Five years ago, the frumpy Maclaren was New York’s dominant stroller and the idea of spending a grand on a carriage was absurd. Then the lightweight, Dutch-designed Frog arrived—for $729—and everything changed. Now, there are more than a dozen baby-mobiles with polymorphic attachments like bassinets and adjustable seat levels. But is aeronautical-grade aluminum really necessary for a trip to Whole Foods? Using the city as an obstacle course and my baby, Ezra, as the tester, I tried nine models in the subway, on the bus, on cobblestones, in crowded grocery stores and narrow stairwells. I loaded in yogurts to check capacity and stuffed each stroller behind my front door to gauge tuckability.
Little Folks, 123 23rd St., nr. Lexington Ave; 212-982-9669
Groovy style and a slick ride, but beware the perilously wide, 25.5-inch rear-wheel spread; good for power walks and park jaunts; not great for doorways or grocery-store aisles. The seat is made of cushy nylon in five grown-up colors.
Accoutrements: Sun canopy, bug net, rain cover.
Specs: *30 pounds. Rated for birth to 50 pounds. Collapses to 39 by 25.5 by 16 inches.
Storage: 7 six-packs of baby yogurt.
Setup & Breakdown: Painless assembly. Much-touted hydraulic fold has a tendency to pop open on its own and makes a jarring cracking noise.
Pros: Easy to navigate crowded, craggy sidewalks with one hand. Sleeping baby stayed unconscious during cobblestone test and even a hike in woods.
Cons: Clipped a few parking meters with wide rear wheels. Ran over several feet on subway and bus and found climbing stairs unassisted was next to impossible. Nanny grilled at tot lot: “What does your boss do?”
Buy Buy Baby, 270 Seventh Avenue., nr. 25th St.; 917-344-1555
This Norwegian attention-getter is all about the high-altitude seating pod. Instead of being eye-to-eye with exhaust pipes and Weimaraners, the child sits literally on a pedestal. Seat fabric is a machine-washable cotton-poly blend that comes in six colors; the frame is aluminum and automobile-grade plastic.
Accoutrements: The “complete” includes the frame, bassinet, chair, and cute polka- dot blanket. The “basic” doesn’t have a bassinet and retails for $900. Both come with rain covers, mosquito net, and shopping bag.
Specs: 28 pounds. Rated for birth to 45 pounds. Collapses to 40 by 22 by 19 inches.
Storage: 11 yogurt six-packs.
Setup & Breakdown: We can’t judge the assembly, because the Stokke rep insisted on delivering it pre-built (which made us wonder). Without instructions, which were not supplied, figuring out the collapse required a home visit from another Stokke rep.
Pros: Being able to see your baby without neck strain. Extremely comfortable hand grip is ideal for one-handed swiveling, making cell-phone conversations much easier.
Cons: Feels rigid on stairs and cobblestones owing to plastic frame. Subway hoist took two friendly strangers; a bus driver refused entry unless stroller was collapsed—couldn’t do it.
Dreamer Design/Fisher-Price Infant-to-Toddler
Squint and it’s a Bugaboo. This low-price look-alike has some of the same touches as the European-designed brands for a quarter of the price. You get a reversible seat, a recline lever behind the head rest, and a ton of storage, all in a decent-looking package.
Accoutrements: Sun canopy.
Specs: 21 pounds. Rated for birth to 33 pounds. Collapses to 35 by 26 by 13 inches.
Storage: 15 yogurt six-packs.
Setup & Breakdown: Painless to put together; collapses easily.
Pros: An excellent deal for the price. An all-around performer with a smooth, if not Bugaboo-league, ride and an effortless one-handed turn. Quick fold and light weight make it one of the best for subways and buses.
Cons: Squeaky sun canopy could wake up baby. Mildly scratchy nylon seat. Wide rear wheels. Design snobs may not like the large logo. Although it’s supposed to be in New York stores, it’s currently only available on a Website.
The just-released, Italian-designed Skate weighed in nine pounds heavier than the Cameleon and has a shape-shifting pod that starts out as a newborn bassinet and morphs into an infant/toddler seat. It also offers the highest ride next to the Stokke and can collapse with the seat attached.
Accoutrements: Adapters for attaching a Primo Viaggio SIP car seat (not included), cup holder (very welcome and all too rare), rain shield, leg cover, air pump for rear tires.
Specs: 35 pounds. Rated for birth to 45 pounds. Collapses to 36.5 by 23.75 by 20 inches.
Storage: A whopping 16 yogurt six-packs.
Setup & Breakdown: Took three hours and two calls to customer service to assemble; another call to understand how to fold it. No instruction manual in the box or on the Website.
Pros: Rides like an SUV. The human energy output required means it’s great for working off baby weight. Masculine design’s a dad-pleaser.
Cons: The weight and wheel width mean that managing subway and apartment stairs without help is basically impossible.
ModernTots, 53 Pearl St., nr. Water St., Dumbo; 718-488-8293
It’s heavy, a bit stiff, and all but refuses a one-handed turn. So why is the Orbit so appealing? A genuine reimagining of carriage design, it has a multifunctional dock that lets you clip on a bassinet, car seat, or toddler chair, allowing for ridiculously easy, 360-degree seat rotation. Has replaced Bugaboo as the stroller most likely to turn up in a paparazzi shot.
Accoutrements: Infant car seat (lined with soft microfiber), car-seat base, stroller frame, toddler seat with mosquito net and rain shield.
Specs: Stroller with car seat, 33 pounds; with toddler seat, 32 pounds. Rated for birth to 40 pounds. Collapses to 35 by 18 by 24 inches.
Storage: 5 yogurt six-packs (in a doctor’s-bag design that slides under the seat)
Setup & Breakdown: Could not be easier.
Pros: The intuitive design makes for speedy car-to-sidewalk transitions. The ride is decently smooth, but it’s no Bugaboo. The car-seat carrier is narrow enough for an easy hip-sling descent of subway stairs.
Cons: Bus mount tricky; required help from other passengers to juggle car seat, stroller base, and infant.
Bump to Baby 715 Ninth Ave., nr. 49th St.; 212-245-0796
This lightweight U.K. import has luxury suspension and Maclaren proportions. Better still, it stands upright on its own when collapsed. Ideal for tucking into the corner.
Accoutrements: Foot covering, zip-on rain cover, and air pump. The Toro for newborns also includes bassinet and adapters for the Maxi Cosi Mico car seat.
Specs: 18 pounds. Rated for birth to 40 pounds. Collapses to 39.5 by 15 by 16 inches.
Storage: 7 yogurt six-packs.
Setup & Breakdown: Assembled in 14 easy minutes; collapsed in 4 seconds. A quibble: Adjusting handlebar height requires an Allen wrench (it’s included, but still)
Pros: Practically turns itself. Narrow rear wheels make it a wonder in reverse, through doorways, and most important, up and down stairs. Buses and subways a snap; stroller is light enough for hip sling. Great for walk-up apartments, public transportation.
Cons: Found myself constantly kicking the rear wheels. The seat does not reverse.
Albee Baby, 715 Amsterdam Ave., nr. 95th St.; 212-662-8902
Beyond its position as a status symbol, the top of the line from the Dutch stroller-reinventers is everywhere for a reason: It’s a pleasure to drive. It turns tightly, takes bumps smoothly, and navigates easily with one hand. Negotiating public transportation with it, though, is not so hot.
Accoutrements: Frame, bassinet, sun canopy, seat inlay and bassinet apron, carry handle, mosquito net, rain cover.
Specs: 26 pounds. Rated for birth to 40 pounds. Collapses to 36 by 23 by 16 inches.
Storage: 11 yogurt six-packs.
Setup & Breakdown: Came assembled with no instruction manual; techie husband figured out how to collapse mechanism.
Pros: Super-smooth ride, even on crowded Chinatown sidewalks. Glides over crags with trademark springy suspension.
Cons: Awkward moments on stairs. On bus ride, hit a passenger in the head with seat and had to ask another rider to fish MetroCard out of pocket. On subway, actually accepted an assist from a pregnant woman.
Buy Buy Baby
Bugaboo’s spry new featherweight is a close competitor with the Maclaren and other umbrella strollers, but with a reversible seat.
Accoutrements: Frame, seat, sun canopy, underseat bag, rain cover.
Specs: 20 pounds. Rated for birth to 37.5 pounds. Collapses to 35 by 17.5 by 13 inches.
Storage: 10 yogurt six-packs.
Setup & Breakdown: Came preassembled with no manual; reversing seat required a call to customer service.
Pros: Nimble but not stiff, handles bumps and sharp turns better than most in its weight class. Stairs, subways, buses a breeze.
Cons: Frame so narrow it gave our snowsuited 5-month-old zombie arms. Small wheels got stuck in cracks. The lightness is welcome, but it raises the question, is it solid enough to hold up over time?
Maclaren Techno XT
Maclaren, 150 Wooster St., nr. Houston St.; 212- 677-2700
Can this New York classic hold its own against the new names? Devotees have been complaining lately about this popular umbrella stroller’s wheel quality, and they’re right to gripe. More substantial wheels add some unwelcome heft to this lithe bus- and subway-hopper. Even when my dining room was stocked with state-of-the-art strollers, the nanny grabbed this one every time.
Accoutrements: Hood, shopping basket, rain cover.
Specs: 17 pounds. Rated for birth to 55 pounds. Collapses to 42 by 19.5 by 13 inches.
Storage: 7 yogurt six-packs.
Setup & Breakdown: Stroller comes preassembled except for rain canopy. Ease of collapse is excellent; it’s the only bona fide one-handed folder in the pack.
Pros: Takes subway stairs easily, up and down. I felt no guilt when an elderly woman effortlessly lifted the front end on descent. Ideal for shopping and subway and bus transit.
Cons: Clacks along like a train on a wooden track. Not good with one-handed swiveling or cobblestones, and its ubiquity raises fears that one might wheel away with the wrong kid.
*The author weighed and measured each stroller independently.