The constant churn of city living, design ingenuity and parental yearning to get the best possible gear for their kids has meant that the title of “Must-Have Stroller” has shifted repeatedly since then. There are 8 million baby vehicles in the big city, or so it seems, and pushing them, you’ll see parents with faintly haunted looks in their eyes. “I’ve had many clients tell me they put more effort into choosing their first stroller than they did a car,” said Janet McLaughlin, a mother of three who runs a parenting-consultation service and an online review site called StrollerQueen.
In part, that’s because the perfect urban stroller—for easily ducking into shops or cabs or scaling the steps of a fifth-floor walk-up—can seem impossibly elusive. It should be safe (above all), durable, comfortable for its precious passenger, affordable, washable, and light enough to regularly lug up and down the steps of a brownstone. And it wouldn’t hurt if you didn’t look totally ridiculous pushing it.
‘An urban stroller should be safe, durable, comfortable, affordable and light enough to regularly lug up the steps of a brownstone.’
The unstoppable force of parental anxiety has driven stroller prices to range from modest to mad, and even strapped parents will be reluctant to cut corners for something as vital as the buggy that moves your baby around town.
“Your stroller becomes your hub, the center of all activities for city living,” said Hlynur Atlason, a father of two and the creative director of an eponymous New York City product design firm.
The weedlike proliferation of options—plus the distinct needs of newborns, who haven’t yet developed their head and neck support—often means that parents wind up buying multiple rides. “It is impossible for one stroller to do it all. It is like owning just one pair of shoes,” said Ms. McLaughlin. I shared a long talk with one uptight Upper East Side mother who had bought seven—the first because it seemed trendy, a handful more to ease fears surrounding weight, durability, travel and storage, and a final cheaper option to complete the set.
With the help of stalwart parents, curious moms- and dads-to-be, day-care centers, family groups and one single Brooklynite only hoping to polish his dating profile, we narrowed our search to focus on 20 largely lightweight, foldable strollers that could stand up to the rigors of city parenting. Although we didn’t create an urban obstacle course—finishing in a mad dash for the L train with a baby in tow—we did simulate such essential drills as lugging a stroller up stairs, and the finely tuned art of one-handed turns and folds (since setting a baby on the curb is frowned upon). We sat in the strollers—no, we didn’t fit—to get some additional feel for padding, comfort and durability. And since even the most serene child has her limits, we wheeled around a 20-pound sack of potatoes instead.
Parents will have to weigh the relative importance of comfort, smoothness of ride, heft, recline, looks and price. The last can put parents in a stressful spot: Several extolled the stability of the Bugaboo Fox, for instance, but it starts at $1,199 and was so frustrating to assemble we nearly gave up. “Even a high-end stroller, when you open and close it hundreds of times, can get wiggly,” said Mr. Atlason. “In the end, you want something rudimentary and dependable that will last the years you need it.” The priciest full-size stroller sold on Buy Buy Baby’s site, the fashionable Mima Xari, is listed at up to $1,999—though shipping is free.
After eliminating such splurges, we found some happier news. There’s a lot to like about the YOYO+ by the French company Babyzen ($449, buybuybaby.com), customizable by frame and color including stylish toffee and soothing aqua. The YOYO+ sports Gallic good looks and folds up into a compact package the size of a large tote, which can be slung over a shoulder or hung in a closet. It rides smoothly and is well-suited for both public transit and more ambitious trips, since it can be folded into most airlines’ overhead compartments (a challenge that has spurred many parents to pick up an inexpensive travel stroller).
Babyzen boasts that the YOYO+, which it bills as “the ONE you need,” can be used with a newborn add-on pack for infants and then, with the help of a car-seat adapter, graduate through your baby’s childhood, obviating the temptation to ever buy another stroller again.
“I spent two full years in Paris fantasizing about owning a YOYO stroller,” said E.B. Harper, a U.S. diplomat who until recently was stationed in France. The mother of twins required a less-chic double-wide stroller. “The YOYO is what all the French parents used for getting around, especially with public transportation. It was narrow enough to fit through turnstiles, light enough to carry up and down the stairs... I still pine for one—is that weird?”
The YOYO+ isn’t perfect: Its middling plastic wheels aren’t ideal for truly inclement winter weather, and the folding mechanism—two hands required—takes some getting used to. Also, by the time you’ve added the stroller frame, picked a seat-pad color, thrown in a rain cover and, sprung for the newborn pack and the car-seat adapter, you could be looking at a bill closer to $825—and that’s before you’ve picked up one of the car seats compatible with the YOYO+. (Of course, if you blunder and wind up buying multiple strollers, you could be in the same ballpark anyway.)
Another standout, at a more affordable price, is the smoothly rolling Uppababy Minu (from $399, uppababy.com). Like the YOYO+, the Minu can be pushed with one hand and folded into a manageable bundle. Its one-handed mechanism felt a bit easier and more intuitive than its somewhat pricier competitor.
At 14.8 pounds, the Minu is on the heavier side among lighter-weight strollers, but it has a sturdy, well-engineered feel. (It’s far easier to lift than Uppababy’s bigger siblings, like the 26.6-pound Vista, which can comfortably cart around two children.) The Minu has a rather nice suspension, a comfortably padded seat, and enough basket space to hold a diaper bag and some groceries. It also has a newborn adapter kit that lets infants rest properly flat; and it’s compatible with the brand’s Mesa infant car seat, which gives the Minu a decent claim to being among the best of the from-birth-onward, one-stroller solutions that will hold children up to 50 pounds. The Minu even looks terrific, with sleek lines and (a nice touch) a full-grain leather handlebar.
A few notches cheaper, the utilitarian Mountain Buggy Nano (from $200, mountainbuggy.com) is worthy of a test drive. It’s designed as a travel stroller and isn’t as cozily padded as the YOYO+ or the Minu, but it’s light, maneuverable and pleasantly compact when folded—worth considering for budget-minded parents looking to make short hops like day-care drop-off or quick grocery runs.
Many parents-to-be will default to the emblematic Maclaren, the storied British brand founded in 1965 by former RAF test pilot Owen Finlay Maclaren, who created the original umbrella-fold stroller by drawing on the engineering used to create airplane landing gear. Maclaren’s lightweight Quest Arc ($345, maclaren.us) corners nicely and offers four-wheel suspension on well-designed wheels. It’s a touch cheaper than the Minu, it drives with a handy single bar (rather than the two separate hand grips on other umbrella models), and it gives parents a viewing window to keep an eye on little ones.
Among Maclaren’s dozen other models is the Mark II ($200, maclaren.us), which weighs less than 8 pounds. It’s more stripped-down than most of its brethren, with scant storage space and limited recline, but its standout lightness should appeal to harried parents struggling up flights of stairs. (The Maclaren models also come largely assembled, give or take a wheel or two, sparing groggy parents lengthy battles with instruction manuals.)
For a true budget option, the Summer 3Dlite comes in at $100 (summerinfant.com). It weighs only 13 pounds, and its seat recline isn’t bad. But the 3Dlite is distinctly less comfortable and padded than the above competitors, and the ride isn’t nearly as even or agile.
Among the other models that had plenty of pluses but seemed ultimately less appealing was the popular Britax B-Lively (from $229, us.britax.com), which had a smooth, trike-style ride and significant storage space but at 20 pounds felt on the bulkier side. The Doona ($499, shopdoona.com) touts itself as “the world’s first infant car seat and stroller in one,” but it felt a bit like, well, a car seat on wheels.
The small, light, 12.5-pound Zoe Trip ($225, zoestrollers.com) features a leathery T-bar safety restraint that was handy for parents—doubling as a luggage-like handle when the Trip is folded—but seemed likely to annoy squirmy babies. Joovy, a brand that makes a terrific high chair, offers several strollers, including the smartly appointed Kooper ($300, joovy.com), which folds efficiently and compactly but has only limited recline. Finally, Uppababy has an updated umbrella-fold called the G-Luxe (from $280, uppababy.com) that’s comparable to midrange Maclarens, with decent padding, modest storage and a handy kickstand to help it stand upright when folded.
No parent should feel bad for a bit of trial and error here. As Washington lawyer Justin Smith, who has two daughters, said, “We collect strollers the way the Jawas from ‘Star Wars’ collect robots—a few are somewhat battered, but they all have their purpose.”
A SPIN THROUGH HISTORY// How civilized rolling baby carriers have evolved since the civil war
MID-1800s The first stroller was conceptualized in 1733 by British landscape architect William Kent, who crafted the wood, wicker and brass carriage for the Duke of Devonshire to entertain his children while on the go. By the mid-19th century, the design saw its first round of upgrades: the addition of brakes, foldable frames, and accessories such as parasols and umbrellas.
1880s With the introduction of the reversible seat, inventor William Richardson created a stroller whose occupant could face the pusher—which is particularly desirable when the baby is younger—or look out at the world when she gets a little older and more curious. Mr. Richardson also made each wheel roll individually, giving carriages greater ease of movement and maneuverability.
1920s-1930s In a post World War I era, safety was put at a premium, and baby carriages were modernized with a slew of features that still exist in today’s strollers—easy-to-use foot brakes, thicker and sturdier wheels, deeper seats and lower-built, durable frames. New materials were also used, with carriages and prams made from rubber, plastic and chrome.
1960s Retired test pilot Owen Finlay Maclaren (far right) decided to lighten things up after realizing his daughter’s pram was too cumbersome to carry. By 1967, he had designed the umbrella stroller, a compact design that was convenient for travel. Thanks to his aeronautical engineering expertise, parents could hold baby in one hand and fold up the lightweight aluminum stroller in the other.
2001 The stroller became a status symbol when Bugaboo’s Frog made its way stateside after American expat Kari Boiler saw it dominating the streets of Amsterdam. Ms. Boiler convinced Bugaboo to let her launch its American operations, and even got the Frog into an episode of HBO’s “Sex and the City.” Bugaboo garnered legions of fans and long waiting lists as it introduced new models.
2015 Prince William and wife Kate Middleton pushed their second child, Princess Charlotte, in the vintage-inspired Silver Cross Balmoral Pram, which features luxe chrome touches and hand-stitched detailing—with a retail price tag of a cool $3,999. Four years later, Prince Harry and wife Meghan Markle defied the royal tradition and opted for a Bugaboo Fox instead.
—Rachel Jacoby Zoldan
The Wall Street Journal is not compensated by retailers listed in its articles as outlets for products. Listed retailers frequently are not the sole retail outlets.
Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8