Joovy have always been a little bit of a diamond in the rough as far as the UK market is concerned, we take a look at one of their cleverest models, the Joovy Caboose Ultralight, and see if it's all brawn and no brains or will it polish up into something nice...
Joovy have been around for a while now, and have built up a little bit of an underground cult fan base. With clever engineering and innovative design, the Joovy Caboose gave people a surprising amount of functionality, and many have become much loved members of families up and down the country. Although not one of the best known brands in the UK, a host of new releases are set to hit the market in the coming months – and look set to give us some real innovation.
The Joovy Caboose Ultralight has built on the traditional Joovy Caboose's reputation as an easy to use multi-functional tandem stroller. With a more cunning hood design, and even lighter weight it should make parents with siblings of varying ages a great solution to the ‘who sits where' debate.
What's in the Box?
The RRP of the Joovy Caboose Ultralight is £274.00
Out of the Box
When getting the Joovy Caboose Ultralight out of the box the first thing to note is that before you go anywhere the rear wheels will need some construction – you are provided with a little bag of washers and you need to slide the rear axle in, add the washers and then pop the wheels on. Once done the front wheels are easily popped on, the hood attaches and away you go. One thing that strikes you straight away is that, as it says on the tin, it's actually very light. For a pushchair capable of taking two passengers it is one of the lightest and compact models around, and you can tell that straight away.
First things first, the Joovy Caboose Ultralight is a little innovative in its design; it has a forward facing seat at the front, much like a standard pushchair, but at the rear it has a clever little design feature to make it into a ‘double' pushchair. To make this possible the rear half of the chassis is elongated to provide room for a second child to sit or stand behind the front seat. The rear seat is more of a bench, with no separate backrest as such although the back of the front seat backrest can do the job. If your child would rather stand than sit all they need to do is hop up, turn around and grab the hand holds standing on a nice big step (much like a buggy board). Unlike a buggy board, the step on the Joovy has been designed to integrate fully with the pushchair, and as such there are dedicated handholds on either side of the frame, and the pushchair steers just as well whether your child is standing or sitting. The bench seat part can be slid backwards to reveal access to the shopping basket.
Getting into the nitty gritty, the chassis looks a little basic. The aluminium frame is made from a familiar ‘80's grey tubing, not very ‘down with the kids'. There are no sweeping curves or clean lines – more bolts, welds and pokey angles. Despite this, I grew to appreciate the chassis for what it is – a light and easy to push way of transporting two children of different ages, it is a striped down bare bones approach to pushchair design, made to help busy mums get through their day-to-day lives with their sanity intact ... it's definitely not one of those pushchairs that looks very pretty but is completely impractical.
The non adjustable handle is covered in soft foam – which extends down either side giving a variety of grasp positions. The two child handles on either side of the step are also covered in similar foam, and are nice and large so children of differing sizes can get a good grip.
The shopping basket is large, but completely inaccessible unless you get your child out of the way so that you can slide the seat back. This done there is a nice big opening directly above the basket for you to drop shopping bags and all the essentials into. It's also nice to know that once the step is closed over – everything is contained and you won't be getting home from the school run to find a book bag has jumped out half way back when everyone decides to stuff their coats in there!
The foam wheels are pretty standard for an urban pushchair, slightly larger in diameter than normal though and look like they would give a comfy ride. The front set are doubled up to provide an easier push and they have a swivel lock which will be handy for going over rougher ground, although suspension is limited so I wouldn't recommend you stray too far from the beaten track.
The brake is an easy to apply push down lift up pedal – both rear wheels are linked and there is a pedal on both sides for left and right footed people. I am a little concerned that when pulling the pushchair up steps backwards the brake pedal may just catch but I think you may be able to get away with it – and the balance of the pushchair is such that pulling it up steps in this way won't be an easy task anyway.
The seats of the Joovy Caboose Ultralight follow a similar styling to the frame – functional rather than fancy. With hard wearing fabrics and a ‘less is more' approach (quite possibly in order to keep the weight down), the Joovy seats aren't glam. Saying that – they do have all the key features you need to have. The five point harness is fully adjustable, the shoulder straps can be re-routed to give three different height options and the padded calf rest is adjustable.
All the fabrics on the Joovy can be bought seperately at a reasonable cost, so it very easy to give the Caboose a refresh whenever the mood takes you.
The seat is constructed to encompass a child, with padded arm rests and sides in addition to the seat base and back. In front of the seat is a spacious snack tray with integrated cup holder – in place of the traditional bumperbar. This might obscure the view for a smaller child, but it is removable, and the ends are neatly covered with red plastic to keep them tidy when the snack tray (or car seat adapters) is not in use.
The seat itself looks a good size, and although the back rest isn't the highest I've seen (42cm), there is ample space under the hood for even the tallest toddler (70cm). The seat base is wide and deep (I could even fit my bottom into it although it was a bit of a squeeze) and although the padding isn't too deep and squashy, this means the seat base isn't saggy at all. The seat back rest is very clinical and flat in appearance – and I would have a few doubts about using it for a child of only 6 months without some additional padding and support. Chest pads are not included on the webbing straps although the straps themselves feature some nice reflective detailing.
The seat can be set in one of three recline positions; upright, slight recline, greater recline. The seat does not fully recline and as such the seat is only suitable for children from 6 months upwards. The recline mechanism is a nice easy one, a bar at the rear of the seat can be lifted with one hand and the seat dropped back, to sit the seat back up you just lift the bar again and push it forward until it clicks into place, it gives a very reassuring ‘clunk' to let you know it's fixed. With the front seat fully reclined, the rear child would really need to be standing as the seat reduces the space above the bench at the rear.
The rear seat is more of a cushioned bench; it is a nice size for larger toddler bottoms, being the whole width of the pushchair. It has a three point adjustable harness, to keep your little one pinned down if the need arises. This rear seat is suitable from 2.5 years upwards, as your child will need to be comfortable balancing themselves.
The hood on the Ultralight is cleverly designed to cover both children, or either of the children, or neither of the children. It slots into place on either side of the chassis and can then be clicked out forward and backwards giving cover to both children. It is a little clunky, and looks a little unstable just wafting in the air above the seat when it is fully retracted, but it does the job and is well made. As I said, it's plenty high enough to fit even the tallest toddler under the canopy.
Folding couldn't be easier. Undo the secondary lock on the bottom left of the pushchair, then standing at the rear, push the hood all the way forward, and then slide the two red latches on either side of the frame upwards. The handle either folds over forwards so the pushchair is left lying on the floor, or you can push down on the rear axle with your foot and bring the front of the pushchair up towards you. There is a latch you can use to lock the pushchair in the folded position. When folded it is surprisingly slim, although it is long front to back giving quite a large footprint. To unfold, just undo the lock if engaged, and lift the handle until you hear it snap into the upright position, you can then engage the secondary lock.
The versatility of the Ultralight is further increased by the fact you can, if you wish, add a car seat onto the front of the pushchair in place of the seat. The car seat clicks in with adapters and a safety strap, and allows the pushchair to become a ‘from birth' solution.
The Joovy Caboose Ultralight is a great unique way to transport two children of different ages around. If you are having a dilemma over whether or not your older child will still even need to use a pushchair by the time your new baby is born – this is one to look at. It's a halfway house – you're not quite ready to go single with buggy board, but you know a double will be a waste of money as your elder child won't want to sit in it.
If you are a childminder this is one to consider also, you can get a great range of ages on/in it, and can even use it for real littlies with a car seat if needs be.
The Caboose Ultralight is not pretty, it's not luxurious, it won't go well over rough terrain BUT it will last you well, will be easy to push with two children in, and it will be the solution to the age old ‘should we buy a single or double' dilemma.Think of it as a utility vehicle, designed for a specific purpose. Many owners we know won't push anything else.
Oh, and your kids will love it!
We give the Joovy Ultralight 3.5 out of 5.
Front seat suitable from 6 months or from birth with addition of a car sear (sold separately), rear seat from approx. 2.5yrs.