On the road, these hinged joints produce a soft, almost floppy flexibility that makes the Combi feel more like an extension of your body than a piece of equipment. This phenomenon goes unnoticed on smooth surfaces, but on rough pavement, the Combi quivers in an unsettling manner, especially in the handle. While its lightness made it easy to hip-check the Combi up or down stairs, hand-trucking down a curb was a nuisance. With barely room for a bottle, keys, and a cell phone, the tiny removable pouch on the handle is about as useful as the pockets on a tight pair of jeans.
The Passenger Experience: The Combi's lack of rigidity went a long way to smoothing out the kid's ride. Like all but one stroller tested, the Combi has a padded, five-point harness to keep the baby safely strapped in. The soft seat reclines fully and stays cool, thanks to mesh air vents in the seatback. One much-touted feature, tiny pockets for the kid's MP3 player and speakers, didn't impress my normally musical daughter.
Who It Is Suited For: Car people and occasional stroller pushers who don't sweat much (that handle would really bug me if I had to grip it every day). People who rarely venture onto rough pavement—and who don't mind the Combi shimmying when they do.
Celebrity Parent-Spotting: Gwyneth Paltrow drove one in Manhattan; Colin Farrell carried his son in one across a Miami beach. (Apparently, it doesn't do well in sand.)
If It Were a Car, It Would Be: a small, efficient, stylish-yet-plasticky Japanese sedan like the Toyota Matrix.
Graco Quattro Tour LX Price: $159
The Driver Experience: Despite Graco's bulky, styleless canopies and consoles, the Quattro Tour is one of the nicest-looking strollers available at any price. Its console has a host of carlike features, including giant cup-holders, a drop-down eyeglass case, and, oddly, a digital clock.
But it's also big and heavy, and it felt bigger and heavier the more I pushed it. The handling, turning radius, and wheel vibration on rough pavement reminded me of a Costco grocery cart. Stairs were another urban shortcoming. The structure of the wheelbase makes it difficult to drive down a staircase; when I tried it, the kid bobble-headed around so much, I'm sure she lost her shot at Harvard. And going upstairs was a two-person affair. Throw a grocery bag and a Big Gulp on this thing, and a staircase'll stop you as sure as a brick wall.
Even closed, the Quattro is big. It's unlikely to clutter many hallways, however; the Quattro's natural habitat is clearly the minivan.
The Passenger Experience: My kid loved her "king of the world"-style seat, but the distance between us kept us from interacting much. And the heavy frame made for a bumpy ride up front. She quickly and repeatedly slipped out of the shoulder harnesses.
Who It Is For: Soccer parents looking at a lot of mall excursions.
Celebrity Parent-Spotting: None that I'm aware of, although actor Christian Bale was spotted with a Graco infant carrier.