Cybex is a German brand that may not yet have the recognition in the UK or brands such as Bugaboo or iCandy, but it’s won a number of design awards and is favoured by film and TV stars in the States. In addition to pushchairs, Cybex also manufactures car seats, high chairs, baby carriers and bouncers.
The company prides itself on being fashion-forward (the Balios S comes in 14 colours), and is “adapted to urban lifestyles” -– although this model is touted as faring just as well in the city as in the countryside.
Cybex categorises its products as either silver, gold or platinum. The Balios S sits in the middle of its range – cheaper than the same brand’s Mios buggy, but more expensive than the (only slightly differently-named) Balios M. The complete Balios S travel system costs £640 and includes a carrycot, an i-Size car seat, and adaptors. This makes it cheaper than comparable models such as the UPPABaby Vista (RRP around £900), the Stokke Xplory (also around £900 for the basic configuration) or the Bugaboo Fox (complete package £1,000+).
Unlike the Balios S travel system, these examples don’t include a car seat. Cybex differentiates itself from these brands by manufacturing its own car seats, which you can match to the colour of your pushchair. I tested tropical blue, which features blue and orange block colours.
Natasha is a mother of two, with a child in primary school and a young baby with whom she tested the travel system. They took the pram out and about in London – on the school run, on the bus, to a museum and cafés.
What were your first impressions of the Balios S?
I was impressed by the sturdiness of this pushchair, and its ease of handling despite its weight. It’s heavy at 11kg, or 15.5kg with the carrycot, so it’s not easy to lift up or even down stairs. Bear this in mind if you regularly use steps, for instance up to your house or into a train station.
How does the Balios S compare to other travel systems you have tried?
Our usual baby vehicle is the more compact Bugaboo Bee, so the sheer size of the Balios S took some getting used to. It took up more space, both in our London flat, and on the street – I had to get off the pavement and into the road several times because of how wide it is. It was frequently a squeeze through doorways, and into a restaurant and flats.
What age is the Balios S suitable for? Can it be used from newborn?
It’s suitable from newborn to 17kg. The seat lies completely flat, so you can use it for a newborn, but the carrycot is far more comfortable from birth to 6 months.
How easy is it to attach either the the Balios S carrycot or infant car seat?
The carrycot was nicely padded and my young baby was comfortable enough to doze off in. Attaching the carrycot to the frame is easy once you have it aligned to the correct spot on each side. It’s just as simple to take off – you release the buttons on either side and lift it off. There is an extra step if you want to attach the car seat, which requires two adaptors to be put in place, but they are similarly designed so it’s straightforward.
As with any carrycot, the high sides mean that baby’s only view is upwards, rather than also including the side views possible in a low-sided cocoon. To lower the canopy the buttons on either side of the cot’s canopy need to be pressed concurrently, so you need both hands to do it. Not a huge deal, but something to bear in mind.
Comparing the two types of accessories, there is a lot of space around an infant in the carrycot, whereas in the soft cocoon my baby was more cosily zipped up, so I used two blankets around my baby when using the carrycot during winter.
How do you fold the Balios S fold?
Folding it down is where things became tricky. You need to press two buttons on the handlebar, lift it slightly then push down. It claims to have a one-handed folding mechanism, but not only did I need both hands, but I had to ring Cybex to ask if I was misinterpreting the illustrated instructions, and watched an online video I found on a baby gear site.
The Cybex employee told me this model is known for being stiff to begin with – which is not great at this price. I had to enlist my partner to help and he eventually managed it, but not without difficulty. So-called innovative design that stumps the user can’t claim to be ergonomic, and I didn’t enjoy having to get outside help. Folding the Balios S didn’t take as long after the first time, but the learning curve shouldn’t be so steep. On the plus side, it stays securely in place when collapsed, and is much easier to unfold.
How compact is the Balios S when folded and unfolded? How easy is it to store?
Once folded it’s pretty compact at 41 x 60 x 75cm. It stores easily, thanks to a hook on the frame that ensures it stays folded. To unfold it, just slide to unhook and then lift the handlebar.
The carrycot is trickier to fold – it involves unhooking two stiff levers on the inside. I can’t imagine this being easy to do on a daily basis, so we left it assembled even though it took up more space this way.
Can the Balios S fit in the boot of your car?
I don’t have a car so couldn’t test this.
How much does the Balios S weigh?
As mentioned before, the Balios S is quite heavy, at 11kg. It’s also cumbersome, and I couldn’t get a comfortable enough hold on it to feel like I could safely carry it more than a few steps alone. Getting it down the stairs from our flat on my own was a two-stage process involving taking the base down first, and then the carrycot with my baby inside. Even that felt too risky after the first time, so I switched to taking the whole unit first and then coming back for the baby. If you live in a house where you can just wheel the praminside, or don’t have to navigate steps frequently, then this will be less of an issue.
How easy is the Balios S to push?
Pushing this stroller is extremely easy. It glides easily, even one-handed, and turns smoothly. Where its centre of gravity seemed to be placed made it feel less stable when shopping bags were hung on the handle, but otherwise it was a smooth operator.
How does the Balios S ride on different surfaces?
The Balios S navigates all manner of surfaces with ease. It glides over cobbles and small potholes, and mounting kerbs is effortless. It feels sturdy and durable.
What do you think of the ‘all terrain’ wheels?
The wheels did their job properly and made light work of a variety of road surfaces. The suspension is great and I stopped worrying so much about jostling my baby awake over kerbs as the Balios S held up well over uneven terrain. Overall it felt like a very comfortable ride.
Can you use the Balios S on public transport?
I was skeptical about how the Balios S would fare on the bus, but it surprised me by fitting fine alongside another buggy. With the carrycot it does stick out a bit, but baby feels safe enough inside that being bumped a bit by other passengers shouldn’t be a concern. I didn’t attempt to take it on the tube as I feared it would be tricky to manoeuvre into the doors and take up too much space in a cramped carriage.
I was also apprehensive about lifting it up stairs, even with help. I can lift the Bugaboo Bee up stairs by myself with a baby in it when necessary, and can also squeeze it on to escalators; I wasn’t confident the Balios S would be agile enough for either task on the London Underground, so I stuck to buses.
Is the Balios S frame strong and durable?
The frame is well constructed and seems solid enough to withstand the typical wear and tear that’s inevitable with a piece of children’s equipment that gets daily use.
What do you think of the handlebar?
The faux leather handlebar has a luxe feel, and the fact it’s adjustable makes it ideal for people who are different heights. My partner is more than a foot taller than me and we both found a comfortable handlebar height to use.
Is the Balios S seat unit comfortable and spacious?
The seat unit isn’t especially well padded, but it seemed reasonably comfortable for my little one. The sides are raised and nicely padded – so good for supporting sleepy little heads. The leg rest is easily adjustable depending on your child’s preference.
Another smart feature are the elastic fasteners that keep the harness covers in place; great for baby’s comfort and keeping the unit looking neat. The bumper bar gives added protection, and is a handy place to tether toys.
How many recline positions does the Balios S have?
The seat unit reclines from upright to fully flat, and this really is a one-handed job thanks to a lever on the back of the seat. The positions are sufficient to suit most children’s volatile preferences, whether they’re dozing or in a more alert people-watching mood.
Can you interact with your child when in the Balios S?
A key USP of the Balios S is that the seat comes up to about the height of an average table, so you can just park your child at the table when you’re out and about. This is great, as not every café has high chairs, and the buggy probably takes up a similar amount of space to one.
The chassis height meant I had to do a little fiddling with the carrycot cover in order to be able to interact with my baby when she was lying flat. I’m five foot nothing tall in flat shoes, and I had a tiny bit of trouble making eye contact with her. But it was possible once I had tucked down the top edge of the cover.
Did you try using the Balios S as a high chair when out and about – is it suitable for this?
I didn’t use it a high chair as my baby was under six months when I tested it, but it was a good height for our table at home.
What do you think of the hood?
The hood is pretty good once it’s installed – but it also takes a little force and jiggling to get into place. But once it is, you can raise and lower it in a smooth motion, and there’s a mesh window at the top for air circulation that allows you to peep beneath it at your child when they are in world-facing position. It zips out to extend a good way, making it ideal for protecting delicate skin on sunny days or zipping through a quick rain shower.
Do the Balios S brakes feel effective?
The brake is an up and down lever in the centre of the main frame. The lever is centrally attached like a see-saw and doesn’t lock into place especially tightly, which makes it easy to release – but also meant that I accidentally knocked it without meaning to a few times, especially during the infamous folding down fiasco. Otherwise it’s simple to use.
How easily can you access the basket, and is it big enough to store everything you need?
The basket is easy to access, there are no crossbars taking up storage space. It’s deep rather than wide so you need to stack things on top of each other. Personally I prefer a longer basket, such as the Bugaboo Fox’s, to give the option of slinging in bigger items such as a large pack of nappies. The weight capacity of the Balios Basket is 5kg, half of the Bugaboo Fox’s 10kg, and much less than the UPPABaby Vista’s 13kg.
What did you think of the Aton car seat?
The car seat is well padded and comes with an insert you can remove to give an almost flat-lying position for newborns. The headrest has 11 different height positions, and the sun canopy extends far enough to shelter babies from sunlight.
As with the other elements of this travel system, the fact that it’s solidly made also means that it’s heavy – the Aton car seat weighs 4.6kg, and you will feel it if you’re trying to lift it when attached to the chassis.
Is the Balios S stylish?
The Balios S is a solidly built beast; I was surprised at the sheer size of the unit with the carrycot when I caught a glimpse of my reflection walking past shop windows. It’s a change from a compact buggy and I felt conspicuous when out and about with it. Using it with the seat unit makes it less of a space-hogger, and looks sleek and modern. There are eighteen different colour options; from a hot pink and red combo, to graffiti prints and three different denims you can match it to your jeans. A red and black mesh colourway is a collaborative design with car maker Ferrari.
What’s in the box?
- Cybex Balios S pushchair
- Cot S carrycot
- Aton M i-Size car seat
- Adaptors to fix the car seat to the pushchair frame
- Raincovers for the pushchair and carrycot
Are there any additional extras that you need to or can buy?
The pushchair feels quite open and I felt it needs a footmuff for the winter. Cybex makes compatible ones, as well as other accessories including a buggy board for older children, a parasol for the summer, a sleek snack tray, a changing bag, a muff that attaches to the handlebars to keep your fingers warm, and an all-important cup holder for your takeaway coffee. There’s also the option to go with a cocoon instead of a carrycot – although you would need to buy the pram, car seat and adaptors separately rather than as a travel system.
How easy is it to build the Balios S?
It took a good while and a stronger hand than mine to put everything together. I didn’t appreciate having to ask my other half for help pushing down the stiff levers which open up the carrycot from its collapsed state. Ease of use for the average parent could definitely be improved on.
As is the case with a lot of baby products currently, the instructions are in illustrated format only; it would have been helpful to have them written out as well. I found myself puzzling over them in several sessions during the small windows of time I had while looking after a newborn.
What would you have wanted to know before you purchased the Balios S?
The weight of all the elements. One big positive point is that it can be left freestanding securely when folded in pushchair mode (though with a baby younger than six months it’s more of a hassle to fold down the carrycot).
Who would the pushchair be most useful for?
The Balios S travel system is for you if you have enough space to stash it, and few or no steps to climb on your everyday routes. I can see it working well in the country, with its big wheels and noticeably jolt-free suspension. If you’re a city-dweller but not living in compact quarters it could also be a good option, as it glides along easily and mounts kerbs smoothly.
Also if you eat out a lot, the seat being at table height is a brilliant idea.
What was your favourite feature of the Balios S?
Its overall robustness made me feel that my little one was well protected, and the ease with which the seat unit changes direction is super useful for giving children a change of scene from parent-facing to outward-looking.
How much does the Balios cost and is it good value?
The Balios S travel system costs £640 RRP is certainly not cheap, but it’s reasonably priced for a travel system in the over £500 price range. The Ickle Bubba Stomp V4 beats it at £599, but the likes of the ABC Design Salsa4 (£750), Maxi-Cosi Adorra (£788), and BabyStyle Prestige Nimbus (£899) are more expensive.
I would recommend it – with reservations about its weight and size – but if those aren’t an issue then it’s a decent choice that should see you through to the toddler years.
Overall, the Cybex Balios S is a sturdy travel system with a few niggles: it’s heavy and slightly cumbersome in size. These may end up not bothering you, depending on your circumstances, but other issues – trickiness in assembling and initial folding down – make me hesitate to unreservedly recommend it.
There’s plenty to like though, including its smooth ride, good suspension, ease of adaptability in pushchair mode and wide range of colour options, so if you’re looking for a travel system in this price range do consider it.