Summer Infant is not the first baby products company I think of when it comes to strollers, because their focus has been mostly on nursery furniture and essentials. But in recent years, Summer Infant has put more effort into their line of strollers and today they have three to choose from: the 3D Lite, an umbrella stroller, the Fuze, a more luxurious reversing-seat convertible stroller, and then the one we look at here, the Spectra, their lightweight model right in between.
I was excited to learn more about the Spectra. For the price point it looks fantastic and so far the reviews it has on Amazon were a solid 4 stars. So I decided to order it and check it out for myself and report back to you.
To try out this stroller, I took it for a spin around my neighborhood with 28 pounds in the seat. I wanted to see how it would handle over bumpy sidewalks, dips, and turns. How well does it balance? Does it steer straight? Can I go around corners one-handed?
I'm happy to say that I agree with the 4-star average it is getting because the overall performance was quite good. By the time you finish reading my review of the Summer Spectra Stroller you learn about what was wonderful about it and the minor aspects about it that I didn't like that kept it from being a 5-star product.
First, here's a rundown of the features:
Assembling it right out of the box was very easy. Pop on the wheels, install the canopy and tray and you're pretty much good to go. One weird thing though - there was a big sticker on the snack tray that was hard to remove and I ended up scratching up the tray to get it off. You might soak the tray in hot soapy water to take it off with no scratches. Summer Infant: Please don't put stickers on your strollers!
I clearly see that the frame is sturdy, not wobbly, and it should because it carries your child up to 50 pounds. Once put together, the Summer Infant Spectra weighs just under 20 pounds, which is right there in the ballpark range for lightweight strollers. I like that kind of sturdiness.
Both a mommy friend of mine and I were impressed with the bold red canopy and the other red details against the black seat fabric. A Spectra comes not only in Jet Set Red, but in Mod Green, and Dark Brown Blaze. These vibrant colors will look good for years to come.
How does the Spectra handle sidewalks, park grass and playground wood chips? For having the kind of wheels it does, I have to say I was impressed. The front wheels are 7" and the rear are 9", and made of durable foam rubber. Walking on a regular sidewalk was nice and smooth, even over the cracks and bumps.
During my testing run, I took the stroller to a nearby park and pushed it over grass with a child's weight of 28 pounds in the seat. Now while this is not an all terrain 3-wheeler, the Summer Spectra stroller goes over neighborhood park terrain with reasonable ease and the all-wheel suspension works quite well! Locking the wheels straight gives you better stability on these outings, and it is simple to do with a flip of a switch over each of the front wheels. You can see both the suspension spring and the locking wheel switch in the photo at right.
Remove your rear wheels with a push of a button in the wheel center; front wheels come off when you twist the black cap just over the locking switch.
On sidewalks I could push one-handed, but it tended to veer right when I let it go. I found that with 25-30 pounds in the seat, tight maneuvering required two hands but with any weight lighter than that, you can easily do one-handed.
The brakes are awesome. They are one-step linked brakes on a pedal that you rock forward to engage and rock backward to disengage. Pedicure friendly, I like that!
I appreciate the big, roomy seat and when your stroller can carry up to 50 pounds, that seat needs to be tall and wide enough for big kids. It also needs to be able to accommodate a car seat, and I measured the seat at 11½" wide. The Spectra only takes the Prodigy car seat, which got "very good" ratings for crash protection and ease of use and "fair" ratings for fitting into your car by LATCH or Belt, according to Consumer Reports. Buy the stroller and car seat as a travel system set and save money here.
The seatback is an average height at 18 inches, which gives enough head clearance and support for most children. In addition, there's 6 inches of space between the top of the seat and the canopy - plenty of head space for your passenger.
Now for the recline, you pull down on this pulley strap system behind the seat. It is easy to recline the seat one-handed, but to push the seat into an upright position, you use both hands to pull one end of the strap and push the seat forward. It works well and has a smooth movement. But you must push the seat forward a little bit when your child is in it to recline. Otherwise the pulley system gets stuck and won't budge. Maybe it will become more smooth moving over time.
The recline only goes back to a 149° angle, so it is not completely flat and therefore babies older than three months should ride, unless you use the car seat. My little passenger here is, in fact, three months old. I even had him inclined up just a little bit so he could see out and I flipped up the leg rest for his comfort. Adjust the legrest up or down with two buttons on either side of the frame. If you want, you can buy a head support pillow for baby while they are still young. I like this one because it is by the same brand and it has hundreds of happy customers giving it 4½ stars.
When the seat is reclined, the seat is not all open in back - it has a mesh enclosure so your child will still have air circulation, but you have the peace of mind that your baby is safely ensconced in the seat. On colder days, roll the nylon apron down and attach it with the Velcro tabs.
The 5-point safety harness has thick shoulder padding for comfort and a padded buckle cover to avoid the temptation of escape artists. Shoulder strap adjustment is done by turning the plastic ends of the straps sideways through the slots in the seatback. It was quite simple to do. The buckle feels secure and it's not something parents have to wrestle with, nor do you have to worry about your little one undoing it.
The snack tray easily snaps into place and either side pivots for easy ins and outs. When I first saw this stroller I thought that the tray looked like it stuck out way too far and high up, but it's actually a safety feature to ensure that a child's head can fit through the space between the tray and seat and avoid suffocation or strangulation. So good job, Summer Infant!
I had to practice folding it a couple of times and it became easier pretty quick. Summer Infant says it is supposed to be a one-handed fold, and while the action of folding can be done one-handed, I had to use two hands to squeeze the frame together to get the frame lock into place. Therefore, holding your baby while folding this stroller is probably not going to work.
To fold, pull the stroller back a few steps so that the front wheels reverse direction. Then squeeze the red button on the handle, turn the handle forward and push down to collapse the frame. When this happens, the cup holder always pops off, so be aware of this so you don't leave it behind on the ground! It is a common problem I have seen with higher-end brands, too, so this is not a deal breaker.
When you're done folding, the Spectra is self standing. If you need to save some space, removing the tray will net you 5 inches in height!
I was a bit surprised and disappointed in the sun canopy. Other strollers at this price point have gi-normous canopies that come down much further. This is the main reason for knocking this stroller down from a 5-star to a 4 and could possibly be a deal breaker for some parents.
But the peek-a-boo window makes up for the skimpy canopy. It has a magnetic flap, which I LOVE, so you can peek in on your child without the ripping sound of Velcro. The window is covered in black mesh, allowing for air circulation and I like that it won't warp or crack in the heat like vinyl coverings.
Take a look again at the sun canopy photo above and you will also notice the cup holder. It's alright and does the job for your water bottle, but you certainly cannot put your cup of coffee in it. The holder swings back and forth when you move it with your hand, but during my test run, it held my bottle without any problems. You can switch sides too or take it off altogether. As I mentioned before, though, it does pop off when you fold the stroller.
I do like the storage basket. It is big and roomy enough to hold your stuff. It says it holds up to 10 pounds, which is a lot! You could go grocery shopping with this stroller and take your bags home in the basket!
The handle bar is a nice height at 39 inches - not too tall for petite moms, and not too short for long-legged folks. I'm average height and found it quite comfortable. The foam is springy and you can get a good grip on it.
Beneath the handle behind the seat back are two storage pockets for your little essentials: phone, keys, pacifier, etc. I would have liked to see at least one of these pockets with a zipper, but not a biggie.
Here is my video review of the Summer Spectra stroller:
When I bought the Spectra, it was going for full price at $220. Since that time, the price has dropped dramatically and you can buy this stroller for $135 - $164 where I bought mine on Amazon. I appreciate the free shipping and prompt service Amazon provides.
Want the travel system? You're going to find another great deal on Amazon, where the price is $279 for the green one. I don't know how long it will be around though. At the time of this update, it says it is discontinued, and other color choices are hiking the price up to over $700! So get it now if you like the green travel system.
Summer Infant has impressed me with their Spectra stroller. It performs really well from sidewalks to playground mulch. The seat is comfortable for young babies up to older children and it has plenty of storage space.
The only big issue I have is the sun canopy size and then there are just little things like the cup holder popping off during the fold and the big sticker that was hard to take off the tray.
I can say with confidence that the Summer Spectra stroller is a 4-star product, and definitely on the list for the best lightweight strollers for 2014. I think the aspect that had the most impact on me was the smooth ride and easy maneuvering. It glides along the sidewalk with those shocks just absorbing all those bumps.
So if you're in the market for a mid-range light weight stroller with great performance and amenities for both you and baby, I say go for the Spectra. It's an excellent choice and you'll be happy when you choose a quality Summer Infant product. Buy yours from this link today!
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