negotiate door frames and tight corners because the front wheels are superbly responsive to the slightest change in direction, even if you are steering with only one hand.
What lies beneath
Even the wheels on the Bugaboo Donkey have come under the scrutiny of the designer. The white walled air tyres are eye catching and tie them into the frame nicely, where all the functional elements are also white. The front wheels are 25cms and both can be locked off to be unidirectional, using the large white buttons on the hub above. The rear wheels are 30cms, the left supports the braking mechanism and the white brake pedal.
The rear axle can perform its own little Bugaboo party trick. Firstly, lock the front wheels so that they don't swivel, then, by sliding the white trigger-like buttons up the handle shaft on each side, you can swing the back axle forward. The back wheels are then the only point of contact with the floor, making the front wheels redundant. These snazzy acrobatics come in handy when you are trying to cross soft ground such as a beach or a muddy park – just remember to swing the rear axle back out before you let go of the handle!
The basket beneath the seat is brilliantly accessible from both the front and the rear of the pushchair. It contains handy elasticated nets around the perimeter to keep smaller items under control. It also contains a pocket that holds the tyre pump.
The fabric seat panel slides onto the top of the seat frame and is secured by Velcro straps around the bottom. Remove the seat panel and the seat frame also doubles-up to become the rim of the carrycot base. This is one of the best solutions to morphing between laying newborn and sitting toddler that I have seen. It doesn't incur a huge seat unit that you need somewhere to store while you are using the carrycot and vice versa. Keeping the same rigid structure for use between the two, means the fabrics can interchange effortlessly without having to have a degree in pushchair assembly!
The seat comes in all black. Colour is introduced through your selection of fabric pack. One pack contains the hood and apron, for use with the carrycot, and the other contains the sun canopy, for use with the seat. You have to thread the canopies onto the preformed spokes to create your hood, which can be a fiddly job, but it's not something you will do regularly. It results in a large canopy that sits at 90 degrees to the frame when fully open. And if you thought that Mountain Buggy and phil&teds are the only manufacturers to have come up with a decent solution to alter the height of your harness straps, take a look at Bugaboo's answer...even simpler. Nothing more complicated than sliding them up or down the strap that attaches them to the back of the seat, no re-threading, unbuttoning or popper snapping!
All the fabrics can be removed to wash in the machine at 30 degrees, which not only keeps your pushchair clean, but means your Donkey will have good resale value.
Lay back and relax
The seat can be forward or rear facing depending on your preference. It can recline from a proper upright position to a full recline, with one stop in the middle and it's a breeze to perform. Once again...you guessed it... a white lever is involved! On the rear of the seat, at the top, is the recline control – lift it to reposition the angle of your seat.
A foam covered bumper bar spans the seat and acts as a handle when you want to lift the seat from the frame. It can be removed by pressing the white buttons on the interior to release it, but is doesn't have a knuckle to allow your child easy access in and out of the pushchair.
The white buttons on the outer edges of the bumper bar are the seat release buttons. They can be pressed independently to release the seat and detach from the frame. To reattach the seat, slide it back onto the mounting pegs where it will make a sturdy ‘click' when properly in place.
The shopping basket, to the right of the seat, lifts away from the frame without any mechanics involved. Although this is conveniently easy, it would also be easy for a thief, so don't place anything precious in this basket.
You don't necessarily have to remove the seat or the carrycot to fold the Donkey. However you might want to get an understanding of how it works by folding the frame alone in the first instance.
Apply the brake, then contract the handle by unclipping the white brackets and sliding it into the frame, close the brackets again to be sure the handle won't slide out again. Pull up on the white trigger-like sliders on each side of the frame; the left has a button in the centre which has to be deployed as you slide. The handle then drops to rest on the back wheels. From here, pick up the pushchair by the central pivot bar, which results in the front wheels dropping to sit inside the rear wheels. It's not the most compact fold I've ever seen but it can be made flatter if you slide off the back wheels.
It can stand up when folded, resting on the front wheels and the handle. Still, it is not small...but it's a double pushchair at the end of the day!
Unless you have twins on your first delivery, you can never be sure that you will be able to conceive and deliver a second child, which might deter even the most ‘ever prepared' of us from investing in a Donkey. However, most parents will buy a pushchair of some sort, and the Bugaboo Donkey ticks all the boxes, even if you only ever use it for one child.
I love the fact that the fabrics can be changed to suit your mood or removed for cleaning; it means you can personalize it to your own individual taste. Many third party manufacturers are getting in on this, by designing unique canopies that fit onto the Bugaboo canopy spokes.
I only have two minor niggles with the Donkey in the mono mode, they are:...the fold – it's large and other luxury singles fold smaller, and the bumper bar – why can't we have a knuckled, gate opening bumper bar when the Donkey is at the top of its game in every other way.
As I said...they are minor niggles and I feel like I am nitpicking somewhat. Overall, I defy anyone to be disappointed with the Donkey. The build quality is second to none and the engineering is beautiful.
We give the Bugaboo Donkey in Mono mode
4.5 out of 5 stars
In Duo mode
The RRP for the Bugaboo Donkey in Duo mode is £1049
Well it's here that the Donkey gets really interesting, but when you see what it does, it's one of those things that you wonder why on earth it hasn't been done before..it seems so obvious....make a single chassis expand into a double! Easy?...no. How they have tackled the engineering to make it seem so simple, means you get the impression you could have knocked one up in your garage at home, however there are many structural factors that they have had to overcome and have done so with polished finesse.
So how do you double your mono?
Firstly, you need to identify the three points that lock the frame in whichever mode you choose. They are all white clips: one in the centre of the handle, one on the front axle and one on the rear. Release each of the clips, then press the white button on the central pivot bar and open up your frame.
I found the easiest method was to lay the chassis on its side, then press the white button and lift to expand. Stand it upright again and lock off all three clips. That's it! From here you simply dress your Donkey in the relevant attire that fits your passengers; two carrycots, two seat units, one of each or add a car seat or two with the relevant adaptors.
In double mode, the Donkey is 74cms, still plenty slim enough to fit through doorways. None of the control is diminished by the extra width; it's still just as responsive.
I never thought I would have my head turned by a Bugaboo – not because I don't like the brand, far from it, I just can't stand the hype....but it's not hype....the Donkey is really, really good, in fact I love it! It is so beautifully finished with such an attention to detail that it can't be faulted, every element works, all the fabrication is of the highest quality and it has a smooth, responsive push.
I am all about substance, so looks tend to come a fair way down on my list of priorities, however the clean, crisp design is eye catching, bold and dare I say seductively attractive. I used to think the Donkey was all show with the personality of a glamour model, but in actual fact, it's drop dead gorgeous and highly qualified.
That old saying ‘you get what you pay for' is true, yes, it is crazily expensive at nearly £1300 (if you throw in a couple of footmuffs and a car seat adaptor), but you are getting a front and rear facing, combination pushchair that will last the span of two or more children from birth to walking. I know I have certainly spent more than that on pushchairs over the course of my childbearing years. Plus, if you get bored with your choice of colour, it is easy to change – simply buy a new colour pack and you have a brand new look.
I have definitely had my opinion changed and admit I was wrong....The Bugaboo Donkey is genius!
We give the Bugaboo Donkey in Duo mode
5 out of 5 stars
Mono open: 60 x 114 x 88-106cms
Mono weight: 13kg
Duo Open: 74 x 114 x 88-106cms
Duo weight: 15kg
Folded size: 87 x 60 x 40cms