We’ve got a new expert writing for the blog! Sam Aleksanyan is a recent bean, having started at the Boston store a little less than two months ago, but he’s clearly picked up the biz pretty quickly – reading this product comparison, you’ll see that this guy knows A LOT about strollers and baby gear. Outside of work, Sam likes music, cars, and computers.
There are strollers for every walk of life, from rugged joggers like the Britax BOB Revolution Flex and the Bumbleride Indie, to traditional, “all-in-one” strollers like the Bugaboo Cameleon 3 and the UPPAbaby Vista, to zippy umbrella strollers like the UPPAbaby G-Luxe and the Maclaren Quest.
But suppose that you’re looking for something fully-featured that will mostly be used on manicured sidewalks and indoor spaces (like the mall)? If you don’t necessarily need the go-anywhere ability of a Bugaboo Buffalo or a Bumbleride Indie 4, then you can drop some poundage on a stylish urban stroller without losing any features. We love the Baby Jogger City Mini, and its slightly more capable cousin, the City Mini GT, but they don’t have reversible seats.
So if a reversible seat is a must, that leaves you with the Bugaboo Bee3 Stroller, which has been a runaway hit, and the UPPAbaby Cruz, which echoes the look and feel of the Vista with a more compact frame.
For the purpose of comparison, I will be using the 2014 Bugaboo Bee3 ($719) and the 2014 UPPAbaby Cruz. ($459)
REVERSE AND RECLINE
Changing the orientation of the seat on the Cruz is incredibly easy – press the white button on either side of the seat, lift it up, and click it back in facing whichever way you’d like. It’s really intuitive! You’ll find that also applies to the recline, which is operated by a small handle on the back.
In comparison, the process to change the facing of the seat on the Bee is a little bit more involved – you have to first recline the seat back down against the bottom of the seat, and then lift it up out of the guide, and reinsert facing the opposite way. The recline is just as easy as the recline on the Cruz, though: it also uses a white handle on the seat back.
FOLD AND STORAGE
One of the most important things about a compact stroller like the Bee or Cruz is the ease of the fold. To fold the Bee, the seat back has to be parallel to the frame; then, you push a button and squeeze a lever, and the stroller folds itself. The Bee can be folded with the seat facing either direction, so long as the seat back is parallel to the handlebars. There’s no fold lock, but since the Bee wasn’t designed to stand up on its own, it doesn’t matter as much. At only 19.5 pounds, it’s easy enough to lift the Bee into your car trunk. To unfold, put your foot against the cross-member on the bottom of the stroller and push it out, and a click will indicate that it’s ready to use.
To fold the UPPAbaby Cruz, the seat has to be facing forward. There are two white levers on the side of the frame that are pulled together, and the stroller folds in half. The Cruz is a little bit heftier than the Bee, weighing in at 22 pounds, but it’s still not unreasonable to lift, and if you extend the handlebar prior to folding it, you will find that the stroller can stand, just like the Vista. There is an auto-lock, which you’ll need to disengage to unfold the stroller. The rest of the unfold is just pulling it off the ground and allowing the bottom to come around.
Ultimately, I find that the ergonomics and design of the Bee are simply better. Point, Bee.
Let’s be honest here: neither of these strollers have all-terrain wheels, so a really messed-up sidewalk is going to feel a bit bumpy. However, from a design standpoint, the Bee seems a little bit better than the Cruz, strictly because the suspension is spring-based, where the Cruz has a more rudimentary design. Both are more suited to smooth downtown streets and indoor strolling but will do in the playground in a pinch.
The seat on the Bee is a little bit better designed than the Cruz. The recline is a true recline, meaning that the bottom of the seat remains stationary while the back can be adjusted. A child sitting in the Cruz, however, will find that the entire seat tips back, and a fully reclined position will result in what I can best describe as an astronaut take-off position. In addition, both the seat back and seat bottom on the Bee are extendable to grow with the child. The Bee does have a lower weight limit, though, than the Cruz: the Bee can only hold 38 pounds, while the Cruz fits kids up to 50 pounds.
Ultimately, the seat is a little bit better designed on the Bee, and it does have a better suspension system than the Cruz, so for kid comfort, Point: Bee.
Let’s not forget about your convenience, though: if you don’t want to lug your diaper bag while you’re strolling, a spacious under-seat basket is a must. For a storage comparison, I used a box for the Baby Bjorn One carrier, and while both were able to fit it, the Cruz (right) could have easily taken more on in its basket, whereas the Bee (left) was much closer to capacity. While both have decently-sized baskets, I have to award the point to the Cruz.
Both the Bee and the Cruz are sold without a bassinet, but one is available for purchase. Ordering a Bee with a bassinet brings the price to $949, which approaches Cameleon and Vista territory. The bassinet has the same mattress that all of Bugaboo’s offerings do – while it is not currently rated for overnight use, Bugaboo is preparing to release a bassinet stand which will change that. Both the Cruz and the Bee come with rain covers, but the Cruz also includes a bug shield, which is an optional extra on the Bee. Ordering a Cruz with a (overnight-rated) black-only bassinet adds $189 to the price, bringing the total to $648 – which is still significantly cheaper than the Bee. However, these bassinets are becoming harder to find – and I’ll explain why in just a bit.
Both strollers can be fitted with car seats made by well-known manufacturers like Chicco and Maxi-Cosi, using an additional adapter (sold separately). Here is where the Cruz has an edge over the Bee, though. UPPAbaby’s own infant car seat, the Mesa, requires no adapter to work with the Cruz – it has connectors built in that are exactly like the connectors for the stroller seat, and it clicks right on with ease.
Like the BMW 3 series is king of sport sedans, the Bugaboo Bee is the ruler (or the Queen Bee?) of small city strollers. However, the Cruz is quickly becoming a serious contender in the market. The price point is lower, the fold is so simple, and the basket is spacious – it’s definitely a stroller to consider!
The question, then, is not, “Is the Bee a better stroller?”, but rather, “Is the Bee a better stroller for my needs?” If you like the way the Bee rides and the way it works, and you’re willing to pay a little bit extra to get the best materials – get the Bee.
And while I do have to give this fight to the Bee 3, it is neither by a landslide, nor is it permanent, which brings me back to my earlier statement about the bassinets. The 2014 Cruz, as reviewed, will be replaced by an updated model, as revealed in the ABC Expo in Las Vegas.
The new 2015 UPPAbaby Cruz, already available for preorder on our website, will be available with a full range of colors for the next year, for both toddler seats and the optional UPPAbaby universal bassinet. The wheels are going to be improved, and the already monstrous basket will become even bigger – which leads me to my next and final point. Today, I still prefer the Bugaboo Bee 3. But next year, the queen may have to fight a little harder to keep her throne!