I have long been a fan of Britax products – we have used many of their car seats over the years, from the Evolva 123 to our current Dualfix. But up until now we had never tried a Britax pushchair – so when the new Smile landed on out doorstep we were really keen to see if the quality and build matched up to the car seats we know and love.
The Smile is a pushchair suitable from 6 months, or from birth with the carrycot which is sold separately. There are several features which strike you straight away. Although it looks a big, bulky pram, it is actually quite light to push, even with a toddler and a basket full of shopping on board. The back wheels are large, air filled and come with great suspension to handle most things, although we found that the smaller plastic front wheels do make the ride a little bumpy on rough ground. The handlebar is adjustable which makes it easy to get a comfortable position for pushing whether you are small like me or much taller. There is also an adjustable footrest to make it comfortable for smaller or longer legs.
I love the large seat and hood. There is heaps of room for Max at 23 months, and I can imagine it will last him until he no longer needs a pushchair. In an ideal world I would add slightly more padding to the seat area, as I think a smaller baby may find it a tad hard, but you could easily add a liner or sheepskin to help with this, and make the large seat cosier for small ones. The harness is super simple to use – just clip the waist straps into the round fastening, then press the centre of this to release again. Easy for grown ups, but not something a toddler would be able to do themselves. The hood is big too and provides plenty of shade from sun or light showers. There is also a viewing window and zip up ventilation mesh in the hood, so you can see your baby and ensure they get plenty of air flow.
On to one of my favourite features – the amazing basket. A big basket is always one of my must haves – although I have a car I do tend to walk most of the time, and I need somewhere to store school bags, lunch boxes, changing bags and shopping – I really hate to have anything hanging on the handlebar. The basket on the Britax Smile is one of the best I have come across – you can easily fit your shopping in as well as all the daily essentials you have to carry with a baby. The high sides mean that nothing falls out, and the basket is easy to access whether the seat is parent or world facing.
That’s another thing to mention – the reversible seat. I love having the option to have Max facing me or facing out. Changing the seat position is really easy – there are 2 buttons on either side of the seat frame, which you simply pull up to release the seat. To replace the seat again, you just line up the adaptors and push until it clicks.
One of my main niggles about the Britax Smile is the fold. It’s not all that difficult, but it is fiddly and sometimes takes a few goes to get it to fold.
The mechanics of folding are pretty straightforward – you simply squeeze the button in the centre of the handlebar at the same time as pushing a button on the side of the frame. The difficulty comes when the button on the frame doesn’t always fully depress, meaning the chassis will not release. It sometimes takes a few goes to get this right, as you can see in the video. Once folded it is fairly compact, and there is an auto lock feature to keep the frame closed. Unfolding is simple – just release the lock, pull upwards on the handlebar and wait for the click of the frame, then add the seat.
My other niggle is the recline. Although it is super simple to use, activated by a pull lever on the top of the seat, the recline itself is not huge. It is perfectly adequate for Max to nap, but if I had a 6 month old in the pushchair I would want a much flatter sleeping position. I think just one more recline level would make all the difference.
Having said that, despite the niggles it is a great pushchair. There are so many things I love, from the huge basket and high position of the seat to the awesome brakes, which show a red light when they are on correctly and a green light when they are off. No more worrying that you haven’t put the brakes on properly when you stop on a slope! I would class this pushchair as towards the more luxury end of the market, as it has so many features that you wouldn’t get with a cheaper alternative – and priced at £450 for the pushchair itself it is cheaper than many other luxury brands. Would I buy it myself? I’m not sure. It is lovely to push, comfortable for Max and I am almost sold on the basket alone, but I think the niggles would make me think twice. An easy, swift fold is really important for me, as is a good, flat recline. I think if those issues were ironed out then I would certainly consider it.