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First unveiled worldwide in 2005, the Bugaboo Cameleon has now clocked up a decade on the luxury pushchair market, and is in its third incarnation.
Having launched in 1999, Dutch mobility business Bugaboo has gone from strength to strength and – at the end of 2014 – promised a celebration of 15 years of Bugaboo design with its Cameleon 3 Classic collection.
Bugaboo unashamedly places itself at the luxury end of the market and over the years has led the way in pushchair innovation and has teamed up with top designers including Marc Jacobs, Missoni and Diesel to ensure that their range doesn’t compromise on style.
And the Cameleon 3 is no different, promising a smooth ride, smart design and good value. It’s no stranger to winning accolades either, from parenting publications to design awards, the Bugaboo awards cabinet full of gongs for this pushchair.
Comparable to brands such as Joolz Geo, Stokke Xplory and iCandy Peach 3, there’s no denying the Bugaboo Cameleon has a perennial popularity, buoyed by backing from stars like Jessica Ennis, Claire Sweeney and Kimberley Walsh.
The Cameleon 3 is sold on being Bugaboo’s perfect all-rounder, is it?
It is in the sense that the Cameleon 3 can be used from birth to age three. Plus it has the niftiness of a city stroller, combined with the robustness to deal with off-road terrain.
But I personally wouldn’t want to use it regularly on heavy and challenging surfaces as it can be quite cumbersome. However, I think its light manoeuvrability on pavements and public transport has the slight edge over being heavy-duty.
The car seat adapters (sold separately, £34.95) mean it can also be used as a travel system with car seats including the Maxi-Cosi Pebble, Pebble Plus and Cabriofix, the Cybex Cloud Q, Aton 3S, Aton 4, and Aton Q, plus the BéBé Confort Pebble, BeSafe iZiGo, and BeSafe iZiSleep.
Would you only ever need to buy one buggy from birth with the Cameleon 3?
If you just have one child, then the Cameleon 3 can easily see you through their buggy life.
The Bugaboo meets all my needs in terms of transporting my baby around, and I could also add a buggy board for my older son to stand on when he’s tired, however I would probably still need a double buggy for longer distances.
If there’s a large enough gap between kids, then you could easily use this buggy second time around, as it’s so well-made it should go the distance.
I also tried the Cameleon 3 with my three-year-old son as well as my baby daughter and he did fit in the buggy quite comfortably. The roomy seat has a 26cm (10ins) depth, and the leg rest drop is 23cm (9ins) which means there is actually a fair bit of leg room, even for an older child.
Is the seat comfortable?
Sadly, the seat wasn’t comfortable for my daughter. When I first put her in the seat of the Bugaboo Cameleon 3, I was surprised to see that she looked as if she was just too small for it, as the shoulder straps are fixed in place at the top end of the seat.
Although the straps can be adjusted for length, the height of the strap fixing to the seat cannot be moved, so it often looked as if they were rubbing the back of her ears. I think for an older child this would be ok.
And the fact the seat is a fixed v-shape also means that even when the seat is reclined your baby is in a seated position, plus there is no moveable foot rest, all of which would add to the comfort.
What about the carrycot, is it comfy?
Yes, the large carrycot was incredibly comfy for her, with a well-padded mattress and loads of space. The internal length of the bassinet is 74cm (29ins) and width 33cm (13ins). She seemed to enjoy lying in it, although she is too old to want to be in a lying-down position for a long time.
Tell us more about the buggy’s durability.
The Cameleon is sturdy and feels substantial without being too heavy, and the tyres and suspension seem hard-wearing.
The different parts slot together easily and stay firmly together once connected.
In terms of the seat, the material fixes onto the frame with a mix of Velcro and clip/strap fittings, which do seem very secure.
The Velcro straps are double sewn onto the fabric, and look durable. In carrycot mode, the bassinet structure also fastens around its frame with Velcro straps, which are similarly secure.
How does it feel when pushing the buggy?
The Cameleon 3 is a really fluid ride – it glides along smooth pavements and I found myself powering ahead of friends when going for walks in parks and across grass.
It did feel a bit more rickety over stony surfaces, although the suspension does a good job of cushioning the bumps. I did find I had to be careful to give a lift to the buggy as I mounted even quite small kerbs, to avoid getting the small front wheels caught.
Tells us about the brakes.
This was the part of the Cameleon 3 I really couldn’t get my head around. The brake is a hand-operated lever on the right side of the handlebar, which I extremely difficult to use, and did not like at all.
To use it I had to take at least one hand from the handlebar to operate it, which rings alarm bells with me, considering you’re likely to be using it in places like traffic crossings. It is also incredibly hard to undo the brake lever – it works by pushing in a button which supposedly releases the lever.
However, the button was so hard to push in I found it necessary to use two hands, while securing the buggy using my elbows. Why Bugaboo hasn’t redesigned this as a foot brake is illogical to my mind. The brake wire is also visible down the side of the handle, which looks unattractive and looks like it could get caught and pulled while loading the buggy in and out of the car.
How is it on public transport?
The buggy fits snugly alongside fold-down seats on buses or trains, making it very easy to interact with my baby when we are travelling without having to get her out.
As it is light and manoeuvrable, it is easy to get on and off public transport, but not so easy to carry up and down stairs at train or Underground stations where there is no lift access.
Having previously used the Bugaboo Bee, which was very light and compact, I find this difficult to carry up and down stairs by myself, and I often have to rely on the kindness of strangers to help me carry it when my partner is not around.
Tell us about the two-wheeled mode.
The really unique feature about the Cameleon 3 is that it can be used in a two-wheeled mode, by folding the chassis so its outline is as one single piece handle down to wheels and removing the smaller wheels.
This allows it to be pushed or pulled almost like a wheelbarrow, and is meant to help with moving over uneven ground like snow or sand, although I have to say I think it’s a bit of a faff.
What do you think of the fold system?
The fold system is fairly quick but not one-handed as it involves first removing the seat or carrycot, pushing catches on each side of the frame, before lifting the handle bar and folding the chassis back on itself.
If that sounds complicated, it’s because it is. It’s not difficult to do, once you have the knack, and it doesn’t require any strength, unlike other buggies, but it isn’t a patch on the fold of the Bee.
Does the basket go upside down when buggy is folded?
Yes it does. I didn’t find this a particular problem though, as the basket is covered with a robust fabric, which closes with an elasticated drawstring. But if you’ve got lots of little things in the basket, be warned, there many be spillages.
Saying that, the basket is very spacious and closes with a drawstring, plus it’s soft sided, which is helpful. However, it’s virtually impossible to access when the carrycot is being used, and pretty tricky to get anything large in or out once the seat is in place.
How compact is it when folded?
Although it isn’t a compact pushchair, the Cameleon 3 does fold into a fairly neat footprint, albeit in two pieces.
The buggy chassis folds up to 90 x 50 x 31cm, and the seat then fits neatly into that footprint. The large rear wheels can also be easily removed at the push of a button to make it smaller.
The chassis and either seat or carrycot – that can either lay flat under a bed, or stand on its side. If I wanted to make it look especially tidy, there is the option to buy the carry bag (£109.95), which would keep everything together in one place. I wouldn’t, however, recommend this buggy if you are very short of space.
Does it fit in the boot of your car?
The Cameleon 3 does fit in the boot of my VW Golf – just! It did take up most of the space in the boot, so I could only really slot a couple of bags around the buggy, which isn’t ideal for going away for the weekend.
There is the option to take the large wheels off the chassis, which is really easily done by pushing in a single white button by each wheel, and this does help with space, along with removing the bumper bar.
How high is the seat unit on the frame?
The seat sits around 50cm (20 inches) from the ground, which is comparable to a buggy like the iCandy Peach 3 and several centimetres higher than the Bugaboo Bee 3.
I found it a really good height for my daughter to be able to look around her, plus I didn’t have to lean down too much to deal with handing out snacks, wiping her nose, and clipping her in or out – although I am not that tall at 5ft 3ins.
I liked the button touch release on the seat harness as it avoids trapped fingers, and I felt my daughter was very safely and securely strapped into the seat. Personally, I like the fact each part of the harness clips in individually, as there was no struggling to get flailing arms through the straps.
What do you think of the handle?
I really liked the adjustable handle on the Cameleon 3, although I did find even its lowest height was fairly high for me. It extends from its lowest height of 100cm to 110cm with a possible seven positions.
This was a useful feature in our family, as I am 5ft 3ins, while my husband is a foot taller. The foam handlebar covering is comfortable to hold, and I liked the fact the foam extends down the sides of the handle frame as well as across the top.
It has a feature that allows you to change the position of the handle for the rear wheels can move to the front, tell us about it.
It is very simple to alternate the position of the handle so you can use the larger rear wheels as the front wheels and vice versa.
You do this by pushing in a small white button on each side of the handlebar and swinging the handle forwards. The idea is that the larger wheels can then take the brunt of heavy-duty pushing over rough terrain.
How does it compare with the Bee?
From a personal point of view, I prefer the Bee, but that is primarily because of the fact that we live in a first floor flat and the Bee folds up more easily and compactly. That said, I do think the Cameleon 3 is noticeably light and convenient to store for a buggy that isn’t sold as a compact.
How does the Cameleon differ from the Cameleon 3?
One major change is that the Bugaboo has changed all of its pushchair harnesses from three-point to five-point, like infant car seats.
Another change is the locking system on the frame. I had to contact the Bugaboo customer service to enquire about a way to lock the chassis closed once folded.
The representative did seem knowledgeable about the product as she was able to tell me that the lock system that was on the Cameleon 2 had been removed in order to make it easier to open.
I found her friendly and eager to help. As a Bugaboo owner for the last three years, I’ve have previously had to go to Bugaboo customer services when I owned a Bee, to get the shimmying wheels sorted, and they did send out a new set of wheels straight away.
Is the product value for money?
Yes and no! At £845 to £1,025 depending on the fabric and chassis it is expensive, but it is designed and built well. Saying that, the brake system seems primitive and the brake trigger can be a bit fierce when it snaps shut. I would usually expect a foot-operated brake to be incorporated into a buggy at this price.
However, I do like the fact the price includes both carrycot and seat, so it means no surprise extras to buy as your child grows newborn to three-year-old.
The price includes everything you need to get you out there, but there are extras to buy, such as a sun canopy (£59.95), car seat adapters (£34.95), wheeled board for a toddler (£59.95), transport bag (£109.95) and cup holder (£14.95), as well as numerous other accessories.
What’s in the box?
- Main Cameleon 3 chassis
- Seat base and frame
- Extendable sun canopy and carrycot apron
- Rain cover
- Bumper bar
- Underseat basket
Is it easy to put together?
Yes, although the Bugaboo Cameleon 3 came ready assembled for the review, I had a go at taking at apart and rebuilding it, and I did find it fairly easy.
The parts all slot together with minimum fuss, and most removable parts of the chassis have a one-button touch, while the seat and bassinet both use Velcro straps.
There is a 45-page English instruction book available online, which is primarily laid out with pictures, which looked relatively easy to follow.
The Bugaboo Cameleon 3 may be hard on the wallet, but you are getting a lot of bang for your buck, with its stylish design, ability to grow with your child from newborn up to age three, and lightness of movement that’s at ease in the city and country.
It’s not compact, so not the best for small spaces, but it does fold neatly. This may be a pricey option, but it’s got features galore – and with buoyant demand for these buggies, there’s a good resale value on the secondhand market.
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|Child age (approx)||Birth (with carrycot/cocoon) to 4 years|
|Child weight||Up to 17kg|
Dimensions & Weight
|Dimensions||H:100cm W:60cm L:85cm|
|Dimensions (folded)||H:84cm W:60cm L:30cm|
|Travel system compatible||Yes|
|Seat facing direction||Forward facing and parent facing|
|Front wheels||Lockable swivel|
|Accessories included||Rain cover|