For some reason, I don't see enough Micralites on the streets. I have seen them at trade shows and my initial impressions are ‘engineering genius', but close up? We have the Micralite Toro in for inspection.
I haven't seen as many Micralite pushchairs as I would have liked on the streets of the UK, but in Japan, they are going down a storm. Reasons for this? Well, I think the needs of the slightly built Japanese are perfectly met by the highly manoeuvrable, incredibly light-weight, funky frames of the Micralite range. A range which is not extensive but each model delivers a contemporary looking, nippy solution to child transportation.
Designed and engineered in the UK, it's great to see that this type of cutting edge technology flies the flag for Great Britain all over the world. It's an inspiration to see a small band of brains coming together to put their skills and innovation into making an international success story.
What's in the box?
The RRP of the Micralite Toro is £365
The Micralite Toro comes in Black, Ivory, Orange and Blue.
The Toro originally came to market in 2008. For those parents not willing to step outside the norm and plunge for the very contemporary Super-Lite, the Toro resembled something that was a more familiar pushchair shape, yet still retained the unique, patented engineering under the bonnet. Their latest revision has merely been an update on one of their most successful models.
At first glance the folded Toro will appear to be somewhat of a conundrum but once you have figured it out, or better still, taken a look at the instructions, you will discover just what a doddle it is.
Just below the handle bars, on the two rear pillars of the frame, are squeezable buttons. Grip them as you would a syringe and push down on the plunger, keep pushing until the front wheels extend forwards and the seat is horizontal. A click will notify you that you have opened the frame successfully. From here, you can then pull them up again to angle the seat to whichever of the three settings you require; flat, reclined or upright.
Folding the Toro is as uncomplicated as opening it. Firstly, fold up the bumper bar and the canopy. To the rear of the frame, in between the two vertical pillars, are two buttons. Using the syringe grip, push down on the silver button with your thumb whilst pulling up on the trigger below, this unlocks the frame (like the side lever on a conventional stroller). Then move your thumb up to press on the red button, this will allow you to pull the plunger all the way up to the handles, drawing in the front wheels as you do so. At the top, it locks automatically into place and stands vertically, balancing on the front and rear wheels. By nudging the foot of the seat with your knee, it just squeezes an extra contraction out of the frame to allow it stand in the smallest footprint possible.
The foam covered handles on the Toro are quite versatile. They clamp with a lever, like those found on bike wheels, where you twist until it's nearly tight enough then clamp the lever down to increase the grip. The handles can be positioned at any point over 180 degrees, making them convenient for the tall or short parent, however it does take some effort, and in it's natural state favours the smaller stature.
At your feet are the two 31cm, pneumatic rear wheels. They give you the suspension and grip of a much larger pushchair which combined with the lightweight frame makes you feel invincible. I can only liken it to snow boots, that are light and protective but impervious to anything underfoot. The brake is a metal bar that brings the wheels to a halt. It's relatively easy to apply but doesn't have a sympathetically flattened edge to put your foot on and feels a bit rudimentary.
A shallow basket is suspended between the front and rear axles. It's not huge and it's blocked from the rear by some of the frame structure. Although it's more accessible from the front (when the seat is reclined) it won't fit much more than your evening meal in terms of shopping. Hanging shopping or a large changing bag from the handlebars is also out of the question because as soon as your child is out of the seat, the frame will tip. This is the same for a lot of strollers and generally not recommended, so don't be tempted.
The front wheels are a petite 14.5cms and can be locked off to make them unidirectional on rougher ground, or left to swivel in a more urban setting. In reality, you would tilt the pushchair to get it around any uneven surfaces because the rear wheels lend themselves to the challenge, whereas the front wheels will only hinder the operation.
Into the seat
The sporty seat on the Microlite Toro is well padded and covered in a semi-lustrous, textured nylon. All the seats come in black with the colour accent being the canopy. My sample is in the orange colourway and it contrasts with the dense black of the seat beautifully. Made up of two canvassy panels with a rear viewing window (that's really hard to actually see through), it affords a medium amount of shade over your passenger. An extra flip-out, mesh visor is concealed in the hood to provide a little extra shade when the sun is directly in front.
The Toro comes with a five point harness with crotch and chest pads. It can be adjusted for two shoulder heights by simply posting the plastic bracket through its current slot to reposition it into the other.
The bumper bar is foam covered and unfortunately fixed, so you are going to have to slide your child over the top of it to place them into their seat. A gate folding bumper bar is so much easier, not only for loading but also to allow you enough room to strap your child into place.
The calf rest can be adjusted in three positions by pressing the buttons on either side of the seat. The nearly upright position is not for use with the toddler seat but more for helping to support the carrycot and the car seat when in place.
I love the raincover on the Microlite Toro. It comes in a little tubular pencil case style bag that attaches to the handlebars via two simple pieces of elastic – no poppers, velcro or overcomplicated fuss. The raincover enclosed is illuminous yellow with a rubberised, transparent viewing window. It couldn't be easier to attach (unless you try putting it on upside down - which yes, I can shamefully admit to!). It slides over the canopy with the toggled end going around the BOTTOM of the chair. It's an excellent fit, leaving room for feet and breathing (always a bonus!).
To attach the car seat or the carrycot you will need to remove the seat fabric, canopy and bumper bar using the very obvious poppers, clips and zip. Then, by reclining what was the seat into the horizontal position, the adaptors will slide into the holes originally occupied by the canopy and bumper bar. Then the car seat or the carrycot can be mounted into the adaptors and you are ready to go.
I've been itching to get my hands on the Micralite family because they are so brilliantly constructed. Being on the shorter side of tall, they feel great to push; lightweight and controllable frames make them enviably manoeuvrable, yet they are as flexible in conversion to a travel system as any pushchair on the market.
The price is reasonable, at £365 and £150 for the carrycot; you have a decent travel system for just over £500.
But there are some drawbacks. Not everyone will like the fact that the seat cannot be parent facing. For them, the Toro would be an expensive proposition and nothing more than an overpriced stroller. Without wanting to stereotype, I think Micralites will appeal more to Daddy than Mummy because of the wonderful engineering that makes them look so technical. But neither will appreciate the fixed bumper bar, the stiff foot brake or the titchy basket when having to use them on a daily basis.
Sadly, I'm not as impressed as I had hoped to be but I'm pleased to see a company tearing up the pushchair blueprints and trying something different. The Toro isn't absolutely perfect but Micralite must be commended for delivering an interesting alternative to the now overused and in-need-of-an-update, stroller fold.
We give the Micralite Toro
3.5 out of 5 stars.
Folded size: 104 x 41 x 57cms
Open size: 104 x 62 x 87cms
Seat back: 49cms
Seat depth: 19cms
Seat width: 30cms