Which pushchair should you buy?
A pushchair should deliver maximum comfort and safety for its tiny passenger, but parents are entitled to think about themselves a little too. Our testers have pushed and prodded 18 models to assess which are the easiest to use on a daily basis, writes Clodagh O'Donoghue
For new and prospective parents, choosing a pushchair can be a voyage into the unknown but it is an important decision to get right. As well as finding a pushchair that delivers the maximum level of comfort and safety to its small passenger, given the significant investment involved it is also worthwhile taking some time to consider how the pushchair will adapt to your growing child.
And from the parents' perspective, it is also ideal if the pushchair is simple to manoeuvre, can be folded and unfolded effortlessly - preferably with one hand - and, once folded, can be stored neatly or fitted into a car boot easily. Those who favour public transport over driving might need a pushchair that is compact enough to use on a bus, whereas others might be looking for a pushchair that is not too heavy or cumbersome to haul up and down stairs.
City dwellers may only have to consider how well a pushchair glides over pavements and up and down kerbs, but those who like to get out and about in the great outdoors might need a buggy that can handle uneven and off-road surfaces and still deliver a smooth ride. So there is a lot to factor into the purchasing decision and, to help, our independent labs have tested 18 pushchairs - all of which are travel systems - for all these criteria and more.
Choosing a pushchair
Babies grow quickly with their needs changing as swiftly, so many parents will look to buy a pushchair that can adapt to these changes and can be used over a number of years and in a variety of ways. For many, travel systems can be the way to go, particularly for those who also use their car a lot.
Travel systems come supplied with a seat unit, which is often reversible - enabling parents to position the child facing either towards them or towards the big, wide world - but, in addition, a travel system can be used with a Group 0 or Group 0+ car seat that can be fitted onto the pushchair chassis, either on top of the existing seat unit or replacing the seat unit altogether. This means that parents can transfer their baby from pushchair to car and vice versa without removing them from the car seat - especially useful if the little one is asleep.
However, it is important to keep in mind that babies should not be left in their child car seat for long periods of time.
Some travel systems also come with the option of fitting a carrycot onto the pushchair frame, allowing smaller babies to lie flat as they are being pushed around. In addition, some travel systems allow a second seat unit to be attached, turning them into a double buggy and potentially making them attractive to those who hope to extend their family further in the future.
Thus, travel systems are a versatile option, though they can be expensive and tend to be large and cumbersome, even when folded.
Test drive checklist
The first priority when choosing a pushchair should of course be the all-important comfort and safety of your child. However, once these elements are ensured, parents should also take their own needs in using the pushchair on a daily basis into consideration. Given that a pushchair may be a significant investment, be sure to try out various models before you buy to give you a real feel for how they handle.
You should make sure to find a pushchair that is easy to manoeuvre and that suits your size and shape. Those buying a pushchair for the first time or who have little or no experience of wheeling a buggy around should make an effort to befriend practised parents, ask how they rate their own pushchairs and see if they will let you 'test-drive' their buggies so you get a feel for how different models handle. There are also a number of things you can test out for yourself in store before making a purchase.
* Consider if the handle height suits you or can be adjusted to a comfortable level and if you can walk normally without bumping against the brake bar, foot pedals and so on.
* Take some time to test the pushchair's manoeuvrability and stability as well as how easy it is to use the brake pedals and how effective they are.
* Find out if the pushchair can be folded swiftly and if one-handed operation would be possible, given some practice.
* Check to see if the pushchair, when folded, is a manageable weight to haul in and out of car boots or up and down stairs.
* Look at the amount of storage provided underneath and if this is accessible when the buggy is in a reclined position.
* If you are buying a travel system, make sure that you don't need a university degree in engineering to work out how to swap between the normal pushchair seat, car seat and carrycot and mount each of them on the pushchair frame. Also, find out which elements are included in the price, as the car seat and/or carrycot may have to be purchased separately.
These product tests are extracted from 'Consumer Choice', the online magazine of the Consumers' Association of Ireland (CAI), and are carried out for the CAI by independent consumer research organisation International Consumer Research and Testing. For more information see thecai.ie
1. Nuna Ivvi, €888
Leading our current batch of pushchairs, the Choice Buy Nuna Ivvi is a pricey model that is a great all-rounder, with good suspension and plenty of padding delivering a smooth and comfortable ride across a range of terrains and surfaces. This travel system can be used from birth with an almost completely flat recline and can be configured in four modes - using a car seat, carrycot or forward- or rear-facing seat unit. It is very simple to use, with one-handed operation for the recline and easy folding and unfolding. This pushchair can also stand upright when folded and provides a sizeable and readily accessible storage basket underneath. The handlebar is height-adjustable and this pushchair offers great manoeuvrability, though with its wide back wheels, getting through some doorways can be a bit of a squeeze and testers found that the model's width and long length meant it is not ideal for use on public transport. It is also the heaviest model on test at 15.9kg.
2. UPPAbaby Cruz 2015, €599
The Choice Buy UPPAbaby Cruz 2015 is particularly suited to city living, handling very well on pavements and providing good manoeuvrability in tight spaces - though it fares less well on off-road surfaces. The manufacturer's patent-pending Air-Go tyres do a good job of absorbing shock, making for a smooth and comfortable ride. This travel system is suitable for a new-born baby if you use the UPPAbaby Vista carrycot - priced at around €230 - and babies from six months of age can use the seat unit, which is reversible. This pushchair comes supplied with car seat adaptors, which may be used to attach a compatible BeSafe or Maxi-Cosi car seat. The Cruz 2015 scores highly for ease of use, especially when it comes to getting a child seated and buckled in, adjusting the harness and folding the pushchair. At 10kg, it is also lightweight for lifting in and out of car boots and testers found that it would be suitable for use on public transport.
3. Joolz Geo, €999
The Choice Buy Joolz Geo scores top marks for manoeuvrability, with an ability to navigate around obstacles easily. This pushchair copes well with a range of surface types and effective suspension ensures a smooth ride for the baby or child it is carrying. The bucket-shaped, reversible seat unit can only be used for babies from six months of age, but a compatible carrycot may be attached to allow newer babies to lie flat. The Joolz Geo folds easily and neatly, and testers liked the extra-large storage basket, which is removable. However, our testers found it a little awkward to take off and reattach seat covers for cleaning purposes, and this pushchair is quite heavy to lift, though a handle lets you pull it along when folded. One key feature of the Joolz Geo is that it can easily be converted and extended into a double buggy, using either a side-by-side or tandem configuration, making it a very versatile option for those thinking ahead to possible future new arrivals.
4. Mamas and Papas Armadillo XT, €325
The Choice Buy Mamas and Papas Armadillo XT provides superb manoeuvrability with its narrow frame and testers considered that it would be fairly well-suited to public transport despite being around a metre in length. With sizeable, chunky wheels, this pushchair delivers a smooth ride on a variety of surfaces, allowing for a seamless switch from pavement to park, though rugged off-road terrains may feel a bit bumpy. The Armadillo XT does not have the option of adding a carrycot, though you can add a compatible car seat and the supplied seat unit reclines far enough to allow a small baby to lie flat. This seat unit is only forward-facing and cannot be reversed, but it is particularly roomy and a handy viewing window in the large-sized hood lets parents keep an eye on their little one. Folding and unfolding this pushchair is very easy, with one-handed operation possible, and it can stand upright when folded for neat storage. In addition, the handlebar is adjustable, offering a good range of heights.