Graco Modes 3 Lite travel system review

Our rating 
3.3 out of 5 star rating 3.3
User rating
£389.99 RRP
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In a nutshell

A lightweight travel system from a well-known baby brand that would work best for parents on budget
Fold/unfolding
5.0 out of 5 rating 5.0
Manoeuvrability
3.0 out of 5 rating 3.0
Comfort for child
4.5 out of 5 rating 4.5
Style
3.0 out of 5 rating 3.0
Durability
2.0 out of 5 rating 2.0
Worth the money
2.5 out of 5 rating 2.5
Pros: Looks smart, decent value, lightweight, good carrycot
Cons: Too wide, some functions too fiddly, frame and wheels feel too lightweight/plasticky.
Skip to view product specifications
The Modes 3 Lite is the latest stroller in the Graco stable, joining models such as the Graco Quattro Tour, and Graco Metro.

At £389.99 for the package including stroller and car seat (plus another £119.99 for the carrycot), the Modes 3 Lite is competing with the likes of the Mountain Buggy Mini travel system (£349 plus £125 carrycot), and the BabyStyle Oyster 2 (£529 including carrycot and car seat).

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The big selling point is its easy one-handed fold, and simple travel system transformation.  The Graco Modes 3 Lite stroller is available from Toys R Us.

First impressions?

The dark denim looks stylish and the black frame adds to the sleek look. It appears more expensive than it is, and feels lightweight but also relatively strong.

However, it instantly looks very wide indeed – for example, at 66cm its wheel axle is considerably wider than the Bugaboo Cameleon’s, which is 60cm. I can hardly fit it through the doors of my house, and there have been some doors out and about that I couldn’t get through, which is a big problem.

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How does it compare to other lightweight travel systems you’ve used?

Although it feels lighter than the Bugaboo Bee 3 buggy (which is 8.7kg), it’s actually a little heavier at 9.75kg including the frame, wheels, seat and basket.

It is far lighter than a Phil and Ted’s Smart buggy (10.7kg), and easier to push than a Maclaren pushchair. Its lightweight frame makes it easier to mount kerbs and go round corners than any other buggies I’ve tried.

Is it easy to put the Graco Modes travel system together?

It was fairly easy, the instructions are clear, with key mechanism parts pictured in red for extra clarity. The whole process took 1 hour and 4 minutes.

Assembly is straightforward, but for a couple of fiddly bits: the wheel-locking staples were very difficult to fit into place when assembling rear wheels. And to erect the vertical brackets which form the body of the bassinet requires a huge amount of force and took me at least 35 minutes of pushing, pulling and swearing.

What do you think of the seat size and comfort?

The seat is a good size, and nice and padded – so it looks comfortable. It is a perfect size for my average-sized two-year-old. However, the straps are slightly fiddly. The five-point harness is more tricky to join together than most similar harnesses I’ve used.

And if you decide you want to thread the straps through a different hole in the seat, you have dismantle the seat and canopy, which is extremely frustrating.

The cup holder on the seat is a very nice touch, and means your toddler can help themselves to a drink whenever they want to. I’d like to have seen a cup holder for the mums too!

How many recline positions are there on the Graco Modes pushchair?

There are mutliple recline positions, which is very useful.

How easy is it to recline the seat?

Very easy. It’s perhaps not quite as intuitive as the Bugaboo Bee or Maclaren, as it involves a piece of fabric as well as a lever, but it’s fine when you get the hang of it.

How easy is it to switch the seat between world facing and parent facing?

It’s extremely easy to switch from world to parent facing and vice versa. It simply involves clicking the seat off and re-clicking it facing the opposite direction. For parents who want to do this frequently, it’s a nice feature.

What do you think of the height of the buggy?

At 107cm, the buggy is a good height. As a 5ft 5in woman I found it fine to walk with, as did my husband who is 6ft, so it’s pretty versatile.

Is the frame strong, durable?

The frame feels strong enough. But the compromise it makes from being so lightweight is that it doesn’t feel particularly sturdy, and therefore I have doubts about its durability. It could also be more compact.

How comfortable is the carrycot?

The carrycot is deep and roomy, though not especially wide, but it is certainly wide enough for a baby under six months. It’s comparable to the Bugaboo Bee 3 carrycot, though the Bugaboo wins on mattress – it is much firmer than the Graco’s, which feels a bit too soft. However, it is considerably cheaper than a Bugaboo carrycot (£119 vs £200) so better value.

Why your newborn needs a lie-flat buggy

How easy is it to connect the car seat to the frame?

It’s easy to connect the car seat – it just clicks in the same way as the seat does. Graco calls the system its ‘Click Connect Technology’, which means the car seat attaches to the stroller in one step.

Buyer’s guide to travel systems

What do you think of the car seat?

The car seat is good – it’s an infant car seat (Group 0+) which can be used from newborn to 13kg. It doesn’t feel quite as sturdy as my Maxi Cosi Cabriofix, but seems to do the job perfectly well.

However, there are a couple of design flaws. Firstly the straps: You tighten them in the normal, intuitive way, but to loosen them is much more tricky.

The tightening mechanism is located under a piece of fabric which makes it difficult to find, even when you know where it is. This is problematic. It would be better if there was a visible button to loosen the straps.

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Secondly, the infant insert is amazingly difficult to remove. With the Maxi Cosi Cabriofix, this insert comes out very easily.

But with the Graco, you have to remove the seat, turn it over and unclip the mechanism. Ideally you’ll only be doing this once so it’s not a game-changer, but nevertheless the design could be better. However, the fact Graco is the market leader for car seats in the US means I felt in good hands when strapping in my baby.

The two-hour car seat rule – what you need to know

What do you think of the fold system – could you fold it with one hand?

The fold system is great, and in my view is one of the key selling points of this buggy. A handy fabric handle allows you to fold easily with one hand. It only took me three seconds to fold the frame and put it in the car – something that’s very useful when you’re trying to marshal two small children simultaneously.

Is it compact when folded?

It is not particularly compact when folded, because of the large frame and wide wheel axle. It comes in at 104cm x 40.6cm x 63.5cm when folded.

10 of the most compact folding buggies

What do you think of the handle?

I really like the handle. It’s nice to hold due to its foam coating, and it makes steering and changing direction pleasant to do. It’s also a good height.

How is interacting with your little ones when in the buggy?

It’s easy to interact with your baby in the carrycot although the baby’s head does need to be right up at the top in order for you to see their face, as the carrycot cover comes up quite high. It’s also very easy to interact with your child when the seat is in the parent-facing position.

The basket is billed as extra large – what did you think of it and how much could you fit in it?

The basket is certainly extra large. It’s considerably bigger than the Phil and Ted’s Explorer double buggy, and also the Bugaboo Bee basket. However, the gap through which to post your shopping is relatively narrow, which means that it’s hard to put bulky items in the basket.

This could be problematic if you’ve got a big bag of supermarket shopping. So in some ways the size of the basket is wasted, unless you want to use it to carry a large amount of small items. But it does remain the roomiest basket I’ve seen.

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How easy is it to push and how does it ride on different surfaces?

The buggy is easy to push as it’s extremely lightweight. Changing direction with it feels easy and satisfying. It is a dream to push on a smooth surface. However, on a slightly more challenging terrain such as a rough track or cobbles, it’s not so good.

It’s exceptionally light to drive – one of its greatest selling points. It’s also very easy to mount kerbs with.

However, the hard, plasticky nature of the wheels means the suspension is not very good, and this makes driving the buggy on rougher surfaces much less smooth. In fact on a slightly rougher pavement or path, the buggy is very bumpy so therefore not particularly comfortable for the child.

How is it on public transport?

It’s good at mounting the large step onto a bus, despite being a three-wheeler, which is a definite advantage. But its width (66cm) is problematic, as it makes it harder for other buggies to fit onto the bus as well, which I find stressful as it doesn’t make me feel very popular on the bus!

The top buggies for urban life

What do you think of the wheels – does the three-wheeler outline make a difference?

Generally I’m not a huge fan of the three-wheelers as I find them harder to mount kerbs and get up steps. However this buggy doesn’t seem to have that problem. I like that the front wheel is actually a double wheel, as this makes it feel more sturdy.

The front wheel is also lockable, which is useful. The buggy actually feels more like a four-wheeler to push which is a definite advantage. However, the wheels in general do look a bit cheap and plasticky compared to more expensive brands such as Bugaboo and iCandy, and even those in a more comparable price range such as Baby Jogger.

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The lack of rubber also means the buggy’s suspension is not as good as it should be. This makes it a bumpy ride on anything except a very smooth surface. But more problematic than this, is the width of the wheel axle. It is prohibitively wide, and means getting through some doors is simply impossible. It also means that the person walking beside you has to keep more of a distance, to avoid banging their feet on the wheels as they walk. Not ideal.

Tell us about the brakes.

The brakes are ok. They are very easy to push down, and though they are considerably stiffer to push up, it’s not a huge problem. However, on several occasions they have randomly locked while I’m driving the buggy, which is frustrating. Another quibble is that they feel a bit too lightweight – I’d like them to feel a little bit more weighty.

Does it fit in the boot of your car?

It fits in the boot of my VW Golf, but only just. I was able to just about fit the frame and carrycot in the boot but it didn’t leave room for much else.

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What age child is it best for, do you think?

The carrycot is perfect for a newborn to six-month-old, and the baby looks very snug in it. The car seat will be suitable for a child up to nine-month-old. The seat is good for a child up to around two and a half to three years old, depending on their size. So it’s a highly versatile and future-proofed system.

Who would the product be most useful for?

Someone who wants the buggy from birth, to last them until their child is around 2.5 to 3 years old (depending on their weight.) It would suit someone who travels from a to b a lot and who wants to move their baby from car to buggy easily. However, if you do a lot of travelling on public transport, it might not be the best choice, as it’s very wide, which will make boarding buses more difficult.

What’s in the box?

  • Buggy chassis
  • Toddler seat
  • Infant car seat
  • Wheels and wheel parts
  • Raincover
  • Footmuff
  • Hood

Is it good value for money?

This travel system is currently only available from Toys R Us in the UK, where it retails at £389.99. This includes the car seat, foot muff and rain cover, but not the carrycot, which is an extra £119.  So to use it from birth, you’d have to pay £508.99.

Overall this is an average price for a travel system, there are of course, more expensive ones on the market, like the Stokke Xplory (£869) for instance, but you could also get more for your buck in the form of the Red Kite Push Me Fusion Travel System (£250) or the Ickle Bubba Stomp V3.

MadeForMums verdict:

This is an effective three-in-one travel system, and with the car seat included in the price, it’s extremely good value. Given the price it’s pretty good quality, though it does feel less sturdy than more expensive lightweight models. It’s very easy to switch the buggy from carrycot to reclining seat to car seat, which is a huge plus.

However, it is compromised by a few key design flaws. The carrycot fastening is too stiff, the seat straps aren’t well designed, and the width of the wheel axle make it unwieldy on public transport.

These flaws detract from what is otherwise a very versatile buggy. However, If you’re happy to put up with a few niggles, I’d nevertheless recommend it as a good budget travel system. You get a lot for your money and it does have some nice features.

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Product Specifications

Product

Brand Graco
Model Modes 3 Lite travel system
Price £389.99

Suitable for

Child age (approx) Birth to 3 years

Dimensions & Weight

Weight 9.75kg – with seat
Dimensions H:107cm W:66cm L:102cm
Dimensions (folded) H:40.6cm W:63.5cm L:104cm

Features

Travel system compatible Yes
Compatible car seats Included
Seat facing direction Forward facing and parent facing
Front wheels Lockable swivel
Recline positions 3
Features
  • Lightweight travel system with fastaction fold

Accessories

Accessories included Child cup holder, rain cover, foot muff
Optional extras Carrycot (£119.99)