The Driver Experience: The Geoffrey is the branded, giraffe-print version of the barest-bones stroller out there: a mesh seat over a tubular steel frame with a uselessly tiny canopy and mesh storage bag.
The rubber-coated, curved handles are shaped like umbrellas, and they were too low for me and most everyone I saw pushing these rigs; we all drove hunched over. Don't bother hanging any bags on these handles, either. While the Geoffrey falls open easily, closing it is scary and involves flipping a spring-loaded safety lever that looks the business end of a box cutter.
The Passenger Experience: With only a three-point harness (no shoulder straps), the kid seemed free to go tumbling into the street at any moment. (She didn't, of course.) In one- to two-hour stints and when granted liberal pushing privileges, the kid didn't complain.
Who It Is For: The family in Times Square in immediate need of a stroller. The Geoffrey won't win any comfort or ergonomics awards, but this cheap, light rig hauls a tired kid around just fine, at least for the day.
Celebrity Parent-Spotting: Ummm ...
If It Were a Car: a college student's trusty old Honda Civic.
Umbrella-Style Verdict: The Volo is great, but is it four times as good as the Geoffrey? Probably not. You will get 60 percent of the way there with a $21 novelty stroller. If you can count the number of times you'll use it on your fingers, a cheap stroller could be as good as a top-of-the-line model. Of course, if you're going to use it regularly, or if you're the kind of person who won't consider the cheapest of anything, your decision's already made: the Volo.
City sidewalks have seen a boom in the number of rugged, "all-terrain" strollers. Like SUVs, they inspire passionate opinions, pro and con. But unlike SUVs, which are designed for off-road adventure drivers may never face, strollers in the city encounter plenty of potentially rough terrain—grass, cobblestones, gravel, potholes. All-terrain strollers are practical for many urban dwellers.
Phil & Ted's e3 Buggy Price: $489
The Driver Experience: Originally invented for running around New Zealand, the three-wheeled Phil & Ted's squeezes versatility out of a specialized design. With its wedgelike seat cantilevered over big balloon tires (the front pivot locks for jogging) and a tubular steel base, the e3 feels a bit too bottom-heavy. The tires give a smooth ride, but they also limit maneuverability; I was quite clumsy navigating in and out of small shops in the West Village. And while opening the e3 is straightforward, folding it is inexplicable. I schlepped it up and down subway stairs OK, but elevators were a welcome sight. Nonetheless, it repeatedly impressed me with its thoughtful, functional design.