With the cost of raising a child having now risen above £225,000 (source: The Guardian), as a single income family we have had to make savings where we can. While I lusted over fancy travel systems in every colour of the rainbow, we knew that in reality second hand would have to do. That didn’t stop me doing my research. I knew I wanted something with a good reputation, comfy ride and (as Penny was a winter baby) a proper carrycot to keep out winter chills. My shortlist became a list of one once I looked at availability on Ebay. And so it was that one Saturday morning in early September we parted with £100 and loaded our second-hand but in great condition Britax B-Smart 4 into the car.
Six months on, has it lived up to expectations?
The chassis is sturdy and feels safe and solid. The brake seems secure and has held well on supermarket travelators. It is easy to open and collapse the frame and the seat and carrycot are easy to click in and out and feel securely attached. The seat can be attached in both forward and backward facing positions. It can also take a Britax car seat. I had already bought a Maxi-Cosi car seat but was pleased to discover that this can be fitted to the chassis with the aid of adaptors you can buy (intended for use on the Babystyle Oyster. But with a bit of a jiggle they fit).
The chassis is not small and not one for a small car. It does fit in the boot of our Ford Focus but once the carrycot or pushchair seat is in on top of it the parcel shelf needs to be removed. The width at the back wheels is wider than average making fitting through narrow doors and manoeuvring around packed shops tricky. It has a basket underneath but it can’t store a great deal as the front is very low and things fall out easily. Its handle is comfortably padded and has a good range of height adjustment. The ability to extend the handle outward as well as upwards would be useful as I have quite a long stride and sometimes end up kicking the basket.
The carrycot is spacious with a comfy mattress and large hood. The sides are deep and sturdy and kept Penny nice and snug. She was very happy lying in there until she got bored with only seeing the sky and overhanging trees. Unfortunately this happened at about three months so she was still a little small for the pushchair when we started using it. The seat and back are quite hard with no shaping to support the body in position and the straps, even on their tightest setting, were still a bit loose. We found that fitting a sheepskin liner helped solve these problems. The straps connect to the seat in five places, but it is not a true five point harness at the shoulder and hip straps are actually just one strap and clip on each side, making it a struggle to get Penny’s arms through at times. The buckle clips themselves seem a bit flimsy.
The hood is large and provides good coverage. It can also be extended further by unzipping it in the middle to reveal a sunshade section for when the sun is at an awkward angle and determined to shine on Penny’s face (something she hates).
The ride is somewhat rough even on some pavements (perhaps that says more about the pavements near me). I tried it on a rough footpath the other day and was absolutely stunned Penny didn’t wake up as the vibrations were enough to churn butter! One of the reasons I opted for this pushchair was that for a non-off-roader (they were well out of my budget) it had pretty positive reviews for its ride over rough ground but I wouldn’t want to use it frequently off-road.
- Good build quality
- Full carrycot
- Easy to put up and down
- Good hood coverage
- Large, wide chassis
- Shallow basket
- Hard pushchair seat
- Not full five point harness
- Buckle clips flimsy
- Rough off-road
Despite its limitations, this is a sturdy, reliable travel system which is great value for money and readily available second hand. Just check it fits in your car boot first and consider investing in something more expensive if you plan to take it off-road frequently.