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Stroller brand review: Combi

BB Rating
What's This?

B-

A EXCELLENT-our top pick!
B GOOD-above average quality, prices, and creativity.
C FAIR-could stand some improvement.
D POOR-yuck! Could stand some major improvement.

combi fold n goWeb site: combiusa.com

Japanese-owned Combi had its heyday in the ‘90’s with a string of best-selling lightweight strollers, but the company has struggled in recent years. Combi has gone through several management changes and shifts in strategy, which has hurt its brand.

The models. Combi’s focus is on lightweight, compact strollers. The company’s flagship model, the Cosmo, is a good starting point. The Cosmo ($130, 13 lbs.; pictured) features a compact fold, full seat recline for infants, and removable napper bar plus it holds Combi’s Shuttle infant car seat. These strollers appear to be on their way out, although we saw them online at Amazon.com and Combi’s own web site.

Next in Combi’s stroller line is the Catalyst, a very un-Combi like stroller that weighs in at 29 lbs. This $300 stroller features a reversible seat, extendable handles, and a bassinet that morphs into a seat. It is car seat compatible with Combi’s Shuttle infant seat plus has adapters for other brands (Graco, Chicco). While this stroller is innovative, we were scratching our heads at why Combi would attempt to compete in the multi-function stroller market with a nearly 30 lb. model.

One the other hand, the Combi F2 is a super lightweight (8 lbs.) stroller with a one-hand, standing fold, partial recline, mesh seat, tiny basket and extended canopy. At $260 to $280 you’re paying a very high price for very few features.

Finally, Combi offers the new Fold N Go stroller, available in both single ($180, pictured) and double ($280) versions. It features an extended canopy, auto locking mechanism, cup holds and (a first for Combi) accessory adapters for other brand infant car seats. The Fold & Go abandons Combi’s tri-fold and instead adopts a Baby Jogger like quick fold, and it’s self standing.

Our view. Combi’s woes in the stroller market can be traced to one major problem: its infant car seat. Unlike competitors Perego and Chicco, Combi has yet to figure out this market (its weak Shuttle car seat has suffered from slow sales amid recalls and other issues). As a result, Combi isn’t much of a player in the travel system (car seat + stroller) market.

Yes, the new Fold & Go works with other brand infant seats, but most Combi strollers work only with Combi’s shuttle infant car seat. This lack of cross compatibility hurts Combi.  

Design snafus have also dogged the brand. Parents have complained for years about Combi’s handles (too short) and storage baskets (too small, hard to access). You’d think Combi’s designers would have better adapted these models to America after being here for 30 years. But, no.

And while parents universally like Combi for their lightweight and easy folds, there always seems to be some fatal flaw that pops up . . . front wheels that are easily damaged when the stroller is folded up, an overall lack of durability, etc.

When you spend $50 on a bare-bones umbrella stroller, you might put up with some of these issues. But at the $200+ price level, that’s a tough sell, especially when competitors like Chicco and UPPAbaby offer similar strollers with taller handles and better storage . . .  and without the quality problems. On the plus side, the Combi Catalyst does earn mostly positive marks from readers, who like the built-in bassinet. But critics say it is too heavy and doesn’t have a smooth push/ride, which you’d think you’d get for $300. Baby Bargains Resale Rank: Poor. Rating B-


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