British brand Micralite has relaunched its distinctive pushchairs, with the sturdy SmartFold offering a small footprint and cosy ride, along with impressive all-terrain capabilities.
It’s combination of relative compactness and multi-terrain handling, puts the SmartFold in an interesting category of pushchairs. The Baby Jogger City Mini GT, which retails for just under £300, promises similar abilities. Then there is the Jané Trider Matrix and the Thule Urban Glide, which at around £450 is more similarly priced to the SmartFold.
Anna is a mum of 2 who tested the SmartFold with her 2-year-old, on rushed school runs, days out and all-weather wintery walks in the park.
What were your first impressions of the Micralite SmartFold?
Many years ago I tried a second-hand Micralite FastFold Superlite and found it flimsy, so I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the Micralite SmartFold. The fabric is plush and dense. The seat looked comfy, with a well-fitting liner that adds a very cosy layer. The chassis is made from matt-black metal and appeared solid, so it really looked and felt like a high-end pushchair.
How does it compare to other buggies you’ve used?
The SmartFold is very different from other buggies that I have tried. I’ve never had one with such big, or inflatable, tyres. The fold mechanism is unique, the recline mechanism is unique, the handle bar is pretty unique. In fact it’s all quite unique.
However, I have used a lot of buggies that boast superior handling and can cope with different paths. The Micralite SmartFold also performed well on this front. Its centre of gravity seems spot on and it’s very easy to push one-handed, even with a hefty 2-year-old strapped in.
What age is the Micralite SmartFold suitable for?
It can be used from birth with the additional carrycot that’s suitable for newborns, and then up to 22 kg (around 4-years-old) with the seat. As the parent of a tall toddler, this sounded brilliant, although the promise didn’t quite live up to the reality – I found the seat already a bit snug for my 2-year-old.
What did you think of the carrycot?
The AirFlow carrycot suits the Micralite SmartFold well. It has equally nice fabric and is a good size. It comes with a 20k waterproof rating hood, meaning it can withstand pretty intense rainfall over a prolonged period of time.
Attaching the lining to the carrycot with its velcro is a bit fiddly, so is best done well in advance of using it. Securing the carrycot to the chassis also involves a bit of tweaking, but once you’ve adapted the frame it’s easy to clip the carrycot in and out.
How do you fold the Micralite SmartFold?
The Micralite SmartFold’s folding mechanism is by no means intuitive. I really had to study the instructions closely, and was a bit stumped at first. There are lots of levers to push and release, but once you get the hang of it, it’s quick and easy.
You start by releasing the fold by pressing two levers at once (marked by ‘1’). Then you release another lever (marked ‘2’) and the top of the seat unit slides up the main vertical chassis as the footwell and front wheels tip forwards to the back wheels. This creates a freestanding, upright fold.
When unfolding the SmartFold, I ended up phoning customer services as I felt I was doing it wrong. You use the recline release levers to unfold it – pushing down with both hands until it clicks securely in place. This is quite uncomfortable to do, and I am never sure whether I have clicked it in well enough. In fact, once I hadn’t done it correctly, and it folded in on itself en route. Not good.
How compact is the Micralite SmartFold when folded and unfolded?
The Micralite SmartFold is not what I would describe as compact when folded. It is freestanding when folded though, so in this respect it’s space-saving. I found you can’t put it on luggage racks and the free-standing function can be a bit hit and miss, as it can be wobbly.
It does have quite a small footprint unfolded, with dimensions of 105x45x71 cm. Many buggies are at least 60 cm in width, and more than 80 cm in length, so the SmartFold is compact in that sense. Considering how large its back wheels are and how well it handles, this is quite impressive.
Does it fit in the boot of your car?
Yes, but the boot of our car is quite large. Having used a few super-compact folding buggies, the Micralite SmartFold seemed very bulky, and didn’t leave much space for suitcases or other bits.
How lightweight is the Micralite SmartFold?
Weighing 10 kg, the SmartFold is not light compared to other compact strollers. However, the SmartFold is not really about being light. It’s about robustness. It’s an all-weather, all-terrain workhorse that will make endless miles of pushing easier for the parent while providing a comfy ride for a child.
With massive back wheels like the SmartFold’s, you can’t really expect super-portability. Having said that, 10kg is not unreasonable. The Baby Jogger City Mini GT, which also has larger wheels to tackle rough terrain, weighs 9.5kg, and the Bugaboo Fox comes in at 9.9kg.
How easy is it to push?
The Micralite SmartFold bounces along securely, tackling uneven ground and kerbs with ease. It beats some buggies that I previously rated highly for their handling. Many pushchairs are super-easy to manoeuvre one-handed – until the surface slopes sideways. At this point you usually either have to add your second hand, or grip the handlebar really tightly to stay in control of the buggy.
The SmartFold is different and seems to stick to the surface regardless of the slope (well, I’m sure there’s a limit), without me having to tighten my grip too much. This is really novel, and has somewhat redefined ‘one-handed pushing’ for me.
How does the Micralite SmartFold ride on different surfaces?
It rides really well on different surfaces – from uneven cobbles to muddy parklands. Even though the front wheels are quite small, they cope perfectly.
How is it on public transport?
Taking the Micralite SmartFold on public transport is doable, thanks to its small footprint. It’s also easy to tip to get onto buses or trains due to the sturdy back wheels. The downside is an inaccessible basket that my changing bag didn’t properly fit into. This means if I ever needed to quickly fold up the SmartFold, I would first have to decant all the loose items that are sat in the basket. Not ideal.
What do you think of the front wheel suspension and the large back wheels?
The wheels are great as they cope with different terrain really well. The back wheels seem massive, but they provide a super ride, and the suspension must be doing its job as it’s such a smooth experience.
Is the Micralite SmartFold’s frame strong and durable?
The frame feels like it’s made from sturdy materials with superior mechanics. Nothing rattles or creaks.
What do you think of the handlebar?
The handlebar is a funny rectangular shape that you can adjust depending on your height. It is not very wide, and I must admit I didn’t like this different design.
I have a few steep hills to walk up and when I’m pushing my toddler, I like to have my hands a bit further apart to help me stride. I found myself changing the position of the bar numerous times in transit to find the most comfortable hold, but never settled on an optimum position. So I am not the biggest fan. When pushing one-handed on a flat surface however, it’s good and easy to get hold of.
What do you think of the Micralite SmartFold’s seat unit?
It is not the same as Micralite’s FastFold ‘hammock’-style seat – this is more of a traditional bucket seat.
It seems very comfortable and well cushioned, but not it’s particularly roomy. In winter, with a thick jacket and bobble hat, my 2-year-old was quite snug. I measured the seat back as 44 cm long, which seems quite short. The Bugaboo Bee5’s backrest is 49 cm at its shortest (it can extend to 56cm), and the City Mini GT’s is 53.5 cm.
Also, the most upright position of the seat is still fairly horizontal, which means my toddler was always propping himself up when alert and wanting to look out. I can’t use the straps properly, as he hates being held back. The bumper bar also seemed to hem him in a bit – I’m not a fan.
How many recline positions does the Micralite SmartFold’s seat have?
There are 3 recline positions. To shift between them, you squeeze two plungers, and then slide the seat up and down the central, vertical part of the chassis. The seat clicks into position in 3 sets of holes on that central frame for the different positions. However, there is an additional hole even further up that frame. It exists to give you a better fold, allowing you to tuck the seat in tighter against the frame when folded.
I initially thought that extra hole was an additional position for the seat, allowing you to make it even more upright. Much studying of pictures and videos and an eventual call to customer services, confirmed that the extra hole is not for use when the buggy is unfolded. The instructions didn’t make this clear, and it’s a bit confusing. So, as mentioned before, the most upright position is not perfect.
How comfortable does it feel for your toddler?
My son felt very comfortable in the buggy. He likes the ride, with the cushioning of the suspension and massive back wheels making it very smooth for him. I am not sure whether he would still fit in the seat at 22 kg, but it’s good to know that I could use it to cart a heavier child around.
How is interacting with your little one when in the buggy?
The Micralite SmartFold has a peekaboo window to keep an eye on your child, but the pushchair is only world facing in toddler mode. The carrycot, however, does face the parent, which is fantastic for interaction.
What do you think of the Micralite SmartFold’s hood?
The hood is made from thick, quality material and provides good coverage. However, it is so well made that it’s quite stiff to extend, which my toddler finds frustrating. He likes to pull down the hood himself when he’s tired, which couldn’t do with this buggy.
Tell us about the brakes.
The brakes are engaged on the back wheels through a chunky mechanical horizontal bar. You step on it to clunk the spoke into place in notches on the wheels. It is very basic and effective. You can also easily see whether it has engaged properly.
How easily can you access the Micralite SmartFold’s basket?
Not very easily. I am a big fan of large, easily-accessible baskets that you can lump loads of kit into. With a toddler and a school-age child, I have lots to carry and unfortunately the SmartFold is not ideal for this.
The basket is an OK size, but it’s difficult to get to. A strap runs across it from front to back (something to do with the construction/fold), so rather than dumping in two large shopping bags, I had to individually stuff things in the basket from the side. This is a real shame, as in other respects it’s a practical stroller for days out.
Is it car seat compatible?
Yes. The universal car seat adaptors (£40) allow you to use the Maxi Cosi Cabriofix or Pebble, the Mothercare Main Premium, Joie Eye Level, BeSafe or Cybex Aton Q infant car seats.
What’s in the box?
Pump for pneumatic tyres
Are there any additional extras that you can/need to buy?
There is nothing you need to buy, but you do have a choice of various accessories for the SmartFold.
Universal car seat adaptors (£40)
Sun shade (£30)
Extra seat liner (£40)
Is it easy/hard to build the Micralite SmartFold?
It is very easy to slot the wheels into place but it took me a while to figure out how to unfold the stroller. The instructions are OK, but sometimes I wished these pushchair instructions used words in addition to pictures as lots of arrows and ‘clicks’ don’t always tell the whole story. I had to go online to watch videos before I could use it properly.
What would you have wanted to know before you purchased the item?
Just how annoying the basket is. And how to fold and unfold it properly as there is definitely a knack to this.
Who would the SmartFold be most useful for?
A new family that wants a buggy that is compact (when unfolded), and can cope well with different terrain. It’s probably best for parents who like walking and exploring in all weathers.
What was your favourite feature of the SmartFold?
The handling of the SmartFold was a revelation. It really sticks to the ground and allows you to push it with just two fingers. My toddler really enjoyed the bouncy, cushioned ride.
What is the price of the Micralite SmartFold and is this good value for money?
The Micralite SmartFold costs £495 , or £690 if you’re adding the carrycot. This makes it quite an investment. Saying that, the SmartFold is sturdy and I imagine it would last a long time. It is obviously a high quality product in terms of materials, so the price tag is justified, but you’d need to weigh up the price against its negatives to decide whether it’s for you.
This is not a buggy I would choose if I had another child – mainly because of the basket which is a deal breaker for me. I loved the handling and the all-weather, multi-terrain capabilities of the SmartFold, but the brand needs to sort out the design niggles on this pushchair to truly win me over.